Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dreaming for 2013

I am a huge dreamer!  Steve laughs at me because he always says that he's two years behind my dreams.  It may have taken two years to bring Steve on board w/ adoption, but there's no doubt that some dreams are meant to be reality.  I am overwhelmed by God's grace as I sit here during this quiet time in my house watching the snow hail down on my back porch.  It feels like I'm looking at a snow globe.  The kids, dogs, and my husband are all still sleeping, and I just sit with my coffee and praise God for all He is doing.  It's as if I'm sitting on one end of the wardrobe looking out into Narnia, wondering what's out there.
I wonder, I dream, I hope.
2013 is knocking on our door, and I'm thankful for all of the possibilities it could bring.  I am so excited to get my new website up to be able to use it as a tool to connect more with God and others.  I literally can't wait to promote it as a dialogue site, something interactive, where we can talk about this journey and how God is moving.  I have learned through Young Life that the greatest conversations are the ones where I shut up and just listen.  I want to hear you and pray for you, but most of all, I want you to hear each other and pray for one another.
I have had many conversations with people, especially over the past year, that has inspired me and challenged me.  I want to encourage more of that.  To be honest, there's so much useless chatter.  What if we cut all the bull crap and talked about what mattered?  What if we dreamed together and allow God to work in those conversations to do something more than having the perfect home or the perfect outfit or the perfect whatever.  Because when it all comes down to it, there is nothing perfect other than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is in Him, with His compass that we find a way through this messy maze.  I am also learning that my free will sometimes gets in the way and everyday I have more to surrender to Him.  There are corners inside of my heart that need some serious cleaning out, and there are corners that I don't even know exist!  I'm trusting everyday that He is leading me right where He needs me to clean out the gutters of my heart and to use that process and the gifts He's given me to do something that glorifies Him.
When we moved to Indianapolis six years ago, Steve and I thought our family "needed" certain things. We made certain decisions about what we thought we needed in order to be happy and settled as a family.  Everyday I find myself more and more certain that we were reaching for the wrong dream, the American dream rather than God's dream.  At the same time, I know God has not moved us out of this situation because He has more for us to learn and process, and for that, I'm grateful.
I know many would say that it's because of the American Dream that I even have the opportunity to dream of anything else.  I get that, but I think I've realized that the things that I thought I needed are not the things that inspire me and stir my heart; they more or less make me feel like I'm on a hamster wheel.  And yet it's hard to find a balance between not being a slave to your things and being a good steward of what God has given you.  I'm praying to find God's perspective on where He wants me to be with that.
Anyway, here are some of the big things I'm praying for in 2013:

  • My website, hopefully to launch on January 1!  I'm literally giddy about these conversations and to see what comes from them.  
  • Going to Ethiopia this summer with Alex and friends.  CAN'T WAIT!
  • Hopefully selling our current home to move into something simpler.  I know there is a family out there who needs this home a lot more than we do. 
  • Growing more with God and His ministry in Young Life.  I LOVE these kids.  They have become a part of my heart, and I'm so excited to take this journey with them! 
  • Trusting God more and more each day and being thankful for His grace.
Dream big, dream far. 
Much love, 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kick the Door Down

