Friday, November 15, 2013

Being faith-full...

There is a popular quote, by who I don't know, that goes something like, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." I saw it yesterday as, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle. Apparently God thinks I'm a bad-ass." I find this funny and not so funny for a couple of reasons. First, because bad-ass always makes me chuckle and second, because I used to believe the first sentiment to be a way to put into perspective the difficulties that have come up in my life journey. But as I've gotten older and dealt with more "stuff" I've started to look at it differently and maybe just not believe that statement at all. It's always fun to be a little bad-ass though.

Over the last several years I've felt not so full of faith. To be honest I've been rather pissed off at God. Some horrible things happened that I didn't think should have and I've blamed God for them. I feel like he wasn't listening to my and many other people's prayers and those prayers were not answered the way we wanted them to be. But I know I am not alone in my feelings and this happens all the time to people. We get all high and mighty about our faith. I believe in God. God will guide me. God will heal people who are sick because they are good people and this just can't happen to them.

And over the last several years of struggling with my glass half-empty faith I've come to realize some things about that quote and my faith and my journey.

  • God hasn't given us the "stuff" we are dealing with. The "stuff" happens. To everyone. Good people, bad people, faithful people and non-faithful people. Good people die. Bad people get away with murder. I do not believe God's master plan included my friend dying of cancer or her mother losing all of her children. I don't think his plan has the dates of natural disasters written in it. SHIT HAPPENS. And I think the biggest lie people tell is that it is God's will. No, it isn't. A lot of times it's the bad choices we make because we have free will. And many times it just that bad things happen. Not so we can struggle, not so we can suffer but just because.
  • God doesn't pick and choose who lives and who dies. People die because they get sick, or hurt or injured and the treatment they receive isn't enough, doesn't work or can't save them. We are human and we are fragile. But we forget that and blame God when we or someone isn't saved. 
  • The point of prayer is not to ask God for what you want and then expect to get it because you or others have asked for it. When I was in graduate school I had a class called Social Foundations of Education +Teaching Vocation & The mission of the Church and in that class we discussed and explored using prayer in education. One group did a presentation discussing the types of prayer and how to go about doing those with children. The five types of prayers were: blessing & adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. And our prayer can have direction either inward, outward or upward. Our inward prayer is transformative, our upward prayer helps establish, develop and strengthen our relationship with God and our outward prayer is in service to others through our actions. The only part that God plays is to listen. Prayer is our way to God and fosters our relationship with him. Along the way I forgot this. I didn't get what I wanted and I got mad. 
  • The bible is a guide and there is a lot of meaning in it but I don't think the important part is to believe that everything in it is the truth. Or in other words that it all happened the way it is written. The point of the story of Jonah is not that he was a guy who got stuck in a whale. The point is that he learned that God asked him to do something and Jonah learned to have the faith that with God's help and guidance he could do what was asked of him. 
  • God is here even if I don't hear His voice. And He sits with us through our joy, and sorrow. Lots of people talk about hearing God speak to them. I don't hear that. I have often thought that I was the hard soil that the mustard seed falls on or the deaf ears because I don't hear God's voice the way that other people claim to. But I have learned to see God in many things, especially science and nature. I find too many things to be so perfectly orchestrated that it can only be because of a divine hand. I don't think science and theology are at the odds that the media try to make them be.
  • God does not give up on us even if we choose to shut him out. I know my half-empty faith is my fault. I have not wanted to confront my own pain and grief over the loss of my friend and so I harbor resentment and anger toward God. But I know when I am ready that God is ready too. 
I have always believed that struggle is part of faith development and if one isn't wrestling with something; whether it's why bad things happen, or certain passages of scripture or something that is happening in one's life then growth and spiritual development aren't happening. And I guess it's probably time that I start wrestling again rather than being comfortable in my resentment and anger. I am after all kind of a bad-ass!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Tidbit...

I thought a fun little way to share some of my favorite tips, household and otherwise, would be with a Tuesday Tidbit post. So this is my first in a series (I hope). 

I love it when I find a way to reuse something. For a long time I've been keeping and collecting the rubber bands that come on produce like broccoli and asparagus. Because they are a little bit wider and heavier than a regular rubber band I have found them to be particularly useful for labeling water bottles. I use Sharpie to write Owen's name on the rubber band and it will stay put for quite some time. Because the bands are small and fit snugly he is not able to remove it easily.

