"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

30 November 2010

30 down, 10 to go!

Now that I've had an entire week off from subbing, I'm not sure I ever want to go back. Unfortunately, we do need to keep saving up, so I will continue working until Christmas break, as originally planned. The "vacation" was nice, though.

We had a great long weekend here in upstate New York. Nich had Thursday and Friday off, and it was so good to have him home so much, even though I had to work on Friday and Saturday at the mall. We kicked off Thanksgiving Day with our usual sleeping in and breakfast together. My upper back was still giving me trouble, so I lay on the couch as Nich put up our tree. I did get to help put the ornaments on, though. We had our Thanksgiving meal with friends and their extended family members (I think there were almost 20 of us), which was a fun time. Afterward, we rented a movie and went to bed early, since I had to be up early for my Black Friday shift.

I'm not a huge fan of people raving about their spouses or children -- especially children -- on the internet. It seems gauche most of the time, and in general, it comes across as boastful. I also tend to find it a bit ridiculous when people go on about their small children on FB, addressing the comments to their children who not only don't have FB, but they aren't even old enough to read yet. But all that aside, I have to say that I am especially grateful for my husband during this season of our lives. Knowing that I'm having to move slower and have certain needs (like having to eat breakfast), he woke up with me at 4:30 on Black Friday, went out and got me breakfast and orange juice, defrosted my car and then drove me to work so I could eat on the way. And so I wouldn't have to drive in the freezing rain, as I don't like driving much to begin with. He's extremely thoughtful and helpful to me, and I just wanted to acknowledge the fact that I am truly among the most blessed of wives.

The weekend was busy with spending time with good friends. Friday afternoon, we had a late lunch with Chris and Keri and then went to see "Megamind." It was good, but definitely not worth the exorbitant prices they charge for 3D movies. We definitely would not have chosen to see it if it hadn't been for spending time with friends.  On Saturday, I worked an extended shift, took a bath when I came home, and then Nich and I went on a bookstore date before a reunion party with friends who were home for the holiday weekend.

Our schedule is starting to pick up with holiday festivities, more frequent OB appointments, and various baby-related classes. My baby showers are in December, too. This makes me a bit anxious. I would have preferred for them to be sooner; I've heard from several young moms that the second trimester is most ideal. I am, however, very thankful that Baby G is getting showers! It's mostly just my own need for order and planning ahead, and knowing that I'll be writing thank you cards, doing laundry of baby items, organizing, and shopping for the leftover needs during the Christmas season when busy-ness increases is a tad overwhelming.

I'm going to go check off a couple more things on my "To Do" list now before my doctors' appointments this afternoon so they're not lingering for later on in the week. Despite all the things to do, I still thoroughly love the Advent season, and I'm excited that it's almost December. That said, here is my favorite Christmas song from one of my all-time favorite movies.

23 November 2010


Apparently, God has other ideas for my day. I took my first load of laundry downstairs, brought the cans of primer up to start working on the baby's dresser, sat down at my desk, stretched ... and threw out my upper back.

I tried to keep moving around for a bit, hoping it would work itself out, but eventually, the pain got so bad that I had to lie down. Half an hour later, even moving my neck or arms slightly began to hurt so much that I was crying. Sniffling hurt, and I began to feel quite pathetic. I called Nich to tell him what was going on, and he was able to arrange to come home to help.

We've scheduled an appointment with our chiropractor for this afternoon and got the okay from the OB's office to take Tylenol and ice my back at intervals until then.

So my plans for a productive day have been tossed out the window, but as my sweet husband just reminded me, I need to slow down. So no subbing today, no laundry (at least, not by me), and no painting.

Just resting.

And I've got to be okay with that.

Trying to Stay Above Water

Now that we've accomplished most of the things on our house checklist -- and hopefully, our landlord won't be showing up again any time before the baby's born, because if he adds one more thing to our list, I'm going to tell him what -- it's dawning on me that there are several important baby-related things I have yet to consider.

