Every t crossed, every i dotted

I’ve been sitting here in my house by the river for seven months.  I have settled into my freedom of sleeping as long as I want, making plans for whenever I want, eating what I like when I like it, and changing plans at the drop of a hat.  If I want to go for a walk, I might go at 10am, or noon, or 3pm, or 7pm.  If I need groceries, I go when I get around to it.  I might stay in my pajamas all day, or be out the door pressed and dressed at 9am.  It’s a life of luxury.

But, guys, I got a job!

I know, I know, I’ve been trying to get a job for most of those seven months.  I have been crying about wanting something to do, something to do.  I have complained about my restlessness and need for something more…and now I have it!!

So, before I start work next Monday, I am trying to suck up my last moments of relaxation and freedom while also tying up the loose ends of everything I’ve started over the last months.

You may remember that I got very excited about a project with Days for Girls (http://www.daysforgirls.org/).  I am happy to report that by the end of this week a friend and I will have completed 10 hygiene kits for girls in Africa.   Many girls miss up to two months of school because they do not have the sanitary supplies that would allow them to attend during their periods.These kits will provide the supplies they need to stay in school.

Last week, the battalion and I finished our study on The Sermon on the Mount — I’m going to have to pass on the next study while I go through my training for my new job, but I am hopeful that I will get to rejoin them in the fall.  In the meantime, I will carry them in my heart right beside the lessons we have learned together.

I put the last few pieces in my latest 1000 piece puzzle last night.  I think the puzzle table might remain bare for a few weeks while I get my bearings.

Because, guys, I’ve got a job!

I was thinking yesterday about how perfectly God chose this job for me:

  • It’s working with students one-on-one.  This is really my favorite part of teaching.  I will work with the same students every day, one at a time, for one hour each.  I will get to know my students, watch them grow, laugh with them, and celebrate our victories together.
  • It is part-time.  When asked in the interview if I would rather work full- or part-time I replied that I would prefer part-time, unless that would eliminate me from the position.  The interviewer replied, “Not at all.” I can determine how many hours I would like to work.
  • It’s a seasonal position.  I only had to commit through August.  This allows me an opportunity to see if I can manage working five days a week.  Since students commit to five days a week and see the same teachers every day, teachers must also commit to five days a week.  If by the end of August I have determined that five days is too much, I can leave gracefully and move on to what’s next.  If I like the position, I will be eligible to apply for regular employment.
  • It’s an entry-level position.  Translation: the pay is not great, but the responsibilities aren’t either!  Someone else will write lesson plans that I will execute.  I will have no grading to take home — no stack!
  • I will be learning.  Before I even start teaching, I will have eighty hours of training that will equip me to help students who have always struggled with reading.  I love to learn.  Even better, I love to share what I have learned with others.  This is a perfect set-up for me.

How did I end up with such an awesome situation? My Headhunter found me this job.  He has known me since before I was born.   He knit me together in my mother’s womb. He not only provided a job that meets my needs,  He provided me with just enough time to finish my projects so that I can enjoy Easter weekend with my family before I start work on Monday.  He crossed every t and dotted every i.

I don’t know why I thought He wouldn’t.

Matthew 6:8

for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Something to do, Something to do!

When I started this blog, I was sitting in St. Louis, Missouri amid boxes.  I had walked away from an excellent position at a high school to join my husband three states away. I had committed to at least several months of unemployment to get a firmer grasp on my health condition — to evaluate my needs and assess my capacity to take on a new position.  That was eight months ago.

I was able to make it a couple of months without applying for any jobs. I got acclimated to our new home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I made friends, I joined a Bible study and a gym, I took on some small projects, I binge-watched some Netflix, and I blogged.

Once I started applying for jobs, that became my job.  I applied to be a library assistant, a customer service representative at my gym, a tutor, a proofreader, a teacher’s assistant, a director of an educational program at the University of Michigan, a desk receptionist at a child development center, an airline employee, and who knows what else.

In December I created a profile on a tutoring website called Wyzant.  Through that website I have met and tutored a dozen students around the Ann Arbor and Detroit area.  I have loved interacting with these students — joining them on their educational journey and moving them on to the next step.

