Monday, May 7, 2012

My heart is overwhelmed.

I'm just trying to sort through my thoughts. This year has been so many things...

This world is awful. Terrible. Absolutely horrid. The things my students face every single day are astounding; things that make them not be children. Incidents that rob them of their innocence and purity, that steal away their precious childhood.

This year alone, I'm aware of these horrendous circumstances my students have had to face:

One of my students was intentionally set on fire.

Another of my [former] students, a little girl who was only eight years old, was raped and murdered by an acquaintance of the family.

One of my young students tried to kill himself after finding out his stepdad was leaving.

A student of mine was repeatedly raped and molested by a family member.

Several of my students are facing life without their parents because of reports to SRS.

They are surrounded by violent gangs. It's amazing how many of them want to be police officers just so that they can help fight the crime they're surrounded with.

Several of former students are now in those same gangs.

One of my student's house's was shot at six times in two weeks, some when I'm assuming they were home.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. So many of my students have parents who are neglectful, abusive, and just downright awful. (Of course, in fairness to their parents, their lives aren't easy either. Both of the schools I teach at have an over 95% free and reduced lunch rate. Many of their homes are dilapidated, falling apart and unsafe. So many of the parents work long hours at multiple jobs, and so by the time they get home, they're simply too tired to invest much energy into their kids. I understand their dilemma, but that doesn't make it right.)

And yet, despite everything in their lives, we expect them to come to school ready and prepared to learn. To focus without wavering, to work diligently and intently, putting aside all distractions and focusing on school. I'm sure that, if I was going through half of what they were dealing with, I might find it difficult to rise to the occasion.

I don't know what to say about all of that. Except that it is beyond terrible. And it makes me 10,000x more motivated to ensure that my classroom is a positive and uplifting place where my kids can forget about the sh*t in their lives and just be kids for a minute.

Makes those times when we lose focus on instruction and spend time laughing at something funny I did/said or another kid did/said seem a little more legit. It makes all those hours I invest in my after-school groups worth it. Keeps me focused on doing what matters and ensuring that they're a) learning and b) smiling and feeling good. So that maybe, someday, they can rise above and do better for their children. So that they can realize that not everything in life is bad and hurtful and tragic, that there are things in life that are good and pure and beautiful.

And I know that if this breaks my heart, it has to break the heart of our Creator. I know people look at this circumstances and think "how can God allow this to happen?" and I'm honestly sort of wondering the same thing myself. I don't believe for a second that this was ever His plan. Things like what my students have experienced are a result of the fall, of sin creeping and throwing dirty black soot over His beautiful and perfect creation. I don't think God "allows" these things to happen. I think it's not in His control at that point; it's the result of someone's sin and he can do nothing to stop that from happening (otherwise there would be no free will). Sin has consequences. Of that I am sure. But why He doesn't stop it from happing is what's hard for me to understand. I know He is that powerful. It makes me want to curse free will and volunteer to be nothing but a robot, if it would keep just one of my precious kids from hurting again.

And I'm bearing my soul for the blogosphere to read, and I'm almost afraid to share my doubts. But even though that facet of God is not one I can understand or relate to, I still believe fully that God is Good and His plans are beyond mine. His ways are higher than ours, and His thoughts are greater than ours.

All of this crap makes me long for Heaven, when perfection is restored to God's creation and my little kids don't have to suffer the consequences of another person's sin. When there is no more tears, no more sadness, but only gladness and joy and worship of our Creator in His perfect and holy home.

"When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I" Psalms 61:2

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Taco Seasoning

This mix is delicious, and for whatever reason, I can't pin it from the site. I'm posting it here so that I don't lose it!

Oh, and for my hubby with high blood pressure -- this has way less sodium than store bought mixes, so I can feel good about making chicken tacos with it. (Which, just in case you're curious, were probably the best taco I've ever put in my mouth.)

Copied directly from

Homemade Taco Seasoning

2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t red pepper flakes (Aleppo peppers would add a wonderful depth of flavor)
1/2 t oregano
1 t paprika
1 Tbsp cumin
2 1/2 t salt (I recommend Real Salt.)
2 t pepper
1.  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
2.  Mix well.
3.  Store in a tightly closed container.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spirit of Christmas

I've just not really been feeling much in the Christmas spirit lately.

Perhaps it's the weather, the busyness of five Christmas programs, the obnoxious "in" excelsis rather than "een" excelsis deo that is pervasive in bad pop renditions of Christmas classics, but gosh darn it, I'm feeling more like Ebenezer Scrooge lately than Santa.

That is, until tonight.

