Author: accidental devotional

I live and work and love in the city of Atlanta. I am trying hard to follow God as a mother, teacher, wife, speaker and writer. Sometimes, there are moments when I get it right. And when I don't God's grace is sufficient.

Heartbreak: A Spiritual Discipline

The worst break up I ever had wasn’t from a man. It wasn’t a romantic one. The break up that left me devastated, unable to breathe, wandering through the world broken and confused was a friend break up. A friend (ex-friend? former friend? what do we even call that?) is the one that got away, the one I still wonder about, the one I don’t look up on Facebook but kind of want to. I just hope she is happy. Even as I hope that she knows how much I miss her. Even as I know it is best that we have both moved on.

I guess I figured after my one serious boyfriend and my very early marriage, that I was sort of immune. I guess I was sort of naive. Romantic strings aren’t the only kind that bind two people together. Mutual need, mutual dreams, mutual vision. Sometimes you just need to look at someone who has done something you are trying to do. Like be a good mom, or work from home, or write just because they love it. Sometimes you need an employer, or an employee, or a housekeeper, or a babysitter and you both just really like each other. Strings are tied around hearts before you even realize it. Sometimes you love the organization, the Girl scout troop, the church, the school, and you love each other and you love what you are doing and those strands form bonds stronger than you thought possible. Sometimes it is a tragedy, or being in a terrible place that forms bonds not easily broken.

I’m string tie-er by nature, a bond builder. I jump quickly and easily into the deep end. I give a lot of second chances. And third and fourth and fifth. When people tell me something I believe them. I believe people can change. I believe it CAN be better next time around. I believe in staying. This means that I am able to build bonds quickly. I love that. It also means I am burned more often than almost anyone I know. I don’t love that. But I don’t quite have it in me to give it up. I don’t have it in me to not tie the strings, to not build the bridges, to not believe that people can change.

People can change, things can get better. I think that is part of the gospel. I think my belief in the resurrection manifests into every day life. I know these things feel like death, these breakings of bonds, these shatterings. I feel the death, and mourn the loss. My grief as big as my hope once was.  But I can’t stop hoping for the resurrection. The new growth. The miracle.

I used to just think that I was naive. That I was stupid or I couldn’t learn. But I don’t think so anymore. I think heartbreak is, for me, a spiritual discipline. The act of putting my heart out there, risking it, is a matter of faith for me. Do I believe this is worth it? Do I believe, even if this dies, ultimately in resurrection?

I do, for now. I still choose hope. I still choose to risk heartbreak, and when that risk doesn’t pan out, I choose to believe that this broken heart can beat again.

When The Shoes Don’t Fit, A Parable

You get bored in a meeting one day and decide what the heck. You need some new shoes. You wouldn’t normally be this cavalier with money, but you sunk a lot of your tax return into an Amazon gift card, so it doesn’t really feel like spending, even though your husband keeps insisting it is. Your Amazon prime subscription isn’t helping the matter, (though it has saved your household a number of times when you are about to run out of diapers and no one in your house has time to go to the store in the next two days).

So you go shoe shopping while pretending to pay attention to whoever your superiors paid too much money to talk to you all day. You really wish they would pay to get a clock in your classroom again. You suppose, you can’t have it all. And you find some really great shoes, black and shiny, gold and sparkly, some are on sale for 9.99 so you buy two colors. I mean, the shipping is free! You feel really good about your new shoe wardrobe.

You can read the rest here. Sometimes I write something I just really like. 

Whose Turf? On Race and Home Field Advantage.

Every time I write about race I feel awkward. And there is a big part of me that doesn’t want to become “that girl” the talking about race girl all the time, the asking you the hard questions girl all the time, the person you skip on the blog roll on because it is just going to be too heavy.  Don’t her kids do anything funny anymore? If I am really honest I would tell you that I don’t love writing about race because it is too hard to examine my own heart time and time again and find it wanting. But I also feel like I have been seeing with new eyes lately. Some things that I have always known in my head, have worked their way into my heart. I feel like I have prayed for eyes to see and ears to hear, and now it is my responsibility to see, and hear rather than shut my eyes and ears because it just too hard.

I wrote about the birthday party a few days after it happened. So I was more aware of the feelings because I told everyone about them. I noticed again when the dad came to return the chairs they had borrowed. I noticed how easy it was for me. I noticed how relaxed and at ease I was.

I noticed my home field advantage.

