Monday, September 26, 2016

Until the Day I Die

On Saturday night, I came across a very moving video on Facebook. If you have 3 minutes and 29 seconds, I hope you will watch it: Man Sings to 93-Year-Old Dying Wife. Just make sure to have some Kleenex handy.

I watched it with tears streaming down my face. The woman is blind, and her husband is nearly deaf, but they can still communicate their love beautifully.

"You're my sweetheart," she says.

"I was your best lover..." he replies.

"Oh, I know it," she agrees.

When he starts singing, she murmurs, "Behave yourself."

After their granddaughter repeats her words, he laughs heartily. "I'm always good."

As I reflected on this example of the truest romance, I thought of my own grandparents, Verna and Paul. Now if Grandpa ever serenaded Grandma, no one ever told me about it, but their love was apparent in other ways. Example: When Grandpa had to go into the nursing home for care around the clock, Grandma visited him every day. Although he could no longer speak, his face lit up each time he saw his true love, and I'm told that on those rare days when she could not come, he was downcast.

My cousin Jolinda captured these beautiful pictures a few years back:

I love that last one of their aged, tender hands, their golden rings sparkling with the promise they kept to one another for over 70 years. I know from transcribing their autobiography that their marriage took them through times for "the worse" as well as for "the better." Through it all, their commitment held strong.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Guard the Door

In my last entry, I described my fears about taking the next step in my teaching journey: starting to substitute teach. After sharing the whole story with you, I ended up sleeping well and feeling well prepared for my first assignment, which turned out to be sixth-grade Reading.

After misplacing the rosters and finding them in the staff bathroom just before the bell rang, I recovered my composure, and the day got off to a fairly smooth start. Thankfully, my first period had a Special Ed aide who was able to show me not only how to turn on the document viewer but also what a document viewer is. Whew!

And then the fun began. I enjoyed doing a bit of teaching as I introduced the assignment on the prefix "post." Everything came back to me, and it felt like I'd never left the field. The kids were well engaged, and I was able to manage a few minor discipline issues using proximity; when someone started to get off task, I simply stood next to him and smiled kindly.

Mr. B. and I made a great team as we circulated among the groups, gave pointers, and answered questions. At the end of the period, he asked what subject I had taught before.

"Reading," I replied.

"I can tell," he said. I beamed.

Things got a little rougher in the afternoon. For one thing, my feet were screaming. During second period, the middle toes on both of my feet had twisted into charlie horses, and I'd had no choice but to walk on them for hours. Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to be cheerful and patient when your feet are killing you?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I'm Leaving It By the Side of the Road

I really shouldn't be blogging tonight. I need to get in bed. But I'm just bursting, and I want to share my heart with you before I know the outcome....

Tomorrow is my very first substitute teaching assignment, with a middle school English class. (I plan to sub about once a week until I run out of vacation time.) I've been putting together a Total Participation Techniques kit with all kinds of supplies to help me create interactivity in the event that I actually get to do some teaching (as opposed to babysitting). I made little whiteboards with heavy-duty transparency sleeves and white card stock, and I picked out some fun mismatched socks to use as erasers. I bought three dozen sticky note pads for annotating in books. I'm making True/Not True hold-up cards, as well as "True with modifications" and "Unable to determine." I've been thinking about ways to incorporate motion and plenty of academic conversation. 

Just yesterday I was marveling that I felt more excited than afraid. In fact, I told myself I'd better curb the enthusiasm just a notch so that I wouldn't be crushed by a reality that doesn't live up to my idealistic notions--which always happens to me. 

I guess I took my own advice.

Last night I was listening to a recorded sermon from my new church, on giving God the first of everything. Pastor Hayes told the story of the Israelites' humiliating defeat at Ai after they had conquered Jericho so triumphantly (Joshua 7). After tearing his clothes and falling on his face before God, the Israelite leader Joshua said, "Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan!"

Pastor Hayes then asked if we had ever felt that way when we encountered a challenge or a disappointment. Did we ever just want to turn back from the battle and go back where we were comfortable? 

"Yes, oh yes," I thought, with a stab of fear. Right at that moment, I thought about my comfortable, predictable, safe life--my sometimes boring, always busy life. I wondered what had possessed me to think of venturing out into the unknown. Weren't there other ways I could serve God besides putting myself at the mercy of 25 adolescents? 

The moment the sermon was over, I went straight to my prayer closet and fell on my face before God, though I abstained from tearing my clothes like Joshua. I don't even remember much of what I prayed because I was so tired. I did ask God to help me put him first, and to hold nothing back from him. And then I asked him to hold me close while I fell asleep. He did. I had the most beautiful sleep!

But today fear was crouching at the door, and I let it in. All day long, my stomach churned with unease. I was starting to regret accepting seven jobs, booking myself into November. 

I kept telling myself there was no rational reason to be afraid. Yes, I could fail. I could fall flat on my face. And then I would get back up again and ask God for help. I knew all this with my mind, but my fear continued to build in my heart as the hours passed. 

Thankfully, tonight was Celebrate Recovery. The whole meeting was such an encouragement. The last worship song had me in tears: Hillsong's All I Need is You. Listen to the first line:
Left my fear by the side of the road...
"Why can't I do that?" I thought.

And then we came to:
You hold the universe
You hold everyone on earth
You hold the universe
You hold
You hold
I swayed to the music, feeling that gentle power wrapping around me. How could I fear, knowing God is in control? If he can hold this universe that He made together, of course He can hold me.

Still, I could feel the fear in my upset stomach. Now I was only 12 hours away from stepping off the ledge. I confessed to my CR family that I very much want to leave my fear by the side of the road, but the truth is, I'm still afraid. "But I'm going to do it anyway," I said firmly, despite my trembling lips. "I know that God will be with me, and I trust that next week I will share a testimony of God's goodness with you."

With my small group afterward, I poured out my heart. "I don't know why I'm so inordinately afraid," I said. "But I believe I am going to leave my fear by the side of the road. I'm tired of letting my fear hold me back. I'm tired of dragging these chains around. I'm afraid of failing, but I'd rather chance falling flat on my face than to stay where it's comfortable and miss what God is calling me to do."

Tears streamed down my face as I realized that it was true. I am more afraid of missing my calling than I am of failing.

After everyone had shared, my dear sisters held hands with me as we prayed for all of our needs, and then we enjoyed a group hug. They assured me that they know I will be a blessing to my students, including the ones God has picked out for me tomorrow. They said they are excited to hear what God will do.

On the drive home, I whispered to God that I am ready to go with Him. I trust Him, and I want to see what He has planned for me. I know I have to leave my comfortable place to get there.

One of these days, I really am going to leave my fear by the side of the road. In the meantime, I'm going to trust Jesus to help me face it every time it rears up. As I read in a novel just the other day, I know that being brave doesn't mean you don't have any fear. It means you feel afraid about something, but you do it anyway. Tonight, I'm feeling brave.
This is me being brave, poised on the edge.
I'm going to jump!


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