High School

My last two years of high school I attended Bethel Regional High School in Bethel, Alaska. It’s a bush town out on the tundra. The only way to get there is by plane, boat, or in winter, via snowmachine or the ice road. When I was living there the population was somewhere around six thousand. I moved from tropical Haiti to frozen Alaska and it was quite a shock to the system. I walked around in a heavy coat the first summer, but eventually I got used to it. It was the first time in my life that I did not have any tan lines. I’m sure my skin appreciated the break. 

I remember my senior year a girl I knew called me and asked me if I would be willing to tutor her in geometry. I was surprised and a little confused. Umm. I’ve never tutored before, I’m not sure how helpful I would be. Then the girl assured me that our math teacher, Mr. Guffin, had been the one who told her to call me. Oh. Ok. (Mr. Guffin thinks I can tutor someone??) Well, sure, I guess I could tutor you. 

The tutoring went well, she was able to get her grade where it needed to be, and the next semester another girl called and asked me to tutor her for Alegebra 2, also saying Mr Guffin had suggested she call me. I tutored her as well and she was able to pass her class too. 

I would have never thought that I could tutor someone in math. I would never have volunteered to do it. I would have never thought myself qualified to do it. But my teacher saw that I could, pushed me in that direction, and my confidence grew and I learned how to tutor math. 

I ended up writing for the school newspaper. Another thing I had no previous interest in and didn’t really think of it as something I would be capable of doing. A teacher pushed me in that direction and I ended up learning how to conduct interviews, and do layout on a computer. 

My gym teacher declared that everyone in his class would do calisthenics and running and become competent in a long list of sports. I did not think these were things I could do. But, it was required so I did it. And learned that I was actually capable of these things and could even semi-enjoy them. (Ok, maybe I didn’t quite become competent in all the sports, but I definitely made improvements!) 

I was not signed up for band class because I did not play any band instruments. But the band teacher learned very early on that I could play piano. He volunteered (voluntold) me to be the band accompanist. I accompanied several ensembles for their competitions and performances and I ended up accompanying every single student who performed a solo for band competition. And one time, when they were short somebody, I played the timpani. All things I did not think I could do. But the teacher said yes, you can do this, here’s the music, get busy. 

My best friend pushed me to be a class officer. Did I want to do this? No. Did I do it anyway? Yes. Did I learn a lot in the process? Yes. 

When I look back, I think of these last two years of high school as the golden years. I was learning who I was and what I was capable of doing. I made some great friends. My teachers were supportive and involved. My classmates were friendly enough. I was good friends with some, acquaintances with others, slightly nodding recognition with a handful. But no bullies. No kids that I felt the need to avoid at all costs. 

This is what I want for my own children. I want school to be a place where they are pushed to try new things, pushed to excel. Pushed to be more, do more. A safe environment with at least a handful of friends. 

We are looking at making some changes for next school year when we have a junior and freshman in high school. While our local high school was a great experience for our oldest daughter, a reasonable experience for our son and a decent experience for our other daughter, we’ve reached a place where it is not meeting the needs of our fourth daughter and we have concerns for our upcoming freshman. And while I struggle because I want to support our neighborhood school and I believe in their vision and I applaud the efforts of many of their staff, I can’t help wanting my kids to have the same thing I did. And right now it looks like we will have to branch out to find it. 

I’ll write more about this later. 

No More Christianese, Please

Lately I have really been struggling with “Christianese” . These are the set platitudes that Christians murmur to each other all the time, catch phrases that we say without giving much thought to the meaning. “God has really blessed you!” “I’m believing God for a miracle!” “You just need to press in and pray!” 

I am “blessed” because my husband recovered quickly from Covid. What about those who lost their husbands to covid? Are they Not blessed? I am “believing God for a miracle”. And then the miracle doesn’t show up. Must be because you didn’t believe enough? I see that you are really struggling in this area, you just need to press in and pray! And if you continue to struggle in this area it means that you have a bad prayer life and you just really aren’t a very spiritual person. 

