Saturday, April 26, 2014

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times"... a decade of teaching - Part 1

I do not pretend to know or understand all of what I am about to speak on, but I have been teaching 5th grade now for 10 years - a decade - so, I think sometimes experience speaks for itself.  Since I am officially on maternity leave now, waiting for Keegan to come Tuesday or earlier, I thought I would sit down and write out some thoughts and memories and feelings about teaching, from teaching, for teaching, and against teaching in the next couple of posts.

Let's see... how much do I actually remember? Ha!  I say that, because after 10 years of countless meetings, parent/teacher conferences, papers graded, field trips, hours planning, and more than 460 5th graders, sometimes it all blurs together!  I mean, the first year seemed to last forever, and I couldn't believe I was going to have to repeat that process over and over again until my age and years of experience added together to equal 90!  But once I walked back into my classroom in August at the start of my second year, I realized it would go much faster now that I knew what I was doing... well, a little bit more of what I was doing :)

That first year made me both suicidal and practically narcoleptic!  It wasn't that my students were so awful, because looking back on it, they really weren't.  I just didn't know what I was doing.  Sure, I went to 4 years of college, had worked in daycares and preschools, had babysat, and knew I liked kids - that's all there is to it, right?!  Wrong.  It is like knowing how to cook and maybe cooking a couple times a week for yourself in college, and then getting married and having kids and having to provide a meal 3 times a day, 7 days a week, for several people... it is the same skill, but on an intense level of repetition and responsibility!

There were a group of boys that year, that if they were in my class now, I probably would sarcastically respond to some of their "humor" that was really disrespect, and it would be diffused immediately.  They are just 10-11 years old, after all.  But as a 21-year-old who didn't have children of her own, I was now responsible for the reading and writing and spelling skills of 40+ children, as well as their safety and behavior.  Those boys knew I was a first year teacher, and it never fails that kids test 1st year teachers like crazy!  I would say it is their sinful nature.  Child psychology would say it is only a child's attempt at seeing if they are in a safe environment or not.

Either way it doesn't really matter WHY; it is definitely difficult to know how to handle it!  I remember trying to start out heavy and serious and strict... but somehow it didn't work out.  If you don't win them that first day/week, you will spend the rest of the year spinning your wheels with no results.  That is the truth.  But no one models for you how to do that.  Sure, you can read books and articles and talk to other teachers, but no class, school, and teacher mix is ever the same way twice... it is an ever-changing formula that may explode all over the lab!

I took a nap every day after school that first year, because I was so exhausted all of the time.  My roommate came home one day and found me face down in the carpet, asleep.  The DVD player was open.  I had fallen asleep before I had pushed play!  I would randomly fall asleep on the couch and wake up there the next morning.  My roommate said she tried waking me up, but that it was like I was dead.

One day in October of that first year of teaching, I went into the back room of my house to do some laundry.  I sorted my clothes, started a load, and went to clean out the lint trap... it was at least 3 inches thick with lint!  I immediately freaked out, not because my roommate hadn't cleaned out the lint trap, but because I realized that I hadn't done laundry since school had started - and it was October!  I completely overlooked and forgave the fact that this incredible fire hazard had been present in my utility room because my roommate didn't know to clean out the dryer's lint trap.  I immediately told her that I was overwhelmingly sorry for not doing my laundry for 3 months!  I had been so preoccupied with teaching and being exhausted that I didn't even notice that someone else was washing my clothes!  I felt so terrible for taking advantage of her, but was so grateful she hadn't said anything about it before... because I might have broken down and just sobbed at the weight of one more responsibility on my shoulders!

I did end up crying in my principal's office that year.  Thankfully I have always had a female principal who understands what I am talking about when I have ended up crying on her desk!  Not that men administrators can't be understanding, I just would have been too scared to cry and stay in their office to discuss my issues!  One of my students had told me something that broke my heart!  She was so brave to say in a sweet, shy voice, "Miss Kruse, sometimes it feels like being good isn't worth it, because only the bad kids get all your attention."