Like selecting a pediatrician. Which apparently means we should be going around interviewing doctors in the area to see who best "fits" with us. Sigh.

And signing up for classes: breastfeeding class, birthing class, infant parenting class, and also, a tour of the hospital's maternity ward. And apparently, we're also supposed to ask a lot of questions there, too.

Reading all these books is helpful, but sometimes, they bring up more questions and more things I need to add to my list. The holiday season is upon us, and what with the emotional toil of my jobs, I'm starting to feel a little bit like I'm sinking.

22 November 2010

Raising Responsible Citizens of the World

I see variations of that phrase a lot on public school websites around the area where we live, and I am increasingly disappointed -- and a bit alarmed -- at how little it seems to mean in the day to day workings of the school system, to teachers and to administrators.

We lost another student this past week in our town to suicide related to bullying. I can't even remember how many this makes this year. Seven? Eight?  What makes this one even more heartbreaking is that he was only thirteen. I remember my eighth grade year; I didn't have anything in my life that was so bad that I even thought to take my own life.

And yet, there is seemingly little that the schools are doing to prevent these things from happening again. Our good friend Catie works with Youth for Christ in the city. She and our friend Justin (who is the youth pastor at our church) have been trying to get the administration to cooperate with them to have the students go through a program YFC does in the city to prevent bullying. They have pretty much been stonewalled for the past year.

I myself have endured more than my share of racism, insubordination, and basic lack of decorum from students (mostly high school students) at several schools in the area as a substitute teacher. I have had a cell phone thrown at me, been called "chink" by kids, and been physically threatened by students to the point where I had to be escorted by an officer or another teacher from class to class for a couple days.One of things that make it bearable is that a couple of the schools where I have endured such idiocy have incredible principals who follow through with the students and are very supportive of the faculty and staff -- including substitutes.

Others, not so much.

Just this past week, I was at a certain school twice, at the high school on Wednesday and at the middle school on Thursday. I've subbed at this school fairly regularly for the past three years, and I have had good rapport with the secretary, to the point where she knew me by name, asked me about my baby, etc. Well, on Wednesday, the only plans that the teacher left for me was for all her classes to play Scrabble, except for her honors class, and all they had to do was go to the library and check out a book. First of all, I hate days like that, because then it feels like I'm just babysitting. Anyone could do that. You do not need a certified substitute with a higher education to watch a bunch of kids play Scrabble all day. Secondly, students do not need 40 minutes to pick out a book to read from the library. The unfortunate thing with not giving some kids enough to do when there is a sub is that they get bored. And when they're bored, they cause trouble.

Cell phones came out, texting started, my directions about the Scrabble games were disregarded, and I eventually had to ask a student to hand over his phone. Not only are cell phones technically not allowed in classrooms, they are a liability for teachers and substitutes, as you never know what kind of pictures kids may take, what they may record and then post on the internet. The student refused, put it in his pocket, and told me I'd have to take it away from him myself (a.k.a. get it out of his pocket) if I wanted it. He also refused to leave when I asked him to, so I had to call for someone to escort him out. While we were waiting for a hall monitor to come get him, another student started shouting at me about how I was being completely unreasonable, blowing things out of proportion, and how I should learn to be a "real teacher." I told him firmly that I did not appreciate his raising his voice at me nor did the situation involve him. He continued yelling, so I had him leave with the monitor when she came. I wrote it all up and submitted a discipline referral, as directed by the secretary.

Well, I received a phone call from the principal (who I have never met and who has never met -- or seen -- me). I fully expected that he was attempting to follow up on what had happened, and I also thought he was calling to apologize for the students' behavior. Apparently, I live in the Twilight Zone, because what happened was far from what I anticipated.

He started with, "It seems you've had some trouble the last few times you've subbed here at our school." I agreed. Then he said, "We're a bit disturbed at the things we've been hearing from our students about the way you treat them." WHAT?! I tried to stay calm, and I asked him what he meant.

