Monday, August 30, 2010

The List

My job is amazing. I am absolutely in love with teaching my block of social studies and language arts. When I wake up in the mornings, I almost hop out of bed and sprint to the shower in order to share something new with my students that day. I hate missing school. Oh, it just rips my heart out.

I had to take the afternoon off of work today, and it was tumultuous to my routine. However, I got to have dinner with my dear friend Amy. She surprised me and bought my lunch! It's little gifts like that that really send my heart into deep appreciation for great friends. Then I was talking to my sister, and I found out she was going to be at my parents' house for dinner. Needless to say I spent the entire afternoon losing in baseball to my nephew and taking advice from my 4 year old niece.

We read books together, and I discovered that I have more voices inside my little body than I even knew: cajun dialect, Cinderella, an evil stepmom, mice, and the list goes on. I do believe, however, I was more impressed with the impersonations than the two little rugrats were. After a few airplane rides, and inevitably the same amount of airplane crashes, they had to head back up the hill to get ready for preschool in the morning. Man, I miss them already.

When they left, the three of us got to just sit and breathe momentarily. Once again we were sitting on Mom and Dad's back porch just talking about life. Dad asked me what exactly I was looking for in a guy. I do want to start with the notion that I'm not looking for a guy. But that being said, I gave him a list.

Some people may be taken aback that I have a "list" of things I feel the need to have in a man. Regardless, I do have things that I just desire. From what I've read in Psalms, God will give me those desires if I follow Him. Therefore, I just go ahead and lay it all out there for Him...just to make sure He knows!

While I was in the middle of talking about this man I haven't met yet (ohh...that song.."I haven't even met you yet...ahhh), I just stopped and said, "Man, I really need to lower my standards. No one will ever fit this mold." My dad's a genius, if you haven't figured that out yet.

His response was this, "If you lower your standards, you will get a husband. But if you keep your standards, you will get a husband you love even when he is old and fat." Yes, I laughed. But there's a lot of truth in that, honestly.

For now I am more than contempt on being by myself. As I told my parents, I can't imagine a life better than mine. After listening to my sister cry over stress from a family, job, and husband and seeing friends go through divorce, I'm pretty satisfied with the bubble baths and soothing nights of writing I so much enjoy. To get married would put a 180 on my life. Africa would be out of the picture for next summer. Charlee would be by himself. My students would have to call me by a new name. And I'd have to cook for twice as many people. Plus, it'd be kind of depressing to have to share a bed. I really like sleeping in the middle.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Before the summer started, my goal for the 3 months following were to rest. I went swimming a lot. I stayed up late and slept in. I took naps. I took trips. I skipped church a time or two (oops). I took prescribed Vitamin D pills. And I ate a lot of junk food. For some reason, however, I just didn't feel rested when school started.

It was a day before students were coming, and I felt that I was more tired then than I was when my previous year's students left back in May. To say I was aggravated would be an understatement. "Rest!" I would yell at myself. "Just rest!" But how do you "rest?" What in the world does that mean? How in the world do you do that?

I gave up on the idea of rest. I decided I was just going to live life in a downright busy manner and just deal with the fact I'm always tired. But a girl can only take being tired for so long until she just gets snappy.

For starters, I pulled the E-brake on the roller coaster my heart had been on for 6 months. In getting that buried, I put on the black robes for all the minor bumps in the road I had been encountering as well. It seemed as if the moment I spit fury in the face of the roller coaster's operator, I was on a roll.

Somewhere between starting a new school year and retrieving my heart, I learned the word "no." It seemed at times that I forgot what the word "yes" even meant. No, I don't want to hang out tonight. No, I just don't have time to call you back later. No, I can't eat dinner. No, I won't be there this weekend. No, I really wasn't wanting to date you. No, for real.

So, maybe snappy doesn't completely define what I was being! But in saying no and laying it all out there in brutal honesty for people, I have found myself doing the things I loved. I am loving every moment of teaching. I am loving the afternoon workouts and geocache dates with friends. I am loving going to bed early and even getting up before I have to in order to get to Jethro for breakfast.