And she was right!  I spent so much time disciplining these boys that were trying to get under my skin, that I constantly neglected to thank and reward the students that were doing what they were supposed to every day!  I am so thankful for that sweet little girl, who is now an adult, because she taught me something invaluable to teaching.

I was also put on a Plan for Improvement that year by my principal.  She said it wasn't because I was terrible, but that it was because she knew I had great potential... but she wanted to develop my teaching.  She made me go observe master teachers several times a week during my planning period and take notes.  Then I had to implement some of the practices I saw in other classrooms, and see how they worked for me.  I wrote reflections over all of this, and had to report them to her periodically.  That was the most incredible time, watching and listening to teachers who had been doing this so long!  I learned so much that I wouldn't have if that principal had merely said I was satisfactory on an evaluation.

Another student that I'll never forget was a farm kid, a dairy farm kid, and he told me that his cows didn't care if he could read or write.  I told him that in the future, small farms were probably not going to be able to support families anymore, and that he needed a backup plan.  At the end of that year, he told me that he sort of liked reading now, and he thought he might even go to college when he got older!

It was March before I felt comfortable that first year actually handling disruptive behavior.  I definitely was no master teacher by any means, but I was no longer constantly second-guessing myself.  I realized that learning was the purpose of any classroom, I was a trained professional on how to get students to learn, and that anything that interrupted or distracted from learning was not acceptable or appropriate.

It has been amazing to see those first students grow up and become adults.  In fact, one of the our first college Wednesday night Bible study groups this school year, one of the college guys asked me what my maiden name was and if I ever taught at Fort Gibson.  I recognized his face right away, and realized he was one of my students during my full-internship a decade ago!  And then a few weeks later, another college guy came to Bible study - and we recognized each other right away - he was one of my students during my first year of teaching!

I'll be honest, and say that when these former students who are now in college and high school ask to be my friend on Facebook, and I am able to see how they have matured and what they are doing with their lives... I am just thankful they can get into college!  I was so scared those first couple of years that they wouldn't be able to read or write on an acceptable level because I had messed them up!

The funny thing is, they usually look almost the same - just taller.  Perhaps their voice is different too, but moral character and personality is usually shaped in a child by the time they enter my 5th grade classroom.

I guess I haven't really changed much either... except this is actually from my second year of teaching.  I can't find the picture from my first :(

Something that has changed drastically in the past decade of teaching, though, is how deeply my students think.  That first year, my students were much better at problem solving and thinking about deeper topics.  We would do quick-writes on topics about life, you know, like "What does it mean to 'Reach for the stars.  That way, if you don't make it, you'll be in the clouds.'?"  Those kids would think about it, write about it, and then we would have a discussion.  My students now either couldn't or wouldn't do it.  They'd either not understand the quote or would make a joke out of it or would just say "I don't get it" without trying.  It is sad, truly.  Somehow in the past 10 years, children have stopped thinking and being able to express their thoughts.

I love teaching.  It truly is a wonderful experience to see, what I call, the "light bulb moment", when they finally understand something they didn't before!  Unfortunately, it seems to happen less and less.  I don't know what the answer is to all of it, but I have my theories.  10 years ago most of my students lived with one or both of his/her parents.  Now, probably half of my students are being raised by grandparents or aunts and uncles - it seems moms and dads are so caught up with their own repetitive, cyclical problems to care for these young people.  I think there is so much entertainment out there these days where kids never have to think deeply or solve problems on their own.  I also think it was safer 10 years ago to let kids explore and play.  Even as a parent, I wonder how it will make Emersyn a different kind of person than her father or myself, because we never let Emersyn out of our sight!  I wonder if that stumps her development in her moral and intellectual processing?

