Classroom Reveal – Year 2

This summer just zoomed right past and I haven’t had much time to post, but I thought I would take a moment to document my new classroom.  I moved after last year to the portables at my school, which to some people may seem like a downgrade, but I was so excited! (Still am)  I moved into a hallways of all ELA/ELD classrooms so that we teachers can walk across the hallway and find new and fun resources to steal – so awesome.

Continuing to venture toward my same teaching goals which are to provide to my students an education which encourages empathy and understanding,  I have designed my classroom space to be more like a comfortable living room.  I want my students to have compassion and creativity and I want to model that in my classroom and with my teaching – and honestly, I just to communicate to my students that they are human beings whose individual thoughts and ideas matter; I decided to create a classroom space which encourages students to be comfortable and choose seating and locations which feel appropriate to each of their learning style preferences (longest sentence ever and it’s probably not even punctuated correctly – It’s Friday is my only excuse).

There are studies I can link and there are classrooms (found on pinterest) that I

can reference, but because if I start, I may never post I am choosing to just provide the photographic diary of this years classroom.  Enjoy!

Front of the room:

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Close up of far front corner – pictures are student work from last year’s “Favorite Part of Me” Haiku project
IMG_0591View from behind my desk:
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View of the back corner of the room:

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Growing classroom Library:

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Looking from the Library back toward the entrance:

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Looking toward the door from my desk area:

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Side wall where desk/printer/storage (piano) are – students have the option to sit in the rocking chair:

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Floor seating toward front of the classroom (pillows and laptop desks):

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Middle of the room floor seating and low table seats:

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Back wall – middle table is regular chair height but this table has only stool seating – there are two other tables with regular chairs on a side wall – the two outside back tables are bar stool/standing height.

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In any case, thanks for checking out my classroom.  It’s been a fantastic first week and the students have been amazingly responsile about their seating choices thus far.  We shall see how this goes!

Sweet Summer Sound 

The buzz of cicadas blends
With the electricity in the pool house.
A breeze blows slowly-
The summer heat making even the air lethargic.
The stage is set.
The concert begins with a steady beat:
A patient parent persists
In a lap lane
Steadily smacking the water:

splash-splash-breathe

splash-splash-breathe

A whole rest as he reaches the wall,
Flip-turn,
Repeat.

The monotonously dissonant chorus
Of children’s voices becomes louder.
Engaged in their seasonal call and response,
Accented only by the shrill cry of the child almost caught.
“Marco”
“Polo”
“Marco”
“Polo”
No rest,

Repeat.

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Economics of Creativity

“The art and curtains may have been out of necessity, but I remember it being beautiful.”

– Brene’ Brown The Gifts of Imperfection.

Brown writes about art and curtains as a memory retained from childhood, but it makes me question my current decisions – my lifestyle changes within the past few years. – ‘necessity is the mother of invention’; yes – and creativity – and it shows externally the beautiful creativity that each of us carries.

9 years ago, I made curtains – they were roughly sewn by my untrained self from fabric purchased at a flea market with no particular goal in mind.  They were rusty orange and beautiful because they incorporated my favorite color and creativity in which I felt not quite confident.  They  served the duel purpose of defending us from the sunshine while being thick enough to add an extra layer of protection from the cold when the weather swung that way.

Two houses ago (and only 3 years), when our destructive cats decided to shred the screens as a last ditch effort to escape the house, I up-cycled old lace into screen fabric, reused the screen cord and I loved them.  They were beautiful and I was proud of them.  Could I have purchased screen material to replace the broken screens? No, not at that point in my life.  The necessity of window screens and curtains inspired me to be creative and to cover the windows with what I had and what I loved.  The creativity reflected my own personality and style….

At one house, I painted the entire kitchen so that it would feel more like home – and it did.

Now – I find myself buying finished items because I have the resources to do so and lack the time necessary to create the things needed.  I honestly feel guilty creating things because it feels like I’m wasting time that I should be studying/grading papers/planning….