I spent the entire day at my parents' house, which I have dubbed "God's country." It really is God's country to me with its serenity and unique beauty held by the Ozark Mountains and Mulberry River. We hiked through parts of the National Forest this afternoon partly to geocache but moreso to just enjoy the day. Mom had a roast in the crockpot for dinner when we got home, and she topped that with a brownie treat that Dad and I literally inhaled.

We sat on the back porch eating dinner and watching for deer in the hay meadow. That's when I found the most precious cache of all: rest. It hit me tonight while sitting in Mom's new lawn furniture that rest didn't mean sleeping or being lazy. Rest simply means finding rest within yourself, having the ability to say no to things you don't really like, and going full force with the things your heart passionately desires.

It was a revelation for a young woman like myself to discover this secret to life. In Bible study this summer, the oldest woman in the group said she would sum up her life's present situation in one word: rest. I envied that. I couldn't fathom how she could be so at peace. And I longed for the day I too could retire in order to rest. But what I discovered today was that rest is an inner quality that comes with the enjoyment in life...not some 30 year from now fantasy that I can only have once I have given my life to everyone and everything I never really wanted to entertain.

Rest. I believe that one simple concept will not only slow my life down, it will also open it up for even more ideas that life will throw at me. It's about resting in geocaching. In breakfast. In work. In dateless nights. In political debate. In lesson planning. In attending Amish church. In drinking sweet tea. In canning pickled okra. In writing. In making a surprise visit to see my niece and nephew. In celebrating a close friend's accomplishments. In sitting. In standing. In walking. In running. In singing. In not saying anything. Because pure rest is not in what you do or don't do. Pure rest comes when your heart has opened itself up to release the burdens that have kept you so tired. Then doing becomes less tiresome and sitting becomes less gruesome.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

This quote is on the front of our agendas at school this year, which has made me think of the meaning of it even more than usual. But this quote strikes me so much today because I've spent the last week looking around. I've wondered why people make the choices they make. And to me, it's a pretty simple answer. People take the road most traveled by..the easiest way out. The answer is that obvious.

What originally made me take note of people's actions is the vain human desire of relationship. Vain? You ask. Yes, vain, when it becomes the sole purpose of our existance. It is vain when the value of the relationship is not measured by depth but by the lack of. It is vain when it runs on mere feeling.

I was talking to a young man last week about my choice of not wanting to date him, which was a really awkward conversation for me since I haven't dated in almost a year. But I called him in pure obedience to the Lord, knowing a relationship with him was not what God had in store for me. I told this young man the truth...that he was a neat guy, and I had a lot in common with him. In fact I wanted to date him..because I liked him. However, I had to tell him that God has called me to a different lifestyle. I didn't feel like it was the most optimum time for me to date anyone. And in fact, as much as we had in common, God had called me to something bigger than merely living. Of course he didn't understand that, because God has not yet revealed that to him. Or maybe he has never listened to God.

I'm not here to dog on this guy. Not at all. But his response to me has had my mind in continual thought for the rest of the week. He says to me, "You're just a genuinely great person. I'm not even close to being the person you are. I'd have to work a lot to be the person you deserve." Needless to say, he spent the rest of the week with his ex-girlfriend. No other words were ever exchanged between us after that, and I don't anticipate a conversation ever stirring there again. But I felt for him. I really did.

That's when it hit me that people want to take the easy way, even in relationships. No, especially in relationships. I assume this guy and the ex are glad to be back together, and I truly hope the best for them. But I also suppose she doesn't deserve the person he could be? He knows he has a lot of work to do. He knows if he was with me, I'd challenge him continuously to serve and love our Savior. But I guess she doesn't deserve that? That killed me for this girl...because in fact, she deserves that too.

