One day, during the upheaval of school from home, I was helping my niece with her homework. While smart and a quick learner, she didn’t appreciate the corrections I was offering as I critiqued the direction of her 2s or her S. I encouraged her to try again, despite the initial frustration of getting it wrong.
As she was begrudgingly doing it again, I thought about how so much of a child’s life is learning how to do things. Naturally, that involves a lot of trial and error as they learn to walk, read, write, ride a bike, hit a softball, do a cartwheel, snap their fingers, and the list goes on and on. Children have to start so often from a place of humble acceptance of their inability to do something they want to do.
I think I could learn a lot from that disposition.
In my life, it is easy to stay safe and do the things I know how to do or think I can do well. When it comes to looking like a fool, I’ve never been much of a risk-taker. I much prefer to watch and see how others do it before attempting something on my own. Yet some things can only be learned by trying, failing, and trying again.
Continue reading “Try, Try Again”
Seeing a list of my strengths is a vastly different experience than seeing a list of my weaknesses. That being said, I am incredibly aware that I have a great many flaws. There are probably areas I overlook, but as a melancholic, I am pretty introspective alongside possessing a generally critical nature.
I had my seniors take a temperament quiz at the beginning of the semester, partly for fun and partly so I can get to know them better. As they read through the descriptions they gave for their temperament, I was surprised to hear many of the lamenting the list of weaknesses for their particular temperament. Some commented that they were pretty harsh in the assessment of weaknesses and others were a bit more defensive as they said they didn’t have a bad temperament or were a bad person. Nobody, however, complained that they had an excessive list of strengths.
It made me wonder why they were so bothered by an impersonal test telling them which weaknesses they might possess. I wasn’t bothered by it. It was easy enough to read through the list and admit that I lacked in that area or recognize that I didn’t struggle with that particular flaw. Had they never considered what weaknesses they had? Were they bothered even considering that they might have weaknesses? What moved them to pull back as though someone had specifically told them where they fell short?
I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. I’m not sure if the weaknesses rang a little too true or if they all felt wrong based on the person they knew. It seemed, however, that they needed to be reminded that we all have areas to work on, things that are just a little more difficult for us based on our personality. And so, having never made this connection before, I connected their temperament to the faculties of the human soul, to our intellect and our will.
Continue reading “The Gift of Self-Knowledge: The Good and The Bad”
I like teaching and I like going into prison. Sometimes, they aren’t as different as one would think.
I’m not in charge of anything at the prison bible study, so I am able to just sit back and observe what is happening. One of my favorite takeaways from last time was how so many of them have experienced the difference Christ makes in their lives. When they follow Him, they live differently. But then they run into situations in life that shake their resolve and make them revert back to their old ways. It was a beautiful grace to watch them speak of how they are better when they follow Christ and His Scriptures but yet how hard it is to persevere in that life.
In part, it was beautiful because I could relate and I could tell by the numerous bobbing heads that so many of them did, too.
Continue reading “He Changes Things”
Three things I’m thankful for today:
-The song “Kings and Queens” by Mat Kearney–especially the line “Richer than Solomon with you by my side” as he expertly blends Scripture into his songs
-Weekend food leftovers to power me through the start of another week
-Books: owning them, reading them, and anticipating their arrival
There is something about gratitude that shifts the perspective. A few years ago, I was in the practice of writing down things for which I was thankful. They were often small, inconsequential things. Yet, even now, when I look back at those pages in my notebook, I smile at the glimpse into my heart and life during that time.
A random sampling from my gratitude journal:
3. Principal observation on a movie day
5. Peace after expressing frustration
29. Gusts of wind that make crunchy leaves trip down the road
37. The post-run feeling of health (following the post-run feeling of death)
59. Stretching out in bed at night
69. Eyes crinkled in laughter
80. Heavy hearts sharing the burden through conversation
133. Answered novenas in unhoped for ways
172. Solo supper with Grandma
176. My students telling me which gifts of the Holy Spirit they think I live out
241. Laughter with students instead of going insane
Some of the events I remember. For others, I’m not quite certain to what I was referring, but there is a beauty in seeing what moved my heart to express gratitude. Thankfulness is one of those things that doesn’t quite make sense if there is no God. Who else can I thank for the peace I feel after settling an argument? Or for the wind that causes leaves to swirl around on the ground? These would be mere observations or fleeting thoughts unless they could be expressed to someone responsible for them. Continue reading “Gratitude on a January Day”
Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
A friend once told me that his dad gave him really good advice one time. His dad said, “The worst thing they can say is no.” For my friend, it made sense and it gave him the motivation to just ask for things, realizing that no was as bad as it would get.
You see, for me, hearing no seems pretty bad. I don’t want to hear that my request is denied. So I would prefer to not ask for things because I would rather not know than be turned away empty-handed. It means that the few days I did phone banking in college during election season were nearly torturous. I’ve hated any sales I had to do in elementary and high school because I didn’t want people to tell me they were uninterested in buying something from me. In most situations, I would rather not ask if I think the answer might be no.
Due to circumstances, in the past couple years I’ve been forced to ask for more things. With a slightly new position at work last year, I recognized that unless I asked for things, I wouldn’t get them. The few times I made big petitions for situations I already deemed highly unlikely or impossible were rewarded with a surprising affirmative. Fulfilled requests emboldened me to keep asking, but I still worry that my pleas will be dismissed.
