It’s a long story.

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“We want clarity– and God gives us a call. We want a road map– and God gives us a relationship. We want answers– and God give us His hand.” Ann Voskamp

Last year I had a scary thing happen in my classroom.  It was not a fight. It was not a medical emergency. It was not a student that found my authority benign.

In the midst of another lesson and practice at analyzing a literary passage, I was passionately probing my students to go further. I had asked the most important question, “Why?!” for at least the tenth time.  I was pointing out symbolism and metaphor and asking “So, what? Why does it MATTTERRRR?”  with a maniacal grin on my face.

I have found that my passion can be contagious. If only for a few. My students get a glimpse into a deeply rooted belief that it is all about something bigger. Story is what holds humanity together. The stories we read matter, and the stories we write with our lives matter even more.

But as I was oozing enthusiasm as only crazy English teachers can, I heard a whisper:

“It doesn’t.”

The voice seemed so loud I almost thought a student actually said it. But they didn’t. I scanned the room for hints of dissent, but in that moment every student was present; engaged and trying to break the code that only I seemed to understand.

I kept going, calling on every student brave enough to take a stab at the interpretation. But with every hand I called on the voice became louder.

This does not matter.” 

“What are you doing?” 

“How is this helping them?”

“Seriously, what are you doing with your life?”

It came from within. This voice I could not name was accusing me of wasting my life. I pushed through the day, believing that it was just that; a bad day. However, as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months this voice haunted me nearly everyday.  I was rounding into the second semester at a new school, with the most supportive administration I had ever had, and quite honestly some of the loveliest children I had ever met, and I hit a wall.

Everyday I battled a personal war against futility.

I finished the year. But I continually swallowed anxiety about what the new year would hold. What feelings would fight for dominance in my heart? Because, “seriously what are you doing with your life?” was what I heard every.single.day.

June was swallowed by a beautiful blur of time with my own children. July came hard with trauma that seemed sent to distract Nathan and I as we prepared for our trip to Romania.   But we made it. And friends, it was amazing. I found a peace in that country that I have lacked for years.

The language barrier seemed not to matter. I found myself able to make little kids that knew no English giggle and smile just the same.  Our leader kept telling me, “It isn’t really about teaching them English.” But since I am a teacher, and that is what I do…I teach, I took it very seriously.

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Practicing English

One day, while we were reviewing and trying to teach the words for family we encouraged the children to draw pictures of their families and label it in English. I found myself next to my two favorite boys: Cozmin and Marin. Cozmin was ornery and would cackle when I said, “Nu nu.” I loved his devilish smile. He had drawn and labelled his family and was eagerly asking for my approval. I looked at Marin’s paper where he had drawn one figure and a house. I pointed to my example and asked, “Who is this? Is this your mother? Is this your father?” He smiled, pointed and said, “My house.”

I had figured out that Marin’s English exposure had been less than most of the other children, so I smiled, affirmed that he had drawn his house, and tried again. “Mother, Father, Grandfather, Brother? ” At this point Cozmin began speaking.

“Nu stie. Nu stie.”

I did not learn a lot of Romanian, but I knew immediately what Cozmin was trying to say.

“He doesn’t know.”

Marin does not know who his family is. 

Something broke inside me.

I sat down with him and in English whispered that it was ok. I told him I loved his house. I told him I was so happy that I got to meet him. I told him that I loved him. I told him Jesus loved him. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would whisper these words to him in his own language and remind him of this truth when he felt so alone.

Every day after I told Marin that Jesus loved him. I could not wait to see his smile. I stopped worrying about the English. I made crafts with him and sang songs in butchered Romanian that I only half understood. And I was so sad to leave.

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Marin, Cozmin & Me

When we got home, it was a whirlwind into the new school year. I struggled to re-adjust. My physical jet-lag lasted nearly a full week. My emotional jet-lag lasted nearly longer. It still lingers.

There were so many moments filled with joy, humor, and awe, but my moment with Marin changed me. I am three weeks into my new school year. Again, I have been blessed with lovely children. Because friends that is what they are. I see them differently. I see my job differently. I now know that, teaching them English is not really the point. 

I still plan. I still break down my standards. I am already worried out of sleep for one class that I am not sure how to reach. However, in the midst of that worry and frustration I no longer feel futility. This year is full of hope. Because I know my job description: Love them. Pray for them

Friends, thank you for every single one of you that thought of us and prayed for us as we went to Romania. When we can, we ARE going back. I catch myself stopping and asking, “What time is it in Oradea? How are Denisa’s classes going? How is Beni, Dan & Claudiuu’s band? Is it to early to send Zsolt a meme?” There is an imprint that God has given both of us. For now, continue to pray for us in our classrooms that grace will abound and that I do not forget my job.

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My “class”

“But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Shifting Sand

20180610_071257Last year, hurricane season was particularly ugly to the Southeastern coast. For the first time in her 20 years of living on the beach of St. Simon’s Island, our beloved Gammy begrudgingly relocated to my in-laws to wait out the worst of the storm. It was a long week. While she was extremely comfortable, she worried about the state of her home, and her island.

