Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Gift

I had a profound experience today... a moment I wasn't expecting, one that has caused me to feel a deep, sweet contentment...

Today at church, Cesar was sharing about the gifts of God (the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of health, financial, and relational blessing, etc.), and he related a story from one Christmas at his house. They had started the season assuming there weren't going to be many presents under the tree, so they didn't put gift tags on them. By Christmas day, there were many presents, and they had to go through the somewhat awkward process of opening random gifts and trying to remember who bought it and for whom. He remarked that part of the joy on Christmas morning isn't just for those who receive, but for those who give as well. We who take time to select thoughtful meaningful gifts bubble with anticipation and expand with joy when our loved ones open their presents.

Then Cesar wondered aloud if we sometimes treat the gifts we receive in our life as if they have lost the gift tag. We attribute the gift, whatever it might be, to some source other than its true Source. All the while God is waiting with anticipation for us to recognize it's really from Him. "We are glad for our gifts," Cesar concluded, "and all the while we say, 'I wish my Dad would have gotten me something.'"

For some reason, that image stopped me. For some reason, I have never quite thought of it exactly that way. For some reason, I think my heart finally reached out and took hold of the reality of the gift of my current season of life.

So often in the past 13 years, I have grappled with the whole "gift of singleness" idea. Usually, my responses to this gift landed in one of two camps: accepting it but only as a coping mechanism for the pain caused by the deferred desire of being truly married, or just diving into being royally honked at whatever well-meaning but emotionally ignorant person who was using it to console me in my singleness. (Seriously, I had a 19-year-old tell me that I just had to stop looking and then the person would show up. She's lucky she left that conversation with all her appendages still attached.)

Today, though, Cesar's words plunged me into cataloging the various aspects of my life, and I saw more fully how beautifully tailored those things are to my heart.

  • I love learning and getting better at what I do. As a single person, I've had the time and money to get my MA and start my National Board Certification.
  • I love my family. As a single person, I've had the time to build foundational relationships with my little people that will be a source of joy and strength in the years to come.
  • I love being active. As a single person, I can just GO to the gym when it fits! Fabulous!
  • I love high schoolers. As a single person, I have the time and space to teach well and lead Young Life.
  • I love blessing others financially. As a single person, I get to set the budget. I'm just starting to see how challenging it is for two adults to have a healthy financial plan together.
Don't get me wrong; I know these things can be done within the context of marriage, but not in the way I get to do them now. I still want to get married, and I'll be a kick-ass wife (once I learn to cook), full of respect and encouragement and playfulness and Marahness. But until then.... wow!!! Thank you, God, for this gift!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vida Joven

I'm sitting in the hobbit house, and it kinda smells.... like Spam.... and it's my own fault....

Let me explain.

Wednesday night is Young Life night. Tonight's talk -- The Work of Christ. So what did we do to lead up to it? First, we played On The Mark. Everybody has a partner and the standing partner takes a straw, sucks up an M&M, and then tries to drop it in a cup.... that is being held by his partner.... who is laying on the ground... and has the cup in his mouth. My partner? Rick.... aka Coach Clark.... best known around school as the head football coach and our newest potential Young Life leader. The results are in, and I stink at that game.

And then we played Eat That Food -- which is like Name That Tune but with hidden food items. Some highlights were Jose and The Jalepeño (2 bites... he didn't make it), Jackie and The Jelly Donut (2 bites... and she made it), and Andy and The Tomato -- one bite. One glorious, squishy, juicy bite from the kid that HATES tomatoes but did it so his team would score a point. So funny. (The house smells like Spam because of Justin and The Spam -- 3 bites... he didn't get 1/6 of the way done before he caved.... insert evil laugh here...)

And then, I got to talk about Jesus, and I mean really talk about Jesus. Not in the vague way that I sometimes do in class when the topics of purity or faith come up, but in the He-is-God's-Son-and-He-died-so-we-don't-have-to way. Just like On the Mark, we all try to live a good life the best way we know how, but more often than not, we miss the mark. And sometimes we make a choice (I can eat that food in e bites) that leads to us having to deal with more than we can handle (I have to eat WHAT?). Are the metaphors perfect? Not even close. But the Truth was here, and the seed of His Truth was scattered.

Man, what a privilege. What a night. I don't know how the talk landed with any of them, but I do know my God. He is standing at the door knocking. I'm contentedly blissful that He lets me be involved in letting these beautiful, powerful, glorious young people know Who it is that is asking to be introduced to them.

Random left-over spam smells.... a small price to pay.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm Not Sorry...

Yes, I confess. I'm a die hard fan of So You Think You Can Dance. I know the contestants' names, have favorites (Russell!), and watch every week. In addition to the great dancing, I also love the music. Last year's favorite was "Falling Slowly" by The Frames, and this year's (so far anyway) is "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" by Star. There is a sweet cello line (or maybe an upright bass?) and the lyrics.... great story, great imagery, just plain good...

"Your Ex-Lover Is Dead"

Guy:
God, that was strange to see you again
Introduced by a friend of a friend
Smiled and said "yes I think we've met before"
In that instant it started to pour.
Captured a taxi despite all the rain
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain
And all of the time you thought I was sad
I was trying to remember your name...

Girl:
This scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin
Tried to reach deep but you couldn't get in
Now you're outside me
You see all the beauty
Repent all your sin

Together:
It's nothing but time and a face that you lose
I chose to feel it and you couldn't choose
I'll write you a postcard
I'll send you the news
From a house down the road from real love...

Live through this, and you won't look back...
Live through this, and you won't look back...
Live through this, and you won't look back...

There's one thing I want to say, so I'll be brave
You were what I wanted
I gave what I gave
I'm not sorry I met you
I'm not sorry it's over
I'm not sorry there's nothing to save


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hydrate

On the journey towards health, I have often marveled at the wonder that is water. Sometimes all I need when I'm tired mid-day and feel like falling into bed for an extended nap is a glass of ice water. And when I'm cold deep down in my brisket, a couple cups of hot water fix me right up. When my post-lunch brain threatens to shut down, a sip or two from the water fountain next to the cafeteria can make all the difference!

I've also noticed that just as often as not, I substitute something else for water. In the morning, coffee. In the early afternoon, a frost DP. In the evening, apple cider. Now, according to Weight Watchers, any type of liquid counts for hydration purposes (other than alcohol); however, I know how much better my body feels when it gets the real water it needs.

Today, Cesar brought up this idea and pointed out that God in His wisdom and knowledge of our nature hides water in other things that are good for us. Fruits and vegetables, for example, are often 60-80% water and chock full of good stuff we need to be healthy. We may avoid drinking a glass of water but fully enjoy a juicy apple or some crunchy lettuce.