As a parent, I think one of the most challenging things to navigate is when your kids have to deal with disappointment.
My crazy, coo coo ten year old, Alex, has dealt with disappointment and heart ache this week.  For the fifth year in a row, she didn't get a part in her school's Christmas program.  Now, I'm not writing this to gather your support to tear any walls down, that's not it at all; but I am praying on how to walk through this with Alex and emphasize Christ's love in all circumstances. 
At the heart of it, I know my sweet girl just wants a chance to shine, to be recognized out of the crowd, to be seen as someone special, even for just a three word part.  Alex intellectually knows that she is God's girl, His child, but emotionally that's hard to stand on in moments like these.  It's times like right now that God is building her faith and character.  To be honest, she's not buying my well intentioned encouragement and exhortations. 
On Fridays, I do a 5-10 minute read aloud with my students; it's a nice way to end the week.  We are currently reading from an awesome book called Love Does by Bob Goff.  In order to make the stories work for a public school setting, I modify some parts.  All in all, the stories are classic and quite character building. 
Today's story started like this, "I used to think God guided us by opening and closing doors, but now I know sometimes God wants us to kick some doors down."  It proceeded with Bob's personal story about how he kicked the door down to get into law school; it's pretty cool.
I keep thinking back to the past few weeks with Alex.  Everyday she would get in the car and announce to me how many parts were left to be handed out in the Christmas program, in hopes that maybe one would be hers.  I would pray for her, and I KNOW she was praying about it too!  Finally, just the other day, she hopped in the car and said, "Well, I have really good news.  Mrs. ___ is adding one more part to the program."  Oh, my heart was hoping that it could be for her, but I cautiously told Alex to pray about it and that, no matter what, we knew she would do an amazing job in the program and that she didn't need a part to shine and contribute to the festivities to celebrate Jesus!  She accepted my advice with hesitancy...
As you can guess, Alex didn't get that last part.  In order to teach her "good sportsmanship,"  Steve and I filled her with many of:
Not everything is fair.
God is not through with you yet.
Sometimes God's plan is a million times better than we could ever imagine.
 These are moments where God builds our faith.
Amidst all of this, she asked if she should talk to this particular teacher about her feelings.  We tread carefully with this, and encouraged her to write down what she wanted to say and to word it in such a way that would ask, more or less, how she could improve.  She ended up writing three drafts; it obviously meant something to her.  So, she tried to seize the moment, and it didn't go so well. 
What can you do?
I was reminded by Bob Goff's story that sometimes you need to kick the door down.  Bob Goff readily admits that he was not as prepared for the LSAT as he ought to be, nor was he the most studious of students, but he felt determined.  If you know the story, he sat outside the dean's office for a whole week before law school started and then five more days after it started, hoping that the dean would instruct him to, "Go get your books."  And finally it happened.
If you know anything about Bob Goff, he's extraordinary.  His international work through Restore International has helped many children through the justice system.  It's one of my dreams to go and visit his school in Uganda, where many of these children have a home, are educated, and loved. 
Where would Bob Goff be if he didn't sit outside the dean's office?  What if he just accepted the simple rejection letter? 
There could be a number of answers to those questions, but I can't imagine Bob Goff doing anything else than what he's doing right now.  He couldn't be doing any of it without his law degree which he only accomplished because he first did not accept a simple no. 
So, what if I go home tonight and tell Alex that if she really wants, she can express her thoughts without trepidation; sometimes we don't have to accept the no.  It's a risk, but maybe it's worth it. I don't know if the elementary school Christmas program is her place to claim her stake, but I wonder if the advice I gave her was really what I should be telling her; to just politely accept the No's in life. 
I'm not saying that every battle is worth fighting, but some are.  Seeing my child cry herself to sleep over something makes me think that this means something to her in her ten year old world.  Maybe it is worth kicking down the door.  I don't know if she's going to become a Broadway actress, but perhaps this could teach her to fight for the important stuff. 
The "great perhaps" is definitely there.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  It could be a great dialogue for us! Much love and God bless, friends.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Two, To, Too, TUEsday