I’ve been tutoring about 6-8 hours a week.  And, I’ve continued to apply for jobs; I’ve even had a few interviews.  In November I had my first interview at an alternative school for students who have for a variety of reasons not been able to go the traditional path through high school to graduation.  At  this school, they use computer-based instruction to complete their high school requirements and get a diploma.  I loved the program and the staff, but the timing was wrong.  I had committed to stay home until January and they wanted me to start immediately.  No way, my son was soon to be home on leave for two weeks.  After that would be the holidays.  Thanks, but no thanks.

In February I had an interview at a publishing house.  I spent an hour reading copy and making proofreader’s notes only to receive notification, before I even made it back home, that they had “gone in another direction.” OK, that’s fine.   It was a bit of a drive, anyway.

I spent a few days training and testing to become an online standardized test grader.  I was to spend March grading math story problem answers written by third through eighth graders in Wisconsin.  I’m still waiting for the go-ahead on that project.  It seems their timeline was a little off.

So, between tutoring gigs and while waiting for scoring opportunities, I poked around a bit on Indeed and Craigslist.  A few weeks ago I found a posting for “clinicians/tutors” for a company called Lindamood-Bell.  Never heard of them.  The word ‘tutor’ caught my eye so I clicked on the link that took me to their website.  The words “research-based”, “twenty-five years”, and “student improvement” caught my eyes.  I read a little more.  They were willing to provide eighty (yes, 80) hours of paid training to tutors/clinicians in order to staff their Ann Arbor facility for the summer.  Well, I thought, tutoring will probably decline in the summer.  My husband still has to work.  What else was I planning on doing?  So, I threw my name in the hat.

Within a couple of hours of submitting my resume I had an email inviting me to a “screening interview”.  This interview would take two-four hours and would require me to take a spelling test and a test of reasoning. I  would also learn and practice one of the Lindamood-Bell strategies.  Again, I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t have anything else scheduled for that day…” So, Tuesday morning of this week I got up, showered, put on some professional attire, and drove myself across town for a 9:00am interview.

The center is located in a large office building, on the second floor.  I found the door and read the sign, “Please ring door bell.” I rang.  A cheery young woman answered the door and said, “Hi, I’m Kat.”  I introduced myself and she showed me to the interview room.  Three small tables were set up with two folders on each table.  One of the tables already had a college-aged man sitting and filling out an application.  I was instructed to do the same.  We were soon joined by another middle-aged woman.

A presenter introduced himself as the director of the center.  He outlined our morning and got started.  He first told us the firm policies of the organization — professional attire, strict adherence to attendance and punctuality expectations, and no week-long vacations in July or August.  “Anyone want to leave now?” he said.  We all stayed.  Then he gave us a spelling test.  Twenty-five words of increasing difficulty.  By the time we got to word twenty-three I was guessing and second-guessing myself.  We were then given five nonsense words to spell to determine our ability to use phonetic reasoning.  Then, we were handed a ScanTron form and a test booklet.  We would have thirty minutes to complete this test to determine our ability to draw conclusions, make inferences, and employ reasoning skills.  After thirty minutes, my brain was about fried.

We took a short break, and then were shown one of the strategies that Lindamood-Bell uses to teach reading  comprehension.  We had time to practice with current clinicians.  During the practice time, I was pulled into a different room for an interview.  Just a few quick questions: What are my strengths? What do I want to learn? What would I do in this situation or that?  Would I like to work part-time or full-time? A little more teaching practice and I was out the door.

Later Tuesday night I told my husband about the interview, and the strategy, and my interest in what Lindamood-Bell was doing.  Wednesday morning, after breakfast, I practiced the strategies with my daughter. I could tell I was excited about what this program could do for kids.  I could tell I wanted this job.

I went to Bible study and told the battalion about my interview.  Then I went to lunch with friends and told them more.  I knew that if I was offered the job I would be forced to evaluate an exchange.  Would I be willing to trade my time in Bible study for this experience? Would I be willing to spend two full weeks — forty hours each week — in training? Would I be willing to work five days a week?

I drove home and checked my email.  I had a message from another employer — could I please complete a few more steps in an application to move myself further into the hiring process.  I quickly did the few steps.  Right as I finished, just a few minutes after I’d walked in the door, my phone rang.  It was Kat.

What did I think of the interview? Would I be willing to accept a job as clinician?

I about leapt off my chair. Yes!

Can I start training on April 6?  Yes!