Anyway, it is funny how I think back to how hard that first year seemed, and it really wasn't because of the students I had or the curriculum I taught.  It was because it was the first time in my life that I had had to do something I wasn't completely adequate to do.  And it stressed me out that I couldn't be and do all that the job required of me to be successful as I defined it.

Since then I have realized that everyone in teaching is inadequate to be successful completely.  There aren't enough hours in the day, money in the funds, or energy to give every single student every single moment of attention they need... but now I am okay with that.  It still bothers me in an abstract way - I find myself wishing every room had an assistant, or that I only had half the students, or that my contract actually listed the number of hours I really spend on the job instead of the laughable "745am-315pm, 5 days a week, 9 months out of the year" that is printed on the annual document I sign.

But it doesn't keep me up nights anymore, and doesn't make me fall asleep with exhaustion in the floor in front of my DVD player in the middle of the afternoon.  All I do is my best every day, during the reasonable amount of time I have to dedicate to it each day, and then I know that is all I can do.  I cannot be superwoman.  I cannot sacrifice the quality of time and energy for my husband and children in order to be more successful at my job and still have a clear conscience.  I do my best with what I have.

I also learned after a few years, that my job is for two purposes:  to provide for myself and to contribute to the world.  It isn't my existence.  It sure feels like it should be, in order to meet the demands.  But realistically, it is just a job.  A good one.  A hard one.

One that I may or may not miss for these next few years that I am home more with Emersyn and Keegan, and anyone else that comes along.  All I know is I know this past decade was not wasted.  It has grown me, not just in the profession, but as a person.

I am better at 30, than at 20, because of those 460+ students, along with their essays, personalities, parents, and presence in my life.  I am happily, with maybe just a touch of fear and sadness, hanging up my hat and walking away for a while.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg of my memories, feelings, and thoughts on this topic.  I'm sure I'll revisit it soon.

We are having a baby boy in 3 days!  I am so excited and nervous!  And it has probably kept my mind from focusing on how much I'll miss teaching!  Who has time to be sad and miss something, when all this anticipation and wonder fills my mind?!

Happy Baby-Having to Me!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

4,000 Views, Swollen Ankles, and Sale Pending!!!

Just a list of random things I have noticed or experienced this past week(s):

  • The blog has had over 4,000 views since the New Year!
  • I noticed that more people read my posts if I also post at least one picture... interesting.
  • I am thankful to have served in the nursery at church for 2 weeks in a row, because I now remember how to change diapers!  Something I will definitely need to know very soon!
  • Easter weekend was a lot of fun to see both my in-laws and parents!
  • Had an amazing intense time of learning at Secret Church - google it; you won't be sorry.  I also learned I am still able to stay up until 2am... even at 9 months pregnant!!!
  • I began to theorize that perhaps people who approve of foreclosure sales at banks only work on Thursdays - I am sort of being serious too.  Any communication was given on a Thursday, and then the next Thursday, and then the next.
  • Yesterday (Monday) was the first day of my last week of teaching for an indefinite amount of time.
  • I have heard some positive feedback from one hopeful part-time job for this Fall, just waiting to hear from another one and then make a decision!
  • In order to find the Boppy pillow, the infant car seat, and Keegan's diaper bag (all had been put into storage when we were showing the house), meant that Kyle had to empty out the entire shed in the back yard into our living room... and we left it that way all weekend - guilt free!
  • I packed most of the hospital stuff and it is sitting by the door... just waiting!
  • My ankles are really swollen!!!
  • And today 2 houses went into "Sale Pending" status - the house we currently live in and the house we have been wanting for months!
 So, here's the story in a condensed version:

We started working with the college ministry at the beginning of the school year, and we realized that it would be a lot easier to be hospitable to 30+ college students if we actually had a living room!  I mean, we have one, but the 5 pieces of furniture in it only seat 7 with not much room on the floor for many more!  So earlier in the year we went house hunting - mainly looking for fixer-uppers that had large living rooms.

