Practicing Yoga

The first time I walked into a yoga studio, I looked around and did what the others were doing — got a mat, sat down cross-legged, and quietly waited for instruction. I hadn’t done any research, had no idea what I was getting into, and struggled to mimic the poses that were being demonstrated at the front of the class. I was a distance runner at the time, so I was in great shape for running, but I had little to no upper body strength, a poorly-developed core, and little to no flexibility — physical or mental. I ended the class feeling frustrated and nauseous and didn’t try yoga again for a long time.

When chronic pain and fatigue ended my running career, I joined a gym. My regular routine included thirty minutes on an elliptical trainer, light weight lifting, and then some restorative movement in the warm saltwater therapy pool. Once in a while, I joined a pilates class. I stayed in that rhythm for a year or so, and then my daughter gave me a month-long membership at a yoga studio. I decided to give yoga another try.

Since I had only had one previous experience with yoga, and that had ended badly, I asked my friend to go with me. I’m so glad I did. Without her, I was the only ‘mature’ woman in a room filled with college students. The instructor was a young man whose body reminded me of the bendable figures our oldest son used to take with him on long car trips — I’d never seen such a strong and limber human. To make matters worse, it was an advanced vinyasa flow class. If you know what that means, you know that I was in the wrong room at the wrong time. I tried to keep up, but I didn’t know the poses, or the vocabulary, and I still had neither the strength nor the flexibility for much more than child’s pose.

Child’s Pose


Sure, my inner soldier made a valiant attempt. I tried to move through a vinyasa, even though the word was brand new to me. I tried to be any kind of warrior — I would’ve settled for one, two, or three. I pretended to be a mountain, but what that class taught me was that I needed to take the posture of a child — physically, mentally, and emotionally — and start to become comfortable with learning a new way.

Lesson #1: You don’t learn a new way over night.

That class was a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been practicing yoga. I’ve been learning how to breathe. I’ve been building core strength. I’ve developed some vocabulary and even some flexibility.

I often say, “God is always preparing you for what’s next.” In school, we first learn letters and sounds so that we will be prepared to read words. Once we have some vocabulary, we can begin to read sentences. Sentences lead to paragraphs which lead to stories which lead to all the ways that print can open up the world for us.

Menial jobs like babysitting or lawn mowing provide opportunities to learn the basic practices of showing up on time and finishing a task. They build experience, or muscle, that enables us to take on more difficult jobs such as food service or sales. These jobs teach us about working in teams and being able to adapt under pressure — they teach us flexibility.

All of life is preparing us for what’s next. When, as children, we learn how to line up and take turns, we are learning the basics of how to function with others. When, in adolescence, someone says something unfriendly about us, we feel the pain that reminds us to treat others with kindness. When we experience our first heartbreak and someone listens to us as we cry, we learn how important it is to be compassionate. When we face the many challenges of juggling finances and deadlines and friends and work, our core strength is being established. All of life is practice — practice for what’s next.

In advance of my soldiering years, I had several experiences that built up my stamina and developed a fearlessness that allowed me to step into responsibility and to manage difficult situations. God had given me what I needed; He knew what was coming. When those years were over, He provided an opportunity for me to learn a new way, but first He had to teach me how to be still. He had to remind me to breathe.

When I first started practicing yoga, I thought it was weird that the first 5-10 minutes and the last 5-10 minutes of the practice focused on stillness and breath. How could I get stronger by being still? How could bringing my attention to my breath have any lasting impact on my physical body? In my mind, exercise was about exertion, pushing the body, and burning the calories. These messages — remnants of the soldiering years — had to be put aside. Although the way of yoga seemed strange to me, I moved into child’s pose and began to learn to listen to the sound of my own breath, to watch the rise and fall of my body, and to pay attention to how I feel physically.

This way is new to me. I have long walked/trudged/powered through life giving attention to my body only when it cried out in pain or shut down in illness. Then I have patched it up as quickly as possible and resumed my forward motion. And my body has suffered, but not just my body. I have also ignored my emotions. And my spirit. I have put myself on a course with the goal of finishing. Period.

But in this chapter, I find myself over and over again in the posture of a child, often helpless and crying, needing to learn a new way. And, as my pastor said this morning, new ways are “not something we arrive at, but something that we practice”.