My kids have caught the creative bug this summer and I have had to do some serious self-talk to make myself willing to help them with it – willing to not tell them that it’s not worth it, or to complain that we should be doing something else.  I WANT them to be creative.  I WANT them to learn to make things and enjoy doing so – what is wrong with me?!

Last week, the girls (after watching what feels like hours of DIY videos), decided they wanted to make lip balm and lotion bars.  In the past, this would have thrilled me to no end – I would have researched what were the best oils and ingredients – which herbs could I add to make the lotions and lip balms most effective.  My first reaction, however, was “Ugh, this is something they want to do, that in the end I am just going to end up doing, because they will lose interest or not be able to complete the activity without me….”  Then I had to catch myself and reassess.  Do I like to make things?  Yes.  Do I want my children to be creative?  Yes.  Would it be easier to do this myself? Yes, but then they will never learn and never feel capable.  Man, parenting is tiring.  Parenting my own actions and then parenting my kids.

After a bit of research and some tracking own of ingredients, the girls (yes, mostly them) successfully made lip balm – In the microwave of all things, and they were thrilled.

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We followed this recipe, in case you’re interested: http://www.theseasonedmom.com/5-minute-diy-lip-balm/

One batch of peppermint, one of vanilla, and one with a piece of lipstick cut up and melted so that it has some tint (remember all of those diy videos I mentioned?)

The lotion ended up more of a mom-made job, but you know what?  I enjoyed it, the girls were still thrilled, and now we have plenty of lotion bars to last the summer at least, and to act as last minute gifts🙂

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For these, we used this recipe: http://homemadeforelle.com/homemade-lotion-bar-recipe/

 

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We made a half batch of the lotion bars because we did not have Vitamin E to act as a natural preservative, and because I didn’t have a mason jar big enough for 3 cups of oily things.

I know this must seem like a giant tangent, and perhaps proof that I’m still creative (which may be more for my benefit than yours), but I needed to write down some thoughts so that I could continue to struggle with them on my own time.  The idea of being creative only when necessary honestly makes me sad, and I am attempting to overcome this part of myself currently that reacts to creativity in a negatively associative way.  I want to enjoy creating for myself again  – for our house and family, for our kiddos needs, wants and benefit – and I want it to be something that doesn’t create guilt for lack of productivity.  So here I am.  I feel like I’ve come a little full circle – from creative necessity for physical needs, to creative necessity for emotional, physical and mental needs – can that be a thing?

Happy Tuesday Friends.

A Master’s Degree and Beyond

I finished the work for my Masters Degree in March.  Yesterday, my friends walked across a stage, and instead of joining them, I saved about a hundred dollars by not buying a cap and gown and enjoyed the freedom of dropping the kids off at school, being there to dance on campus to “Celebrate Good Times”, and spending the first hours of summer vacation eating ice cream followed by an outdoor movie night.  Bliss.

I chose not to walk across an academic stage for quite a few reasons, but the main one is this: I hate being the center of attention.  I do understand that graduating with many other people means I am by no means the real center of attention, I still know that my own people would be there to celebrate me; and as much as I try to be okay with that, I’m much more comfortable receiving congratulations on an individual and informal basis.  That explanation begin given, I do have some formalities to attend to. So, because I have not done so formally – Thank you all!  Thank you friends and family for being my support system.  Thank you for making these last crazy years possible for me – it’s been very hard for me, but I know it’s been hard for you too.  Thank you for supporting my kids, my husband, and me – for providing words and meals of encouragement, for sometimes picking up kids, sometimes answering random questions, sometimes listening to me babble on about my own comings and goings, and thank you too for forgiving my absences to  events in your own life for missing birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and for missing out on knowing the details of your life in this moment.  Thank you for understanding that I’m human and have not kept up well with human relationships while I sought to complete the work necessary to obtain this degree.

It is a bit silly to me that while I have not been able to be present, I have been studying and writing about how I should be – how we all should be.  My entire Master’s project is centered around creating a classroom space which encourages empathy and connection between teachers and students, and students and students.  When I first chose this topic, I thought it would be too big to cover in a one year Masters inquiry – and I was right. I did what I could in my classroom, but this work has just begun and I think that it’s something that will continue to infiltrate my teaching, parenting, and just overall living.  Figures.