I have this image of tapestry in my mind. And, this is not an original image to me, I’ve read many illustrations about seeing life as a tapestry. But here we are staring at the bottom side of the tapestry and everything is backwards and messy looking. We can’t see the other side where the beautiful picture is being made. And I feel like we have everything backwards. 

What if someone being miraculously healed, saved from the brink of death, is actually not the great prize we see it as. Think about a Christian who knows they are going to one day be walking face to face with Jesus, living in paradise. They’re at death’s door, and they are miraculously saved. It almost seems like a big let down. Oh great. I was hoping that my work on earth was finished and I could finally go get my reward, but instead now I have to wait even longer and do even more work. 

We pray for people to be saved from trials, but scripture tells us over and over again that it is during trials and tribulations that our faith grows, our maturity grows. We are refined, the dross is burned away. We are sanctified. But, in our upside down view of things, we see those trials as lack of blessing, lack of prayer, lack of faith. 

Can I just say, “Christianese” can be really offensive. When I am bowed down to the ground with depression, barely able to move and someone suggests to me that I just need to get into the word and pray more…that is not helpful. How about, I see that you are really struggling and I imagine prayer and Bible reading are really difficult right now. I just want you to know that I am standing in the gap for you and lifting you up in prayer. Here, I’ve written out this Bible verse for you, I hope it comforts you. Is there anything in the physical realm I can do to help you? Do you need help getting hooked up with a counselor or a therapist? Can I check in with you regularly so you know you are not alone? 

When my loved one is at death’s door, please don’t tell me that you believe God is going to heal them. What if he doesn’t? Is God still good if my loved one dies? Am I still loved and cherished if they die? Does their death signal a lack of blessing or protection? How about, I am praying night and day that God’s will be done in your loved one’s life and in your life. I am praying that you both have fresh revelation of how loved you are and how secure you are in God’s hands. Can I read Psalm 139 aloud to you? So we can be reminded how deeply and intimately God cares about every detail of your life? I am praying strength and peace for you! What can I do physically to help you? Meals? Help to get to appointments? Financial assistance? 

When I am going through trials and tribulations please don’t act like I have somehow fallen out of favor with God because I am going through these things. “I just need to pray more so that God will forgive me for whatever I did wrong and put me back on the Nice and Easy path that I crave.” How about some encouragement along the lines of, God must have some really important plans for your life because I can see how he is strengthening your faith, maturing you and refining you into an even stronger person than you were before. I can see how you are growing through these trials. I am praying for supernatural strength for you and praying that God will use these things to draw you even closer to him. How can I help you physically? Is there anything tangible I can do to ease your burden and let you know that you aren’t alone while you go through this hard situation? 

I know that every platitude that has been told me has been done in love and good intentions. I’m not mad when people say things that were meant to be helpful, but just aren’t. I see their heart, I know they care about me. But, we can do better guys. Let’s really think about what we say before we say it. 

We are Done!

Today was the kids’ last half-day of school. Got up early, took the kids to school for the last time, took my virtual student by the high school to drop off her text books, went and picked up kids from school. We still have a drive-thru 5th grade send-off that we have to go to this afternoon and then we are officially done. 

What a year. 

Red days for high covid numbers. Red days for gun violence in the neighborhood. Finding clean masks every day, collecting the dirty masks every day. Signing homework folders every night. Never ending car lines for pick up. Lots of debates about virtual school, masks, school safety. Lots of tragedy. Five students dead this year. Trauma. School lockdowns.  

Art projects. Kids excitedly practicing their Spanish from their new Spanish class. Watching my first grader grow in her ability to read. Seeing my fifth grader blossom as he walked into leadership positions. New friends made. Projects finished. Presentations given. Awards won. Recognition for good sportsmanship. Classes completed. Lessons learned. 

So, I say thank you to all the teachers who made the best of a crazy year. Thank you to all the administration who made the best decisions you could. Thank you to all the support staff that cleaned and cooked and loved on the kids. 

We made it! We never have to do this year again! May the next school year be peaceful and easy and a walk in the park in comparison. 