Can I start working part-time on April 20? Yes!

I hung up the phone and jumped for joy.

But as the night wore on, some worries started to creep in.  Do I really think I can do forty hours of training for two weeks straight? What about the students I tutor? Maybe I won’t like it.  What if I go back into soldier mode — kicking butts and taking names?

Breathe, Kristin, breathe.  One step at a time.  I don’t have to know every detail to turn the page in this next chapter.

Joshua 1:9

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,

for the Lord your God will [carry you] wherever you go.

Uniquely Made

I did it!  I got through all seventy days in the book Whispers of Hope: Ten Weeks of Devotional Prayer.  I’m pretty sure it took me closer to twenty weeks….but I did it!  So, what did I do today?  I turned back to day one and started all over again!  Guess what, I didn’t remember a thing from day one — it was like a new experience.  That’s the beauty of middle age.

The message of day one, or at least the message I got today, was that God is creative — He has made each of us exquisitely unique.  We were not created to walk identical paths.  We were each created for our own path.  Isn’t that amazing?  God created each of us for our own path and He alone “knows the plans” He has for us.  That’s why we need to hear from Him every day, because He’s the only one who knows our unique needs — the only one who can give us specific made-to-order direction.

So why have I spent so many minutes of my life checking with others, comparing myself to others, and judging others? I look at someone else’s path and I think to myself — well, that’s a different path than mine — it must be better or worse.  Then, having passed judgment, I try to adapt my path to make it more, or less, like that other person’s path.

I know I’m not alone here.  In fact, our society — schools, businesses, governments — exist to provide equality or sameness to the masses.  They are trying to be fair, or to motivate us to purchase, or to create order.  And, to be fair, I think we are bent toward wanting to be ‘just like everyone else’.  We want to fit in, to blend, to belong.

However, all of our attempts at trying to be the same, blend in, and belong ultimately force us to deny our uniqueness. Now, we don’t seem to mind uniqueness if it comes in the form of exceptional athletic ability, extreme good looks, or undeniable wit.  But what about uniqueness that creates physical challenge, an odd appearance, or cognitive difficulty? We seem to make concessions for ‘those’ people, don’t we?  What about the kind of uniqueness that believes differently than we do, tackles problems in ways we haven’t thought of, or decides to go against the flow of the masses? Do we celebrate that?

Or do we ridicule it? If we are conservative, do we ridicule the liberals? If we are liberal, do we berate conservatives? If we went to college, do we judge those who went straight to work? If we choose simplicity, do we frown on those who treasure extravagance?

My, oh, my.  I do believe we have a tangent (or two, or three) here, ladies and gentlemen. Let me get back to the point.

God created each of us uniquely.  We are not the same.  He has specific plans for each of us — “plans to prosper and not to harm” us.  Sure, sometimes humans point us directly to the plans God has for us, but more often, we get distracted by looking at what others are doing.  Sometimes so distracted, that we forget to check with the Creator himself.  Who knows better what is best for us than He?

If you’ve read my blog for more than a day, you know that I don’t check with God first, I try to tackle everything myself.  However, in this next chapter I am being challenged to turn from my old ways, to turn toward His Word, to consult with Him about my path.  It’s a day-by-day challenge for me.  That is why, kids, I am going to spend the next ten (or twenty) weeks continuing to develop my prayer life.

Once again, I need the bonus lesson.

Psalm 139:13-14

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I am fearfully, [uniquely], wonderfully made.

Let me introduce you!

Wanna meet some of my kids?  Not my children. My students.  And, oh yeah, they aren’t all kids.

The first student I tutored here in Ann Arbor we’ll call Krista.  Her mom reached out to me around Christmas.  Krista is a freshman with ADHD.  For those of you who know freshmen, that last sentence is a little redundant.  Krista and I initially met to study for her first high school final exams, and we have continued to meet to study and to write papers.   In fact, we recently spent several hours writing an essay comparing loss in Maus  and Night. We followed her teacher’s rubric, we got her thesis approved, we outlined, drafted, revised, and edited.  Then came the email from her mother.  “Krista got a D on her paper.  Thoughts?”  D? Are you kidding me?  I am an experienced teacher, a former English department chair, a former curriculum coordinator!  I walked with her through that paper, holding her hand!  She got a D?! For a moment I thought I had lost Krista as a client.  For over a week her mother didn’t reply to my emails other than one-word responses.  I understood.  She had hired me to help her child do better in English, not to help her earn a D!!  Yesterday, finally, she reached out and asked if I could help Krista with her next paper.  I was so relieved to get another chance!