He said, "Well, did you have a student sit on the floor?" (A kid came in and sat on the floor in one of the middle school classes. I left him there, because I figured maybe that was something his teacher had him do, as he was pretty fidgety.)

I responded, "No, he chose to sit there, and I didn't think anything of it."

"But did you have a student sit on the floor as punishment?"

At this point, I'm wondering about the kid who I sent out into the hallways for ten minutes for telling me to shut up. So I said, "No, he chose to sit there. Another student a couple weeks ago, I had move closer to me at the round table, and he chose to sit on the floor instead."

Well, he went on to say that he had received complaints from students about "the way [I] treated them" and from "several teachers" (who he refused to name when I asked him to be specific) and that they didn't have confidence in my classroom management. I told him very clearly that I had excelled in classroom management in graduate school in New York City, and that if he had any concerns about my personal character and integrity, there were teachers and parents of students in his school who could vouch for me.

He pretty much ignored that statement and went ahead to say that I would be getting a letter from his superintendent "dismissing" me of ever substituting at their school again, and that they would also be sending a letter to the sub registry (which goes in my file). At this point, I was incensed. I asked him if he was aware of the amount of rudeness and racism with which some of his students had treated me. He replied, "I had no idea about your ... heritage." I said, "That's right, because you have never met me. And you're choosing to take this action without hearing my perspective or having the decency to speak to me in person?" He just said, "I'm sorry you feel that way."

You know, what appalls me is that his conscience lets him get away with this. What are the students learning through this? That they can complain and get their teachers riled up and suffer no consequence for their negative behavior? That on days with substitutes, they can do whatever they want and treat us like crap because they can get away with it?

What makes it worse is that I know exactly why the principal chose this course of action. It's just easier. It's easier to get rid of me, a substitute who is a temporary, occasional presence, than deal with students who need discipline and their parents. It's easier to get rid of me than to get a few less dollars from the government if he has to suspend those kids for a day or two. It's just easier to wipe his  hands of a sub who is trying to do the right thing by upholding their own school rules.

Knowing what I know about the kindergarten experience our friends' son had recently within this same school district makes me realize this is a tremendous flaw in the entire administrative system there. It was so bad that they took him out of the school and are choosing to have him attend a private Christian school forty minutes away rather than have him at this school. 

I'm trying to keep in mind what our pastor said in church yesterday on love. That our love for God should compel love for people. I'm struggling with thinking of this principal and those teachers with love in my heart right now. We also talked about forgiveness in 20Somethings yesterday, after watching "Luggage," how we forgive because we understand how much more God has forgiven us for, regardless of whether the other person asks for forgiveness or not, regardless of whether they even think they're in the wrong or not.

There have been moments during this past weekend where I feel like I've surrendered this to God for His divine, sovereign justice. But then there are moments when I'm just angry that this is how the system is sometimes. I know why I wanted to be a teacher. I believe in education, that it is more than just teaching kids about subjects like English, math and science. It's about teaching kids to be critical thinkers, to expose them to the global world, to teach them that everyone deserves to be treated as a human being, and indeed, to guide them in their journey to becoming responsible, respectful, productive citizens of their communities. This is all too clearly not happening at many public schools in this area.

A part of me just wants to throw in the towel and give it all up for lost. I never intended on spending much time in American public schools anyway. My dream has always been to teach in international schools. But another part of me knows that for some of these kids, I'm the only non-white, not-from-this-area face that they've ever met.

I've received a lot of affirmation and encouragement from friends as I've shared this story, which has helped tremendously. It's so easy to fall into the mindset of, "Maybe this isn't what I am supposed to be doing. Maybe I should go back to school for something else." It's good to have people who really know me (unlike this principal who has never even seen my face) remind me of who I am. A friend of mine from Bible study reminded me that if I wasn't doing something very right, Satan wouldn't be trying so hard to sway my spirit and to discourage me. I know that doing the right thing is very rarely the easy road to take, but geez, I sure wish it wasn't such a rough road to travel sometimes.

