life beyond the well…


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The Appointment

It’s not something that’s on my schedule.  If you were to check my iPhone and my Outlook calender, you’d notice that the space between 4:45pm and 5:00pm Monday-Thursday is always empty. It’s the end of the day, and during that time, I find myself doing two things: prepping for the next day and waiting.

Waiting for my appointment.

I don’t know when it became an “appointment”.  It kind of just happened.  She would get dismissed from her class and swing by my office before heading downstairs to get picked up.  Initially, it was just to ask a question about high school or college. But eventually it became more- the visits became more frequent and the questions (and conversations) became about life.  Real life stuff- the kind of stuff that can trip up even the smartest, most talented person if they aren’t equipped to deal with it.  She shares, and asks questions.  I listen- until she’s ready for me to ask questions or provide feedback.

After talking with Jesus, and praying with Preacherman, this is one of the best parts of my day. When working with students, you often wonder if you’re really impacting their life.  You wonder if what you do, what you say, how you teach and instruct is helping to move the needle; not just in the classroom, but outside of it as well.  Most days, I’m given this appointment- this 15 minutes to plant some seeds, water other seeds, and pull up some weeds in this student’s life.  It’s something that I cherish- and I’m grateful to God to be entrusted with this responsibility.  My life is better because of it- and I pray that hers is as well.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!

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Stuff Kids Say…

Our little one is growing by leaps and bounds, and it’s something that gives Preacherman and I great joy.  She has taken kindergarten by storm, and we’re excited to see how she’ll continue to mature and develop.

Kids are funny.  As with the Lord, their thoughts and ways are not like ours.  It’s funny to see and hear this come forth in conversation.  Here’s a snippet of last night’s conversation (we were talking about the different classes she has at school):

Preacherman: “So, in technology class, do you use computers or ipads?”

Our little one: “We use computers. THAT’S why it’s called TECHNOLOGY.”

Well, I guess that settles it!  Preacherman and I had a good little laugh about that.

Parenting is a joy and a blessing.  What are some funny things your kids are saying?

Be encouraged!  Peace and blessings!


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25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

I have my dear friend Jovian to thank for this.  She sent these questions out in an email to a bunch of us, and I thought I’d tackle them in this space…because I feel that doing so makes me slightly more accountable than just answering them in my head or replying via email.

So, let’s have at it (warning- this is long):

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

1. What am I most proud of this year?

I am most proud of my growth as a wife.  Every day, there are new challenges and new opportunities for growth.  In our first year of marriage, we had experienced changes beyond what either of us could have imagined.  I’m proud of handling the change with faith, and by being on the same team.

2. How can I become a better person?

I ABSOLUTELY must be better by asking for help.  Note to self: It takes a strong person to admit where they are weak, and to ask for help to become stronger.

3. Where am I feeling stuck?

In my pursuit of having a more healthy lifestyle. My current reasons have not been compelling enough, nor has my discipline been where it needs to be. I’m looking forward to overhauling this area, and really understanding my “why”; as well as creating SMART goals to make sure that I see the progress I desire.

4. Where do I need to allow myself grace?

In my role as a wife. Preacherman knows this more than anyone, but I am incredibly hard on myself.  I’ve decided to adopt Emily Ley’s motto as my own: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION.”

5. Am I passionate about my career?

Yes! I love what I do, and who I serve. It’s been a huge area for growth, but it’s been rejuvenating and fun. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help students see the possibilities, and then make them realities.

6. What lessons have I learned?

Not so much lessons, but reminders: God is a faithful. God is love. God is a provider. God is…

7. What did my finances look like?

I’m extremely proud of our saving this year- we came up with a plan that works, and with God’s provision, we were able to handle a huge move in the short-term without taking much of hit.  This year, the goal is to live lean, save more, and to look for ways to build wealth.

8. How did I spend my free time?

Pre-move: lots of time was spent serving at church, and fellowshipping with friends and family.  Post-move: lots of time was spent on organizing our new home, getting acclimated to new jobs and a new area, and creating systems to make us more efficient.

9. How well did I take care of my body, mind, and soul?

I started out on a roll with all three- exercising and eating healthy, striving to learn new things, and purposefully seeking growth in my relationship with God.  As things got busy and life happened, I didn’t do as great of a job at balancing all three- I would maybe have 2 things going well, but missing the third one.  Again, I believe that creating SMART goals for 2014, along with clarity about what’s most important in this current stage of life will help me be better at all of these in the coming year.