We’ll see you all again in the Fall. 

I Hate Change

Hey Internet World. Good morning from East Tennessee. It’s a cool, grey day over here right now. I took a brisk twenty minute walk around the neighborhood this morning while my kids were watching tv shows. I put the older kids in charge. Then, when I was one street over from my house, on my homestretch, I heard a child yelling MOM!!!!! It was coming from a distance and I just knew, with all certainty, that it was one of my children. Good grief. I started walking faster. Please let them stop. It was not a cry for help or a cry of distress. Just a, hey, I want Mom back, I know she’s out there somewhere, I guess I’ll call for her. There was silence and I started to hope, maybe it really wasn’t one of my kids, maybe I’m just being paranoid, after all, there are a lot of kids in this neighborhood. I rounded the corner, I had two options, take the shorter way through the alley, or get a little more distance by going all the way around the block. I heard the cry again….MOM!!!!! I took the alley. Heart rate was definitely up now. Finally, the house was in view. I saw the small child sticking her head out the side door, mouth opening to yell again. I called her name and proceeded to lecture her about yelling out the door and how the whole neighborhood could hear her. Of course, the whole neighborhood could probably hear me lecturing her as well. 

 

This of course highlights one of my difficulties I’ve encountered this week as I’ve tried to stick to my new challenge of walking 10,000 steps a day. How do I get in all my walking time? On rainy days I have been going on my elliptical which is fine, but I do prefer to be outside walking. I tried taking one of my more athletic kids on a one hour walk with me, and by the end she was complaining of sore feet. Part of walking is to help de-stress, and walking with a bunch of children who are whining about sore feet and wanting to know when we can go home is not de-stressing. I am also struggling through depression and anxiety at the moment, and part of being in that mindset is that I have an insatiable desire to be alone. I crave solitude. Taking walks by myself is a really nice break for me. 

 

This past weekend was great. My husband was home in the mornings and I could go on a long walk each morning. And then we also went to different places where I was able to walk during the day as well. The weekdays have been more of a challenge. Throw into that the fact that we are trying to transition into a summer routine, and needless to say, I’ve been a bit out of sorts this week. 

 

I had made the observation a while ago that my foster kids did not handle change well. Even if it was a positive change. Disruptions to the routine always result in disruptions to their behavior. I had noticed this and I try to keep it in mind when dealing with different behaviors. But, I must admit, I was a bit condescending about it in my mind. Poor kids, can’t handle change. So weird. 

 

Then this week, as I struggled through changing to a new routine with the kids and have struggled with setting up some healthier habits for myself, I had the big epiphany that I actually don’t handle change well either. Sure, I don’t scream or act out in noticeably bad ways, but I sure do get grumpy, and snappy, and short-tempered and irritable.

 

It’s interesting that God made our world as a world of change. In the Bible, the book of Eccliastes has a beautiful chapter about seasons.

 

Eccliastes 3: 1-11b  

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time…

 

If we are being honest, when we think about our dream life, our Happily Ever After, it does not involve a lot of change happening. We don’t factor in family members dying. We don’t factor in job changes. We don’t factor in relationships changing and sometimes fading away. We tend to want to take a snapshot of our Best Day and then just stay right there. 

 

I’ll admit, I have not handled this whole Word-Wide Pandemic thing nearly as well as I thought I should. And a big part of that was because it was too much change all at once. And apparently, I don’t like change. 

 

I think one of the rudest awakenings I’ve had as a Christian Adult, was having to face the fact that God had no intention of removing all my problems and making my life easy. As I stood there pointing at the problem, demanding that God make it go away, he simply linked arms with me, and said, here, lets’ walk through this together. By the time you get to the other side, you’ll have become a little bit more like me. 

 

God made our world to be a world of change, and that change forces us to change as well. If we are hanging onto Jesus, those changes are going to be for the better. 

 

So, I will attempt to embrace the idea that change is actually good, not something to avoid, and I will hope that I come out on the other side a little bit stronger, a little bit more patient, a little bit more confident that God’s got me, no matter what.