13 November 2010

"Ravenous Relief"

Last night, to kick off our semi-annual missions weekend at our church, the missions committee hosted a dinner with a twist. Instead of doing the usual themed potluck, this year, the focus was on world hunger/malnutrition. Representatives from local missions affiliated with our church (food pantry, crisis pregnancy center, soup kitchen, prison ministry) spoke to us about their work and their needs.

We ate rice and beans with water.

Although the point was taken for the most part, I had to observe the following:
- There was more than enough for everyone to fill their stomachs.
- There were seven different flavorful varieties of beans to choose from, and none of them were plain.
- Several people added a ton of butter and salt to their rice.
- A few people who didn't want to eat rice and beans left early so they could grab something else on the way home. 
- Someone actually asked if there was dessert, because that's the "American way." (There was, by the way. We received bananas to share with at least one other person.)

Personally, it was a good reminder for me about what poverty means. I just shared in our community group on Thursday night that it grieves my heart how easily I have forgotten what hunger and poverty really looks like after having lived here almost ten years.

I need these reminders to keep me focused on using the gifts God gives me wisely so that I am better able to give generously to others in need.

10 November 2010


There are few things that aggravate me more than narrow-mindedness and ignorance rooted in ethnocentrism, particularly from Christians. Furthermore, I do not like my perspective or opinion being dismissed simply on the grounds that I'm "young" and have been "taught differently."

I attend Bible study to learn about God and to study Scripture, not to be exposed to people's fallacious beliefs that stem from an ungodly sense of patriotism. As believers, our loyalty should be to God first, not whatever human construction we deem our "homeland." Moreover, our interpretation and understanding of Scripture should not be limited to that with which we are comfortable. God is a God of challenges, of stretching, of growth. He tells us that we won't understand everything, and it is highly presumptuous of us to attempt to explain the mysteries in Scripture by boiling it down in terms that we comprehend and are comfortable with.

One of the aspects of the current study that we are doing in my Bible study that I don't like is that it's entirely too brief. How do you go through the book of Revelation in eleven weeks and do it justice? As much as I have respected Beth Moore as a teacher in the past, this is one where I really feel like she has bitten off more than she can chew. And in the DVD session last night, she made some claims that I felt were not only unbiblical, the conclusions she came to had no logic to them.

I'm not going to get into all the details because I don't want to skeeve anyone out, but there were some comments from several of the women in my study along the lines of "America is a nation founded on God's principles" and "America isn't mentioned anywhere in Scripture so there's no way we can be a part of the confederation of rulers who will lead to the beast's appearing." Also, the whole anti-Obama thing? Please. It's getting old. He's not the anti-Christ. Period.

Ultimately, our highest calling is to love God and the second is to love one another. Jesus' desire for us was that we would be united in Spirit, and I strive to honor that. But I don't appreciate it when people are too wrapped up in their own knowledge, "I've studied Revelation seven times" (yes, we know, you've only mentioned that a couple dozen times since we started this study), and their limited perspective of the world that their version of being united is to try to convince me that I'm wrong because I don't believe what they do. I also strongly dislike being treated as though my insight isn't as valuable as yours because I haven't studied this particular book of the Bible numerous times. It doesn't matter how many times you've studied it if the perspectives the teachers are coming from are all the same. The purpose of learning is to be exposed to various perspectives and to broaden your understanding and discernment, not to mindlessly absorb what people are telling you to think.

Living in this area has been challenging for Nich and me in many ways, but this limited love for the bigger world from local Christians is one of our greatest sorrows. We've heard our brothers and sisters in Christ make comments about feeling unsafe because Obama's in office (due to his heritage), about customer service representatives who don't speak English properly, about the kiosk workers at the mall (many of whom are Middle Eastern).

Loving humans is hard. 

It's hard for us to know when to hold our tongues and when to call them out.