We found the perfect house, for so many reasons, it would be a blog post all of its own!  What was even more perfect was the price!  A foreclosure with exactly the kind of living room/kitchen layout I wanted with plenty of room to spare for all these kids we plan on having (the 2nd coming very soon).

So, in order to buy this "dream house", we had to put ours on the market!  So, we got to work!  I got my pregnant self in a squatting/kneeling position and painted trim and baseboards while Kyle did a bazillion things I can't even remember them all!  We uncluttered every room, put all the baby stuff back into storage that we had just started digging out, and started actually making our bed every morning!  Shocker, I know!

And that is how we lived for a while - making sure the house was "show-ready" every morning by 7:40am, so we could hustle off to work!  Our realtor started working her tail off too networking, promoting, etc!

Some glitches we ran into along the way:
  • You cannot make an offer on a foreclosure that is "pending on the sale of your own home"
  • You cannot get traditional financing for foreclosures that need repair (this one needs to be reroofed)
  • We didn't have $93,000 in our savings account
  • We didn't have $15,000 in our savings account to pay for the repairs so that we could put it in escrow and THEN make an offer with traditional financing
  • After several realtors toured our home, they advised us to drop our asking price at least $5,000 
And, of course, each glitch had to present itself one at a time, at least a week apart from each other in order to make this process go longer than we had planned!

Now, I am not complaining.  I am actually thankful for all the times we thought "this will never happen", because we learned so much about how much we trust in our "stuff" and plans.  With each hurdle, we had to sit down as a couple and talk and pray and ask ourselves, "How much do we trust God?  How much do we believe that we will truly be fine, and even better off if/when He says NO to this plan?  That if God says NO, then that is really how it should be!"

Huge OUCH!  With each glitch, we got better about not throwing ourselves into "the depths of despair" with our emotions!  And then with each glimmer of "re-hope", we learned to hold the plan more and more loosely.

The final hiccups were:
  1. The same week we sat down to finally be able to make an offer on the house we wanted, we learned someone else had already bid on it and had been negotiating back and forth.  Legally, realtors cannot tell you how much someone else has bid on a property, so we were left to a complete guess on what to offer and hope it was higher than the other party's.
  2. A week after putting in our offer (again, on a Thursday... I'm telling you my theory is right), the bank notified both parties and asked for a final offer from each one... again, we had to guess as to what we thought complete strangers we've never met might offer.  We had to think about what was more important - getting the house or being wise with our budget/offer.
  3. The man interested in buying our house offered us quite a bit below our asking price.  We countered, and then he countered with something even lower than his first offer... So we had to think about what was more important -selling our house or selling it for what we wanted out of it?
We found out over this past weekend that the bank accepted our offer over the other party's!  We also negotiated an amount for ours to sell!  And yesterday (Monday), the buyer for our current home went in to sign the accepted amount an hour before we went in and signed for our accepted offer!

That brings us to our current, extremely exciting and busy timeline:
  • We are having this baby next Tuesday - in one week (or less) by C-section!  So I will be the mother of 2 kids - a toddler and a newborn, recovering from surgery, and beginning the process of planning and packing to move!
  • We are closing on the foreclosure house to start the reroofing on the 15th.
  • We are closing on our current home and have to be out by June 1st!

This is definitely do-able!  I really am not worried about all of it, but the thought of it all is a little overwhelming.

So, tonight, Kyle and I went on a "last date" of sorts.  It has taken a couple of days to get excited about all of this, just because of all we have to coordinate.  But our conversation over dinner of all these changes definitely got both of us pumped about what is to come!  Fortunately, we both thrive on high-pressure, busy happenings, or at least we keep signing up for these type of scenarios in our marriage!  And I know for a fact that I love him more today than I did back in October of 2009 as I walked toward him down that aisle.  He has been tested over and over, and he has proven himself to be so trustworthy and dependable... how blessed am I?!