Today is TOO cool.  Today marks many things that I love about the word TWO, TOO, TO, TUEsday (btw, an underrated day).  First and foremost, today is birthday # TWO for my Jesse Getiso. 
This is a picture of him from the other day after opening birthday gift number TWO from Grandma Donna and Grandpa Bobby.  He loves anything that moves.  Jesse continues to light up our lives.  I still cannot believe that I get the privilege of calling this sweet boy my son. 
On that note, I would be lying if I didn't share with you some thoughts on how my boy has TWO mamas.  I think about his "Mama Alemetu" every day, especially days like this.  We pray for her every night.  We pray that God sends her comfort and peace that her little boy is loved beyond measure.  These feelings especially arise as J cuddles in my arms each night before he goes to bed.  We have a pretty solid bedtime routine, and he often takes his TWO sweet hands and pulls my head down, so we are touching forehead to forehead as we sit in a big, comfy chair in his room.  There, I remind him each night of all the people who love him so very much; the last TWO things I say are, "and Mama Alemetu loves you" (he usually gives me a "aah") "and Jesus loves you"  (with a final "aah").  It is my dream that I can meet this special woman who gave everything up.  TWO years ago, this young woman lost her husband to malaria and was forced to give up her son, so he wouldn't die from starvation.  She means so much to me.  If you think of it, please pray for her by name.  She is a special part of our family.
Speaking of dreams, I have one that I'm working on, hence the journal picture at the top of this post.  I'm kind of technological ding dong, so I apologize about it being sideways; I couldn't find the option to turn it around on this blog :(  My dream is to create a new blog; something that will invite more people to celebrate the journey they're on with God.  I will be giving you more details in the future, but my hopeful launch date will be the infamous January 1!  I'm working on designing a logo, button, etc.  to share with others.  My dream is that it will be interactive, something that people can feel that they converse with me about and find meaningful and relevant to their lives.  I hope that it will inspire dialogue with me, God, their friends, and family.  I'm really really TOO excited about this.
So, I thought TOday was a symbolic day to share some of these things:  it's TUESday, I'm TOO excited, and Jesse turns TWO TOday. 
The final cathartic moment came when I started teaching during period number TWO in class TOday.  This is a small class of kids who find reading a challenge.  My job is TO inspire them to read and fill in the gaps of their reading journey, so they can springboard into grade level curriculum.  We always start the period with a short time TO journal; these are kiddos who often have TOO much on their minds and need some space to vent about stuff.  I journal along side of them and noticed that TOday was the last page in my journal; it seemed TO mark the end of a chapter.  I loved it.  So, I wrote about that. 
I'm thrilled TO share chapter TWO with you in my new blog that you'll hopefully see on January 1.  There will be more information TO come. 
Happy TUEsday.  I'm so thankful for you and You :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Juxtaposition of a Wednesday

"...if you have the capacity to experience huge, engulfing joy, then you can also feel its equal and opposite level of pain."
-Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin

Opposites butting against one another.  That's all I can say to describe this week.  Opposites of my emotions, feelings, etc..

 The one hour late start for Hamilton Southeastern Schools.  Should be good, right?  We should be hopefully working on professional development and planning exciting lessons to teach our kids and engage them in learning.  Well, no.  We don't do that.  Our staff spent the hour ticked off in front of computers attempting to navigate the new teacher evaluation system given by the state, which will determine if we are worthy of our salary and a raise next year.  Ok.  So we spent an hour realizing that the hours that we have to put into this is really just collecting data (that can be totally fudged, by the way) and pretty much turn our assistant principal into just a data collecting machine who will in turn just spew data back at the state; not spending time with kids, not helping kids, not helping teachers.  My blood began to boil.  My "extra degree" was about to steam me right through the roof.  I know I am being risky stating this publicly, but it needs to be said, and we need to not be afraid to say how ridiculous this is.  The tax payers need to know what their money is going towards, not helping teachers be better teachers or kids be engaged to love learning, but to go through mindless data collection and fill out stupid forms.  Done.  You've been given the information, do with it what you will.  (By the way, the state will totally say it helps us track higher level learning, etc..  They're wrong, and if they were educators and actually thought out how this would play out, they would know that; but educators do not run our educational system...just sayin'.  When the rubber meets the road, we're being asked to give out more tests in order to track data and then spend all of our time collecting the data rather than spending our time researching, planning, and executing phenomenal lessons.  Don't let anyone blow smoke up your butt.)
This literally made me want to vomit.  I took a half day to do one thing:  go home and cry my eyes out. The mourning of a 16 year teaching career that leads to this.  The trends are not good, folks.  I don't care what school district you're in.  Every public school educator has to do this.
Steve comes home a bit early.  He holds me and lets me cry, cuss, be utterly sad that I spend time away from my sweet children to play this game.  Beautiful.  And here's the other end of my juxtaposition:  as I lay there crying, I'm surrounded my his sweet arms, telling me that it's going to be ok, we'll figure this out together.  That was Jesus with me there.  That was my husband.  I love him so very much.
We decide together that this could very well be a God thing.  We confirm it, we pray about it, we discuss it more, and ask God to use this for His will.  Joy, excitement, anticipation.  