In my classroom, I failed to detect what I had hoped the outcome of my inquiry would be.  I had hoped to show that through cultural and socially responsive pedagogy (ie: teaching curriculum that the students find relevant and relate-able to their own lives), my students would be able to express in writing and speech, empathy to characters in the stories we read, and ultimately empathy toward their peers with whom they interact each day.  What did I learn?  7th graders are mean.  They find ways to make each other feel bad.  Sometimes this is done under the guise of teasing or joking around, sometimes because they’ve realized how much weight their words carry and how badly they can wound their peers: break someone else down = build themselves up….. When 7th graders write about characters in novels or films, they are unable to connect to the stories – no empathy.  However, when 7th graders become vulnerable to one another, they are able not only able to express empathy through connecting their own stories, but to also extend that connection to the actions they choose to carry out – actions meant to NOT harm someone else.

What?! Didn’t she just say that 7th graders were mean and incapable of being empathetic?!  That they are intentionally mean to one another?

I know.  Those two sentences seem to completely contradict each other and right now you are probably thinking that my entire Masters inquiry is a sham and I’m some sort of idiot – well – you are entitled to your own opinion, but I do not accept it.  The deal is this.  Students are not usually able to be honesty vulnerable with one another.  The only measurement that I was able to create in a classroom situation which actually resulted in empathy, was one in which the students participated in a “Post Secret” activity.  In this activity, students anonymously write their biggest fears and secrets on index cards.  I created classroom rules that required the students to listen to the index cards as I read them out loud – without verbally responding, calling out peers, or making any motion to laugh.  I encouraged students to put their heads on their desks while I read the index cards and to keep track of how many other fears/secrets they shared with people in the classroom.  This again was completely anonymous.  At the end of the activity, students were given ten minutes to reflect on the activity in their journals.  They wrote about connecting with their peers – about understanding the situations on the cards – situations like loss of parents, fear of being cast out of a clique, depression, anxiety, moving schools, homelessness, fear – vulnerable situations.  They wrote about how they wanted to cry and how they made sure they didn’t laugh because they didn’t want another student to feel bad for what he/she wrote.  It was beautiful.  In one class period (probably the only one all year), each student knew that within the boundaries of one classroom they had people who knew what they were going through – people who shared their experiences.

Why do I claim then that my original inquiry was unsuccessful?  Well, the outcome was not a higher level of empathy, but situational empathy.  Students were still unable to display empathy and connected-ness to peers within a normal class.  Students were equally unable to make clear and empathetic connections to characters or situations represented in classroom texts – situations not directly, physically, involving the students.  Basically, I added some more proof to Vygotsky and Piaget and placed my students directly in the flux between Concrete Operational and Formal Operational stages in which students are beginning to be empathetic, but still retain the egocentricity that disallows connection to imagined or not explicitly connected situations.

There you go – Inquiry in a nutshell.

Does this mean I give up and settle on the idea that adolescent students are unwilling to be vulnerable and therefore incapable of empathy and connection?  Heck no.  This means I jump down some reading rabbit holes which have been recommended by friends who knew what I was studying, and who also know my penchant for trying to connect all of the people (this may go beyond my classroom, it’s just what I do).  It means that I attempt to find more about empathy in education and in life, to study how connection to people creates communities that thrive – whether within the small community of a classroom, a school, church, town, family….you get the idea.

Therefore, this last month and a half I have seeped myself in the research of Brene’ Brown who is a self-proclaimed shame and vulnerability researcher. I started with her book Daring Greatly and am now in the throws of The Gifts of Imperfection.  I have learned through this reading that I am not near as vulnerable or shame resilient as I thought I was.  I have simultaneously begun reading, with my church leadership team, the new book by James K.A. SmithYou are What you Love which discusses how habits and practices of our daily life reflect and shape what we worship and love. This book is helping me reflect on my actions – the living by example, habit, and practice which will shape not only how I live my life, but how my students and family will perceive what it is I love, what it is I worship – what is important to me.

