The Gift of a Slower Pace

The Gift of a Slower Pace

Of course there was some stress involved, but the school year ended with fairly little fanfare and at a much slower pace than usual. No massive liturgies to plan for hundreds of people, no finals to prepare, no feeling like everything needs to happen right now. I fully understand that this pandemic is causing suffering for many people, but I can’t help but consider the blessings found in the midst of the difficulties.

For a variety of reasons, this school year was difficult in different ways. I found myself stressed and in continual need of a break. Many life-giving things were happening in my life, yet the breaks from school were never long enough, the time to relax never quite rejuvenating enough, my grasp on responsibilities never quite firm enough. After overcoming the initial stress of the transition, I slid into an indefinite period of teaching from home….relieved.

The time gave me the gift of reading a little more, enjoying the comforts of home much more, and the unchosen halt of many ministries. Things I could never say “no” to before (and I don’t generally have a problem saying no), like some work responsibilities, and things I enjoy, like prison ministry, were suddenly over or put on a long pause. While there was a sadness in missing some things, I mostly found the break to be good for me. And as a definite introvert, I was really okay with hours spent alone at home. With nine weeks of teaching from home wrapping up, I can honestly say I never got very sick of being at home. Sometimes staring at a computer screen was painful or the endless assignments that needed grading were unwelcomed. Despite all of that, the pandemic provided the opportunity to come up for a breath of much needed air.

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Vanity of Vanities

Vanity of Vanities

I don’t generally consider myself to be vain. Perhaps I have a sort of intellectual vanity, but physical vanity doesn’t usually seem to be my downfall. There was an article I read that said my personal hell would be that every time I open my mouth to say something intelligent, something completely idiotic would come out instead. Based on how strongly I felt that, I assume I must have a rather decently sized strain of vanity when it comes to if people think I am smart or stupid.

A few weeks ago, I asked some of my family if they would rather have people think they were smart or beautiful. For me, the answer was pretty clear—I don’t care too much about beauty, but I care a great deal about intellect. So it seems I would be rather virtuous when it comes to physical vanity.

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Poured Out

Poured Out

I often find myself living life the same way I ran seventh-grade cross country.

Simply put: not well.

I remember watching the older runners prior to a race. They were stretching and jogging around, warming up for the few miles they would be running around random golf courses. I understood the stretching part, but I never quite got the jogging part. For me, finishing the race meant I should store up as much energy as possible. Sometimes, I was dragging myself across the finish line or walking small sections where there were no cheering fans. Why would I foolishly waste energy just moments before the race?

A few years ago, I was running pretty consistently and I completed a five-mile race. It was as I was finishing the race that I finally understood what those high school students had been doing years ago. Crossing the finish line, I felt really good. In fact, my third and fourth miles felt way better than the first two. My time wasn’t incredible, but I was satisfied with it for myself. I had logged enough miles that I was at the point where I grasped the concept of running so as to warm up. I wasn’t wasting energy–it was instead needed so I could run better. In my conservative, store-up-everything mindset, it was revolutionary to understand that giving some allowed me to give more.

Weekends during the school year and portions of the summer find me falling into that same trap of storing up instead of spending. I’m an introvert and I have yet to find the perfect life balance when my job is one that requires so much extrovertedness. In the evenings, I don’t want to be surrounded by people. On the weekends, I’d rather curl up in my home. During the summer months, I convince myself that relaxing, watching movies, and being a recluse are exactly what I need in order to survive the school year.

But I don’t think that is actually true.

I mean, I want it to be true because that would be an extremely convenient excuse. But it isn’t reality. When I turn in on myself and don’t enter into community, it doesn’t really make me want to be communal later. Instead, I find a dozen more reasons to not go out, to not share myself. Reasons that essentially boil down to being lazy and selfish.

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Gratitude Begets Gratitude

Gratitude Begets Gratitude

Do you know what it takes to get a compliment from a senior?  You keep them after class under the threat of a detention and listen to them try to get out of it.

Some students are just harder to love than others.  It isn’t impossible to love them, but the effort that goes into desiring to love them is significantly more.  So when a student that fits in this category pushes matters too far, I have to reflect more about the consequences that behavior should incur.  Because part of me wants to go all out and give them a harsh consequence.  The cumulation of past difficulties with that student or the tension of the particular day must all be weighed to guarantee that the punishment given fits that individual crime.