About a month ago I was sitting on my couch in the evening when I received a tutoring request that went something like this, “I am a high school freshman.  I could use help in my English class.  Would you be willing to work with me.”  A freshman?  Sending his own email? Asking for help? We exchanged a half dozen emails and I met him that weekend.  He is the son of parents who immigrated from India.  In fact, last year, they went back to India for a year so that Saj (fictional name) could study there and experience the culture.  He is very bright.  Our first assignment was preparing a recitation and analytical speech about Oedipus.  We worked for a couple hours on this project –first planning, then writing and practicing.  Yesterday we spent an hour getting familiar with the new PSAT and SAT since Michigan just adopted these assessments after years of using the ACT.  He asked me for homework so that he can practice before I see him next week.

About six weeks ago a mother contacted me.  Her daughter is only in sixth grade, but she is very advanced and has always had an English tutor.  Would I be willing to write a curriculum for her — reading comprehension, writing, analysis, vocabulary, and grammar?  Well, sixth grade is a little young for me, and I would have to drive about twenty minutes to get to this student, but I agreed.  Again, she is Indian.  Her parents are highly educated, as are Saj’s.  And, I will admit, this girl is indeed, ‘very advanced’.  I show up every week with comprehension questions on the book we are reading together, The Book Thief.  I also give her questions about literary elements — irony, symbol, metaphor, narration, characterization.  I keep trying to find something she can’t answer.  I have not yet succeeded.  I’m not sure what she will study in high school — I’m using up all of my material!

I also have a couple adult students.  First is Cherise.  She is an RN who is studying to become an Advanced Practice Nurse.  She works in a pediatric clinic in Ypsilanti and is hoping to be the lead practitioner when her supervisor retires.  She has files of knowledge on nursing, but her writing skills are limited.  I wish I could videotape our sessions — she spends time explaining medical terminology to me; I spend time explaining sentence structure to her.  We are two middle aged women leaning over documents making a way to convey meaning.  She’s a quick study.  I show her parallel structure one time, she points it out in the next sentence.  I remind her that academic writing is in third person, she locates the personal pronouns she needs to delete.

My other adult is Carla.  She dropped out of high school to have a baby fourteen years ago.  She works in purchasing for a manufacturing plant in the area, but she wants a career change.  She wants to work in the criminal justice field.  A community college admitted her and she is taking a composition course online.  But she’s never written a paper before! We met to discuss her first paper, walking through sentence by sentence until she was comfortable with it.  We also discussed her next assignment — a research paper.  She lives thirty miles away, so we have only met once, but she emails me her documents and I make comments and ask questions in the margins.  I coach her — you need more research, make sure you are including your opinion, don’t forget to document your quotes.  She’s doing all this work in the evenings after working all day and while parenting a teenager.

And that’s not all.  There’s  a brother and sister I meet with weekly, a couple of students I met with just a couple of times each to do test prep, and twin sisters that I assisted with a huge research paper.  They contact me online, I meet them in libraries or at their homes.  For a moment or a season we are connected for a purpose.  Sometimes I think I am helping them, most of the time I think they are helping me.

That’s the kind of work I like to do — the kind where I feel privileged to show up and blessed when I leave.  May you have that kind of work to do, too.

Psalm 90:17

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;

establish the work of our hands for us —  yes, establish the work of our hands.

So many sermons

Since Sunday I have heard four sermons.  I am not sure I have ever listened to four sermons in four days — until now.

On Sunday, we joined our son at the church he and our daughter-in-law are joining.  The pastor spoke about “Tough Truths for Hard Times”.  He pointed out that hard times are normal; they are a gift; they call for hard questions; and they are an opportunity to live by faith. I wrote in the service folder, “Live by the Word of God, even when I don’t know if it’ll work out.”

At home on Monday, after hearing from our pastor that I had missed his “best sermon ever” (wink, wink), I listened to his message “Beauty for Ashes” online.  The message recalled a time when Jesus interrupted a funeral procession to bring a dead man back to life.  He said that God also interrupts us as we live our lives; He enters into our circumstances and breathes life into us.