I have learned that this summer, I am going to continue reading about vulnerability, shame, empathy, and connection; and I am going to rethink and rebuild my home, daily practices, life and my classroom to reflect what I learn. Yikes.  Now you know.

In any case, I began writing this post because I was going to write about the necessity of creativity that comes with economic hardship and the lack of creativity that follows economic security (which Brown touches on on page 94 of The Gifts of Imperfection). Seeing as I have completely written a tangential post, I will save those thoughts for later.

Happy summer friends!  What are you reading?  What are your summer plans? practices?

Squinting (A Lenten Practice?)

Shine on me! Blind me with grace.  And to myself, I whisper – Wake up!

Breaking into the darkness – the sun lights up the world, the words light up the page – and I am awake.  A sleeper waking up literally – rising figuratively from the dead of a haunted, tossed up sleep, turning away from one thought only to be engaged by a vision equally strange and scary. Squinting, I make out shapes I recognize and my heart beat slows.

The sun really does just break into the morning and then it immediately stretches glowing fingers of light to fill the previously dark sky.  Previously, as in the second before, pitch black – can’t see my own hand in front of my face, dark sky; and blink.  Blindingly beautiful orange and deep raspberry sorbet pink fills the sky and the only darkness is that of the outlined mountains silhouetted in the distance.  Snap – a room that was seconds before only lit by candles which created a foggy glow – just barely enough light to see the words on the page – is now illuminated – the words are clear and easy to see.

Every weekday morning my first alarm goes off ta 5:47, the second at 5:53.  I am usually awake at least ten minutes before these alarms, but I let them each go off in turn – the repetitive metallic trilling tunes of an iphone and the vibrating off the shelf for good measure.  Each morning I wait for these alarms, swipe them away and wait a little while longer – putting off the inevitable press to get ready and out the door in time to be at school by 7:30 – a 40 minute drive.

Weekends though, with the belief that I will be able to enjoy sleep just a little longer – no alarm to ring over my head – no anticipation waking me before the trill – I wake up an hour earlier (at least). 4:45AM. Sometimes 3.  Always, always, wide – not-tired-at-all, no way to lull myself back into dreamland – awake.  Every pending responsibility – swiftly – smoothly -fills the dark silence around me.  Finish grading, finish painting, mulch the yard, do the laundry and get it put away, clean the house – inspire tired family to clean the house, and prior to this weekend: finish executive summary, edit poster, pick out professional looking attire to attend Master’s symposium, check all the things….. Check. All. The. Things.

Last weekend, I gave up trying to trick my tired brain into sleeping and decided to embrace the darkness.  Try for a Lenten practice I’ve been failing to even begin…and sit quietly with a cup of coffee and some reading, surrounded by candles in the living room – taking notes for posterity.  Two beautifully uninterrupted hours of reading on the couch; squinting at the pages because it’s much more difficult to read by candlelight than the movies would have you believe. It was from this position that I observed the sun’s triumphant entry and the start of a new day.

My confession to you readers?  I don’t have a Lenten practice at all this Lent. Four weeks in and I have not pegged any one practice as something that would be meaningful to my journey right now. Honestly, I think not having a practice has made me think about Lent more than having a practice that might distract me – so perhaps that’s some sort of subconscious spiritual success?  The last few years, I have really enjoyed the Christian season of Lent.  The season of preparing for Jesus’s death and resurrection – a season of remembering that I am dust and to dust I will return…..As silly or self-condemning as this may seem, it’s a wonderfully thoughtful practice for me.  Important to my understanding of my place in the world and the purpose for which I’m here.

I’m not here to raise myself to the best level – though being my personal best is important.  I’m not here to convert the world to my way of thinking.  I’m not here to prove how righteous I am, and how sinful all the rest.  I’m not here to be better than anyone else, or more educated, or richer, or more worldly.  All of those things are lovely and have a wonderful place in my life and that of many others – but they are not my main purpose.

From dust I come and to dust I will return.

My main purpose is to Love.  To live by Truth and foster Peace.

Every year, the one practice I do succeed in completing is literature related.  Literature serves as a good procrastination tool and therefore, I am VERY good at reading what I have set out to read.