10. How have I been open-minded?

In seeking, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God beyond what I can see or feel.  The circumstances of my life this year have required that I be more open to seeing, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God.

11. When did I feel most creatively inspired?

I don’t know if I can identify a time, but I know that I feel more creatively inspired to write (for this blog and otherwise) when I’m most balanced in my relationship with God and can hear Him clearly.

12. What projects have I completed?

Getting the new home organized and decorated.  It’s great coming home to a place that you love.

13. How have I procrastinated?

Dissertation.  See also #15.

14. In what ways can I re-structure my time?

Reducing some of the social media activity (although I LOVE the debates and conversations that take place on Twitter and FB), Scheduling meetings in the mornings, blocking out my day tasks- and not being afraid to say no to someone else’s “urgent” (your emergency is not my emergency) when it could be detrimental for me.

15. How have I allowed fear of failure hold me back?

Dissertation- the feedback that I have received while working on my dissertation has been the most critical feedback that I’ve ever received in academic work.  I’ve always enjoyed school, and I’ve always done well at it.  While I enjoy this, I find myself in a situation where I’m doing a ton of work that is extremely time consuming…only to get a significant amount of feedback of where you can improve.  It can be paralyzing to know that you’re doing all that you can to submit your best work and you KNOW that you’re going to get  a return email with your document…and even more corrections to make.  I definitely let this affect my mental approach to this work, and that CANNOT happen this year.  I need to keep the end goal in mind.

16. Where has self-doubt taken over?

In appearance- turning 30 in a workplace where the average employee is a female around the age of 23 or 24 and has their college metabolism and college body really forced me to think about what I wanted 30 to LOOK like and feel like for me, and how to really get to “my best self”.

In competence- my school work transitioned from classes to sole work on my dissertation.  I thought that without having classes, I’d miraculously have more time and the ideas and words would flow freely.  But that’s totally not what happened…and while I had moments of progress and inspiration, it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d hoped for.  When I coupled that with my inability to really master my time in the best way, I began to doubt my ability to complete the task at all.  I ended this year on a high note, making much progress and getting positive feedback from my dissertation chair.

17. When have I felt the most alive?

In moments with Preacherman and/or our little- working on math problems, making funfetti pancakes, watching the Cosby show, helping to wrap Christmas presents, singing “Jesus Loves Me” before bed, reciting our confession of faith together in the mornings.  All the little moments that I won’t always have.

18. How have I taught others to respect me?

Setting appropriate boundaries- especially at work has been extremely helpful here.  Being vocal about what I need, and refusing to take on too much has been incredibly helpful here also.

19. How can I improve my relationships?

Be more diligent in maintaining and creating them.  This is a challenge as an introvert, but it’s one that I need to overcome…particularly if I want to keep friends and make new ones.

20. Have I been unfair to anyone?

I hope not (LOL!).  I’ve probably been most guilty of being unfair in not extending the same grace to others that I would want extended to me.

21. Who do I need to forgive?

There are a few people who really hurt me over the past few years, and while it doesn’t hurt anymore; there are times where I find myself angry or frustrated about the way things panned out, especially after doing what I could to reconcile the situation. I need to be better about taking any negative thoughts captive and committing my mind to complete forgiveness.

22. Where is it time to let go?

Overworking/being a workaholic.  I need to place better energy on being productive while at work, and not always allowing things to carry over into home life. My first responsibility is to be the wife and steppie that God has called me to be.

23. What old habits would I like to release?

Being mean to myself/being too hard on myself. Grace, not perfection.

24. What new habits would I like to cultivate?

Consistency in reading: The Bible, devotionals, and other books to promote learning and growth

25. How can I be kind to myself?

As mentioned above, I think Emily Ley’s motto sums it up perfectly: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION”


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The Safety Belt

I love my little one.  Her curiosity, zeal and zest for life is refreshing.  She absolutely loves to learn, is a super amazing artist (seriously, I think we have a prodigy), and has learned how to push the boundaries in the most delicate, thoughtful ways.   More often than not, I find myself in situations with her, where after the fact, I’m forced to ask God, “Is that how I am as your child?”

For example- the safety belt.  Or seat belt.  (Tomato, toe-mah-toe).