So I’ll continue to practice — yoga, yes, but also returning to my spiritual practices of prayer, Scripture, worship, and community. These are the practices that have been re-shaping me, re-wiring me, re-pairing me, and pre-paring me for whatever comes next.

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 1For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

2 Corinthians 4: 15-16
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Moving into the School year

A few minutes ago, I sat down to read my Bible study.  Just as I was getting comfortable, I remembered what my husband said last night, “If we don’t move the car first thing in the morning, you won’t be able to get out of campus when you need to leave at 10:30.”

We live on a college campus.  Our home, a three-bedroom ranch,  is nestled between three residence halls.  One long, narrow driveway enters the east side of campus and winds past a large parking lot and between the buildings to land at our doorway.  We’ve got one way in and one way out.  This is typically not a problem.  Our campus is small, and most cars are required to park in the parking lot.  We’ve usually got a straight shot from our doorway to the highway.

But today is freshman move-in day.

When I leapt out of my seat a few minutes ago to go move the car, I walked outside and noticed that about a dozen student leaders clad in red “Welcome” t-shirts were gathered, waiting the arrival of the first students.  My path was clear, so I drove our little Suze-e Cruze-e straight to the  lot,  slipped in an end slot, and put her in ‘park’.  As I pulled the key from the ignition, I looked up and saw a line of cars snaking down the narrow drive from the entryway.

I was just in the knick of time.

All week, the excitement has been palpable. Our campus pastor embodies enthusiasm.  Even though I haven’t seen him in person since Sunday, I have ‘heard’ him over social media.  He has been posting pictures of dozens of student leaders meeting at his home. He’s been gushing over Twitter about how he and the leaders have prayed over every building on campus, how he witnessed the first class of nursing students gathering at our new North building, and how the campus is primed and ready for our newest students to arrive for a year that’s themed #togethersetapart.

And he’s not the only one who’s excited.  I’ve stopped by the Student Life Office a few times this week and have found bustling activity — the men and women in this office work hard all year, but this is one of their busiest times.  Not only do they make the housing assignments,  train the resident assistants, and coordinate the move-in, but they also plan multiple events for welcome week including meals, evening activities, and a campus-wide service event for Sunday.

The campus, that gets pretty quiet over the summer, is starting to pulse.  I’ve been sitting here now for about half an hour, but I know that when I get up and look out the window, I will see overloaded cars pulled close to residence halls.  Parents will be carrying Rubbermaid containers and laundry baskets and thinking to themselves, “What have we forgotten?”  Students will be bundles of emotion — excitement, fear, enthusiasm, wonder, anxiety — as they meet their roommates and urge their parents to leave, saying, “I’ve got it from here.”

My golden retriever is pacing from one end of our house to the other.  He’s pressing his nose against the glass because it’s just so exciting out there!!

All my life I have loved the start of the school year.  It’s a clean slate waiting to be written on, a blank planner begging to be filled, a new race waiting to be run.  A new school year screams possibility!  For the kids outside my door and the one sitting right here at this laptop, I pray for the fulfillment of dreams, the facing of challenges, and the opportunity to fully embrace what it means to be #togethersetapart.

John 17:21

that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

 

 

 

Experimentation

Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to participate in an experiment.  After two years of limited part-time employment, I am gearing up for the next level of engagement.

As you may be aware, from 2005 to 2014 I was a full-time teacher and administrator at a small private high school in St. Louis, MO.  For at least seven of those years I was a very hard-charging,  responsible faculty member who worked long hours both at school and at home.  I managed that position while being married to a seminary student turned mission-planting pastor and parenting three teenagers.  It was a very busy life full of challenges and rewards.

When chronic illness started to impact my effectiveness in that position, my husband and I began to watch and pray for God to open a path to something different.  This blog began when God answered our prayers and transplanted us in Ann Arbor where he has been serving as the Dean of Students at a small Christian university for the past three years.

When I joined him two years ago, I rested for six months and then began to experiment with different levels of employment.  I started with occasional private tutoring.  I added a summer ‘internship’ at an educational agency before transitioning to adjunct instruction coupled with private tutoring.  I’ve been doing well for the past year balancing those two positions.  I have taught a few hours a week in the classroom while supporting several private students that I meet in homes, in libraries, or in coffee shops.  I’ve loved this combination.  So, I’m continuing it this fall — at the next level.