On Tuesday, I attended a women’s luncheon with a thousand other Lutheran women and heard Dr. Dale Meyer preach about “Life’s Crosses”.  He pointed out that throughout life we have many crosses to bear — illness, financial hardship, relationship struggles, etc. — and that the key to carrying these crosses is clinging to God in faith, trusting that He will bring us safely through.

Finally, on Wednesday night, I attended Lenten service where our pastor spoke about the beauty of grace.  He recalled the parable of Jesus in which the workers, all hired at different times of the day, received the same wages. He painted a picture of God as one who desires to give His best to everyone. I wrote in my notes, “God dispenses gifts, not wages.  The only thing we can do, by His grace, is receive them.”

Four sermons in four days.  I’m sitting here this morning at my computer thinking, “Ok, connect the dots.  What is the overall message God is bringing to you?”  And you know, the sermons are indeed meaningful, but He also has been speaking to me in the spaces around these sermons.

On the drive home from church with our son, we were discussing applying for jobs (my continuing quest) and I heard myself say, “I have applied for so many jobs, I have lost count.  I don’t even get upset any more when I get an email that says they’ve “gone in another direction”.

Riding to the luncheon on Tuesday, I heard my friend, a 72-year-old widow say, “I’m God’s worker.  I get up every morning and see what work He has for me to do.”

Last night after church, a friend asked me, “So how’s the job hunt going?” I heard myself respond, “I have applied for dozens of jobs.  I know God has me where He wants me; I am just impatient.”

This morning, I was updating information on the FAFSA for our daughter.  There was a message highlighted in red that said, “Your parents’ reported income is significantly lower than last year.”  Yeah.  I know.

Times aren’t really that hard in the little house by the river: we are well-fed and clothed, we love one another.  God is providing for all of our needs. Sure finances are a bit tight.  Sure I have to move at a different pace than I ever have before. But we have been given a gift of time and space to ask some hard questions and to sit with some of the answers.

God has indeed interrupted our lives with a career change, a move, a chronic illness, and some lifestyle changes. But in that interruption, He has breathed life through new friendships and new circumstances.

We do have some crosses — some challenges– on our plates.  I am learning that these challenges, the ones for which I don’t see resolution, keep me in a posture of dependence on God.  They keep me near to Him. They have me clinging.

And we have been given so much grace.  Not only at this particular time — but even when we were soldiering through, kicking butts and taking names.

So, the message of the last four days? Life is hard.  God is good. You’ve got struggles?  Yeah, that’s life.  You’ve got God?  That’s grace.  Keep your perspective, Kristin, keep your perspective.

John 16:33

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.

In this world you will have trouble.  But, take heart!  I have overcome the world.

Just Fifteen Minutes

It was just fifteen minutes of my afternoon. I sat inches away from a woman I had never met before as she brushed tears away from her eyes. Just fifteen minutes.

In those fifteen minutes I learned that she has a PhD in China, but is studying for a PhD here.  She is forty-five years old.  She moved here, leaving career and family, so that her daughter can go to high school here in the United States and subsequently meet the criteria to attend an American university.  Why is she crying? Because her own mother is fighting cancer back in China and she can not be there to help.  Because it is difficult to do PhD work in your second (or third) language.  Because it is extra difficult when you are 45 and raising your daughter alone in a country that is not your own.  Because that difficulty is compounded when you see your daughter struggling to fit in and find success in her American school — your daughter who is studying in her second language.

She doesn’t know me, but she found me on a website — a website that shows my photo, some of my credentials, and some student testimonials.  She contacted me yesterday and wondered if I would read some of her daughter’s writing — would I help her get published?

I read her request and thought to myself, “Oh, boy, another child prodigy.” I judged her.  She was one more parent who believes her child is amazing. (I am one of those parents, too, by the way.)  I told her I would be happy to meet her, but it is the policy of Wyzant  (the tutoring site I use) that she has to enter payment information before I can meet her.  I stick to this policy because it makes my record keeping simple; I never have to collect my own payment, and no one ever owes me any money.  It is clean.

She countered, “Wyzant won’t accept my Chinese credit card. I would be happy to pay you in cash or check.”

I replied, “I only accept payment through Wyzant, but I am happy to meet you tomorrow to see if we are a good match for each other.”  We set up a time and a place. Period.

