“Hi, I’m…” *runs away to hide*


I am awful at introductions! There are fewer more awkward moments for me than meeting someone for the first time, particularly in a professional or peripheral capacity. Meeting people to whom I have no common connection is incredibly nerve-wracking for me. I flounder and fumble for words. I especially dislike being caught off-guard or ambushed by introductions. For example, we had a visiting pastor to our church from Cuba a few Sundays ago who didn’t speak English, along with the gentleman who was his transportation. I was in the nursery with Elizabeth when suddenly the latter gentleman came up and introduced himself to me.

I smiled and brightly introduced myself and my daughter in return. We traded “nice to meet you’s” and then I was painfully conscious of a lack of ideas for anything else to say. I wanted to hide or run away, anything to not have to talk–or, rather make small talk–anymore. We traded the pleasantry again and he mercifully wandered off to meet others.

I was free!

Now, I know my introverted-ness is showing in all its glory right now, but I often feel this way about meeting new people. Sometimes, we hit on a shared interest that I can speak to and that relaxes me, “unafraids” and animates me. That is not always the case and it admittedly takes time for me to be comfortable and, often, that time is not available so I am therefore left to shiver nervously inside until the encounter is over. I am well aware that the dear friends I do have would not be so had I not gone through that first awkward introduction process so I will keep on. Sometimes bravery doesn’t roar but just offers a smiling “hi” as you put a foot forward to see what will happen.

Weighted on the Side of Grace


There’s a war between guilt and grace

And they’re fighting for a sacred space.

“Grace Wins Every Time” — Matthew West

My soul laid in broken pieces at my feet, cracked and smashed, shattered and bleeding. The pieces never seemed to stop falling, like the late fall leaves outside that seemed to flutter endlessly to the ground. My poor soul was in so many pieces that, if it were a vase, I would despair of it ever being put back together again. Even if it were, would it ever be strong and stalwart again? Would it ever be able to stand upright without fear of collapsing inward? Would my soul, so battered and broken by my own failures and actions, by rejection and judgement from others, ever again stand a chance at wholeness? I didn’t think so.

I could hide it. I did hide it and well. I swathed it in velvet, let it appear whole and soft when really it was trembling and fractured beneath. The pretty-on-the-outside covering was to hide the sensitive, nerve-baring cracks as much as it was to pretend at wholeness. It fooled everyone but me, everyone but those who dared to look painfully closely, and especially everyone but the One who formed my fingers and toes, my heart, lungs, and innermost being.

The One I don’t fool is God. I can’t fool God. Isn’t that wonderful? Yes, that’s what I said: wonderful! No matter who I think I might be fooling, I cannot fool the God of the universe. An artist knows their handiwork. So does God. He Knows me and Sees me.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV)

God sees my soul for what it is: fractured, scarred, and scared. He sees those broken pieces of self, sees the guilt that wars with grace, and weights the scales. Gathering those pieces of me, He puts His finger on the side of grace, tipping the odds in my favor, in His mercy and love.

I am messy. I have made mistakes and had to make amends. I have gotten it horribly wrong before. Yet God still calls me wonderful.

You, dear friend, are messy. You have made mistakes. You have gotten it horribly wrong before. You have been crushed by your actions and those of others. But God still calls you wonderful. He still loves you as is. Guilt and grace war for the sacred space in your soul, too, and God still gathers up your pieces and puts His finger on grace’s side of the scale.

Do not fear your broken soul; God doesn’t. Sometimes that which has been broken and repaired is even stronger than when it first started out. Let God pick up your pieces. Watch how tenderly He handles those jagged and painful parts of you, coaxing and bringing about healing, clarity, and growth from their ragged edges.

Listen to His tender whisper: “I love you. I love your brokenness. I love your soul. I am here. You are not in this fight alone.”

Our brokenness doesn’t frighten God. Not one bit. In fact, He only draws us closer. Here, take my hand, and let’s lean into our brokenness today, you and me. Then we can see what grace has in store for us.


Nope, Not My Problem!


I do not deal well with other people’s unpreparedness. I have spent my entire day, week even, sorting out irresponsibilities that students of mine have turned into their own personal emergencies and are now trying to make mine as well. Today was the end of the quarter and field trip due date so I have been flooded with and spent my day sorting permission slips, novel quizzes, cash, and checks from people who have had literally months to take care of this business beforehand. And then I opened up my email on my phone a little while ago to check another account, but it opened to my work one. Was the franticness over?