Yet Jesus commands us to ask. He wants us to petition Him for the things we desire. Earlier this week in prayer, I received the passage above, slightly jumbled and incomplete in my brain. The part that stood out was where Jesus compares our heavenly Father to our earthly fathers. Good dads know not to give their children stones or serpents when they are desiring food. Our heavenly Father knows us best and desires the most to fulfill our longings. How much more will He desire to meet our needs when we ask Him, because He is perfect and good. Continue reading “Jesus Said Ask”
During two summers in college, I was on a Totus Tuus team that traveled around my home diocese and ran catechesis for elementary through high school students. When I started, I knew I wanted to share the message of Jesus Christ with the youth of the diocese and I had encountered a zeal in teams from previous years that I desired for myself. By the end of the summer, I knew I had been thoroughly tricked. I wanted to share the Gospel and yet I found a deeper need within myself to encounter the Gospel personally. Returning to college, I told people that Totus Tuus is really about my own personal formation, not primarily about the youth I interacted with at the different parishes. It was a surprise, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Lord would change me despite my desire to be the one provoking change. Continue reading “When the Gift is More for Me Than Others”
School has commenced!
In general, teaching can be a bit tiring. However, the first week always feels more exhausting. By the end of the day, I must fight to keep my eyes open and most days this week I’ve surrendered to a nap, at least for a little while.
The swirl of names and faces to remember can be fatigue inducing, but I am glad to be back. I am most looking forward to knowing my students. Getting to know them is nice, but having a relationship built is, in my opinion, better.
A couple of students from last year stopped by earlier in the week. It was refreshing to see familiar faces, to know how to joke with them, and to know a bit about them already. I enjoy seeing them in the hallway as they pass by, recalling random moments from last year as they walk into somebody else’s classroom. Building relationships takes work and time and while I know it is always worth it, I enjoy basking in the beauty of already formed relationships. (A while ago, I wrote about the beauty of “not-new” friends, and I think the mentality applies here, too.)
I am looking forward to seeing what these classes will become, how friendships will unfold, and how we will grow together as we experience things this year. Will the class that worries me be the one that proves the most difficult? Or will another surpass them in ridiculousness? Will we share joys and tragedies together? Will there be good and authentic classroom discussion? Will they trust me and will I trust them? Will we become saints together? Continue reading “Year Seven, Week One, Day Three, Tired”
Whether it is cleaning a room, getting into an exercise routine, or starting a new school year, I’ve discovered that it gets worse before it gets better.
Somehow, I’ve managed to turn a blind eye to the state of my bedroom for the entire summer. I knew it was a mess and yet it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I saw it with the eyes of reality. As I began to move some boxes around and sort through a pile of clothes, I realized that it was getting worse. My attempts to clean were making my room more unlivable. Yet I reminded myself that it needed to get worse so it could get better. It still isn’t great, but my room is looking better, bit by bit.
The same was true a couple of years ago when I picked up running for a while. The first run was tiring as I realized how out of shape I was. Yet the next couple runs were worse as my sore muscles protested being used again so soon. Eventually, though, it did get better. In fact, I ran a 5-mile race and finally understood why runners say they need a few miles to warm up. Having never been a “real” runner, I always thought I should conserve my energy, but as I finished the race, I could feel that I was running far better than the first couple miles. Continue reading “It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better”
“Are you ready for school to start again?”
The short answer is no….but it will happen anyway. And, although it will be crazy, busy, and a bit stressful, I will be glad when I am back into the “routine” of school.
I am not, however, one of those people for whom breaks are too long and is itching to be back in school. At my young age, I’m quite certain I would make an excellent retired person…right now. I enjoy traveling, being at home, reading, sitting in the sun, attending Mass when the rest of the working world works, and whatever else it is that retired people do. I get a taste of it every summer and I believe I would do quite well with it as a full-time profession.
Yet there is a certain goodness about a new school year. As a teacher, I have the luck of starting over each year. There are new students (mostly), new energy (hopefully), and new faculty (always). Even as I dread a bit of the crazy that comes with a new year, I cannot entirely squelch the excitement of beginning again.
Each beginning offers a new chance to do better than I did before. And if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that with me, there is always, always plenty of room for improvement. I plan for new ways to interest the students, new methods to interact with my staff, and new hope that this year I will be the missionary of the classroom that I deeply desire to be. The new school year is home to my litany of new year’s resolutions for my teaching life. Continue reading “The Anticipation of New Beginnings”
The image of the Polish Madonna was one I never really cared for until a few years ago. In the artwork, Mary is hanging clothes on a line as Jesus sits on the ground nearby, playing with a couple sticks that form a cross. While I didn’t initially love it, later I realized the beauty of the image. In the simple, ordinary events of everyday life, Mary was pursuing sanctity. Laundry (clearly, a result of the Fall) was a part of Mary’s life and she did all of it with a gaze towards Our Lord.
The past few days I have been cooking for a summer camp that I attended in my youth and was a counselor for in my college years. Now, I spend hours in the kitchen, preparing food that will be consumed in mere minutes. As soon as one meal is finished, preparations begin for the next one. The work isn’t overly complicated, yet it is more tiring than one would think initially.
I strive to meet Jesus in the ordinary moments of the day, knowing that I am helping nourish bodies so that the souls may be formed. Yet it is an encounter with humility, too. My heart wants to make some sort of impact, so I flip the hamburger patty on the grill and flinch when the flames flick toward my hand. I desire the campers to encounter the mercy of God, so I wash the same pan for the fifth time that day. I want to create a space where the Lord can move, so I reach into the ice water, crack the egg on the counter, and peel off the shell. Continue reading “When God Calls You to a Kitchen”