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday:
Recovery.  The realization that there is a lot on my plate, but there are a few things that mean so very much to me, the rest can go on the back burner.  Things that are priority:
Jesus:  How can I glorify Him without burning out?  How does he want to use me in this season of my life?  Listening, obeying, trusting.
Family :  Being a wife and mom who isn't always stressed out over the next item on my to do list. Being present with my family.  Enjoying the funny moments, being patient through the tough moments.  Making pancakes :), going on Alex's field trips, jumping on the couch with Jesse, dreaming with my husband (we're good at this).
Friends:  Saying thank you!  Sometimes saying no, so I don't stretch myself too thin.  Being someone who actually is hearing and taking in what they have to say rather than being stressed in that moment about twenty million other things (maybe you can relate). 
Young Life, Ethiopia/Africa, Ministry:  What makes me tick as the woman I am.  Spending time and being with crazy teenagers, planning another trip back to Ethiopia (hopefully one to find Jesse's birth mom, our sweet Mama Alemetu) to serve, give, love.  To stay connected with the place that made me feel what life is really about.  Write, write about what's going on, how God is moving and changing the culture of my life.  Yes!

One more quote:
"The stars don't look as good when it's not cold.  And places that have to transitions make you feel like change isn't possible.  I believe in change, even now, even after everything that's happened.  Maybe because I grew up in a place that can be scalding and freezing both."
-Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin

With God, there's nothing to be afraid of.  He's got this.
PS.  If you haven't seen this video, you much watch it.  I want to live my life like this drummer:

I bet he's experienced great loss along with his great joy, but who can resist living like this, even amidst the madness?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Multiple Personalities

I feel absolutely blessed to be an educator.  Every day is a gift, but there are times as a teacher that you feel a multitude of feelings.  The main season is the "heading back to school" season.  My husband literally gears up for it, knowing that he may find me giddy one moment and crying the next.  The range of emotions teeter from elation to utter despair.  Let me explain...
Going back to school means another year of funny kids, making a difference, a neat (although quite demanding) package of complete structure, seeing teacher friends, getting your hands dirty with great and worthy work.
On the other hand, going back to school means not hanging out with your kids, making a meal while trying to beat the clock, the end to the freedom of the summer schedule, goodbyes to vacations and camps, and not having a somewhat clean house on a daily basis.  This year hit me especially hard having Jesse home.  He's not in school, and although he is in the most loving and wonderful day care situation a woman could ask for, I don't get to see him as much.
Going back to school is refreshing for me, but it also makes me nervous...can I do it all?  I still don't have an answer to that.  Thankfully, God has provided a wonderful job for me to help our family financially, and I'm grateful for it.  The hard part is not waking up at 5 am for me; the hard part hits at 3:15 pm, when I'm butt tired from teaching, and my sweet children are waiting for their mama to care for them, help her with homework, play trains, cook dinner while holding him on my hip, solve dilemmas, discipline with love, bathe them, and put them to bed with stories and kisses...and then there's laundry to do.
I know so many of you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Bear with us teachers who are mamas and wives.  August is tough.  August is not only saying hello, but it's also saying goodbye.  We have the best jobs in the world, but it's a conundrum of emotions sometimes.  It's building up the stamina to do our busy days; it's building up new muscles.  It's praying that your kids and you don't actually get sick while you get back on your feet again because it would really be tough to schedule a doctor's appointment while you're trying to get your students back in the swing again too.  It's a lot of pressure, for sure.
I always say that I have multiple personalities every August.  I'm thankful for an understanding husband who hangs in there so sweetly through it all.  He knows what's coming every year, and although I try not to go there with my wisdom; it's still an emotional feat I haven't conquered yet, especially now, experiencing being a mama to a young one once again.
I pray for our kiddos who are not only our babies but also our students.  We want to do right by them.  We love them, and that's what it all comes down to.
Our tears may invade the spaghetti sauce a few times this month, but there's joy in the morning.  This I know.  This I know for sure.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Home from YL Camp...Two weeks later

