Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Two Years

Today marks two years of being back in the States. I had planned this long, long, long, introspective post about everything I'd learned and blah, blah, blah, but I'm not going to do that. Mostly, today is just a day like any other - well, it's my last day before Christmas Break (thank goodness!).

When I was planning to return to the States, I had several big goals for what I needed and wanted in my life when I moved back here. My mission Team leader in Senegal was really helpful in helping me process as I mentally and spiritually prepared to make the change (thanks, Tad!) - I think he asked me several times when we would meet about what my goals would be and it was helpful to have a safe place to process what was happening. (Good grief - me and my processing. It never ends.)

My main goals were these (in no particular order, I suppose):

1. Find a Job.
2. Find a place to live.
3. Find a car.
4. Find a church.
5. Get a pet.

Five goals. I'm happy to say that God has provided me with four out of the five. When I look back over the past two years, though they have been a struggle, I'm amazed at God's providence. I'm always so foolishly impressed by how God has taken care of me. Like He hasn't taken care of me in the past? But, if we stopped being amazed by God's work in our lives, that wouldn't be good, either.

1. Find a Job:
When I landed on American soil on that cold December 2012 morning, I didn't know if I wanted to be a teacher anymore. I was burned out, and I really didn't know. I knew I loved my time in the classroom - I knew I was a teacher to the core (I've never wanted to be anything else, other than a teacher. Well, a world famous Broadway star would be great, but mostly I get my dramatic kicks in the classroom), but I wasn't sure about the all-consuming aspect of teaching. It takes up every part of your mind, body, and soul. I'm sure there are other jobs like that out there, but I've only experienced it in a teaching job. So, I looked for non-teaching jobs, and did not find them. Apparently you need five to ten years of experience to become an administrative assistant making $8.00 an hour. As I looked for non-teaching jobs, however, my heart yearned for the classroom. Stupid heart. So, I started looking for teaching positions, I switched my certification over to Maryland, and voila - I heard of a job opening at a Christian school. I applied, interviewed, and was hired all within the space of a week.

While my experience at that school was less than pleasant, as a whole, God still provided for me. It paid relatively well (anything pays better than DA!), I learned  a lot - about what type of teacher I am not, mostly. It was one of the most challenging experiences in my twenty-nine years; I felt like a fish out of water eighty-percent of the time. Despite that, I made some great friendships and I can say, honestly, I wouldn't take back the year, if I was given the chance.

God provided another job for me in a rather wonderful, last-minute way. And, I think it's right for me. It's so different from DA. It's a different grade level, different kind of community, and certainly, it's public school and not private or Christian, but for now, I'm content there. It's tough, and I have so much to learn, and I'm being stretched in a lot of directions as I grow as a teacher, but it's good work. I know that God is teaching me about loving this country, this city, this community - about being present where I am, and being His hands and feet to the people around me, not yearning to be somewhere exotic and overseas (because let's be honest: Dundalk is the opposite of exotic...).

2. Find a place to live.
My parents bought a house. And I live in it. It's perfect for me - I get to live alone (yes! I am an introvert; get over it!) and I like that. It's small. The rent is incredible (thanks, Dad!) and, it's only eleven miles from my school - which is just a happy happenstance, because I obviously didn't know I'd be working at my current school when my parentals purchased this house two years ago.

3. Find a car.
My little Craigslist Corolla is still going strong. I don't really have much more to say about that (shocking...) - it's exactly what I need at the moment, and hopefully it will be exactly what I need for a few more years.

4. Find a Church.
It took a year and half, but I did finally, finally find a church. And, I love it. It's been exactly what I need - small, multi-generational, solid teaching/preaching, authentic emphasis on community that is practiced and not just something that sounds nice in a motto. I fit there. I can't even begin to explain what a relief it is to feel like I fit at a church. That sounds terrible, but I have never really had a church of my own - where I am not missionaries Jim and Jennifer's daughter. I'm me at DaySpring - they don't know my parents. I'm just...me. No one changed my diapers twenty-eight years ago. No one knew me in my awkward middle school years. I'm just me. (Though...the jury may still be out if I ever got out of the awkward middle school years....)