I've spent the last two days away from students (which, I swear, didn't contribute to the change of heart!) and in my house, sleeping, prepping meals and baking treats for family, and spending time with friends that real life swept away from our little corner of the earth. There's nothing like spending time with old friends who know you better than you know yourself to make you feel better. Of course, the goodbyes that drag us back to reality are always hard, but the times together are so dang good that it's worth it. Always.

I got to spend yesterday at brunch with one such friend. The updates on her life are always welcome and entertaining (my old married self has half the adventures she has) and she's just such a crafty story teller, any time spent with her leaves me with cheeks sore from smiling.

Then, I had the opportunity to host my immediate family's Christmas celebration in my house. It was the first time in the past three Christmasses that we were all together, and it was such a breath of fresh air. It was just so good to be together. Simultaneously bittersweet, since my grandfather is no longer here, though the memories of hosting that sweet man on Christmas last year (in the house for which he did so much) kept my heart warm. Good family time, wherever it happens, is such a blessing.

Today I had the good fortune to spend an extra few hours with one of my closest friends, re-live college memories together, and just get caught up on life things. With a smile and a story for everything, and a quick wit that makes my belly ache from laughter, time with her is so precious. And then, we got to cap it off with dinner and a fabulous production of A Christmas Carol with other college friends who are dear to my heart. These special get-togethers involving lots of laughter and conversation have become a little holiday tradition for us (this was our third time; so hard to believe we're that far out of college).

At the end of the night I get to come home to our little house, festively dressed in it's one row of little white lights. Our little house has brought us many an adventure, and will continue to do so, I'm sure, but has also brought such precious memories. I can't wait to see what the future holds for us in this place.

When I walk in the door, there lies my amazing husband, fast asleep on the couch, exhausted from working four 4:00am-12:30pm shifts this week. Even after six years together, he still makes my heart melt. Just the sight of him, sleeping so peacefully that he barely rouses when my clumsy self enters the room makes my heart swell in praise to God for such a man. This man who works so hard, loves me so deeply and unconditionally, and always keeps a smile on my face -- I get to have him as my husband.

Reading another dear friend's post about the real reason for Christmas left me in awe of a God who would so humble himself because of his love for me. His love for me caused Him to need a Mary, walk this earth, suffer betrayal and feel the sting of death. That my God set so many things in motion to rescue me from myself and give me the chance to be with the One who loves me most . . .

God's grace in my life just overwhelmed me tonight.

His blessings are so rich and plentiful, far more than I could ever really deserve. But He does it because He loves me. He loves me that much, and all the good things he gives me in this life are there to serve as reminders of just how much He cares for me.

So, may this holiday season cause you to take stock of God's blessings in your life. May you remember how wide and high and long and deep is the love of Christ for you, and may it cause you to glorify Him with your life.

Perhaps, in the end, that's the spirit of Christmas. Or, at least, that's the spirit I'm feeling this year.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The strongest man in the world

I'm sitting here snuggling a quilt that my grandpa made. He learned to make quilts when his legs were run over by a truck at the cement factory he worked at. The pedal on the sewing machine was good therapy for his legs, so I'm sure Grandma put him to work doing something useful. This quilt was his most treasured creation -- a postage stamp quilt, with 1.5" squares. There are hundreds of those little squares, made from fabric salvaged from old shirts of his and my late grandma's or fabric that was given to him by the people in his little town. You see, he was a rock star of sorts, because he lived to be 103, still driving to the next county to renew his driver's license when he was 101. He was known around the little town as a man who would get up on his neighbor's roof and help repair it when he was in his 90's. Stubborn to the fullest extent of the word, but with a quiet strength that kept him on the earth for these 103 wonderful years.

My grandpa was, without a doubt, one of the strongest and most wonderful men in the world. I'm sure it sounds like a sweeping generalization, but for those of us who knew him, it rings true. His approach to life was something of an inspiration -- he never seemed to worry or get stressed out, he sort of just let life happen. Even in these last two years, when his he was finally beginning to act his age, that same spirit endured.
"How are you doing, Grandpa?"
"Oh, I'm just a-going"
That was nearly always his reply. He knew that it wasn't in his control to change things or make things better or worse than they were. He knew he just had to "keep going" and do the work he's been given.

My grandpa had an ornery streak to him as well. He loved to walk by and suddenly clap his hands in my sister or my face, tease us, and play around with us. Even a month ago, when he was in the hospital, that ornery streak continued, giving the doctors and nurses (and us) a good laugh. But, he always did it with his gracious grin going from ear to ear, so we knew it was his little way of showing us just how much he cared. I think that smile is what I'll miss the most.