Not by a long shot. I just had a student email me (it is 9:33pm on a Friday evening, mind you) in a frantic state because of an assignment that he did not complete, and a pretty hefty one at that, and therefore the 0% dropped his grade substantially. The due date was today and he has a laundry list of excuses as to why he didn’t complete this assignment. I considered being sweet and forgiving and “Oh, no…it’s okay, we can get it done on Monday.” Then I decided, “No.” I asked him why, as often as I spoke about this assignment in class over the past nine weeks, didn’t he speak to me about his difficulties with completing the assignment earlier in the quarter? It’s the weekend, there’s nothing to be done about it now, but he’s responsible for getting it taken care of on Monday morning. Have a good weekend.

Sometimes I just cannot be Ms. Nice Teacher. I will not allow your irresponsibility to become my emergency and cause me any more stress than I already have to deal with.

I wonder if I had forgotten about this part of teaching?

I am exhausted, I am still twitchy from an overwhelming week, a stressful day, and even the wine isn’t helping my mood much. So this is me leaning into my vulnerability, my annoyance, and my weariness before a weekend of grading. Much like the poor fellow below, I’m ready for a break.


Faking It Too Well


Fake it ’til you make it. That’s what they tell you, and, sometimes, it’s very true. Sometimes, you have to act like you know what you are doing while learning exactly what you are supposed to be doing. That is rather how I feel about teaching. I feel like I am constantly acting like I know exactly what I am doing or supposed to be doing when, all along, I am barely staying afloat.

Studies call this “impostor syndrome” but the truth is that who I am as a teacher often feels very different from who I feel I am “in real life”. Teachers need to have a polish to them, a presence. It leaves my poor introverted soul tired and, maybe, even joyless at times. However, there is no denying that I am good at what I do. I am a good teacher, though maybe not as involved with as many shiny tricks as others who have been doing this longer or have it as more of a passionate calling. Nevertheless, I am organized and knowledgeable, even enthusiastic when I am teaching literature. I’m good at what I do. I have never gotten a bad evaluation from an administrator. I don’t pull punches with my students and push them to do their best and improve on it. I admit when I don’t know or I am wrong. I know how to hold my corner-classroom kingdom. But that me often feels very different from me.

One of my students asked me last week if I am bipolar. My answer was, “No.”

“Are you sure?” he pressed.

“I’m sure,” I replied.

He was a dog with a bone. “Because you’re usually really nice and then you can get all mean.”

“That’s not me being bipolar. That’s me being tired of people’s crap. I’m an introvert. I don’t deal with other people’s crap well.”

Who I am in the classroom takes a force of presence and authority that takes a lot out of me, leaves me weary and wanting to crawl back into a safe little hobbit hole to recover. But recovery time for teachers, as you know, is slim to none. Ditto and double for moms, which honestly makes it a double-whammy. So going back to work is not just a change in how I do life but, once again, a change in how I feel about who I am. It’s an extra twist in my self-vision that I sometimes wish I could untwist and smooth out at the end of the day. Some days are more successful than others, but there are successful ones.

Going back to teaching is the best thing for my family right now, and that is what is important. That is the driving force. It is allowing my daughter to go to preschool and daycare every day to gain social and academic skills that she will so desperately need in the coming years. It is also allowing us to put money aside and save up so that we can start dreaming new dreams again.

I will find a way to reconcile all this change. Right now, though, it’s difficult at times, I will admit. But there is always a way.

Love Is a Superpower


Check out that title again. Go on. Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here for you.

See that? Did you know that? Think about it! Love is a superpower.

Love is versatile. Love is strong. Love is life-saving. Love is world-changing.

Love is a superpower.

See that girl standing against the wall over there, her head bowed? That head covered in luminescent teal and aqua hair, hair that perfectly matches her outfit? Imagine how proud she must have been of that radiant ensemble after meticulously planning and putting it together. Then no one complimented it. No one noticed the bravery and care it took to live her unique beauty and truth. Now imagine her face after you step over and tell her, “I love your mermaid hair!” Imagine the smile that might brighten that beautiful young face. That’s the power of love. That’s the supernal magic of expressed kindness and compassion.

Love is a quiet word. Love is a genuine compliment. Love is an acknowledgement of trying.

Love is a superpower.

When we extend even a little love outward, it ripples, reverberates, snowballs, and multiplies exponentially. It may not always come back to us but we can absolutely count on it surging forward like a wave swell, building and increasing in power as it courses onward until it finally hits and explodes, sending uncountable, shining, shimmering pieces of itself out into the air and the world.

Love is what compels children to pick up their plate, walk out of a restaurant, and hand it to a hungry soul huddled outside.

Love is what compels neighborhoods to rally around their sick, elderly, and downtrodden to lift them up to hope.