I have to tell you that I couldn't write about camp as soon as I got home a week and a half ago.  I was on an utter camper's high.  Cheezy, I know, but true.  I absolutely needed some space to process this crazy thing that I did and am involved in now.
For one thing, I was by far the oldest person in our group.  The night before we left we got together for dinner to pray and talk about the week ahead w/ the kids.  I sat at a table with well spoken college kids (who prayed like a wise Billy Graham; totally intimidating, btw!), two recent high school graduates with amazing enthusiasm, an experienced Young Life couple, my sweet colleague (Sarah Wright) who breathes this ministry and then there was me.
I think most of us can say that we are our own worst enemy, and as I've been surrounded by such encouraging people, I stepped into this w/ fears and trepidations... such as:

  • I'm old(er).  Late 30's, not crazy old (I mean that w/ love w/in the context in which I'm speaking!)
  • I have two kids.
  • I have a career.
  • Um, this list could go on...
But here's the deal, we all get into things because we are attracted to it.  Often there's something we can't quite name straight out, but we feel a pull to it.  When Sarah Wright mentioned that Young Life was getting started at HSE, I didn't quite know why I wanted to do it, I just did.  The reasons came later.  And here's what I figured out:
  • I want to do this because I love kids.  I love these crazy teenagers whom I'm blessed to work with every day.
  • I've been feeling the need to let down my walls a bit.  In the classroom, there's definitely a wall (which I respect) of how much a teacher shares (religion, etc...).  School is vital, without a doubt, but there's some things that matter more.  Kids go through stuff, kids question stuff, kids push the boundaries.  Within the boundaries of being a public school teacher, there's only so much you can do.  That's ok, I get that.  I know there's a huge piece of me that has the energy and desire to poor into kids that I'm not totally able to do at school.  
  • After talking with Jon Houghton, who is in charge of YL here in Indy, YL stood for everything I believe in.  It's not about just ministering to kids who already have a relationship with Christ, it's for everybody.  It's about getting to know kids and meeting them where they are, however that looks.
  • I love Jesus and how he leads me through this crazy life.  I want to be used by Him.  I want to do anything He calls me to do, despite my fears.  
At camp, we went nuts.  I did things that the average mom doesn't do.  I did camp... I ran in the rain multiple times, I sang at the top of my lungs until I was horse, I wore blue eyeshadow with an awkward 80's ponytail, I stayed up until 2 am laughing at girls while they fake farted (which was freaking hilarious), I wore hill billy teeth while someone gave me a piggy back in wet grass, I did an obstacle course in the pitch black, I laughed my butt off while the girls showed me the latest dance moves as seen at your average junior high party, I cheered kids on to stuff their faces with plate sized sundaes, I had deep conversations amidst laughter and tears about what's going on in life & what Jesus means in the middle of that, just to name a few...
And it was so meaningful.  I was inspired and energized by all this.  And you know all those people that I met for dinner before we left, we became friends.  Oh my gosh, I love these guys.  These sweet college kids made me laugh so hard and just shared their crazy experiences, dreams, and questions about adulthood. Yes, there were a few old jokes, but I loved it.  I really did;)
I just can't help but think that that's how Jesus works.  He shows you a door, you hesitantly walk through it, and He showers you with blessings.  He'll take that mustard seed of faith and make it grow into something beautiful.  
So, I have these four eighth grade girls whom I adore.  I'm so excited to take this journey with them.  They make me laugh, but more than that, they opened their hearts to me, and I'm so humbled by that.  
Jesus has really shown me in the past few years that some of the coolest things He wants to bring into my life starts with feeling awkward and unsure of myself.  
This past Saturday, I had a great conversation with an old, dear friend about how we often (especially as moms) define ourselves so strictly and don't open ourselves to all the crazy possibilities that could make our lives so multi dimensional.  
On another note, when I came back from Ethiopia last summer with our sweet boy, I had a difficult time looking around me and finding this American lifestyle acceptable.  I still hurt over the excess in which I and the average American feel that we need (I absolutely take responsibility too!).  But I now feel energized that God is using me for these kids, although I often just want to sell everything and move the family to Ethiopia, I'm here, and I feel like I have a purpose.  I'm grateful.  
God is so good in this messy life.  I'm so appreciative of the people He's put in my life, the craziness of this journey, and the courage He gives us to do coo coo things.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Darned if you do and darned if you don't...Jesus Style