About five years ago – as I was just coming to the end of my schooling at Sacramento City College, I took a British Lit class, in which we tackled William Langland’s Piers Plowman.  Passus 18 (and really most of the dream vision epic poem).  This is an allegory for the death and resurrection of Jesus in which the maidens Righteousness, Truth, Mercy, Grace and eventually Peace and Love debate the fairness and eventual success of a servant savior who intends and succeeds in saving mankind from mortal peril by basically tricking the system.  If you believe in Jesus, you believe this crazy story that a man of questionable parentage – the first half-blood if you will  – lives a blameless life and dies a sinners death.  His death does not fit the rules of judgement and therefore, the original covenant is broken.  We are forgiven for not being able to live up to the rules set before – we are forgiven because we are broken and it is recognized and Grace received.

Passus 18 ends this way:

After sharp showers,’ quoth Peace · `most glorious is the sun;
Is no weather warmer · than after watery clouds.
Nor no love dearer · nor dearer friends,
Than after war and woe · when Love and Peace be masters.
Was never war in this world · nor wickedness so keen,
That Love, if he pleased · could not bring to laughter,
And Peace through patience · all perils stopped.’

“Never a war in this world….that love could not bring to laughter – and peace through patience all perils stopped.”

That is my goal in Lent – and in my life in general.  The planting and nurturing of Love and Peace – fostering the growth of community and self-sacrificing care which creates so many connections in this broken world that the cracks begin to fade – sewn together with the roots of these gracefully given gifts – reflected indefinitely.

The foggy dawn slipping away, I no longer need to squint at the fuzzy words smudged on the pages; sunshine beaming brightly now through the slightly open window.  The chilly air of March tingling with just a tinge of winter – and the day is awake – I am awake.

Around 6:45, like clockwork, the littlest strolls down the hallway.  Her hair is a crazy  mess of collar knots and she is wrapped in a woolly blanket – a squinting sleep still lingers in her eyes -refusing to fully accept the brightness of the morning, but her refusal to fall back to sleep puts a little spring in her step and a resolute sweetness on her face.  My quiet time ends and a new day begins.

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  That is why it is said:  ‘Wake up sleeper,rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'” (Ephesians 5:14ish,NIV)

 

Why not 2?

“It’s so hard to listen for six hours!” The littlest articulates tonight as she sits doing homework at 7:30 that she did not do over the weekend and did not do in the hour and half that was not spent in the car on the way to sister’s orthodontist appointment this afternoon.

This conversation comes after the middle one came home in tears because she was being made fun of all day for two reasons.  First:  the freshly made gap in her teeth that the painful pallet expanders have created and Second: she is a “conflict manager” at school – as a fourth grader – this is a perfect job for a girl who believes in rules and rule following but also believes in doing what’s right for the sake of being kind or helpful – The older kids think this is funny and tease her by “ghost” pointing across campus – “Look at that kid doing something against the rules!” and then laughing maliciously as my dear girl turns to look.  Jerks.

The oldest came home with stories about “friends” who call him “white boy” and are mean about his personality and downplay everything about himself that he’s been proud of until now – now he hears their voices and wonders what it is that he is good at.  They make fun of his broken arm by saying that roller hockey is easy and there’s no way they’d ever break a bone doing such and easy sport.

Bleh.

Why?  All of my children are under the age of 13.  Why are they having to face malicious comments and these jerk-face wolves of children who do not seem able to try and build each other up rather than break down every part of each other that might make them feel good and confident about themselves?

For the past 7 months I have focused my Masters inquiry on attempting to foster and build empathy in my classroom. For the past 7 months I have watched as my students break each other down. They can recognize and relate to one another’s feelings and experiences and in the same breath use that empathy to push their figurative thumbs in the eyes of an already hurting person – to squeeze that broken heart to see if the blood spurts faster – to turn away and feel better about themselves for being better than someone else rather than attempting to find a common ground and make a new friend.  They almost never choose to be kind.