I noticed that I feel totally comfortable interacting with people who are different from me as long it is in places I am most comfortable in. My house is my turf. I know the rules, I know the expectations, and if you don’t like it you can leave. It requires very little of me to stay comfortable and anything I do to make you comfortable makes me the benevolent and awesome one. I am good by going out of my way to let you do your thing, and I am the one who gets to “let you” because this is my space.

Everyone knows that the home team has the advantage. The crowd is on the side of the home team, they know the turf, they know what it feels like to play their, they win more often. I’ve been thinking a lot about race and privilege, and always getting to be the home team. I think sometimes that the game is fair, is easy, that everyone still has a fair chance, but that is mostly because I almost always have home field advantage. In fact, it took about two years of me working in a place where I was the minority, where there were certain things I didn’t understand that everyone else viewed as common knowledge, where I was always the odd man out. It took almost two years for me to understand that the world I live in, that most public places are my home turf. Most television shows have people who look like me, most stores carry products are for me, most toy aisles have a ton of baby dolls that look like my kids. I don’t ever have to search at the library for books that represent my family well. Those are the “classics.” I am perpetually living in home field advantage.

I’ve been thinking about what it means, to be diverse, to want diversity, mostly as a white woman (because that is what I am.) All too often what I mean by diversity is I would like other people to come play on my home field. Do I want to go to a more diverse church, YES! Am I willing to go to a church where I am the minority? maybe. I don’t know. It is complicated, I love my church! Do I want a more diverse church, YES! Do I want the service to change so that people would maybe feel like my church was also their home turf? but I like the way things are, that is why I go there. Do I want my daughters to experience a more diverse world? YES! Do I get a teensy bit offended when we visit the kindergarten classroom and there is no baby doll that looks like my kid? Even though I know that she is literally the first white kid in that class? Yeah. It reminds me that this isn’t my home turf and I don’t like it. And this is mostly because I am not used to it. I am not used to this world not functioning around me.

I don’t like this about myself. I don’t want to be uncomfortable when I am “playing away” and I don’t want to quietly sit with this advantage and pretend that things are totally even.

May You Be Kind

My girls are getting older.

With Juliet in Pre-k five days a week, and Priscilla having a social schedule that a debutante would be proud of, it has become blatantly obvious that they have their own tiny lives. They know songs I did not teach them. They spout new knowledge I did not teach them. They love people I do not even know the names of.

As the control is beginning to slip through my loosened fingers, I became even more aware of the things that I want for them. I want warm smiles and lots of people who love them. I want challenges they can conquer, tiny mountains they can climb and declare every day, ” I am brave, I am strong, I am capable.” I want laughter, and singing, and a time to rest. (Did you hear that Priscilla? I want you to take a nap, everyday, so I can see you when I get home in non-melt-down-mode.)

I hope that they are brave. I hope that they are smart. I hope that they are funny. I hope that they are well spoken. I hope that they are bold and gentle all at the same time. I hope that they know just how beautiful they are, how wonderful they are, how loved they are.

But above all, I hope that my daughters are kind. 

I see in my own classroom, every day, how rare that is, how important that is, how truly counter-cultural. I suppose that if the day every came where it was their faith or their life, I would hope that my girls would proclaim their faith. But I hope they don’t wait for the day when their lives are on the line. I hope that their little lives every day speak to the goodness of our God.

And most of all I hope that they are kind. I hope that they make room at their lunch table for the new kids, the shy kid, the kid without any other friends. I hope they are kind to their teachers, especially the new ones who are making a lot of mistakes even an elementary-schooler can tell are mistakes. I hope they are kind to the kid who is getting the whole class in trouble, and the kid who has trouble making friends. I hope they are kind to the kids who are mean . And I really hope they are not the kids who are mean.

I hope they forgive, again and again and say things like, You can sit with me. You can be in our group. Would you like to play with us?

I have learned, in my classroom, in my world, that a kind gesture speaks more boldly than a mission trip t-shirt ever will. I have learned that consistent kindness is often far harder than bold witness. I have learned it stays longer. It often means more.

I will, of course, be proud of my daughters when they ace their spelling test, when they score the winning goal, when they steal the show, but I will be especially proud when I learn they have been kind, to a stranger, to a teacher, to a kid who really needed some kindness.

My dear girls, may you be exceptionally kind. 

 

What I am into: (June, July) August 2014

What! I haven’t done this in three months and I really unclear as to how that happened, except I am totally clear because, summer.

So! Let’s get all caught up shall we?