I also got a pedicure as a last pampering for myself before Keegan is born and we start to live out of boxes and stacks and piles.  The man doing my pedicure was cracking me up!  He was so nice about how bad my feet were, and how swollen my ankles are!  After the Dremmel, cheese grater, and special exfoliants and moisturizers wrapped in plastic and heated in the foot hot tub, and rubbed down with the hot stones and boiling hot steam towel... a sweet lady painted my toes the blue I had picked out for Keegan's arrival!  I wore pink polish when Emersyn was born, so I thought I would keep the coordinating going!  Then she gently put my sandals back on and buckled them for me, since she saw how I had struggled to get them unbuckled with this basketball-shaped baby belly in my way when we first got there!

All of this makes me think of playing Hide-and-Seek with Emersyn.  She counts to ten REALLY FAST, and you better be hidden by then, because "ready or not, here I come!"

Are we ready for a second baby?  Are we ready to relearn all that comes with a newborn?  Will we be able to handle living out of piles and boxes while recovering from surgery and nursing a newborn and chasing a todder?

These are definitely the times in life when I wonder how people who do not hope in the Lord get by?  I'm not judging them, I am truly curious, because without His strength and peace to get us through sometimes... we wouldn't make it through at all!  I know that "God provides for all bills He incurs".  He knows our every need and desire and hurt and fear.  But He doesn't just know about them; He cares about them.  He wants us to give them to Him.  He loves to carry our burdens and carry us through!

Why?!  Because He loves us, and He gets all the glory!  His name is exalted while our burdens are lifted!

He does give us more than we can handle, because that means we need Him!  Jesus did not come for those who are well, but for those who are sick!

So, are we ready?  Of course NOT!  But nothing surprises our Heavenly Father.  So, ready or not, here it all comes!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Good Reminder That My Daughter is a Gift!

Wow!  The number of viewers from my last post was twice as many as any other post I've written!  I tried not to take it personally that I didn't really even write the post, since it was just a collection of photos that a good friend of mine, who also happens to be an amazing professional photographer, took of me a few weeks ago at 35 weeks pregnant!

And since I'm sure you can do simple math in your head, you just counted that if I was 35 weeks a few weeks ago, that means I am busting at the seems PREGNANT, and as Arnie says in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape", "I could go at any time!"

Yes, I am very pregnant!  Yes, I am supposed to have my second child, a son we have named Keegan Russell, in 11 days!  This means that none of my shirts quite meet my pants, I can't bend over without incredible pain, walking/sitting/getting in and out of bed/sleeping/eating/breathing/remembering anything is all inconvenient and extremely difficult!

All of that would be fine, completely doable, though, if I wasn't also just losing my patience left and right.  See, I have a 2 1/2-year-old daughter WHO RARELY SITS STILL OR LISTENS OR SPEAKS QUIETLY OR IS SATISFIED WITH ASKING ONLY ONE QUESTION...

Months, even weeks ago, Emersyn was still the cutest kid in the world to me, for many reasons, but mainly just because she is mine!  She is the personification of what someone once told me having children was like, "Having your heart walk around outside of your body."

That is my Emersyn.

Or was until recently...

See, she makes messes.  Sure, she is learning to pick them up, but it takes FOREVER.  She loves to run, even away from me, and since I can't walk, running is very impossible.  And these things aren't new, but as my energy goes down and my size goes up... it is all a bit much these days!

I find myself just being more and more impatient with her each day.  I am trying to fight it, but I don't always win.  Thankfully, we got a new recliner this week, so no matter how much I have lost my temper and patience and probably not said the right thing in the right tone, we have ended up rocking with her on my lap and her head against my chest each evening.  It is the only time I can get her to sit still, and those moments have become so precious to me this past week knowing that I will have to share my lap with her and her brother from now on.

These last few days of her being an only child make me so sad for some reason, but I am also excited for her to have a playmate soon!