Well, Wyzant didn’t like that.  They disabled my account about an hour before I was to meet her.  They sent me a notification saying that “based on some recent email correspondence, it appears that you have violated the terms of use.  We have deactivated your account.”

Gasp!

So I can’t access any of my student contacts?  Yikes!  I called them to inquire and the operator said she would “create a ticket” and that they would contact me within 24-48 hours to let me know if I can be re-activated or not.

Or not!?!?!?!?!?

Guys!  I have a dozen or more students that I see fairly regularly.  Yes, this has been a slow week, but I have six appointments scheduled for next week and no way of contacting these people if my account is not reactivated.

Now, I am guessing that they are just going to give me a stern warning with finger shaking, “Do not under any circumstances meet with clients who do not have payment information on file.”  Right, right, I know.  I have told almost half of my clients that I will not allow them to pay me cash because I have signed an agreement.  I really want everything kept within the boundaries of the website — it’s clean and safe and organized.

I had no intention of circumventing that policy.  I had no intention of charging this woman for a  fifteen minute meeting. In fact, when I met with her today, I helped her understand that she could open a PayPal account with her debit card and link it to Wyzant.  Because of the language barrier, that might have been difficult to convey through email correspondence.  We needed the face-to-face.

But not just to set up the payment information. We needed the face-to-face so that I could get off my high horse, stop judging her based on a couple of sentences in an email, and have some compassion on a mom who is feeling overwhelmed and all alone.

I’d do it again.  Ok, I might be a little more crafty in how I communicate time and place now that I know that Big Brother is reading my emails (or that he at least has some kind of algorithm to identify rebellious rule-breaking tutors).  Sometimes we have to be a little flexible. I don’t typically break the rules, but I do find ways to bend them a bit when needed.  I didn’t know this mom’s situation last night.  I wasn’t really trying to bend any rules.

But today, for fifteen minutes, two women connected without the blessing of Wyzant, and I’m not sorry for it.

I John 4:11

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Same struggle, different day

My calendar is pretty empty this week.  One tutoring session last night, Bible study tomorrow, and a trip to see the grand baby on Friday.   Not a lot for someone who used to have trouble finding time to meet a friend for coffee.  I should be happy, right?

I am, kind of.  But we always want what we don’t have.  Last year when I was working long days, single-parenting, and pondering a move, I longed for days like these when I could still be in my pajamas at 10:30 in the morning.  I dreamt of sipping tea and blogging with the dog at my feet.  And, ok, I am not hating this moment — my toes are tucked under his warm belly; I can feel it rise and fall. But, guess what I did first thing this morning — applied for two more jobs.

Don’t laugh.

Ok, laugh.

I have lost track of how many jobs I have applied for.  Did you know that I can see myself as an administrative assistant, a tutor, an academic advisor, a Bridge Program director, and an editor?  When I tell my husband about the positions I am applying for, he is very gracious.  He says things like, “You would love that position,” or, “I could see you doing that.”  But then, a few minutes later, he says something like, “You know, I am completely content with you not working.  You really need to pay attention to your health.  I think full-time is too much.”

I’ve got a winner, don’t I? He sees that I really want to be able to do some of the things that have fed me over the years, and he also sees my limitations.  Even when I don’t want to see them.

But, come on, maybe I really could still direct a program for provisionally admitted students at the University of Michigan.  I won’t know unless I try.  And maybe they won’t even call me anyway.  And if they call, I can at least go in for an interview, right?

I say all this as I sit in pajamas and a hoodie — the hood pulled over my head, wearing glasses because my eyes hurt too much today for contacts. But maybe if I had to get up and go to work I would feel better, right?

That’s the unanswered question.  So, I continue to ask it.  I continue to fill out job applications like that is my job. And I continue to tutor.

Last night I met with a high school freshman and his little sister, a seventh grader.  They are children of Indian heritage whose parents’ first language is not English.  They have high aspirations — big goals.  So together we worked through test prep and grammar games.  We struggled and laughed together.

I got home and was working on my puzzle when a different high school freshman, another son of Indian parents, messaged me in a panic.  The assignment we poured over on Saturday is all wrong.  It is 9:30pm. Is it too late to help him re-work it before his presentation tomorrow.  The messages went back and forth until midnight. Poor kid had himself all stressed out.  But the stakes, for him, are high.  He, too, has big goals.