5. Find a pet.
This is the only goal I haven't accomplished. Mostly because I can't get a dog - and I'm not sure about how I feel about getting a cat. Because if I get one cat, I might have to get two, to keep the other cat company. And if I have two cats, and I'm single, and I live alone, I'm sort of on  my way to becoming A Cat Lady. Also, I hate cleaning litter boxes. Also, my parents took Lola to Mali with them, and I don't know if I can give my heart to another furry creature again, because Lola stole my heart. Stupid heart.

So, that's my (relatively) brief retrospective on my two years in the States. God has been...so Good. I know that He is good, but how precious is it to look back and be able to see God's hand working in  my life, behind, and in front of, the scenes. I don't write these sorts of blog posts for you, my friends. I write them for me, because inevitably, in six months - three months - two weeks - a day! I'll be whining about something, and this post - this is my standing stone, this is my testament:

God IS good. All the time.

And all the time, God is good.

(And the best? And the best?..The best is yet to come.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Musings on a Friday, 12.19.2014

It's Friday morning - not quite 6:00 AM. I need to finish getting ready for school, but it's Friday morning, not quite 6:00 AM, and I am antsy, and I don't really want to go to school. I want to be leaving on a Jet Plane with my sister, flying off to Africa and sunshine and the beach and my parents and my other sister and my friends and my Home.

But I'm here, and that's okay. I think supposed to be here, but that doesn't make me want to be there any less, at the moment. Fortunately, I do get to go somewhere for Christmas break - I'll be headed to fair St. Louis, MO for the holidays. It'll be good to get away for a bit - hopefully this week will help momentarily quell the every broiling wanderlust in my soul (2014 might be the first year I haven't gotten a stamp in my passport in...more than a decade?).

We still have two - TWO - more full days of school next week. I don't really understand The Powers That Be who decided that keeping kids (and teachers) in school until the day before Christmas Eve is a good idea, but oh well - grin and bear it, I guess - and hand out lunch detentions like candy.

Seriously - the kids' behaviors are so terrible at the moment. They're just all off, and sick of each other, and sick of us, and sick of school. I used to be a little hesitant handing out those lunch detentions. Now I just write the detention pass and move on with class.

It's been a rough couple of weeks in the classroom. Just this past week, I've had two kids suspended or put in in-school-suspension mostly because of their behavior in my class (and if you think I feel bad about that, I don't - when I got the news I jumped and kicked my heels in the air and went and high-fived all my co-workers. No joke. No Sarcasm Sign.) As a result, I've had two peaceful, blissful days in my Mod 7/8, when usually it's a bloody, bloody battlefield - but they'll both be back on Monday.

However, there's been a lot of good. I really love my Mod 2 class - they are my best behaved group (I seriously never, ever have to say anything to them, at all). I really enjoy being with them - it reminds me why I love teaching: the kiddos.

This week we've been discussing fairy tales, and I had them do an activity where they had to stand if they thought a particular story/movie/book was a fairy tale. They had to "justify" their answer by connecting it to the elements of fairy tales we've been talking about - for example, good vs. evil (the bad guy being severely defeated in the end), happily-ever-afters, magical elements, etc.

Some of the examples I had were Up!, Toy Story, Iron Man - and, of course, the ubiquitous Frozen.

Of course, every student in the room stood - yes, Frozen is a fairy tale. But, I wanted them to justify why they thought it was a fairy tale.

"Who's the bad guy in Frozen?" I asked.

Several of the kids said Elsa, because of the ice stuff. Others said: "Prince Hans," which, of course, Prince Hans is the bad guy in Frozen.

"Frozen is a little different than some fairy tales," I said, "Because the bad guy isn't a really, really bad magical being. He's mostly just a jerk. Do you think there's any kind of terrible, terrible evil portrayed in Frozen?"

Most of the class thought about it, and said no.

One little boy raised his hand (see! My Mod 2 raises their hands! And waits to be called on! Imagine that!)

"I think there is a terrible evil in Frozen." He said.

"Okay - what is it?"

"The singing." He said.

Happy Friday, friends.