Now I sit in my own home and try to encourage my own children to continue being kind – to continue caring and resisting the urge to return a negative comment with an equally negative response – and I know they’re walking into a world where the wolves are crouched and waiting to pounce.  Peers who believe that mean means strong and strong means right.  This is how stereotypes are reinforced.  This is why bullies are still being bullies.

And then I’m back to the littlest who recognizes that she is expected to be focused in class and when I asked her where her focus was otherwise, she said she just wanted time to talk to her friends behind her and that six hours is just so long…..and it is.

I keep coming back to the same question.  Why in the world are we punishing our children with school? With mean interactions that are supposed to make them better understand what the adult world is like? Why are we putting them in uncomfortable seats in situations that so very much do NOT to a match their social or cognitive development. Why are they not outside playing?  Learning to sew and fish and turn cartwheels?  Why six hours?  Why not 2?  Why not give them time to figure out how to relate to one another on a level outside of the 4 tired walls of a classroom – lets break this freaking hierarchical capitalist society and re-invent our priorities people.  How do we even begin to change this?

Follow the Leader

“write until your fingers bleed – tell stories until your voice runs out….”  

I think we all need this reminder now and again.

I don’t often find videos that I’m so sure I should share.  Often, I just link them in my bookmarks bar or if I’m feeling semi-share-y I’ll link them to my pinterest account – recognizing fully that most of my pins are only every looked at by me, myself, and I. So please, if you have 20 minutes and need a little encouragement, sit down and watch this –

Shauna Niequist speaks generally to a female audience here, however, I think her words apply to people of all gender, and I think it’s important we hear them.

She speaks about calling and passions and living into and out of those passions so that our entire lives can be filled to the brim with Goodness and Life.

I remember when all three of my children were under the age of 5 and I was pretty convinced my life as I ever planned it was completely over.  Any plans for piano playing, writing, teaching, travelling, reading, knitting, etc. had been beaten out of me by crying children, whiny toddlers, bedtime stories, sibling fighting, never sleeping through the night – all of the endless noise which reverberated through my poor introverted soul – and the realization that my life was not my own while these people needed me in order to survive on a daily basis.  I remember going to my doctor at the time – a good and well-respected doctor – and telling him how sad and depressed and tired and overwhelmed I was, and his response was only: “of course, you are the mother of three young children.  Don’t worry, it will get better.”  How many times had that phrase already been said to me. “Don’t worry – it will get better.”  No one ever said how, or why or when.  No one ever explained that the getting better was partially because I would realize that it was up to me to live.  Up to me to make up the grace and peace I needed in order for it to overflow into my kiddos and there be reflected.

I would like to throw in the caviat that unlike Ms. Niequist descriptions of her own mother’s experience, I did have help from my husband who worked hard and felt equally at a loss for his plans and dreams – we were drowning together in the pits family logistics – the need to work in order to survive – the need to survive day to day and the endless lack of monetary funding that was required to support our swollen family.

I’d love to say that we realized the need to find our passions and to start living into and out of them one day and that in a flash life became more bearable and even enjoyable, but man has this been a long road.

I feel like I’m rambling now and need to find the point, but I’ll keep rambling just a bit and maybe things will come around.  With all three kiddos under age 5 and Scott and I both working jobs that met the need to pay rent and buy food, but did not satisfy any necessary passion, I can honestly say that God must have decided to throw us a bone, and some of our best friends in the world (unbeknownst to us at the time), moved in at the end of the street.  A young couple with three equally young kids, struggling to figure out their own path had moved to the end of our street without a clear agenda but with the ultimate goal of starting a church in our town, and we thought that was pretty neat.

Scott grew up a pastor’s kid and I grew up sucking on Wherther’s Originals and drawing on the back of offering envelopes, sitting in golden pews and eventually inundated by the new-agey church of the 90’s with it’s flowing fabric reminders of “He is risen” and “God is King” and all that jazz.  We thought we knew the church drill pretty well and would enjoy the process of at least finding out how these things started.  Little did we know how much of a blessing that couple and that church start up would be in our journey to becoming more ourselves.  For me, helping plant a church made me aware of the deeper needs of the community in which we live – physical, spiritual, and emotional needs – it also helped me see just how connected I was to so many people within the community and how these connections could be useful to one another.  The other thing that this church plant did, was help me begin to recognize my need to let go of some things in order to become more myself.