Starting next Monday I will have three sections of college composition. (All the writing instructors in the room just gasped.) Now, to be fair, two of those sections are small at just 12-13 students each.  The third section is a more average-sized class of twenty-one. So, do your math and you will find that I am going to have 46 composition students.  That’s a solid load.  Most English teachers would say, “That’s fabulous!  What a joy to have forty-six writing students!” (My last year in St. Louis, a staffing issue created a situation where I had about 80 writing students!)  And, indeed, I am thrilled.  I am also thrilled that entering my second year as a private tutor, I have a solid student base that easily yields 8-10 hours of tutoring per week.  God has indeed engineered a sweet gig for me.

However, I am a little anxious. My health is more stable than it has been in close to four years.  With the help of my medical team I have eliminated biologic and anti-inflammatory medications.  That’s right; I take nothing for pain!  I am also currently weaning off the anti-depressants that I started taking seven or eight years ago.  I walk, do Pilates, practice yoga, and get in the water regularly. I see a physical therapist and a chiropractor,  avoid gluten and dairy, and am following my doctor’s instructions for taking homeopathic and nutritional remedies. I’m doing all the things, yet I still have a measure of pain in my hips, neck, and back.  I still have psoriasis. I still have chronic eye issues. I still get knocked down if I do too much.

So how much is too much?

That’s why this fall is an experiment.  Can I teach forty-six students in the classroom and meet with a handful outside of the classroom without spending every weekend in bed? Will I still fit in exercise? physical therapy? time with friends?  time with family? What will happen if something unexpected pops up — an out-of-state emergency, a family crisis, a family celebration? I don’t know.  Have I created a schedule that allows for these variables?  We’ll see.

I do know that the success of this semester is more likely if I continue to practice the disciplines that I have re-discovered in this time of stillness — Bible study, blogging, prayer.   It seems I struggle to fit them in, when in truth, they are the most impactful moments of my day.  Writing the prayer reminders on my mirror and my fridge is a help, but I still need to choose to act on those prompts and actually pray. My devotional materials sit out in plain sight, but I have to move toward them and take the time to engage each day.  My blog is constantly percolating in my mind and begging to be let out through my fingers, and when I allow it the space and time, I become aware of all that God is working inside of me.  When I do these three things — prayer, Bible study, and blogging — I feel centered and purposeful.  I feel at peace.

So, on Monday, I’ll step feebly forth.  I won’t try to kick any butts or take any names, I will just show up and see what God has in store in this next chapter.

Luke 12:32

“Do not be afraid, little flock,

for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Low batt. p.3

I know, I know…I started this whole thing because I thought the “Spoon Theory” was not readily accessible to those outside the world of chronic illness.  I remarked that it was “a lot to read” and now I’m on my third day of posting about my alternative metaphor.  *sigh*

If you’re sick of it by now, just close this window and move on with your day, because I am going to go ahead and examine a feature that my iPhone recently started offering me.  I’ve mentioned that my phone is not holding a charge very well (nor am I for that matter), so I frequently get a prompt to switch to “low power mode”.  This function is quite handy.  I might be out tutoring in some nearby library, when I check my texts in between students, and I realize that my phone, which the last time I checked had 80% battery, is suddenly down to 37%.  A dialog box pops up on my screen offering me the option of switching to “low power mode”.  Knowing that I won’t be home for another couple of hours, I readily accept my phone’s offer.  “Why, yes, I will switch to lower power mode, dear iPhone, thank you for asking.”

In fact, I am kind of wondering why my smart phone isn’t always in “low power mode”.  I mean, isn’t it smart-enough by now that it is able to do everything I need it to do while remaining in “low power mode”?

That is, after all, what I have been learning to do.

I mean, my battery regularly plummets from 80% down to 37% with very little forewarning.  So, I have found ways to conserve energy — to utilize my “low power mode”.  For instance, when I am teaching, I may start standing in the front of the room, but it won’t be long before I sit right among my students and lead a discussion from “among the ranks”.  We could say it’s brilliant teaching strategy, or just call it what it is — “low power mode”.

My “low power mode” extends beyond the classroom.  I’ve found a variety of ways to conserve energy so that I have it for all the things that are important to me.