The spiritual applications are obvious. Jesus said that the water He gives (umm.... Himself? His Spirit) would be a spring of water welling up to eternal life. There is a thirst in my soul for this Water, and when I quench that thirst by spending time with Him, I find that eternal quality in my life. And I thought today as Cesar munched on an apple during his sermon that there are other good things in my life that help to quench the God-thirst. Franklin Hill, my small group, and Young Life are all places for me to serve and teach and give. I am edified and nourished and loved in ways that simply don't happen in other contexts.

But even as Cesar was making his point, I couldn't help but think of the time when I was training for the marathon and got dehydrated on a run. My body became ridiculously unable to do the simplest functions, like eliminate waste, all because I didn't drink enough water. I didn't need an orange at mile 15. I needed water. Just water.

In the lives of those of us who not only believe in Jesus but seek to follow Him, and serve Him by serving, leading, and teaching others, the need for straight Water becomes even greater. This type of spiritual training requires proper spiritual hydration. If we are gonna lead, we gotta follow Jesus personally and closely. Church, small group, and service all provide a different nutrient to our souls, but in the marathon of spiritual leadership, often we just need Water.

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When you give Marah a cookie...

She'll probably eat more than one. And if she has skipped dinner, she'll definitely eat more than two....three....four.... is there any milk in the fridge? NO? Okay, then.... let's leave it at four. That's what happened tonight, and that's why I'm still awake at 9:57. I am, indeed, that sensitive to the enlivening effects of chocolate. And so, since I'm up, I'm gonna throw a few reflections on today out into the cosmic void.

My first thought is, freakin' A, I love my life. Even though I was sick the past four days and in the throws of some serious snotty nastiness, I am so aware of how much I love where I am and whom I'm with and what I'm doing. This morning I had coffee with Debbie Paganelli (she's Pagariffic!), and it is so beautiful to walk with her through life. She is so full of pizazz and humor and love. Just fill my heart right up she does! Then I had coffee with Richie Perez, whom I've known for 15 years. We were GREAT friends in high school, and now he's working at Davis, and he loves kids, loves Jesus, and is considering being a Young Life Leader with me and Susie. I really hope that works out, but even if it doesn't, it is so great to have people like him around.

Then I got to chat with Kjell, a fellow English teacher and Boomerang Coach whom I've known for seven years. She's nationally certified, so we got to chat about tons of great ideas as I start on the National Board Certification process. While I am still a bit bewildered by the whole thing at times, I'm excited to be so purposeful in reflecting on my teaching and potentially to be rewarded quite well for that time and reflection. Can we say 2012 trip to Europe?

Then I worked out. I am so grateful to be in a healthy space with my body image and food issues. By the grace of God and the accountability of a great friend, I'm making better choices and have a healthier perspective on food and activity than I've had in a long while.

And then I putzed about the house while The Return of the King played in the background. I haven't watched that movie in a while, but I'm glad I did today. So many resonating themes. There are battles that need fighting. Robed in glorious white, I'm standing right where God has placed me, defending the harvest from the coordinated attack of the enemy. I am no man. Nor need I be. Kazah!

And then Helen came over. She's a new Young Life kid this year, and I think she's my little sister from another mister. We made banana bread and chocolate chip cookies and watched Up. Such a sweet film, and such a sweet girl. Then the Young Lifers arrived. We were small in number this week (I'm blaming it on not having school today) but there was still LOTS of laughter. I don't know where this whole Young Life thing is going, but I know this is a good thing for this season. I've been asked to go on Summer Assignment in July, which means that more than a month of my summer will be spent at Washington Family Ranch. I'm not sure how I'll cope without seeing my little people for that amount of time, but I'm excited nonetheless.

And I'm really thankful for the passage of time and the healing that has come the past couple weeks. October was not easy. But I think I can say, with thanksgiving and hope in my heart, that my feet are back under me, which is interesting because I didn't realize at the time that they had been swept from me. What I sense more now is the traction in my life -- moving forward in what God has given me. And that, my friends, is so good.

love to you (because I'm assuming if you're reading this, you know me) -- marah jean

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ending chapters...

I sometimes wish I could pull an Emma Dinsmore on my life. She would always read the last chapter of a book first so that she could decide whether or not to read the whole thing: "If I like the ending, I know I'll like getting there, whereas if I don't like the ending, I know not to waste my time."

But even as I sit here, pondering the quote I just pulled from memory (what is it with me and random movie quotes??), I wish to retract that wish. Just because I don't like how a story ends doesn't mean the journey to that end was without value, merit, adventure, and love. Of course I would like every story to end with the destruction of the Ring, the ultimate defeat of the enemy, the coronation of the rightful king, and the joining of the two long-separated lovers, but that isn't life. Well, it is life in the BROADEST sense because Jesus is going to ultimately conquer death when he returns and is crowned and we are joined with Him for eternity. Pause for a moment and let's just GLORY in that! THAT is the dominant story line of life, and because of that, I can have lots of hope when, in times like right now, the subplots aren't tying up with happy bows.

I'm in a season of ending subplots, the most permanent of which is my grandmother's passing. And I'm walking through the cognitive and emotional paradox of the situation: though it is right and good for my Gramma to be with Jesus now, it still hurts. Though I am glad she isn't in anymore physical pain and that she'll get a new body someday, I still ache. I guess it just takes time for one's heart to catch up with one's head.

The dissonance of that paradox is also echoing in the professional and personal chapters that are also closing during this time. After five years with the Boomerang Project, I won't be coaching this spring. The work itself I won't particularly miss, but the people.... oh, my soul loves them, longs to see them, aches already knowing I will miss them. I know God has His protective and providing hand on my life, but saying good-bye still hurts. He has promised good things to those who love and obey him, but, still, I'm experiencing some ouchies.

And, you know what, it's okay. Even though I am currently experiencing the pain of the less-than-happy elements in the "ends" of these subplots, I would still have chosen to read them. The pain of the ending has not diminished the value, merit, adventure, or love I have experienced in them. And I take encouragement and hope from the fact that Jesus and I are moving forward together and that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

My life.... definitely worth the read.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Loss

I'm not usually one to ascribe to Murphy's Law. I'm not usually a glass-half-empty gal. I'm not usually overshadowed by gray gloomy clouds. But today wasn't a usual day. It seems that all of the pain and loss of the last month have made alliances with one another, and they are now descending upon me en masse. I was cognitively aware of all the various losses yesterday, but today the emotions kicked in.

I hate that my grandma is dead and my grandpa is alone. I hate that one of my most favorite students got in a car accident and is now in a coma in Seattle. I hate that I probably won't be coaching for Link Crew this year, which basically means goodbye to that whole group of people that has been so pivotal in my life. I hate that the loss of the CRP still hurts so badly. I hate that I won't get to spend as much time with my friends in Calgary as I would like.