I've been reading through the New Testament in The Message Bible.  I just want to reconnect with who  Jesus is.  Now, I haven't gotten very far; to be real, I'm in Matthew; yes, the first book of the New Testament.  But, have you ever had this moment where you feel like you need to get to know someone again?  Maybe because I've changed a lot over the journey since giving my life to Christ (and have tons more room to grow...), I feel this sense of needing to read through what Jesus said, did, thought, revealed about who God is, and ultimately saved.
So, I come to the beatitudes.  The first one says, "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule" (The Message).  I'm thinking to myself, "How many times a week do I feel at the end of my rope?"  Answer:  many.  Consequently, I come to this passage later on in Matthew:
They landed in the country of the Gadarenes and were met by two madmen, victims of demons, coming out of the cemetery.  The mend had terrorized the region for so long that no one considered it safe to walk down that stretch of road anymore.  Seeing Jesus, the madmen screamed out, "What business do you have giving us a hard time?  You're the son of God!  You weren't supposed to show up here yet!"  Off in the distance a herd of pigs was browsing and rooting.  The evil spirits begged Jesus, "If you kick us out of these men, let us live in the pigs."
Jesus said, "Go ahead, but get out of here!"  Crazed, the pigs stampeded over a cliff into the sea and drowned.  Scared to death, the swineherds bolted.  They told everyone back in town what had happened to the madmen and the pigs.  Those who heard about it were angry about the drowned pigs.  A mob formed and demanded that Jesus get out and not come back.
What the heck??  This town has been living in fear for what I'm assuming had been a very long time, Jesus comes and saves these mens' lives and gets rid of the danger, and everyone is more concerned about the pigs.  Now I'm sure I'm missing some historical importance here, but there's something about this story that seems timeless and so personal.
How many times are we so used to a problem and complaining about it, that it almost becomes "comfortable" to us.  This sort of thing absolutely puts me at the "end of my rope" as stated in the first beatitude.  I find this often in my life as a parent and in education.  It's scary because these are two areas that are so important to children's lives.
In education, we see problems and often the answers are there, but they aren't easy to implement.  It's something that will take time and resources, but more often than not, we go with the "answer" that is easier to do, it's more comfortable, it doesn't require as much as a sacrifice, but in doing so, you end up creating a problem for the problem you just tried to solve.  It's a train wreck.  What if we just went with the true solution?  What if we just tried that and created real change?  Just a thought.  Jesus took (and takes) care of problems if we're willing to let go of some things.  The town was ticked about their loss of the pigs without truly recognizing what just happened:  the demons were gone, people were safe, and the mens' lives were saved.
Parenting is a bit of conundrum too, especially with a tween daughter (LOL).  My sweet daughter has a multitude of tough spots to get through each day, as do most 9 year olds.  Unfortunately, she doesn't always like my answer or solution.  Instead, she would rather sulk with the problem that actually solve it.  UGHHH.  My problem is that I don't have much patience with this sort of thing.  Obviously, God is working on my here.
Ultimately, this sort of thing happens everywhere, and it makes me really excited for the rapture.  Rapture me, Oh God!  It also brings me back to the reminder that this is not our home.  Our home is in heaven with our Father and His Son.  This world is not getting any better although I'm convinced we can change lives while we're here.  Honestly, our lives are changing while we're here, if we are honest with ourselves.
In moments like these, I just want more of Him.  I hunger for His wisdom and clarity.  I feel extremely blessed and these end of the rope moments are a part of daily living...AND this is why we are blessed when we feel this way because we look to Him, rely on Him, want Him because we've got nothin'.
People on this earth are going to be complaining about their pigs.  I pray that through God's power that you and I are doing and can do something to change those hearts.  Sometimes you never know.
Thanks for Your Word, God.  Thanks for Jesus and all that He reveals about Your love, Your glory, and the truth.  We were made for You, not for this world.  Thank You for reminding me of this every day and not letting me be comfortable among this mess.