Love is why children who are left to grieve the death of a parent are gathered close and taken in by family friends. People who have always treated children like their own are taking them into their families as their own, ensuring that they know they are loved, protected, and wanted.

Is love always easy? No. I love always accepted, lauded, or thanked? No. Like courage, love does not derive its definition from simply doing it when it is easy. Courage is doing what’s right or what’s needed in the face of being scared. Love is doing good when we could do otherwise.

Love is we choose to step into an isolated corner or a lonely cafeteria table and speak to the soul that’s hidden there.

Love is when we choose to wait for someone rather than rushing ahead.

Love is when we choose kind words and a soft voice rather than the explosion our feelings tell us is warranted.

Love is when we choose to see the child needing help coping rather than the little tyrant throwing a fit.

Love is when we choose to accept as is. When we choose to sit with, hold close, listen intently, speak encouragingly, handle gently, defend boldly, and act mercifully. Watch what happens. Watch the changes, the improvements; watch the vibration, reverberation, and snowballing of that love as it is passed on to others. Love never remains stagnant, unchanged, or even in one place.

Love is supernatural. Love is supernal. Love is superb. Love is absolutely a superpower!



To Print Love on Others


Two days ago, I had a thought. I was in need of joy and the best way I know to garner joy is to give it as best I can. Bundling that thought up in my fist, I went to the dollar store and bought a pretty storage box. That took quite a bit of deliberation as I am sucker for a pretty box. You have no idea how much self-control it took to not buy all the pretty storage containers and vessels to use somehow in my classroom. All that to say that I left the store with just what I needed for my plan.

The next day, I typed up and printed ten encouraging quotes/sayings/thoughts that had always been an uplift to me. Then I made photocopies and then cut them out, folded them, and placed them in the box. Give it a good shake and we were ready.

Today, after long period blocks of mandated early-semester testing, I handed these simple slips of paper, these drops of (hopefully) encouragement, to my students as they left my classroom. I am also urging them to add to the box if they think of or find encouraging quotes or things to say. Because everyone can use an encouraging word now and again, and building each other up is a habit that it is never too early (or too late) for anyone to learn.


When the Ground is Unsteady


The best-laid plans…

My plans for this year went to pot two weeks ago when I did a scary thing and accepted a last-minute teaching position at the same corporation where my husband teaches.

This was not what I had planned on! I had spent the latter part of the summer framing my mind to being home with my daughter for one last year. I enrolled her in part-time preschool, accepted an invitation to be a contributing writer with My Trending Stories, was planning my time and our budget to save more, cook at home more often, and maintain my workout routine. I was dreaming of enjoying walks and park time with my daughter, intentional time with dear ones, and time to dedicate solely to writing while my girl was preschool. And now, in a perfect hurricane of change, all of those plans have been shattered and my life feels as though it has shrunk immensely. I get up, I go to work, I pick Elizabeth up from daycare, I pick up or make dinner, I care for/play with Elizabeth, I put/wrestle her into bed, and finally collapse myself. There is very little time for what I love, for what gives me joy, and precious little energy with which to do or enjoy right now.

So, even though I know–I KNOW–that this is a good position, in a good building, with good people, and a good salary, I have to admit to having a very difficult time surrendering my plans to God right now. I am mourning the loss of them, the dream of them. The dream of what I thought God was calling me to. I miss my girl, I miss the life we had together. I miss the opportunities that I was looking forward to. Now, I am nothing if not unsure.  Right now, all I know to do is to get up and go to work each day. I have signed a contract for this year; I will honor my word. I will pick up my daughter from daycare each day. I will feed my family. I will clean house when I can. I will leave work at work as much as I can (though all teachers know just how futile this can be at times), and try to live life in the small spaces.

I gave a commencement address this summer where I spoke on not being afraid of being small, that greatness can be in the small things.  Right now, my life feels small, contracted down to the barest of routines with little room for the unexpected magnificent. All I can do is get up each day, keep my word, and do the best I can for my family and for myself and soul. Tonight, my daughter and I will have dinner with some good friends; a small pocket of time carved out that means so much because it shows that we are loved and cared for. All I can do right now is be small and try to live fully in the small spaces. Even if I don’t understand, even if I’m not totally sure of where I am or where I am supposed to be. I guess, for now, I’m here. I may not be entirely happy about that fact but, then again, I don’t think I necessarily have to be. Happiness has never been a requisite for me working hard and doing my best. I may not want to be teaching, do not yearn for it with all my heart. This was, honestly, a purely logical choice, for the good of my family. And that will have to do for now, I think.