And so this afternoon I'm faced with what to do with all of this. I feel like a burden to others when I'm like this... mascara running, nose running, thoughts running. Oi. I usually am quite good at reframing days like today and lifting my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help. But I'm wondering if it might not be a bit more helpful to just let myself feel this for a bit.

...okay, get this..... Just as I typed that 30 minutes ago, Rissa came downstairs to change the laundry. I love the random provision of God that brought the friend, the compassion, and the hug I so desperately need right now.

And I love her wisdom: with grief coming at me from so many angles, distraction techniques aren't all bad. There's only so long one can look these things full in the face. So I'm gonna wash my face and head to the Y for step aerobics, hopefully have a long chat with a dear friend tonight, go on a road trip with Susie to see Colby tomorrow.

And, in a truly poetic life element, "Details in the Fabric" by Jason Mraz was playing while all this was being typed...

Calm down
Deep breaths
And get yourself dressed instead
Of running around
And pulling all your threads saying
Breaking yourself up

If it's a broken part, replace it
But, if it's a broken arm then brace it
If it's a broken heart then face it

And hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way
And everything will be fine
Everything will be fine

Hang on
Help is on the way
Stay strong
I'm doing everything

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cake Inspired Thoughts

One of the things I love about teaching at Davis is the brilliance of my coworkers, particularly the ones in the English Department. We've got actors (ones who've been in real movies, not just the movies on public access cable), published authors, and classical composers. One of these gems teaches two doors down from me, and I love the randomness of our interactions. Sometimes we just holler at each other... "COOPER!!" "TRAUB!" Sometimes he brings in culinary delights... pumpkin scones, cupcakes, and this year's favorite: apple-pear cheesecake, made from scratch. Oh baby. And sometimes, he brings by copies of his newly written poetry. He wrote one a month ago that I found yesterday as I was organizing my desk.

I'm a baker by hobby.
I have this kick-ass cake recipe
That is made up of the usual dry ingredients
And then nothing but whipped cream.
The tricky part is folding the dry ingredients into the whipped cream
Gently enough, slowly enough, knowing when
Enough is enough.
White on white. Dry on wet.
Oddly, it works
Like mixing cement for a post-hole:
Without much effort, the ingredients blend
And hold.

I trust that my spirit is like that--
All the unresolveds, the irreconcilables
Sit on the surface and then, later
After you've not thought about them awhile
They are still unresolved, but mixed in
A part of you
And it's okay -- not it's not okay,
It has become fertile ground for wisdom.

The poem continues, but that part just stops me every time. I love the prosaic first stanza, the pluralization of the adjective unresolved, the fact that it starts with cake. But most of all, I love the hope it offers, the hope that the things that sit on my life-- that are in it but don't quite fit in it-- that those things will get worked in somehow. While I am an advocate of self-awareness, there are some things that I simply can't perceive right away; it takes some time to see the lines, to learn the lessons.

The last season of my life has been challenging, with ministry stuff and relationship stuff and health stuff. And while I always want to be open to receive fresh insight about old things, I also feel like God has given some wisdom in the last few weeks: clearer directions about vocation and calling, clearer perceptions of what resonates within my own heart, clearer invitations towards Him and away from the things that I would use to replace Him.

Some of the unresolveds are mixing in, and the blend of circumstance and Providence is looking less like a confusing smattering of ingredients and more like a sweet something that can be tasted and seen as evidence that the Lord is good. It might not be all frosted and decorated just yet, but it's ridiculously good nonetheless.

Let's hear it for cake.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hoodies, pillows, and my big red couch

I love fall. I love the coziness of it... the glorious, crisp mornings and evenings that make me head to the closet for a fuzzy hoody sweatshirt. I'm a walking billboard for all manner of things these days: Leadership Staff, Oregon State, Evergreen Girls State, Breakaway Lodge, Pirate Baseball. I even have a red one with Mickey Mouse's face floating on it. I like the snuggliness of them, the way I am dwarfed by them.

My giraffe pillow and big red couch make me feel the same way. Lori made me the pillow for my birthday, and I bought the couches two years ago in a flurry of "I'm a grown-up now! I shall have non-collegiate furniture." Again, it's the snuggliness that gets me. I'm a sucker for a good snuggle.

It's the same feeling I get when my brother lets me really hug him or when Bennett says he wants to sit by me or when Erin stands by my side and expectantly says, "Up!" There's something about being held (or doing the holding) that quiets me. And, along these lines, the Life Journal reading for today was Psalm 130, but it was a short one so I kept reading through Psalm 131:

Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.
I don't concern myself with matters too great for me.
But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother.
Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.

It made me think of holding Erin when she and I are focused on the same thing. We just sit there, but she leans into me. Such trust and love and peace, and I'm not even her mom!

But this psalm isn't just about quietness and peace; it is also a recognition of limitations and declaration of choice: "I have stilled and quieted myself." In the midst of life's big challenges, both external and internal, I choose to slow down.... stop.... reframe.... breathe....

This psalm is perfectly timed for me today. There are matters in my life right now that are too great for me... big picture/trajectory stuff about which I have some strong opinions and preferences... ministry stuff... relationship stuff... career stuff...

And this morning I choose to crawl up on my Papa's lap and say, "I don't 'got this.' This is too big for me. And so, in light of Your enduring love and faithfulness, Your promises that have been thoroughly tested, and Your invitation to trust, I choose to still and quiet myself. I may not get what I want, but Your presence is more important than all of that. I want to stay with You through each season, each radar blip, each bend in the road, and I choose to follow You, not my own way or wisdom."

The embrace of God.... that's pretty damn cozy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

By heart....

My friend Anne preached at Franklin Hill last week. A former fundamentalist turned female pastor who says "kick ass" from the pulpit, she is so great! While the whole teaching was packed with solid theology and pointed challenge, she used one particular phrase that has been rolling in my head and heart all week. Anne said that part of Israel's problem was that they began to think that what God wanted them to do was ascribe to a set of beliefs and practices instead of learning to know Him by heart.

That's the phrase.... to know God by heart. It's like a parfait, that phrase. Layer after intriguing layer has been unfolding in my soul this week.

The most obvious layer is the one Anne certainly intended: that God desires us to know Him at a heart level. Throughout history, God has been revealing Himself to humanity. His wildly passionately good heart whispers at twilight and shouts in thunder. He wants us to understand His incredible love for us so that when circumstances seem to indicate His lack of proximity and care, we can reinterpret them accurately because we know His heart. When we know God's heart, we can discover the roots of a particular attitude or belief and identify them as True because they line up with His heart or as (insert shrill German lady voice here) "Lies! All lies!" because they do not align with His heart. This layer, in and of itself, is so encouraging and challenging!!