My other favorite use is to put it around the edge of stuck jar lids. I discovered this one day when I was trying unsuccessfully to open a jar and the rubber jar opener thing we had was not helping at all. I began digging around for something else and decided to try one of the wide rubber bands. It worked liked a charm. On jars that I have a hard time with on a regular basis I just leave the band on the lid. If it's a smaller cap like salad dressing or something I just wrap it around twice and it works just as well!

Monday, June 10, 2013


We made it! We are officially on summer vacation. Well, Owen is. I'm on an abbreviated summer schedule which is not unlike my during-the-school-year schedule but I won't be working all the days of the week unless it's imperative.

Last night during our prayers Owen said he was thankful for making it past first grade. I am thankful for that too. SO THANKFUL! It was a lot of work. There was a mommy blogger on the Today Show this morning who had written about how around the end of April or early May she basically checks out. I can empathize. When I was teaching I felt like that about that time of year and I know the kids did too. I also didn't have air conditioning in my classroom so if it was a hot spring it was doubly bad! Being on the other side of the table has been interesting. I don't think I noticed it as much last year as I did this year. Kindergarten, for a variety of reasons, was a crazy and disjointed year. This year was long and hard but full of a lot of success and we were all ready for the end and some time away from the grind.

Owen had a fantastic teacher this year. She has a lot of the same beliefs about teaching that I do and a rather similar teaching style. She is basically who I was 10 years ago. A dedicated, childless parent dedicated to being a good teacher and helping her students do the best they can. And this year, more than before, I realized how being a teacher without children is very different than being a parent or a teacher with children. Which is a big part of why I no longer teach. I want to raise my son and not be a teacher at the same time. I loved my students, as Owen's teacher loved her's; but it's not the same as the way I love Owen. And one cannot know the difference until one is a parent and is (or was) a teacher. And many times this year I found myself thinking back to my years of teaching and wondering if my students' parents thought I was a tough as I thought Owen's teacher was.

This year Owen struggled with reading. The foundation that should have been laid when he was in kindergarten was not, and we weren't aware of the extent of that until he was into first grade. Thus we began the hard work of working on reading with a child who was not happy about doing so much reading and writing and math both in school and at home. And his confidence in his ability to be successful was quite low. As a teacher, one approaches it from a problem solving angle. What skills is the child missing? What strategies will best help the child build those skills? Is there an underlying issue that is keeping the child from progressing? And those are all things that I asked when we began this journey but Owen is also my baby and it broke my heart to watch him struggle and feel so bad about himself. Mamas don't want to watch their little ones hurt and not be able to fix it. And since my experience with first grade was limited to one semester of student teaching almost 15 years ago I was rusty and inexperienced in teaching reading. But the even harder part is that Owen attends an immersion school so he's learning everything in Spanish not English! I feel like I'm a good enough teacher that if I need to teach something I can figure out how to do it and what will work but that's near impossible in a language that I don't know. I don't know how people who don't have a fluent Spanish speaking person at home do it and I'm so thankful that Morgan is. In the end I did a lot of research and applied the same strategies I would use with an English speaking class to working with Owen is Spanish. I just didn't understand a lot of what he was reading or the words he was learning!

Owen's teacher listened to us and our concerns and we listened to her and her concerns and together we came up with a plan that included lots of intervention and tutoring and working on skills at home and reading, reading, reading. And like anyone else, once Owen started to experience some success in what he was doing he began feeling better about what he was doing and what he could do. And things slowly got better from there.

We still have work to do this summer and he expressed his discontent about that on Saturday when I said we were going to the school store to find some stuff to work on for the summer but he eagerly went along after I bribed him with a trip to Dairy Queen after the school store. And because it is so difficult to find materials in Spanish we ended up with a great science experiment kit on Light and only one resource for practicing reading skills! We are also going to begin working on learning to read in English this summer which Owen is quite enthused about. And since he's build a good foundation of reading skills in Spanish I think those will help him immensely. 

This week we jumped right in to summer activities with VBS camp this morning and a Lego engineering class in the afternoon. While Owen is off doing those things I am getting all his learning materials ready! I'm sure he will be so happy when he gets home!

We also have a nice bucket list of summer activities which we've all contributed to. Chief on Owen's list is to go visit his cousins and stay at a waterpark hotel. Today is seems like we have nothing but summer days stretched out ahead of us but I know how quickly it will go so we are going to do our best to relax and enjoy it and each other as much as we can!