  • I cook in large quantities (when I cook, which isn’t often) so that we can freeze portions for days that I’m spending my energy on something else.
  • I fold laundry while sitting in front of the television, and I take breaks if my arms get tired.
  • I take smaller, more frequent shopping trips so that I don’t often have to put away a whole kitchen’s worth of groceries at one time.
  • I also clean in spurts — wipe down the bathroom before I jump in the shower, vacuum right before company comes, and change the sheets when my husband is around to help re-make the bed.
  • My Christmas shopping took me quite a while this past year because I purchased one or two items at a time, often online while sitting on my couch.

These strategies allow an extended battery life.  Because I run on “low power mode”  I can blog, teach, and join friends for dinner all in one day.  I still may need to pause mid-afternoon and plug in for an hour or two of re-charging, but ultimately I can participate in the things that are important to me.

I know this is the strategy that works best for me, and yet, from time to time, I keep all the apps open, the screen up to full brightness, and the wifi searching for a signal. Sometimes I do this out of forgetfulness; other times, I’m just willingly taking the risk. Either way, I end up shutting down in the middle of something, wishing that I’d slowed down or plugged in sooner.

And then I have another chance to learn my lesson — another chance to function at “lower power mode” from the start; my iPhone should go and do likewise.

2 Corinthians 12:9

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

This is Now

I wonder how many times I am going to write the same content in this blog before I finally get it.

I’m knocked down again, because I was probably trying to do too much.

We had dinner with friends last week.  The couple asked me, “So how are you feeling?” I answered, “Well, I was doing great until I sat on the bleachers in the cold at the football game for three hours.” That was nine days ago.  Yes, it can be something that little.

I went on to explain the frustration I have with this because I used to be able to do so much.  So much.  But, as I’ve written so many times in this blog — that was then, this is now.

I knew I was in trouble last weekend when I had difficulty moving around the day after the football game.  We went to church then came home and rested.  I fussed and whined for a bit, then my husband suggested we go for a walk.  Movement always helps.  After we walked, we came home to make it an early night.

I didn’t adjust my schedule last week to allow myself time to recover, after all, I teach two hours three days a week and see a few students outside of that.  What would I need to pare down? I am already pared way down.   So, I was moving a little slowly, big deal.  Surely I could still teach and see a few students.

Well, a few students turned into ten hours of tutoring.  Add that to six hours in the classroom and five to six hours of prep and I still had a work week that was fewer than twenty-five hours.  However, we also went to dinner and a play on Thursday night. Then, we drove to a neighboring town on Saturday for a wedding.  Yesterday we spent the morning at church.  Finally, I uncharacteristically agreed to meet two students on Sunday evening.

And this morning? Well, I pried myself out of bed at 8:00am to take my meds and send messages to my doctors to see what I can do about the fact that I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.  My body aches– neck, hips, knees, back. My eyes are the worst — aching, irritated, sensitive to light. And fatigue?  Yeah.  I’ve made a promise to myself that I will shower at 11 this morning so that I am on time for my noon class. I will probably force myself to stay dressed long enough to drive out and refill my medication at the pharmacy, otherwise I won’t have pain meds tomorrow morning.  And, I will likely make an agreement with myself that I am only allowed to watch television and crochet if I do twenty minutes of Pilates first.

And, I know I’ve got to do some preparing because I have four students tomorrow — one who is new.  Wednesday I teach and then I will see four more students. And even that, folks, is sounding like a lot right now.

It sounds like a lot to a girl who used to arrive at school before 7am, prepare for students or attend meetings until 8, teach, observe other teachers, mentor students, run with the cross country team, and still go home to make dinner, do laundry, and attend events with the family.

That was then, this is now.

I have to remind myself of what I wrote just a few days ago.  This opportunity to slow down has afforded me the time to reflect and find meaning in the ways that I have lived my life for the past forty-nine years. This new pace, this pace of now, is a blessing and an opportunity.

But today I don’t like it. At all.

Psalm 55:17

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.

Next ChapterS

A while ago someone suggested that I change the title of my blog since I was already in the Next Chapter — I should get settled and live in it. I thought about that, and I almost changed it.  But, you know, I am beginning to think that life is a series of next chapters.  I know, I know, this is not a new metaphor.  I’ve even used it before in this blog (My Life is a [fairly] Open Book)!  I wouldn’t want to overuse it, but I’m thinking, if it’s a good metaphor, it’s a good metaphor, right?