But then I thought of the other way to know thing by heart: memorization and recitation. I know lots of things by heart: The Star Spangled Banner, the first 45 minutes of Robin Hood, my parents' phone number, sections of Goonies and sections of John. I know these things by heart because I've encountered them so often. But this kind of knowing doesn't necessarily indicate I've given much true consideration to the meaning of these things.

It reminded me of Friar Laurence's chastisement of Romeo's infatuation for Rosaline: "Thy love did read by rote that could not spell." Yeah Romeo "loved" Rosaline but he was just "reciting" what he thought love should be. He didn't really know her, so he couldn't really love her. I've done that with God. Having grown up in church, I know how my "love" for God is supposed to look, but I didn't really know Him. Could I then really love Him? How glad am I that God is a pursuer and didn't leave me in my mimicking.

I'm thinking living the "Christian life" is like memorizing poetry. If I haven't taken the time to figure out what the poem actually means, my recitation might sound good, but it is actually hollow and meaningless. However, if I've spent some time with the poem, gazed at its angles and texture, grappled with its imagery and implications, then and only then do the words I speak have true meaning. Others might be impressed by either, but I can only communicate with the latter.

Isn't the same true for how I live? Others might be impressed by my life, but if all the exterior doesn't come from a heart that knows and loves God, then it doesn't mean a whole lot.... not really. But if I'm learning to know Him more, then my life is what I want it to be: a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him.

What a heart He has... one that pursues and invites and corrects and comforts. This love of His is a poem worth memorizing...

Friday, August 28, 2009

John & Sam

I've been spending time recently in the Gospel of John. I think this might be my favorite of the four Gospels for so many reasons: his use of the light/dark motif, his blending of Hebrew and Greek ideas, the fact that one of my clearest memories of God opening up His truth to me during individual study was whilst I was reading John 1.

But I'm not in the happy part of John right now; I'm in John 18 and 19, the account of Jesus' betrayal, arrest, and trial. I didn't read much because I got sidetracked after chapter 19 verses 12-16:

The Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, "If you release this man, you are no 'friend of Caesar.' Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar."
When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again....and said to the people "Look, here is your king!"
"Away with him" they yelled. "Away with him! Crucify him!"
"What? Crucify your king?" Pilate asked.
"We have no king but Caesar," the leading priests shouted back.
Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.

Okay, so I know these guys were royally pissed at Jesus for claiming to be God's Son, the epitome of blasphemy and heresy. But "We have no king but Caesar"? Caesar? Really guys? This distant pagan whose rule was typified by violence and war? The man whose empire squashed the Jewish people? You chose him over a man who preached the real and present Kingdom of God?

Then what came to mind was an event that happened 1000 years before hand, recorded in 1 Samuel 8. Samuel is aging, his sons aren't leading with integrity, so the leaders of Israel ask Samuel to give them a king so they can be like all the other nations. Sam is upset, goes to God, and God tells him to give them what they want; "It is me they are rejecting," God explains to Sam. "They don't want me to be their king any longer."

Is it presumptuous to think I can feel empathy towards God? But ouch!! Here is this group of people that He freed, protected, provisioned, empowered, guided, and loved for generations, and they are now saying, "It isn't enough to have a King we can't see, a King we have to take on faith. God, you aren't enough for us anymore."

I doubt they had any clue that their descendants would do more than reject God's leadership by actually screaming for His death, but it boggles my mind to think that the deep root of Jesus' crucifixion was the Israelites' insistence of having a person step into God's role. "We have no king but Caesar" started with "Give us a king so we can be like other nations."

How easy it is to sit here in 2009 and pass judgment on these people. But aren't I just as prone to this kind of insistence? Aren't I just as tempted to doubt His desire and ability to free me, protect me, provide for me, empower me, guide me, and love me? Isn't it just as difficult for me to move forward with a God/Friend/Love that I can't see as it was for them to do what they needed to do without a physical king?

Yeah -- I see it in my heart. It lurks there -- this desire to supplant the intangible God with a finite being that I can at least see and touch. My prayer this morning is that, for today, I would have the faith and courage to let God be what He wants to be in my heart and thus receive the blessing of being one of those who has not seen and still believes (John 20:29).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

143D... aka Marah vs The Wall-of-Nothing

In less than one week, I will start my second year at Davis High School. I am really looking forward to a great year; I'm uber stoked to no longer be the new girl, to have another shot at the American Literature curriculum, and to get Young Life going again. However, there is one pill in the jam: my classroom walls are depressing.... off-white, but dirty off-white, paint chunks missing, dirty smudges that won't wash off. Last year I made due by focusing my creative energies on the one bulletin board in the room. I ignored the 15-foot wall of nothing, that wall's extension onto the front wall, the empty brick wall in the back. My plan for this year was to paint the room, but I discovered that doing so would create a union mess for my administrators.

So I sat with the space for a while and came up with a plan. A huge Ikea picture of Paris on the back brick wall was Phase One. Phase Two consisted of buying three 12"x36" posters that I matted on deep red tagboard: Paris, London, and Venice. And as lovely as these were, I still had the problem of the 15-foot wall of nothing, which seemed worse when juxtaposed with the now lovely front and back walls.

And then, inspiration struck! I fashioned a bulletin board out of cardboard, craft supplies, and butcher paper in the middle of the wall-of-nothing for Davis information and plan to hang four different posters around the board. I bought the first two yesterday. The first I chose for the picture, but the saying is decent too: "The block of granite which was an obstacle on the path of the weak, becomes a stepping stone in the path of the strong." The Action poster says, "It only takes a single thought to move the world." Excellent sentiments. Very "Hey, let's make the most of the one and only life each of us has been given."

And while these two posters do line up with my "Yes, And", "Go Big", "Total Support" life philosophy, I couldn't quite make myself buy much more inspiration and motivation. Instead, for the students who pay attention (and, let's be honest, for the days when I need a laugh), I have purchased these:

Wishes: When you wish upon a falling star, your dreams can come true. Unless it's really a meteorite hurtling to the Earth which will destroy all life. Then you're pretty much hosed no matter what you wish for. Unless it's death by meteor.
Priorities: Hundreds of years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that my ruins become a tourist attraction.

Bring on the new school year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Return of the CongaMama

My friend Jaymie recently asked for video footage of the CongaMama in action. So, even though I'm playing a djembe and not a conga, the sound check from worship team this morning will have to suffice.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pack your bags, something small...