My little one enjoys going places (Target is her favorite store), and each trip unfolds some sort of adventure.  Of course, since she’s 5, she has to be strapped in to her booster seat before we can travel anywhere.  Now, when we first got her booster seat, she was pretty excited about it (I mean, it’s got CUP HOLDERS, y’all?!? I’m excited for her).  But after a while, she became pretty annoyed and uncomfortable with the safety belt.

At first, it was just a little thing, trying to position it properly to increase her level of comfort.  Then, it changed to slightly moving it over, so it ever-so-slightly rested off of her shoulder.  Though this behavior was corrected, it continued and grew, evolving to completely moving the safety belt so that it wasn’t protecting her to the degree at which it was designed.  After a more stern conversation, she was back to wearing the safety belt as she was supposed to, without maneuvering and manipulating it.

I have to admit that I was frustrated in this exchange.  While I don’t want her to experience discomfort, it is more important that she is safe.  And I as dealt with my frustration, the Lord gently nudged me and reminded me of how I am the same way.  He reminded me of the times where I’d prefer to ignore/disregard/remove the safety belt He has in place because it’s uncomfortable.  How often have I sacrificed my safety because of my discomfort?

While we overcame that challenge, as a parent, I continued to wonder the following: How do Preacherman and I parent in a way so that our children will CHOOSE the safety belt over the discomfort when they are older?  How do we parent so that she will choose purity over promiscuity in a culture that promotes the latter more than the former?  How do we parent so that she will choose virtue over vulgarity in a world that screams “I can do/say/be who I want and you have to deal with it”?

As an adult, there’s no one there to make sure that I use the safety belt in the car every day.  Sure, the car will beep to let me know that it’s not on, but otherwise, there’s not a real consequence unless I get caught (Hey Mr. Officer) or I’m in an accident.  I recognize that those consequences are costly, and instead of deal with the consequences, I’d just rather be safe (legally, and in terms of my life) instead of uncomfortable.

Even now, there are some circumstances and situations that God has me strapped in that are uncomfortable.  However, I trust that His wisdom, His plans to prosper me and not harm me are greater than the discomfort that I feel.  May you also trust that God has you where He wants you, that He has a purpose for you being there, and that despite the discomfort, you are safe.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!

 

 


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A Full-Option Provider

I recently read the book “The Other Wes Moore” and it really got me thinking about education, “the system”, family, poverty, and the reality of life for so many of the students I serve each day, and many more across the country.

Here’s part of the description from the back of the book:

“Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence?”

Since reading the book, I’ve wrestled with that last question in the description.  Or with this idea, better stated by Moore:

“The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.”

But what does that really mean?  And the truth is that I don’t know.  But I wrestle with it as an educator working to prepare students for high school and college, fully understanding the benefits that come from being in the “right” school (or the “right school for you”).  And I guess, if I think about it in the scope of my professional work, my goal is to, as best I can, ensure that my school is a “full-option provider”, meaning that when students leave here, they have the full-range of options at their disposal so that they can create the life that they want.

So that they can have a life of “want-tos” instead of “have-tos”.  So that they can choose instead of having it chosen for them.

And that’s all well and good, but there’s also the understanding that a wrong choice NOW (even as middle school students), can essentially wipe out their options, or reduce them to being so few that they may as well not have any. Today’s poor choices are a down-payment on tomorrow’s problems.

So, while I wrestle with that, I also wonder how do you teach students to make good choices?  Not only make good choices, but make good choices for good reasons? And if you can teach that, then that must be part of the teaching that is included in our school.

I wish I had the answers.  I so desperately wish that I understood what can sometimes seem to be a formulaic equation to success.  Oh, how I wish that I could guarantee that by doing these things and not doing those things, would put students on a path to success.  But it’s much deeper than that.  It’s cultural and institutional.  It’s family life.  It’s access (or lack of access) to resources.  It’s the fact that I’m trying to teach something intangible that an entire segment of the population never has to consider.  Because the truth of the matter is that for some students, a poor choice equates to an elimination of options, but for others, a poor choice equates to an litany of excuses followed by quick explanations and forgiveness.

So, you find yourself teaching contingencies.  You’re teaching “if/then” scenarios, to make sure that your students are always prepared.  You find that being a “full-option provider” also means teaching that you will STILL have to work twice as hard to get half as far. But not only that, you must do it every day.  There are no days off.  There are no shortcuts.  There are no excuses, because somewhere, someone is waiting to excuse your success as the exception instead of the norm.