This is something I can't wrap my mind around. I just can't even fathom how someone could know they could be a better person, but they just ignore that fact. They would rather have a relationship that makes them happy now than one that makes them become a deeper, more purpose-driven individual...which ultimately makes life more peaceful, meaningful, and joyful.

I talked to my mom about this idea this afternoon. She says they just don't know. And until they know, they won't realize what they are missing. But I can't fully agree with that. I think people do know there's more to life and love. I think people choose to ignore that so they can have immediate affection and answers. But that's not what I choose. I hope I take the road less traveled by. And up to this point, it truly has made all the difference.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Playing Cinderella

Can we just start with a shout out to our Lord? I want to go back to 1997 right now and raise the roof. For real. Because God's "got it going on." I truly believe that if King David was alive today, the Psalms would read more like that.

You would think as many times as I have taken the reigns in my life that I would have learned my lesson by now. But no. I apprently didn't. However, when a Monday back to work sounds like relief from the weekend, then you know it's been a bbaaaadddd weekend.

When I decided to pursue Christ, it was easy at first. Like..I just loved loving Him. And we had this pure relationship that manifested in my daily life. Oh, I could just praise and worship all day long. But then came reality. And reality was that Satan was going to attack me at every possible curve. The really scary thing about Satan is that a lot of time he does his little sneak attack..where he just weasles into your life and the BAM hits you in the face. It's almost like he laughs when he does it, because he knows how he just disrupted not just your life but also your relationship with God.

The really neat thing about our relationships with Christ, however, is that His grace is unending. Several days ago my dad and I were talking on the way home from the hospital just about life. Tears began rolling down my face as he talked, and for the first time in my life he just reached over and grabbed my hand. He told me it was all going to be okay. (Okay..he didn't just say that..because he has infinite amounts of wisdom.) I just listened to my father talk and heard his heart for me unfold. I've always known my dad loves me...but never to this extent. He just poured into me like I was a bottomless vase..and I was grappling for every word he said.

I couldn't wrap my mind around it though. I said to him, "But what if God is telling me something different? I don't even know what He wants from me anymore!!" My dad looked at me and said, "God doesn't always talk through a burning bush..sometimes God talks through your dad." I sat in silence for quite some time.

What you're thinking is that I probably soaked in my dad's advice and went on. But I have to admit that I didn't. I ignored it, because that was easier. And a couple days later I was wishing I had listened to my dad a lot sooner! He truly did know.

Having to wait on God seems bad...until you wish you would have waited on God. I try to take matters into my own hands at times. I don't know why either.

When I was little (and still today), I loved my dad telling me how I pretty I was or that I did a good job on a paper or that I was the best in my game. I distinctly remember every Monday night during football season standing between him and the TV during commercials as he threw a ball into the air to get it over my head. I would jump as high as I could to swat it down. As I got older, my vertical got higher, and I beat him a lot more. But even when I got to where I could touch the ceiling, my dad and I would play that game when my mom wasn't looking.

Then there were the Sunday mornings before church that we would get up and watch "Meet the Press." We would argue as he is Democrat and I Republican. We would have it out all the way to church and try to make the preacher's sermon fit our side of the controversy. I remember when Tim Russert died. My dad and I just sat there that first Sunday morning not knowing what to do without our Meet the Press ritual.

I could go on and on with stories about my dad. But I'll sum it up in this: I can't fathom his love for me. When I play Cinderella, he wants to keep me from every frog, prince, and white horse. Even today. That's the same way with my Heavenly Father. Sometimes I play Cinderella, and I try to find my own Prince Charming. But God just wraps His giant love around me, and He escorts me back with His grace. I got a good dose of that escorting this weekend. I've never heard my Father audibly speak, but I think I almost heard Him yell at me a little bit.

But I praise Him for it. I made a hard decision today I didn't want to make. But I made the decision following God, knowing He was there to comfort me and to love me. Once I followed Him with both words and action, He restored my peace. He gave me light when a moment earlier I felt surrounded by darkness. I guess I conclude with one thing...we might play Cinderella, but God needs to be the writer of the script.