I was putting a new check register in my wallet today and found a post-it note from a couple years ago. On it I had drawn a map from Halee's apartment in London to Piccadilly Circus and written the times that Louvre tours were given in English. Funny how something as small as a post-it can bring back a flood of memories and renew a desire to get up and go!

I'd love to go back to London and go to Vesper's at St. Paul's Cathedral, take a couple days and go to Oxford and Stratford-Upon-Avon, follow through on Halee's idea of having tea at The Ritz or The Savoy. I'd love to go back to Paris and stay for longer than 24 hours. I'd go to the Louvre, to Sacré-Couer, and to the Eiffel Tower again (and again and again and again... oh wait... that's what I did last time... but I'd do it again, especially at night when it's all lit up and sparkly).

And yet, as great as Paris and London would be, there are so many places I haven't been, things I would love to see. A friend told me recently that we only get this version Earth one time through because God's going to make a new one, and there's no guarantee of there being any repeat wonders. And while I'm confident God's got some great things planned for us, I can't help but agree.

So... Italy, anyone? Egypt? China? Ireland?

Wanna pack your bags, Something small
Take what you need and we disappear
Without a trace we'll be gone, gone
The moon and the stars can follow the car
And then when we get to the ocean
We gonna take a boat to the end of the world
All the way to the end of the world
"You & Me" Dave Matthews Band

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Late night thanksgiving

It is 10:21pm and, no, I'm not eating leftover turkey and sweet potatoes (though now that I've written that, those do sound right tasty just now. Mmmmmm.....) I realize in the lives of many people, this is not late. But I was hoping sleep would come at 9, which it probably would have had I not eaten chocolate ice cream at 8. Silly Marah. So, before I try to re-enter the Gates of Sleepland, I want to send some reflections about today out into the void.

1) I spent some time in my classroom today, revised the syllabi for this year's classes, set up my computer and stereo system, figured out how not to hang the big Paris picture, and got to sweep into the office singing "Maria" to our receptionist. I am thankful for a job I love and for no longer being the new girl. Then....

2) I spent the late morning/early afternoon with Elisa Briesmeister. Warm bevs, great chats, and some unexpected finds for back-to-school clothes. She bought me the cutest dress for my birthday, and then we found a little pink sweater to go with it so that I won't break the dress code when I wear it to school. I am thankful for the joy of feeling feminine and my gal pals who get that. Then...

3) I went to the Y a little later than normal, did a quick shoulder workout, and went to Turbo Kickboxing. For part of the class, Dani (the instructor) previewed this fall's Zumba class. I freakin' LOVE IT!!! I'm thankful for a healthy body, coordination, and the joy of choreography. Then...

4) I attended the first part of the Yakima Area Young Life Committee meeting. I got to share about Franklin Hill's vision for partnering with Young Life, how last year went, my camp experience, and our hopes for this year. Craig (Area director) and Ken (established leader with whom I've served a bit this year) shared with the committee how impressed they have been with me and how thankful they are for my leadership at Davis. Wow. Unexpected and so good to hear. I'm thankful for such an incredible community of Christ-followers with whom to serve, lead, love, and live. Then...

5) I came home, did some laundry, and tried to go to sleep, but couldn't. My heart is a little tender these days, wondering and hopeful, timid and unsure. I have surges of confidence, believing that I really am in a good space because I'm following Christ and allowing my community to spur me on towards wisdom, but the heart still aches, you know? So, instead of diving into the peanut butter (which, let's face it, has been my modus operandi for a while), I prayed, cried, and called Susie. I'm thankful for the present-tense grace of Christ and friends who hit their knees when I call for help.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.
Psalm 30:11-12

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Epic and Intimate


I just got back from 2.5 days on the Oregon Coast with my dear friend Lisa Jean. Going into it, my focus was to give Lisa as much blessing as I could heap upon her. She and Cesar have been kicking ass (and subsequently having their asses kicked) for the last few months with Church @ the Park and the new building. Sunday started their vacation time, so I stole her from her hubby and kids and away we whisked to Cannon Beach.

This was my third trip to the Oregon Coast this summer and it was by far the best. The first was with middle school camp, so my focus was on serving them and leading them. The second was a solo venture to visit some newly made friends in Seaside, but they were all working at camp so we had a great time, but something was missing. Thankfully, this trip was different. There is so much I could share about my time with Lisa Jean. We laughed a ton (thanks to literal videos, the Target Lady, and the fact that we spent a good portion of time watching a whale that turned out to be a rock) and talked about this particular season of my life and of hers. We ate clam chowder three different times (The Driftwood Inn was the best), took a long walk to Haystack (aka Goonie Rock), and watched He's Just Not that Into You and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

But upon further reflection, the pieces of the trip that spoke most clearly to my heart were things that mirrored what John Eldredge (author of Wild at Heart and The Sacred Romance) recently described in the Ransomed Heart newsletter: The Epic and the Intimate. And as fabulous as it was to share this trip with my friend, these sweet moments were experienced while Lisa was off doing something else....

~the glory of a majestic sunset that riotously changed colors as the Pacific swallowed up the light... Epic.

~the stillness of the early morning when the sun's rays turned the dew on the spider webs all sparkly and diamond-like... Intimate.

~the surprising power asserted by Haystack Rock as the incoming tide pounded against it... Epic.

~the cool tingle of the rolling fog on my face.... Intimate.

That's the kind of beauty that both calls up my soul into the amazing grandeur of God and calms my heart to a place of contented stillness...

And now I'm home with the school year coming at me with more speed than I care to acknowledge. Soon my life will be much more structured, much more demanding. My prayer is that I can, in the midst of all the newness and sameness, the structure and the spontaneity, the job and the joy, have eyes to see and a heart to receive both the encouragement that comes from being a part of God's Epic story and the peace that comes from being loved so Intimately.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Taken

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the movie Taken starring Liam Neeson and you intend to do so, you may want to watch it first before reading this. But if you've already seen it or have no intention of doing so, read on!

Last night, I hosted a pizza and movie night with some of my Young Life gals. Three of the four of them went to camp together, and this is the first time it has actually worked out for us to get together again. We baked pizza and cookies and laughed a ton, and then settled down to watch the movie. They had all seen it before, but it was my first time. It is suspenseful, but not scary.

The basic premise is Liam Neeson's character has given up his life as an international security spy type person to attempt to rebuild a relationship with his 17-year-old daughter, Kim. She wants to go to Paris with a friend for a few weeks and, after setting some guidelines, he gives his permission. Right before she leaves, though, he discovers that she hasn't told the whole truth; she and her pal intend to spend their time, not at the Louvre, but following U2 on their European tour. As soon as they land in Paris, they are marked by a prostitution trafficking ring and, while the daughter is on the phone with her father, men arrive at the Paris flat and abduct them.