JUNE: June meant the last day of school, then Christian went on a trip to San Antonio and we hung at the house. Then he tapped in and I tapped out and it was off to Austin TX for the story sessions retreat. It was so so so good to be with people in person that I had been interacting with online for over a year. It was also very fun to drive from ATL to ATX with Morgan Paddock and Elizabeth Kays. I think I could happily spend days in a van with them. Two days after I came back from my retreat we packed the whole family up to spend a weekend in Tennessee. This wasn’t just any weekend. We had a reunion with our old speech team, plus spouses, plus babies. It was amazing. Who knew that the people we were sort of stuck with in our early twenties would be TOTALLY AWESOME now. It was great, and we are hoping to make it a yearly thing.

JULY: July meant the annual family trek. First we spent sometime visiting my in-laws in Connersville, then up to Toledo to see my parents. From there my parents joined us as we drove up to the Adirondack mountains at the cabin on Friends Lake. My sisters and their kids were already there and we spent over a week in a cabin  together and meeting our extended family everyday, on the beach, at a wedding, at the square dance and otherwise vacationing France style (read doing all of the things. Together. The together part is important to us). Then, we returned to Atlanta two days early because…

BIG NEWS: I needed to go to a meeting for the TEDx Peachtree speakers this year because I will be presenting. I played it cool on the phone, as I was discussing this opportunity post pool with my bathing suit on, and then immediately started squealing. I am really excited to be a part of this amazing movement. Tickets are still on sale for October 17, or you can live stream it!

AUGUST: Brought back to school for me AND for my oldest! We bought uniforms and went to open house and Juliet spends five days a week now happily doing whatever her beloved teacher wants her to. Beloved is an understatement. Our schedule has officially changed and we are still adjusting a little to everyone being awake before 7 and not just mom. The biggest change for me is it means the girls don’t sleep in on the weekends like they used to. Juliet loves school and I think Priscilla secretly loves the amount of attention she is suddenly getting without her sister at home.

What we ate:

Grilled Pizza- All the time. All the grilled pizza. Apricot jam with red chili flakes, prosciutto and goat cheese quickly became a favorite although I won’t say no to just old fashioned pepperoni. It takes like ten minutes, tastes fresh and delicious, and everyone loves it! I highly recommend grilling pizza, but don’t skimp on the olive oil or you’ll get a mess on the grill.

Summer Pastas- We loved the lemon basil pasta from the pioneer woman and also a lemon Parmesan one from cooking light. So good, so easy.

What I Opened:

My mouth

I spent a weekend in August filming some of my opinions to put up on you tube. I am excited, but also sort of nervous to put them up on the web. Stay tuned for the exact timing. I have some very awesome and generous friends editing them for me.

I also read at the Decatur Book Festival. It took me about 2 minutes to find my groove, but it was so fun. I read A Prayer for Ferguson and a young artist asked me to sign his sketch of Mike Brown. I was incredibly flattered. Also, I am amazed at how quickly all the speech team skills come flooding back to you.

Presents!

My friend gave me an advent calendar full of back to school presents. Every day for 15 days I opened one. It was awesome and totally made the beginning of the year great. I think my favorite thing was the zen rock garden, but really I loved everything.

What we watched:

Game of Thrones Christian and I managed to power through all four seasons this summer. You should be impressed. And yes, they are as good as everyone says, and yes you should watch them.

Buffy- somehow we both missed this the first go round, but Christian and I have started watching Buffy together. So far so good, the special effects are hilariously bad. But I think this is a good “together” show for us.

Guardians of the Galaxy- Originally I was completely opposed to watching this movie. (I draw the line at superheroes in space.) But I got talked into it, and I loved it. Who knew my rule should be no super-heroes in space unless there is a talking raccoon. Now I know. Thoroughly enjoyable.

State we were in-

Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, New Jersey,

As always I am linking up with the lovely Leigh for her monthly what I am into post.

 

When You Do It For the Kids

You know, at eight or ten or even two years into this you already know, if they tell you to do it for the kids, it is something you really don’t want to do. It is hard, it is complicated, you think it might be unnecessary, in the worst of scenarios you think it will hurt.

But they ask you to do it…for the kids.

So you do it. You abandon your tried and true for the new fangled thing that has been packaged and sold to your school. You go to trainings in the summer, and in-services on Saturday. You try to get on board.

After all, it is for the kids.