Explaining fully the ways these friends and this church have so completely helped us become better able to be who we are meant to be, is a long story for another post,  so I will stick to the first thing:  we decided to stay where we were and to set down some roots in a town where we had refused to stay part of, but had been living for so long….

Scott and I decided to stop actively trying to move away from our town and to try to live better into it.  I cannot claim that this decision felt set in stone and it’s silly now to me that we did move away (albeit only 15 miles) and are trying now to move back.  However, letting go of one thing set us free to do so much more.  To plan, to live into the time and space given at the moment and to plan only as far ahead as to not take us away from the dreams of the moment.

While I’ve decided to post one video – might as well post a second  – this one was linked to an Ann Voskamp post I happened across today – but I think it resonates well with my feelings about leaving one dream behind and deciding to stay – to live into what is in front of me rather than what I’ve left behind:

A few years later ( 10 years after I originally started going to college), I did begin to pursue what I still believe to be my passions.  Literature and teaching.  And now – 4 years after that – I am teaching.  I am more whole, better able to deal with the craziness of family and the teetering balance that we call this crazy life.

Is it joyful?   -Mostly.

When I remember to be thankful.

Is it hard?  Freaking yes.

Every. Day. Is hard.

I worry that by pursuing what I want to do I’m actively sacrificing the needs of my family, and I know that while this is not completely true, sometimes I think it is.  My working toward my own goals and my own dreams and doing what I know I am meant to do well means that dinner is not always on the table, that I’m not always patient, that play dates are harder to come by, that my children are tired – that my husband is tired too.  BUT – it’s so much better than it was.  All of those people who told me “it will get better” – they were right, though, I’m not sure we had the same end in mind.  I question every morning as I leave the house whether I am ruining the lives of my family by leaving, and every morning I come to the same conclusion:  we were all miserable when I was miserable all the time – and love them as I do, being housebound with 3 kids who I may love to the end of the world and back – is my idea of a living hell.  In order to love them well, to appreciate them and to treat them as fellow human beings, for now at least – it is better for me to go teach 90 some odd other kids who need to be told they’re important too.

I think there is nothing so humbling as trying to figure out how to live for something besides yourself.  Whether it’s your partner, children, friends, neighbors, needy, church or God (or all of the above)- living with the realization that your life can provide peace to someone else creates space for you to realize just how much you need to be yourself in order to love and be gracious to other people.  To recognize the need to be grateful for each moment, sunrise, sunset, rain and drought, person, success and failure, each regret and each new adventure.

Ms. Niequist explains in her video how much her mother’s path to finding who SHE was played a role in Shauna’s own journey.  This part of the video made me sob.  I never meant to be a role model for anyone, and yet I have three kids who I know watch every move I make.  Every decision I make, whether it directly involves them or not – they see and they interpret into their own understanding of the world.  I never meant to lead and I never meant for my voice to be heard beyond the pages of worn out notebooks that I imagined would turn up hundreds of years after my own demise and would be used by historians to try and decipher the bland lives of town folk in the early 21st century.

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.” pg. 718 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

My parents have acted as role models for me.  I think they already know that – they are quiet and faithful, stubborn and hard working, and they will work toward a need and a dream with equal strength and fortitude. They are honest. They love no matter what and choose good over all-even when it’s a harder road.  They raised my sister and me to believe that we were capable of anything and if given the chance will still remind us of this belief at every moment.  They have been my role models – leaders by grace and love and action, and I know my own children will follow my lead in the same way.

So  I guess I’ll wear my mantle.  Probably inside out and backwards for the most part, but I’m going to continue trying to live into what I believe. I’m going to keep doing what I know I love to do and I’m going to hope and pray that my life can act as a model for my kids to pursue whatever crazy dream they choose.  By choosing my dreams, I hope they can see how clearly their own are always going to be the best options – even when they seem the hardest and most unrealistic to achieve. Even when dreams take different shapes than they once so clearly held.