The rest of the story follows Neeson's efforts to reclaim his daughter. He stops at nothing to track down Kim, ends up discovering the ring is deeply woven into the Parisian government, and after overcoming a myriad of obstacles, he finds her and saves her. The scene that just stopped me was, fittingly, the climax of the story. With the last villain shot in the head, Kim leans into her father and says, "You came for me. You came for me," to which Neeson replies, "I told you I would."

Now I know that there is a time to speak and a time to be still, and quite honestly I didn't really think about which kind of moment was happening in the room. I just said, "Holy crap! That is such a picture of what Jesus does for us. We get in situations -- sometimes by our own choices and sometimes because of things we could not see coming -- situations that are death to us. And Jesus just BUSTS through EVERYTHING to get us back. He said he would come for us and he does! DANG!!!"

Who knows what the girls were thinking, but I know what a timely reminder this is for me. There are places in my life that I didn't expect to be, areas of brokenness that haven't been healed, areas of longing that haven't been fulfilled. Jesus never said I would never royally blow it, but He did say that he came to heal the brokenhearted and to set captives free. He has not promised to give me everything I want, buy He has promised to provide all my needs according to his riches and glory. So I am not doomed to stay in my pit of dysfunction and death. Nor do I need to fret, worry, freak out, stress, or grab grab grab at what I think is best for me. Instead, I can be honest about where I am, confess my sin if my own choices got me here, and ask for Him to come get me; I can look at His abundant provision for my present-tense life and trust Him for the future. Amazing. Really.

Father, may I have the courage to follow as You lead me home.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Joe + Marah + Helium

I love my brother. Love might not be a strong enough word. He is such a fantastic person -- really smart but in a completely non-Marah kind of way, playful enough to buy dollar store costumes and chase cousins for hours on end, compassionate towards my dad and Carrie in a way that it quite beyond me, hard working both at his job and on the Ranch, and so hilariously funny that I wheeze like a tea kettle when the two of us get going. He's not a clown as he lacks the performance bug that us Traub gals have, but when the mood strikes, hilarity ensues. Plus he lets me tackle him, hug him, and/or hold his hand during church if I need to do so. What a guy!

So when I said, "Hey, Joe! Take this balloon and we're gonna sing for the camera," there was a bit of a push back. But he relented. And now, for the two people who read this (Hi Nat! Hi Anne!), I proudly present Marah Jean Traub and Bankunle Joseph Alvin Traub with their impromptu performance of Roll On, Columbia.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Other Summer Pics

The summer started with a short but sweet visit with Jayme and Scott! We got to spend an afternoon/evening together meandering through the Columbia River Gorge and my heart resonated with hers as if we hadn't spent the last several years on opposite sides of the country. Love you, J!!!

The fun continued with two weeks of Young Life Camp! I took six gals from Davis to high school camp and five girls from Franklin Hill to middle school camp. What a RIOT!!!! I laughed so hard so many times! What a blessing to be in the lives of these girls!

And the kicks keep on coming throughout the summer with random get togethers with my small group! One pool party turned into a "who can run the farthest on the inflatable dragon" contest! Susie rocked the competition!

Another short but fantastic visit was with Miss Kriste!! She and I taught together in Sunnyside for five years, and she now lives in Hawaii. I hadn't seen her since she had her son, Alexander who is now 1. So much laughter!! What a blessing!

Most recently, I took a trip to Calgary, Alberta to visit Mike & Tricia Swalm and their three fantastic girls! We spent days just putzing around Calgary, evenings watching Seinfeld, and then took a day and went to Banff, which was so incredibly beautiful. It was a too-short visit, to be sure!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hope & Liberation

Those of you in YakTown know that Franklin Hill has been undergoing some MAJOR transitions the last couple months. From staff cuts to building relocation, this faithful gathering of folks is moving forward together through an incredible time of challenge and blessing. Fitting, isn't it, that the sermon series the Teaching Team had planned was on The Exodus. I love it when a plan comes together! And I love it even more when God chooses to interface with me so personally through the topics I've known were to come! We're still technically in the middle of the series as it is planned to last through to the end of August, but today's was so good that I gotta share!

The series started a couple weeks ago with the story of Moses and how God stirred in him a holy discontent with the situation of things. By saying yes to God's vision for his life, Moses made a covenant with destiny that allowed him to fulfill the purposes God had for him. The next week, Anne taught on God's directions, using the Passover Story as the first example of God giving people directions that did not make sense, but when they obeyed these directions, they made a covenant with faith that allowed them to be safe from death. (AND we get the same offer through Christ! GLORY! I love that story -- as an English teacher, there is so much subtext and connotation in when Jesus did what he did! Oh, I could go on and on and on!!) On July 19, I taught about the protection that comes when we follow the directions we receive from God. Just as the Israelites were protected from the forces from their past as they moved forward, so we too have a covenant with love that manifests as God takes His position as our rear guard while simultaneously opening up the way before us.

This week's message, though, spoke straight to my little heart. The topic was Provision: a Covenant with Hope. Oi -- such good stuff! Here are the big ideas:

~As Christ followers, we often focus on faith and love and can forget about the amazing power of hope until it wanes. If we lose hope, then we can easily lose our sense of faith and love. We start wandering in the desert, and if we forget Him in whom we place our hope, we start to wonder about if He really loves us. It was when the Israelites were out of Egypt that they started to doubt God's ability and desire to meet their needs. They didn't know the time in the desert was necessary.

~God could have taken them on a 7-day trek from Egypt to Palestine, but that would not have been enough time for them to develop the character they would need to thrive in the Promised Land. You can't take slaves into wide open spaces without first transforming the way they see themselves, each other, and God. If they hadn't had time to experience God and His faithfulness, they would have arrived in the Promised Land but they'd still be carrying the chains of the past.

~One way God shows His faithfulness to the Israelites as they are just beginning to get to know Him is by meeting their needs on a daily basis. I knew Cesar was going to use the passage about the manna and quail, a passage with which I am very familiar, but I had never thought of the Israelites' propensity to gather more than they needed as a matter of hope. They were tempted to gather more than they needed because they didn't have the hope that God would provide tomorrow just as He had for that day. Another temptation is to look at how God has provided for us today and pine away for the thing He hasn't given us yet. If we lose hope, we will start to grab things for ourselves because we think God has forgotten about that desire. (Can I hear an amen!) But just as the extra manna the Israelites gathered became maggot-infested, the very things we grab at in our hopelessness become poisonous and foul.

~Finally, to get around this, we need to make a covenant with hope. Saying YES to hope means choosing not to despair and moving forward when the promise of God that we thought was for yesterday hasn't shown up yet.