As I wrestle with all of this, I find myself in a state of gratitude.  Gratitude for those who took to the time to teach me all of those things, to make sure that I had every option available at my disposal.  But also gratitude for the opportunity to mold and shape the next generation.  It’s something that I enjoy, and a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. May God continue to give me the strength and grace to serve these students, who are His children, in a way that glorifies Him.

Until next time…


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The Name Conundrum

What’s in a name?

The “name issue” is one that is frequently discussed among people of color (particularly African Americans), where we sometimes find ourselves confused and baffled by the names that our counterparts have chosen for their children to bear for their life (or until they are old enough to get a legal name change).

I remember being in college, and having two unique experiences in regards to “ethnic names”- one where a friend eloquently argued that “ethnic” names should be celebrated for their creativity as opposed to looked down upon; and another experience after research indicated that having an African American sounding name resulted in less call backs for job interviews. As an educator who has done the majority of work in schools that are predominantly African American, I have looked at many names on bulletin boards and class rolls and have been absolutely baffled by the names that I see before me- which in some cases, look like a random combination of consonant and vowels thrown together.

The struggle is real.

And I say that because it REALLY is a struggle.  The shift toward “ethnic names” is born out of the Black Power movement, and the desire for Blacks to distinguish themselves as separate from their white counterparts.  As our culture has evolved into one that is more “self-centered” where people desire to assert their uniqueness and individuality, I believe that reflection exists in naming trends also- but not just in African Americans, but in whites as well.  I believe this helps to explain names that are “common” (or more mainstream) but are spelled differently (i.e.: Lindsi, Lindzi, Lindsey, Lindsay or Madison, Maddison, Madisyn, Madyson or Erin, Aryne, Eryn, Eryne, Erinn).

Yet and still, there is still a difference that exists.  I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed in this article in the Daily Beast, and found this to really get at the heart of the issue:

“If there is a question worth asking about race and naming, it’s not “why do black people use these names?” it’s “why do we only focus on black people in these conversations?” Indeed, there’s a whole universe of (hacky) jokes premised on the assumed absurdity of so-called “ghetto” names. Derision for these names—and often, the people who have them—is culturally acceptable.

But black children aren’t the only ones with unusual names. It’s not hard to find white kids with names like Braelyn and Declyn. And while it’s tempting to chalk this up to poverty—in the Reddit thread, there was wide agreement that this was a phenomenon of poor blacks and poor whites—the wealthy are no strangers to unique names. The popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black, written by a Jenji Kohan (a white woman), was based on the experiences of a Piper Kerman (also a white woman). And in last year’s presidential election, nearly 61 million people voted for a Willard Mitt Romney, at the same time that the current head of the Republican National Committee was (and is) a Reince Priebus.” – The Daily Beast

I think that really hits the nail on the head.  The article goes on to equate the name issue to that of a racial caste system where blacks are at the bottom, thus explaining the extreme response to the name choices of people of color.

I wish that I lived in a society where I knew for certain that I could name my children with as much eccentricity as my imagination would allow without having to think about the effects they may experience later in life.  Unfortunately that’s not the case.  And the truth is that the issue is NOT with the name, it’s with racism.  I can’t “name my child” out of racism.  While a more “mainstream” name, might open a door, the racism on the other side could slam it shut.

What I can do, and what I’ve planned to do is this- name them whatever Preacherman and I agree upon.  And then educate them.  Teach them about the systems that exist that have been designed to keep them down as young people of color.  Teach them how to navigate a world where they will still have to work twice as hard to get half as far.  Help them to understand that because of your color, there will be people who will choose to view you as less than, but that is not the place from which you receive your worth or your identity. Help them to be thinkers and doers, who won’t accept the status quo, but will fight to change it.

All that said, I can be honest and admit that as an educator, I encounter these “ethnic names” and part of my heart breaks- because I know what the expectations of them are, and I worry about doors that may disappear or be totally locked shut because of something they had no control over.  And then I get back to work preparing them to exceed expectations on every level, doing the best that I can with my “generic” name to open as many doors as possible for them, so that they have one less hurdle in their way.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings…


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Because I Said So

When I was a kid, there were a few times when my parents asked me to do something and I was bold enough to ask, “Why?”  Immediately following the “stare of death” (which caused my short life to flash before my eyes), I heard this response: “Because I said so”.  And that really settled the situation, because for my parents, you really had no option but to be obedient- whether you understood the “why” or not.