The kids are why you took this job. You were one of those kids once and you still remember the way the teachers who mattered made you feel. Maybe they were the first ones to ever tell you, you could write, or you were good with a language, or you had a head for numbers. Maybe those teachers were the first people who said your name like they were glad you were there. Maybe you didn’t have that at home. Maybe you were sick and they smiled and said they were glad you were back when all the other teachers grimaced and asked how soon you could have your make up work back. Maybe they saw how fast you did the multiplication tables and introduced you to trigonometry at age 9, on their lunch break because that was the only time they had.

Whatever it was, those teachers changed your life, because they did it for the kids.

It is ten, twenty, thirty years later and you still remember their name, the way they made you feel, what they taught you and how it changed the way you looked at the world.  You show up every day, every year, just to be that person, just to change the world one five, ten, fifteen year old at a time.

And now they are telling you to give these tests, adjust to these standards, implement this initiative, for the kids.

But what do you do when you think it might hurt the kids? When you realize that, in your professional opinion, the standards aren’t developmentally appropriate, the tests aren’t preparing the kids for anything but more tests, the initiatives improve the test scores but limit genuine learning opportunities. What do you do when the very things they are asking you to do, you think might hurt the kids?

What do you do for the kids you are doing this for?

So you do it. You ditch the project your students from ten years ago still mention on your Facebook page, the lesson the parents from two years ago mention when they drop the younger sibling in your class, whatever it is that you know taught your kids how to really exist in this world. You tuck it away into your file cabinet and you hope that you will find a way to pull it out next year. But right now, there just isn’t time. There is this new thing to wrangle.

You sigh and remember you are doing it for the kids.

Perhaps it is true that your students in the long-term, are being hurt by these test, these programs, these initiatives. Right now, for the kids, you need to be concerned about right now. You are teacher, and this is the only year you will have. You need to do what is right, right now. It may hurt your students in the long run to not engage the world the ways you once allowed them to, but it will hurt them next year, if they cannot pass their graduation test. Your students need to graduate.

You do what needs to be done, for the kids.

You hope that one day you will be asked what you think benefits the kids. You hope the idea that you do this for the kids is seen as something worth hearing about, rather than a barb to poke you into places you do not want to go. You show up and do what needs to be done, for the kids.

You try to remember why you became a teacher, for the kids.

 

A grandfathers tears, proof of the Holy Spirit.

I was ten the first time I saw my grandfather cry. A business man, and a purchasing agent, I knew my grandfather loved us because of the way he provided so generously for us, by the way he patted us on the back and said “Oh, that’s okay” when his grandchildren would thank him for the ice cream, the presents, the dinners out.

It was my grandmother who emoted. She got excited and delighted and clapped her hands when we came to visit, or when we preformed our talents for her. She got teary and disappointed when we had to go home, even if we had been visiting for two weeks. She choked up often and with ease.

But not my grandfather, the only emotion I can really remember from him in my early days is anger. (Mostly, as a result of one of us being disrespectful to my grandmother.)

When I was ten, my grandparents were visiting. I came home from school and the TV was on. It was Oprah, in her four o’clock syndicated hour, and my grandfather sat alone in the living room, tears wet against his cheeks. I don’t know what was on the TV, I don’t know why it touched his heart, I don’t even know if he saw me seeing him. But I will never forget the first time I saw my grandfather cry.

It certainly wasn’t the last. I remember him choking up while praying for my cousin who was not celebrating Christmas with us, but stationed in Bosnia. I remember him crying at my cousins funeral. A half-dozen times maybe, I remember grandpa crying, or almost crying. And mostly those moments were in gratitude. To God, for his family.

But that first time, that first time I often cite as proof that the Holy Spirit continues to change us, that the spirit works in us our entire lives. As my grandfather retired, and then retired for real, he started teaching a men’s Bible study at his church. Or maybe he always did, and I had just never noticed before.

I did notice the tears, the softening of his heart. I noticed the way he yelled just a little less. I noticed the way he approached the world with a softer step. And I immediately recognized it as a work of the Holy Spirit. Apparently God still changed people, even when they got old. Even when they were godly before. It was proof to me that the Spirit is real and always, always working.

I see the Spirit working in a lot of people lately, and I hope the Spirit is working in me too. But I am strangely aware, that if the spirit is working in my own heart, it means there is much work to be done. It means I am wrong, a lot. It means the people I love are wrong sometimes too. And it means there is space and grace for that.

Because I didn’t see my grandfather cry until I was ten. And it was proof to me, that the spirit moves.