The applications for me during this season are deep and powerful. From ministry to work to food issues to personal needs, God has provided so much for me during this season of my life -- nearby family that will snuggle me like crazy, an awesome and authentic community to live my life with, a great job that I love doing, the opportunity to travel, and a bunch of other stuff. But the desire I have to be married is still unmet and it is easy, as I live in the desert that Yakima can seem to be, to lose hope and doubt that God is still aware of me in this space. But God is building some serious character in me and some serious community around me so that when a potential relationship surfaces, I will have the resources to make wise choices and navigate the challenges of any deep relationship with patience, love, hope, and all that other good stuff.

Cesar's final point was another deep thought. We often think of Genesis as the first book of the Bible (duh -- genesis = beginning) but in reality, Genesis was written by Moses, who obviously didn't enter the story until the time of the Exodus. Then, after God had shown Himself to be both loving and powerful enough to be Israel's Liberator, He was able to reveal Himself as creator. What a powerful idea! Jesus saves us first -- pulls us out of the crap of our lives, perceptions, and beliefs. Then He can begin to show us more of the depth and breadth and texture of who He is and who we are in Him, but if we stay in our bondage, we can neither clearly see these sides of who He is nor accurately appropriate what that means for our own lives.

Thank you, Father, for liberating us and teaching us to say "yes" to your offer of direction, protection, and provision through faith, love, and hope.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Young Life Camp

The room is quiet, as I quiet as I could imagine 700 high schoolers could be, as I stand behind the stage curtains with a piece of cardboard in my hand and the smell of permanent marker lingering in the air. After five days of zip lines, blobbing, and shaving cream, I’m about to participate in Cardboard Testimonies – a simple event that allows people to sum up in a few words the transformative power Christ has had in their lives. Thirty other leaders are with me backstage and we check out each other’s boards. Even before the session begins, I’m misty-eyed at the awesome power and love that Christ offers us, a power that breaks addictions and emboldens the fearful, a love that fathers orphans and calls wayward children home.

As I step to the blue tape mark on the stage, I scan the room and lock eyes with my girls: six Davis High School students whom I have known all year. They know a lot of my story, but they do not know this part: “Bipolar Dad, Unwanted, Unlovely.” That was my reality before I truly encountered the power and love of God. Then I smile and flip the board: “Eternal Father, Chosen, Beautiful.”

Moments like these are what camp is about – giving kids opportunities to interface with the life-changing Truth of God and what He can do in and through lives that are devoted to Him. What we first-time leaders experience so exquisitely is how the Holy Spirit can use any element of camp to draw kids to Himself. For Juanita, the Cardboard Testimonies demonstrated so clearly how powerfully God could change her life. For Colby, it was the ropes course – a terrifying experience that created a metaphor for her about the challenges of trusting Christ, a challenge that she accepted. For Jael, cabin time moved her to ask questions and receive Christ. For Silvia, Club provided a clear presentation of the Gospel and what it means to follow Jesus that reaffirmed her faith and helped her recognize how God’s hand had already been guiding her life.

As a leader, I got to experience each of these pieces of camp with my gals. Together with my campers, I got to laugh and play and sing at Club time, clip into the ropes course and climb Communication Hill, fly down the zip line and plummet on the swing. These experiences strengthened the relational foundation with these kids, and that happened because of the service of the Assignment Team, Summer Staff, and Work Crew. The sheer volume of volunteers who gave tirelessly of their time and energy for weeks at a time amazed me.

On a personal level, camp served as a reminder that this life I live as a follower of Christ simply is not about me. It seems like an elementary idea, something I should have mastered years ago when I was first getting to know Jesus. But the longer I follow Christ, the more He peels back the layers of my heart and reveals how deeply that vein of self-reliance runs and how that keeps me from experiencing His divine provision and grace. Praise God for that very grace that reveals our weaknesses and covers them, convicts us of our sin and cleanses us. I left camp refocused on the larger picture of God’s amazing story and honored to play a small part in that ongoing epic tale.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

(Insert lame apology for lack of blogging here)

The spring and end of the school year have passed in a blaze of activity and challenge. I have 2.5 days of school left and am amazed at what a challenging and wonderful year it has been. I am already excited for next year and getting things more right than this year. I WILL teach my American Lit kids how to write a coherent essay. I will NOT let tardies slide, especially after lunch. I WILL keep on loving my ghetto kids even when they stop coming to school and make me worry about them. :-)

It really has be an extraordinary year. Part of that has been all the work with Davis Young Life, which isn't over yet. Kurtis and I are taking 12 kids to camp this year, and we leave on June 20. It should be a GREAT time and I am really excited. Nervous -- I've never been to Young Life Camp before -- but excited. I get back from high school camp on the 26th, am home for 2 days, and then turn around and go to Middle School camp on the OR coast. Pray, pray, pray for me, for the kids, for Kurtis (who's never been to camp before).

In addition to all of that, I've got some great mini-trips lined up this summer. TODAY I am headed to Seattle to see Jayme! Score! Then in August, I'm hoping to head to Calgary to see Mike and Tricia and the girls. So excited am I! I have a couple of speaking engagements this summer as well, so I won't be bored. But oh baby am I looking forward to some free time! Free time that will mostly be spent with the fams -- both biological and Franklin Hill.

That's the update from here. Sorry I'm not wittier. It is 5:25 in the morning. I REALLY need to get shades on my east bedroom window.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Baby Tyler

On May 19, Rachel and Wyatt welcomed Tyler into our expectant and joyful family! Everything went well, and mom and baby are home.

T-man's middle name is Joseph, named for his Uncle Joe. Joe is such a natural with all of his little relatives, be they neice, nephew, or second-cousin, so none of us are surprised by how much Joe loves TJ. When I showed this picture to my students, one kid said, "Whoa!! Either that's one tiny baby or that's one BIG guy!" He was right on both counts!

I got to take a couple days off from work to watch Bennett and Erin while Rachel was in the hospital. What a riot! We had dancing parties (of course), and then Erin and I made a cake for mom and baby brother during the early morning hours. We also had the celebratory hats, which Bennett enjoyed to the fifth degree, and helium balloons, which provided much entertainment.

And, of course, Auntie Marah couldn't say no to Erin's request for tasty treats, even though it was quite early. She shares my sweet tooth; what can I say?

The following weekend (Memorial Day) provided the time for Wyatt's family to come visit the newest edition to the family. Rachel and Wyatt took advantage of the timing and had Tyler dedicated that weekend. What a profound blessing to have both sides of the family there for this event! Hurray!!!