I love books. My idea of bliss is a day with no commitments, a steady rain, a warm cuppa in one hand, and a satisfying book in the other.  I love to get lost in story, to meet characters, to see their crises, and to watch them resolve — or not. And why do I like this?  I mean, most of the books that I read are not true….

I’m wondering if it has something to do with wondering about my own story.  I mean I am many, many chapters into this book, but I have no idea what is coming next.  The Author keeps creating plot twists and introducing new characters.  And then, just when I think we have moved on from one plot line, there it is again!  And characters that I thought I’d left way back in chapter thirteen or fourteen show up in chapter forty-seven — and they have changed!!

In books there may be plot twists, but they are confined within a boundary of 200 or 300 or, ok, 700 pages.  If I keep reading long enough, I will find out what happens in the end. 

That’s going to happen in my own story, too, I know…but I’m not very anxious to get to the end. So, even though I’d like some closure, I don’t really want closure.  You know what I mean?

I don’t know about you, but there are a few books I have read over and over again, even though I know how they are going to end!  What’s up with that?  It’s the same way with movies!  I will never get tired of watching Sweet Home Alabama or The Shawshank Redemption. Never.

Yet there are many chapters in my own story that I wouldn’t want to think about again, let alone  see again.  I think it’s safe to say that middle school is one of those chapters. Now, I wouldn’t reliving the births of each of my babies again — really, I’m serious.  What scenes those were — true miracles right from my own pages. I wouldn’t mind rewriting a few chapters, though, especially those where I was cranky, or selfish, or just plain mean. But the pages in life’s book only turn one way.

So, I moved to Michigan over a year ago to start a new chapter.  Am I still in the same one? I have no idea, I can’t make out the page numbers.  I am enjoying the story. The characters continue to amaze me.  The plot has its ups and down and even a few twists and turns to keep it interesting.

So, maybe I should change the title after all.  I could call it Kristin’s Next ChapterS. Nah, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

Jeremiah 29:11 Rathje Revised Version

For I know what’s on the next page, and it’s nothing to be afraid of,

I’ve been planning good things for you, and the end of the story has already been written.

January 5th-ish

Today is the day!  In less than two hours I will clock in at my new job!  I am excited, and nervous!  I’ve probably felt this way every time I have started a new job — and I’ve had plenty of them!  I’ve worked everywhere from a dress shop to McDonald’s to summer camp to pubic schools to day care centers to residential facilities.  I like to work. I also like change.  So, why am I nervous?  I have been thinking it’s because I don’t know how my body will handle the demands of consistent work after eight months or so of concentrating on improving my health.  But I got up this morning, had the parade of beverages, read my devotion and realized that this is an opportunity I haven’t had in a while. Now I’m a little more nervous than I was before!

Since 2005 I have been working at a Christian high school.  Almost all of my colleagues were Christian, and the majority of our students were, too!  In fact, daily prayer with our students was encouraged, each day started with a devotion read over the public address system, every day included twenty minutes for a chapel service or devotion, and issues of faith were freely discussed in our classrooms.  Our Christian beliefs were on display at every turn.

What a blessing, right?  Right!  It was an incredible privilege to work in an environment that was supportive of my faith and in which I could freely share my faith with my students.  However, it was also a bit of a safety zone.  My students and I, I believe, took this for granted.  It was a given.  We started most conversations on an even and familiar playing field. We knew, to some degree at least, where the other was coming from.  Conflicts were in the minutiae, not in the big ticket items.  Parents counted on that; so did we.

Here in Ann Arbor, which is, as a whole, a very diverse environment, we sit on a small Christian college campus that is very similar to the high school environment where I taught.  The majority of employees/faculty/staff are Christian and I would say that more than half of the students are, too.  So, again, we are operating in a somewhat predictable environment.

My tutoring experiences have allowed me to interact with students from a variety of backgrounds for one hour at a time. In the one hour that we are bent over my students’ school work or writing we spend very little time on personal matters–we joke a little, talk about sports, or share our plans for the weekend.  We don’t often have time for deeper conversations.  But today —  today I enter an unknown environment.