As an adult, a former teacher, and a parent- I can now see both sides of this.  There are times when I need my little one to just do what I say- without question (whether it’s because I need for us to get somewhere on time, or I need to make something happen, or because she really just needs to understand that you do what you are told).  At the same time, I do believe that it’s important to understand the “why”- and as much as possible, I try to explain that as well.  It’s a delicate balance, that I haven’t completely mastered but that I’m working on daily.

This morning, I could tell that my little one was not particularly happy with the outfit that I selected for her to wear to school.  Sometimes this results in conversation, other times it doesn’t.  Today, though it showed on her face that she wasn’t excited about her outfit, she put on the clothes without question and we were able to continue with our routine.  As I reflected on that while I was getting dressed, I realized that her response to her discontentment was a lesson for me.  There are many times when God tells me to do things, and my tendency is to wonder why (or ask why, or drag my feet, or mull over when I plan to do it).  If I’m going to be a successful, mature believer, I need to master doing things because God says so.  Though I may not like it, I need to do what I’m asked to do without question.

Obedience is greater than sacrifice, and disobedience oftentimes leads to HAVING to sacrifice.  One of the best things that I can do in my walk with God is to be obedient, and trust that while I may not understand the “why” now, it will be revealed to me later.  And even if it’s NOT revealed to me later, the real test is in my willingness to be obedient to what I’ve been told- because He said so.

Do you struggle with being obedient to the things that God tells you?  Let me encourage you to be obedient- there are some doors that are only opened for you, some blessings that are only received because of your obedience.  Be open and willing to do what He says, because He says so.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!

 


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Fathering in the Way of God

father blog collage

Left: My dad praying with me before my wedding. Right: Preacherman consoling our little one.

One of the (many) things that I love about Preacherman is that he is an EXCELLENT father.  He truly finds joy and happiness in interacting and engaging with our daughter.  While he (admittedly) spoils her, he is also a wonderful leader for her and our family.  His demonstration of love is consistent and firm.  He strives to teach her in the ways of the Lord.  When you see them together, it is clear that they are two peas in a pod.

For the last few weeks, our bedtime stories have been from a children’s pajama bible.  Samiyah gets to choose four stories (because she’s 4 years old), and we’ll read them together.  Her choices over the past few weeks have been: God Made the World, Adam and Eve, Noah, and Naomi and Ruth.  We’ve read them so much that she has nearly memorized them.  After we read them, we try to include a one sentence synopsis or takeaway that she’ll be able to remember.

Last night, after reading about Adam and Eve, she began to ask questions (deep, theological, 4 year old questions).  As we talked about the serpent and how God felt after Adam and Eve disobeyed, she came to the conclusion that God wasn’t real because she couldn’t see Him in the pictures of her pajama bible.  (Insert parenting panic here).

After overcoming my parenting panic, I said, “Well, you don’t see Daddy all the time.  Does that mean that he is not real?”  She responded, “Yes, Daddy is real!”  I then explained, “Well, just because we aren’t able to see God, that doesn’t mean that He isn’t real.  He’s always there for us in the same way that Daddy is always there for you.  Daddy is your earthly father, and God is your heavenly father.”  At that moment, she took off running to the other room to give Preacherman one of many good night hugs and kisses.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  Crisis averted.  Praise the Lord, I hadn’t ruined my little one’s faith!

Because Preacherman is such a great father, it was easy for her to make the connection between him being there and being real, and God being real.  When fathers are great (and this doesn’t mean without fault or flawless) and truly desire to lead their families in the way of the Lord, it becomes so much easier for their children to trust God.  It’s so easy for me to trust that God is on time, because my dad is never late.  I can believe in God’s consistency because I see that in my dad and in my husband.  I am able to accept that God is faithful and keeps His promises because I have good earthly examples in my husband and my dad.

My husband and my dad have shown me that while good parenting is about the day to day activities, it’s also about love and discipleship and leaving a legacy of faith behind that can support and encourage the generations to come.  For that, I am truly grateful.

Be encouraged!  Peace and blessings!