If I’d had to get up this morning to go direct a program at the university, I would’ve been in bed by 8:00.  The kid would find someone else.  I would have other kids to interact with, too.  But right now, we have each other.

I know.  I see it.  You don’t have to tell me. My husband is not the only one who sees my need to do the things that feed me while also seeing my limitations.  He’s allowing me to interact with students and stay in pajamas until 10:30am (ok, it’s 11:00 now).

He’s answering my prayers and I am still submitting my requests.  It’s ok.  He gets me.  He understands that I am used to doing so much more.  He knows that it is hard for me to rest, hard for me to be still, hard to trust that He’s got our situation under control.

So, I’m sitting here blogging, and my husband sends me a text.  He’s sitting in chapel and hears 1 Samuel 2:2.  He says it’s a comfort to him this morning.

“There is none holy like the Lord; for there is none beside you;

there is no rock like our God.”

No one else understands my needs before I ask.  No one else knows the plans He has for me, plans to help me and not to harm me.  No one else is holding me in the palm of His hand.

Sigh.

Ok, no more job applications today.  I’m gonna go work on my puzzle.

Change is in the air

THE. SNOW. IS. MELTING!!!!

I am pretty excited about this.  Yesterday, my husband and I took our dog to the park to walk after a long winter hibernation.  We were not alone.  The paths were crowded with prisoners set free from the bondage of subzero temperatures.  We sprung the clock forward and were launched into spring, or so it seems.

My husband announced this morning, “I packed my winter coat away.”  I walked across campus in just jeans and a sweater.  The sun is shining and it looks like we’ll hit the high forties and low fifties most every day this week.  Yippee!

Spring is so hopeful.  I just know that under the thick crust of snow, some daffodils are waking up and thinking about breaking the surface of the soil.  As the dingy whiteness melts into the river, fresh green grass will sprout and blanket the yard outside our home. It’ll be fresh and new.

I could use a little ‘new’.  Could you?

Some friends and I are meeting once a week to talk about turning, repenting, resting, renewing, and re-setting. It’s a pretty Lutheran/Lenten thing to do, really.  We start with Ash Wednesday acknowledging that “dust we are and to dust we shall return.”  We enter the Lenten season contemplatively, acknowledging the truth about ourselves and admitting — “I’m getting it all wrong.” So, these friends and I are really opening ourselves up to one another and inviting one another to ask, “How can I turn from this? How can I rest in this? How can I be renewed? How can I re-set?”

I didn’t really give anything up for Lent, but the addition of this weekly community of confession — of agreeing with one another that we don’t have it all figured out — has provided a space for me to be ok with my insufficiencies, to openly admit that I am a work in progress.

Now that may not be revolutionary for you, but for me it’s a space that I haven’t always allowed myself. I have spent a lot of energy over the years thinking I was right, justifying my actions, and plowing over (or simply ignoring) those who didn’t agree with me.

I mean, as long as I’m confessing, why hold back, right?

Over the years in my classroom, I often taught my students that “anybody can change.”  This was one of my many “mini-sermons” I gave to teach life lessons.  I would give the “anybody can change” sermon when students were annoyed with coaches, other teachers, each other, or their parents.  I would say, if we expect that people will never change, we don’t allow them the space to make changes.  I sometimes cited as an example a former student who prided himself on being the class clown.  He disrupted almost every class he attended and found himself meeting with the Admissions Review Board on more than one occasion.  We would say, “You are a natural born leader.  Please, use that power for good!  Lead your peers positively, not negatively.” For four years, we encouraged this student to change.  For four years we believed he could.  Yet, as he walked across the stage at graduation, we were still witnessing the immature disruptive student.  Three years later, the student showed up at my classroom door — shirt and tie, freshly cropped, and somewhat sheepish looking.  He wanted to let me know that he had become the captain of the football team at his university and that he had made the dean’s list.  “You were right, Mrs. Rathje.”  Anybody can change.

Now, I usually tell that story to point out the fact that anybody can change, but also to show what an amazing teacher I am — see what an impact I had on that student!  But really, the object lesson is for me.

Anybody can change.  Anybody can turn.  Anybody can re-set.  Even me.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

The old has passed away; behold the new has come.