I have been in the office once.  Situated on the second floor of an office building on the south side of Ann Arbor, the learning center is very professional.  All employees are in business attire (khakis are only allowed if they ‘appear to be professionally laundered’), students and parents buzz to get in and are greeted at the door by an employee.  The waiting room is clean and orderly.  The rooms within the office suite are tastefully furnished and impeccably kept.

The employees I interacted with during my two-hour interview were very professional.  They taught us a strategy and then practiced it with us, coaching us in the ways that they would coach students.  I have no idea how many employees there are.  I have no idea what backgrounds they come from.  I don’t know what students and parents I will be working with.

I just know who I am.

This morning’s devotion said that when Peter referred to believers in his letter I Peter, he used the word lithos, which is the same word that was used for the stone that was rolled away from the tomb. Beth Moore, in this study, said, “Wouldn’t it be something if our lives became living stones exposing the empty tomb…what if people were convinced we worship a living Savior simply by watching the effervescent life of the Spirit within us?”

What if in this new environment, where we don’t start with morning devotions over the public address, where I don’t attend chapel with my students, where I don’t start every session with prayer, my students and their parents and my coworkers can still see evidence that I “worship a living Savior”.  What does that look like?

I don’t know.

So that is my prayer today.  My prayer is that I will not be focused on how my physical body is feeling but that I will face each student in front of me as a gift, that I will recognize the awesome opportunity I have been given, and that I will see God working in all of it.  Stay tuned.

2 Corinthians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere.

Continue reading “January 5th-ish”

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.

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.

Adjusting the Routine

I haven’t been finding time to get to my blog.  Remember back in the old days when I wrote every day? When I rolled out of bed each morning, brewed myself a cup of tea, did my Bible study, then blogged?  If you can believe it, those days seem like a distant memory.  And yet, I have only been in the house by the river for seven months.

I remember my husband saying, when I had only been here for a month or so, that routines are a great way to acclimate during a transition.  I clung to my routines!  And, you know, even though life has transitioned again a bit, I have clung to many of those routines.

I still have my parade of beverages most mornings. Back in December, I did the Ultra-Simple diet, which I can now tell you started a period of time where I was almost symptom-free.  The Ultra-Simple diet included starting the day with the juice of half a lemon in hot water, a cup of green tea, and a smoothie.  I still drink all three most mornings.  In fact, I’m drinking them right now.

I still make it to the gym or do Pilates at home most days.  One of the things I have learned about auto-immune disease is that movement is crucial to well-being.  I spend a lot of time every week tending to my body.  Back when I was in middle school,  high school, and even college, I spent hours in front of the mirror trying to get my face and my hair just right. My main goal then was to look good.  Last night I spent a hour at hot yoga stretching my muscles. My main goal right now is to feel good.

I still do my Bible study more days than not.  In fact, this morning I noticed I only had two more blank pages in the Sermon on the Mount study.  My anxiety rose just a little bit because I don’t know what the battalion will choose to study next, but then I remembered that I am still working through the other book on ten weeks of prayer — it is taking me much longer than ten weeks.  My Bible study centers me, reminds me what is important, and begins my day with truth.

I still meet with my battalion once a week — my group of ladies that come through rain, snow, sleet, and hail every Wednesday morning to spend two hours studying God’s word.  These women are at the heart of my Ann Arbor community.

My routine has been a comfort.  Especially in the midst of change.

What change?  I am working more.  On average I tutor half a dozen students every week.  I may have to start blogging about my students — they are amazing.  I have a sixth grade girl who continues to amaze me as we work through vocabulary, literary terms, grammar, and analysis.  I have a 40-something RN who is studying to become a nurse practitioner; she struggles with academic language, but not with learning. I tell her something once and she has it.  I have two high school freshmen — one girl who would rather eat than study and one boy who would rather study than eat. I have twin sisters whose similarities end in their appearance- — everything else about them is different.  I have a single mom who never graduated from high school and is now enrolled in community college and working on a degree in criminal justice.  I meet them in their homes, in libraries, and in Starbucks.  I read their writing online and respond via email, Googledocs, and Microsoft Word.  This is taking a chunk of my time, but perhaps you can tell that I love every minute of it.

So, with every change comes an ex-change. Sadly, the one exchange I have noticed is that I am not finding as much time to blog.  However, I am gathering lots of material.  So, more blog posts will be coming. All in due time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.