Yet I’m certain that just as some students are harder by nature to love, some teachers must fall into the same camp.  I can definitely acknowledge that I’m not the most loved teacher and I am pretty convinced that I never will be.  That doesn’t generally bother me because I’ve experienced life in a rather similar state.  High school and college didn’t find me as the most popular person around; therefore, I didn’t expect something magical to happen when I started teaching.

Despite not being the most loved, I do find comfort in being loved by some.  As an introvert, that is all I really need anyway–a few people who see under the often reserved exterior.  Those glimpses of love and appreciation from students does far more to boost me than they know.  At the end of the school year, a student stopped in with a present for me and she thanked me for my patience over the past year.  A few students wrote appreciation letters when given the chance for teacher appreciation week.  Another student chose to write his own addition to the journal entries I assigned.

That last one perhaps struck me the most.  Continue reading “Gratitude Begets Gratitude”



“You’ll enjoy it.  You’ve been excited for this talk since you heard about it.  You don’t go out much…you really should go out tonight.”

This wasn’t me trying to convince a friend to go out.  This was me trying to convince myself to go out last night for a theology talk at a bar.  Shouldn’t be that hard of a sell except I have one little quirk: sometimes my introvert takes over.  Going to bed early or spending the night at home reading or doing some needed homework sounded like lovely alternatives to going out to talk to people.

Introverts like social interactions (humans are social beings…and introverts are humans), but it doesn’t take much for me to prefer a quiet evening.  Or at least just a few friends and not a potentially crowded room where I would engage in the ever-hated small talk.  But I did it.  I went.  Initially, I was annoyed that I was an introvert and it took so much convince myself to go out.  But, gradually, I forgot about it and enjoyed the evening.

When I got home, I listened to a voicemail from a friend and I had to laugh.  She was telling me about how that evening she went out to a party with co-workers.  For a couple days she had not been herself, but after an hour of talking to co-workers at a crowded bar, she left happier.  We’re both introverts and so we get the lack of desire to do social things sometimes.  But a question she posed in the voicemail resonated with me.  She said, “Why, Trish, why would going and talking to my co-workers at a crowded bar change things/make me happier?”  (I paraphrased it a bit, but that is the gist.)

My first thought was because we need community.  On our own, we can become isolated and it can be a bit miserable to be lost inside your own head.  But community brings us outside of ourselves.  I was grinning as I listened to my friend ask this question because I had just experienced the fruit of being with people.  It wasn’t that I was with my best friends or that it was the most fun I ever had.  Rather, it was the experience of the encounter.

What is amusing to me is that the talk I attended focused around the fact that Christianity is not a set of rules but is an event, an encounter with a person.  We are Christians not because we follow the Christian code of conduct (although Christ definitely asked us to live in a certain way and how we live does matter) but because we have encountered the person of Jesus Christ and have been changed because of it.  This encounter with Jesus can happen through our encounter with other people.  We experience the presence of God in a situation and it can seem magnificent, but it is acknowledging a truth that is constant: God is here with us.  He is dwelling among us.  We can find Him in one another, experiencing the same person of Jesus Christ even though He has the face of a stranger.

One of my Lenten goals/penances is to personally encounter my students more.  It is so easy to have them come in, sit down, ask the class a general question about their weekend, and then launch into the subject at hand.  And it is important to actually teach them something substantial.  However, I have a desire to know my students.  Small talk doesn’t come naturally to me, so I am making an effort to have a little conversation with different students.  Today, I talked to one of my quieter students who seems to just be slipping by in the class.  It isn’t that the grade is low, but the student seems to not have close friends or reach out to many people.  So we talked briefly.  She was one of the first ones in my classroom and we talked about her job that she was working at this weekend.  In the midst of this conversation (neither very monumental nor very deep), I was struck by the encounter.  It was something small, but it was something.  She didn’t bare her soul to me, but she shared something about herself that I didn’t know before.  We found something we had in common and we shared it with each other.

We are communal beings and in encountering each other, we can encounter Christ.  That is why a trip to a noisy bar with co-workers can transform us from glum to joyful.  It wasn’t where we went or even what we talked about or what we imbibed.

It was the encounter.