It's harder still when we do confront the ethnocentrism and they don't comprehend that they are being prejudiced.

09 November 2010

Growing Load

I actually found myself trying to "hoist" my belly up the other day. Then I realized the utter ridiculousness of what I was doing and burst out laughing at myself.

Of course, then I had to go find Nich and tell him about it.

Three months from today is our official due date. Of course, considering only 5% of babies arrive on their "due date," I'm not holding fast to that at all, but it would be sort of nice if he came on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Nich gets three days of paternity leave (for how great his employer is about family matters, this is one area where they really drop the ball), so it would be nice if his three days could fall around a weekend so he could have five days home in a row.

I just can't believe how fast it's going!

And Baby G's big enough now that when he moves around, my belly looks like it's having its own version of a mini earthquake. I can see little knobby things from time to time, too!

We received our first gifts from one of our registries this past week. I've always loved mail, but it is especially fun to see the UPS truck pull up in front of our house now. And a friend's mom made us a really cute quilt with a matching pillow and burp cloth that she dropped by today (because they're migrating south for the winter soon :~)). So fun!

05 November 2010

Practicing the Presence of People

As Christians, we very often speak of practicing the presence of God (or we're familiar with the concept). This week, in our all-church study, we talked about being emotionally mature people and what that means. An aspect of that was being the kind of people who are able to love people well because we are loved by God and because we love Him. Scazzero says, "Jesus' profound contemplative prayer life with his Father resulted in a contemplative presence with people. Love is 'to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves,' wrote Jean Vanier. Jesus did that with each person he met. ...This ability to really listen and pay attention to people was at the very heart of his mission. It could not help but move him to compassion."

It was a challenging thought for me. I don't think I'm bad at loving people, per se, but I certainly am not good at it. I think of all the needs in the world, and I feel helpless. I also often feel anger towards people who have all the essentials to live a good life and squander it. Furthermore, I get overwhelmed from time to time with my own needs and the needs of those closest to me that I feel like it's more than I can handle sometimes to reach out to strangers.

Last night, as we were talking about this week's study at our community group, we were going over the story of the Good Samaritan. And my husband brought up a point that I hadn't considered before: what if the Samaritan was just the kind of person who was prepared to handle situations like the beaten up man on the road? What if it wasn't just about his compassion and mercy, but that he was emotionally, physically, financially equipped to help?

It got me thinking about Pastor's Steve's message two weeks ago about training for a marathon. You can't just go out and think you're going to win the race, or even make it to the finish line. You've got to prepare. And in doing that, you have to take it a step at a time. You aren't going to go out and run 26 miles your first day of training. In the same way, we can't solve the world's problems, much less "save" an entire nation (like Haiti or Indonesia).

Mother Teresa's words resonate in my heart this morning:

"I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one. As Jesus said, 'Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.' So you begin ... I begin. I picked up one person ... The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if we don't put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less ...

"At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.' Hungry not only for bread but for love ... naked not only for clothing but naked of human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of bricks, but homeless because of rejection."

I want to be known as someone who loves people well because of my love for God. Whether that means patience with clingy and needy people, a kind heart towards a neglectful landlord, grace towards my parents, or generosity to those who lived in wretched poverty overseas. Some of those things come much easier than others. It is easier for me to go without something for a month to have enough to put together a few Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes than to give our landlord the benefit of doubt about his motives. But it's all part of loving God's people, and I'm going to try to be more intentional with His help.

One at a time.

02 November 2010

Wild Olive Tees: Women of Faith Giveaway

Some of you might remember a while ago when the earthquake first hit Haiti that I posted about the "Hope for Haiti" shirts made by Wild Olive Tees. They were donating 100% of the proceeds to Haiti for medical relief.

Well, the ladies at Wild Olive are hosting a big giveaway in honor of the upcoming Women of Faith conference. Check out THIS LINK for more information. Their shirts are beautiful, and I absolutely love them!