(And, on a side note, the layout of this page is KILLING ME!!! But I don't want to delete the picture of Bennett and upload it again with a different format just to satisfy to aesthetic senses.)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lenten

When I think of Lent, I think of the cafeteria menu in Wapato -- fish sandwiches on Fridays during the six weeks before Easter. I don't remember any significance to the season before Easter until just a few years ago. It has never been a big deal to me. This year, I decided to give up peanut butter. This may sound silly, but I eat quite a bit of it... in my oatmeal at breakfast, with some celery for lunch, on my ice cream at night. I was going to give up sweets too, but didn't want to take away every good and tasty thing.

Then, this morning, I was reading Lauren Winner's "Girl Meets God" and came across her reflections on Lenten. She writes that her pastor "had spoken of the need to give up something that was truly important to you. To give something that was really truly yourself. He had encouraged us to remember what it was like to receive gifts from friends. So much of what made the gift meaningful...was not the gift itself, but the spirit in which it was given. Say your friend has a beautiful green sundress. You have liked and admired that sundress for months. She gives it to you. If it's just a castoff -- she has eighteen others just like it, so giving it to you is no real sacrifice -- the whole exchange feels a little anticlimactic. But if your friend loves that dress too, loves it dearly but wants you to have it because she knows it will make you happen, then you are thrilled. The dress takes on a whole new meaning. 'I want to encourage you to give something to God that really matters. Something you really love. Something that is hard to do without' (he said)."

She then goes on to tell of his challenge to her to give up reading -- a pastime that was much more than a pastime for her. As I read that, I got one of those deep-in-my-gut ideas that is more than idea. It is the voice of God. I don't want to sound overly spiritual about it -- it could have been just an idea, but I had a fairly volatile response to the idea. Tried to write it off as me being over-zealous. Thought of all the things that could happen if I actually followed through on the idea. Tried to justify reasons to ignore the idea. But after sitting with the idea, I feel it is something I need to do between now and Easter.

I need to give up going to the Y.

I know that seems silly. Many people would look at NOT going to the gym as anything but a sacrifice. I'm not trying to say I'm some sort of super fit athlete, but as I pondered this Lenten decision, I realized just how much value I place in that slice of my life. How much justification I derive from the amount of calories I burn, how much affirmation from the guys who make a point to talk to me on the fourth floor, how much time I spend there in a given week. I'm sure there are more reasons why God has asked this of me during this season; I don't know what they all are, but I hope to understand more by mid-April. Nevertheless, I won't be Y-ing for a while. I still have a training plan for the 10K I'm running at the end of April. I confess I am very afraid that I will gain a bunch of weight if I don't go to the Y. So I lay that fear at the feet of Jesus and walk forward into this season.

And maybe I'll lay off the cookies too.....

maybe

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The end of February

I was scanning through my list of regularly checked blogs and mentally berating those who haven't posted since December 10th (...mmm...cesar) when I realized -- Sweet Sassy! -- I haven't posted since November! Hello, pot? It's me, the kettle. You're black. So I shall take a few of the minutes I have this afternoon (as I have skipped the Y and am realizing how much time I would have if I simply didn't work out) and update the blog!

2009 so far is one consistently moving river of mostly goodness. Christmas was fabi (how could it not be with a hat like this one?), New Years vomitous (I had the stomach flu on December 31, so no ringing in the new year for me), and I had a date on Valentine's Day. (Now now now, everybody, don't get too excited -- it didn't go well as he spent most of the time talking, hardly asked me anything, and had a bull-esque nose ring... I don't mind body piercings in general, but when you're pushing 40, take them out.)

I still love my job, though I am in the part of the year when I always say to myself, "I gotta be more strict in September." But every September comes and I'm still a jolly lass and I create another set of classroom climates that are wonderfully affirming and delightful but sometimes less than academically productive. What do I teach these high school yahoos anyway? Well, by now they should know that some adult loves them, even if that adult is their somewhat random English teacher. We are finishing up the 2nd trimester, which means Romeo & Juliet for freshmen and Mark Twain for juniors. I'm looking forward to next year, when I will have some more experience with the American Lit curriculum. I've gone through it all chronologically this year and may try thematic units next year. Hmmmmm..... who knows? Not me. One season at a time -- I can barely think past Finals in two weeks.

Franklin Hill Foursquare Church continues to move forward. (The picture below if of our "Revivify" skit that Lisa Jean wrote. It was SO HILARIOUS!!! My character -- Lola Tina Nataturlova -- loved the Revivify Yogurt, even though it had some negative side effects. We had fart noises and everything!) Our middle school ministry team has both shifted and grown -- shifted in that Tracy (the guy who was originally hired to be the youth dude) has been transitioned into other areas leaving me in charge of middle school club (GULP!). But we've grown too, as two of my high school kids help out every week and my friend Jeanne has started helping too. I also volunteer at high school club on Wednesday nights, and thankfully Cesar runs that bad boy. I just show up, give kids rides, and run an activity or two. We had twelve kids last week after a month of averaging six. It is a faith-building/testing thing to be sure because I can get very caught up or distracted or discouraged throughout the whole process. I don't really like being in charge as I don't remember details, am not great at delegating, and am constantly afraid that I am going to screw up the whole operation to high heaven. But I'm dealing with it. I'm still on the teaching team, though my times "on the mound" only come up once every twelve weeks. I really enjoy serving in that way, though I do have to remind myself that I enjoy it. :-) My last topic: Is Jesus the Only Way? Yeah -- cover that in 30 minutes.

Hmmmm..... what else.... oh! Spring means Boomerang travel, though this year it is decidedly less than every year past. I'm only working two conferences this year; the least I've ever done before is four. It is quite bittersweet. I had a great time in California at coaches weekend. How I LOVE my Boom Boom peeps. The WA conference was small and wonderful, but it was hard for me to be away. I missed my students, my club kids, and the stability of my regular life. However, I also miss seeing lots of the coaches throughout the spring, but I am glad I am not getting on lots of planes anymore. The allure of solo travel was driven from me during the Year of Nine Conferences. :-)

Travel with others, though, is very much on the horizon. Joe and I are planning a trip back to Indiana over spring break. I am stoked! We'll get to see Lyndsey in a musical and I plan on visiting tons with Yemi and Becca and Jeremy and Mindie and my family and the Michigan/Illinois Boom Boom peeps. Oh good times! And it really is almost upon us. I planned out the weeks between then and now for my advisory kids and was amazed at how little time is left.

I could go on and on about the other details of my life: the joy of getting invited to wrestling matches by my students, the utter contentment of Erin Lindsay falling asleep in my arms, the challenge of maintaining a faith-filled, faithful heart-attitude about the size of my hiney and my perpetual singleness. But it is 5:30... I gotta go pick up some kids and hang out with some middle schoolers.

with love and joy and the promise of spring -- marah jean