Anytime I heard my grandpa pray, he always ended his prayer with this line. "You've been a real good Lord, and we thank you." Despite all of the hard things he had to endure in his long life, his faith in the Lord's goodness and providence never wavered. In that way, his faith is an example to me, and I pray that my circumstances will never cause me to doubt who God is and what he does in my life, like Grandpa never allowed the things of this life to change his faith.

My earliest memories of my grandpa are of him running around outside his little house, playing ball, tag, or whatever my heart desired. In my head, he's not older than fifty, but in reality he was in his late eighties. It was his approach to life, his faith, and a dash of his stubbornness that kept him around this long, and I'm so glad I got to share so many years with him. While I'll miss him here on earth, I know he's been given a new body that is worthy of his strength and will never make him tired again. After 103 years in the same one, I'm sure he was more than ready to trade up for a better model.

Miss you so much and love you dearly, grandpa.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kindergarten Korner

We explored the ways our bodies can bend today, and then practiced those motions while keeping a steady beat (there are important neurological connections being made, as silly as it sounds!)

So we're bending our elbows to the steady beat (in the same way one would do if they were flexing). All the kindergartners are doing a great job and are mostly on the beat and following me. Well, that is everyone except for one of my students, who we'll call Little Man. It's a fitting name, actually, because he likes to think he's grown.

Little Man has rolled up his sleeves to show-off his "muscles." He's flexing those tiny little biceps with all his might.

Aaannnnnd he's kissing them. Kissing each bicep, one at a time, just utterly in love with them.

But, he's doing it with a steady beat, so I just decided to let it go. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

For a day like today

It seems so strange that it's been only ten years. I remember walking to Mr. Fahrmeir's history class, passing through the library and seeing those images on the TV, thinking the librarians were watching a movie. In class I discovered it was not fiction, but real hatred played out in its worst form. It feels like a lifetime ago, not a mere ten years. I have no real memory of a world without "terrorists" and "orange alerts" and security at airports and "wars on terror"; it's amazing to think that this much has changed in ten years.

Jordan and I missed class at church this morning because we were riveted to the TV, watching the replay of events from that morning, living it like it was happening all over again. We couldn't turn our eyes away, feeling the emotions as if it was the first time, not the tenth. Strange to think that even ten years later those images still produce the same raw emotion as the first time.

As soon as I reflect on September 11, I can't help but remember September 12 and all the flags lining the streets. I remember the unity and the courage our country showed in the face of such tragedy. (There is, of course, the tragedies our own ugliness created in the weeks after, and the bigotry and racism that still persists. That is an unfortunate scar that makes the wound even uglier.) But, even in the face of that, we still joined together in support of the survivors and their families and the first-responders, rightfully calling them heroes. Never in my life have I felt so connected to strangers; I've not felt that exact same way since. For a moment we were truly united.

I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion
because of the greatness of his unfailing love.
For he does not enjoy hurting people
or causing them sorrow.
Lamentations 3:20-23, 31-33, NLT

There is hope in the midst of suffering for those who love Him. Because of His love, we have hope that no matter what we bring into this world through our ugliness and bitterness and hatred, His compassion can still cover us. His mercies are new every morning, with faithfulness and compassion and Love that knows no bounds. It is a choice to pursue this hope, both as a human and as a believer.

I choose to pursue this hope because I know there will be days like today.

But, praise God, my hope brings Tomorrow.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Easy way to impact my students!

To get the funding we need to make our classroom flourish, my elementary music class is participating in an exciting program called Yahoo! Homepages for Homerooms. Yahoo! has partnered with to donate up to $200,000 to help classrooms like mine across the country.

From now through October 16, 2011, Yahoo! is donating $25,000 each week across projects that receive the most homepages (up to $600 per project). Help make sure our class project is one of them!

You can help - it’s simple! Just go to my project (see the information below), and follow the prompts to make Yahoo! your homepage. You can vote once in this 8 week cycle per each email address you use. Yahoo! is the leader in online child safety, and they’re investing in education – what could be better?

Our project is called Our Music, Our Heritage, and through it we’re trying to get better drums for our classroom. Simply go to, click “Find a Project” and type the project name where it says “Project ID.” Then click “Vote Now” and follow the prompts to quickly and easily support our project.

Yahoo! will also send out extra credit opportunities to earn even more votes for our project. Feel free to participate in these opportunities as well.

If you'd like to learn more? Visit for details. Or, if you feel inspired to give monetarily, follow the link in my sidebar to my DonorsChoose page and make a donation to either of my projects (one is only $111 away from being fully funded!!).

Thanks so much for your help! Feel free to forward this information to anyone you think would help.