When the waters of Irma receded there was no damage that was beyond repair. Soggy for a while, her condo development slowly returned to normal. However, East Beach had changed.

They kept warning me… “The beach is so, different…”

In the past ten years St. Simon’s has become a special place for me, a place for peace and renewal. The biggest change I had seen was the number of people (too many). I was not prepared.

When we walked the waves on our first day there, I noticed that the walkway from the boardwalk to the water was completely filled with sand… sand to the railings. And I could not run the full mile toward the pier. The water met me at the rocks and I could go no further. However, when we walked at the water, it did not feel that different.

Later, when we returned in the afternoon I was struck. We stood where the water had been and it felt like a miles sand stretched before us… keeping us from the waves. As I peered even further out into the water,  you could see that people were standing in waist deep water. Not what we were accustomed to.

This was not my beach.

I cannot lie, I was more than disappointed. For a little while, I was distraught. It seems so silly now, but when a place becomes familiar, and you spend most of your life avoiding “new,” I was not happy to be in “new” place.

But I rallied. In the din of dinner conversations, kids, and evening television I thought more about the fact that the tide was merely out. So I adapted. I looked up the tide schedule.

High tide would be at 7:00 AM.

So by 6:45 AM we were trekking across the sand to stake our claim on the closest sandbar.

And magic happened. 20180611_092112

I found my sea. I rediscovered the place I spend the rest of the year waiting to find. The sun still glistens on the water and the waves speak to me. A physical metamorphosis occurs with each  moment my feet and hands dig in the sand.  We explored; the shifting margins between land and abyss, longer is some areas, dwarfed in others. We discovered that these shifts brought about new residents; wildlife that we spent hours chasing and observing.

And I heard whispers…. prompts of a metaphor that I long to understand.

How easily I found joy in adapting to the subtle shifting landscape of a beach that has slowly become mine in our 11 year relationship.

20180612_133245And yet when I think of the relationship that brought me here, that afforded me this space I never knew I needed, those shifts in the landscape arise like seemingly  unmovable mountains and waves meant to drown me, not bring me bliss. I greet our shifting margins with defenses of anxiety and fear.

How different might my life be if I allowed myself to greet a different landscape with expectation, curiosity, and hope? What magic would happen if I believed that my Creator could be found in the new and unexpected instead of forcing my body, my beliefs, my schedule, hopes and dreams into a geography of 10 years ago? 

“Any landscape is a condition of the spirit.” Henri Frederic Amiel

20180611_201421I long for this place, physically and emotionally. The place where I truly am the best version of myself. This place where I look around aand live what I believe– that our lives are in constant motion– and each moment gives us glimpses of and brings us closer to our eternal home.

May we relish changing margins and look for the face of our Savior in whatever shifting sands we meet.

We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.”  2 Corinthians 5: 5 The Message

 

Save a Wretch like Me….

Yesterday morning, while doing devotions with my children we talked what Maundy Thursday was, about how Jesus humbled himself and washed the feet of Judas; the man who would betray him. We talked about serving, and counting ourselves lower than others. I felt proud that my children seemed to understand why Jesus’ example was so important.

Fast forward to much later in the day and I …. forgot. I found myself frustrated by a situation and reacted in a way I should not have. I talked through the situation with my sweet Nathan, and he looked at me and said, “Look at me. You did nothing wrong.”  And friends, if I shared the whole story you would probably agree. I did not publicly share air my frustration and annoyance, instead I quietly commiserated with a peer and moved on.  I harbored my annoyance and….judgement in my heart.

The heart is a tricky thing. And I am writing about this now because I shared with my husband out of feeling defensive…. and shame.

What seems like a lifetime ago, reading Martin Luther on the regular, I stumbled across a quote (and this is paraphrased mind you) where he lamented that the closer he got to God, the “more wretched,” he realized he was…

This is where I rest. good friday verse

The more I try to take a posture of grace, the more I realize how frequently I fail to offer it.

When I was in high school, I brazenly told a righteous adult, “Your judgmental spirit, will send you to Hell as well….”

How frequently those words have come back to haunt me.  The Spirit prompts me frequently to notice the said and unsaid judgment made on the world around me. With this comes waves of guilt, and a proneness to allow shame to be my “go to” — the emotion I allow to control and interrupt every facet of my life.

With time, I allow myself to come back to arms of grace. Oh, how grateful I am for grace. The grace of the cross, that radically changes lives and Spirit that moves so violently that I can even be convicted of heart change that is still happening in me. He is still working, moving, and by the GRACE OF GOD, someday, I will find grace and humility will be my natural breath.

It is Good Friday friends. The day that our Lord, suffered the most gruesome of deaths, to save our wretched souls. My soul. Yours. I am contemplating today, how often I trivialize His grace by throwing it back in his face with my sin of thoughtlessness, and am undone in the beautiful reality that this is exactly why He did what he did. His grace, and love covers a multitude of sins…. even mine.

Come to the cross today. Wherever you heart is– whatever burdens or shames you– He covered it, for you.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.  ~Is. 53:5