I also thought it would be good for me post Emersyn's 2 1/2 years photos Cassy Pack took, so that I can focus on how adorable Emersyn is in these times where it seems everything she does gets on my nerves.  So, I hope you enjoy these photos as much as Kyle and I do.  But mainly this is for me - a post where I just take the time to look at this beautiful, energetic, smart, spirited, and loud child that God has been gracious to loan to me for over 2 1/2 years.

 Here, Emersyn is holding a picture Cassy took of her when she was 2 weeks old.  I love her laugh!

 I was amazed at how great these pictures came out, because Emersyn is such a whirlwind!  I don't know how Cassy got so many great shots without them being blurry!  She literally never stopped moving the entire shoot!

Candy helps sometimes, though :)

Emersyn loves to be an airplane!  Of course, she loves to run no matter what she is pretending to be... Cassy said she thought this picture captured her spirit, and I couldn't agree more! 

Storming off on a mission one second, and then looking pensive in the next.  Life is never dull with my Emersyn.

 And the man of honor right there, my husband, Kyle.  He is truly a gift to us.  As a husband he talks, listens, helps, protects, provides, loves, hangs out with me, cleans, packs bags and cars, unloads dishes/laundry/groceries, jokes, works hard, builds things, fixes things, tears up at sweet moments, and is constantly giving.  As a dad he plays, fixes hair, prays, tickles, hugs, kisses, says "I'm proud of you", says "You're beautiful", says "You're smart", and he consistently teaches her how to be respectful to us, especially to me.  I'm telling you, these pictures grip my heart because I have seen these kinds of things go on in our house when there wasn't a photographer around to capture the moment.  These aren't isolated, posed happenings, but a daily occurrence that I am privileged to witness.

There, I am once again reminded of how blessed I am!  It is hard to remember sometimes when you are tired and uncomfortable constantly, but these photos have shown me once again these two people I should be cherishing every day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Only Time I Have Enjoyed Having My Picture Taken

 My whole life I have HATED getting my picture taken!  I'm sure that is a typical, female problem, but never have I been pregnant and in front of the camera before.  And let me tell you, it is completely different!  I didn't have maternity photos done with my first pregnancy, because a lot of styles I had seen before were just weird to me.  I really felt like the sheer, flowy materials, naked bellies, and serious boudoir expressions and poses were not the message I wanted to send or capture, and I definitely wouldn't want to hang them in my home!  To me, being pregnant is such a sweet, mysterious, and marvelous experience, and I didn't know how a person could capture that for me without it being awkward or magnifying of my insecurities.

But since this is my second pregnancy, I wanted to do something special that I didn't do with the first, since the first time around everything is new.  So, I asked one of my dear bridesmaids from my wedding, who is an awesome photographer, to try and capture the essence of my feelings about carrying and growing a child.  I think she did a fantastic job!  I also was surprised by how much I loved the process of being able to emphasize my big belly and to think about the children I have carried in there.  When does a woman ever get to hold her huge stomach, smile, and not have one insecure thought about her shape and size?!  What a freeing experience!

I couldn't be more pleased with how these turned out, especially the bare belly pose with Emersyn, my daughter!  That was the only shot I was nervous about, because of previous bare-bellied photos I had seen online, but my heart just melts at the sight of my daughter anticipating this new life joining our family very soon!  And you can't even tell that it was raining and cold that evening!

Thank you so much, Cassy Pack, for making tasteful, sweet, meaningful works of art that include the very heart and essence of the joys of motherhood, family, and expecting a baby!  The only problem is choosing which ones I love the most for hanging in our home!  What a wonderful problem to have!

If you would love to check out Cassy's newborn, maternity, and engagement photo sessions with other clients, check out her site at!

Coming soon, Emersyn's 2 1/2 year pictures done by the same photographer!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Too Good to be True?!

Another week has come and gone, and still we wait.  We wait to sell our house, to buy a house, and to have a baby.

We got amazingly great news last Friday that we were going to get an official offer on our house AND we qualified for a special kind of loan that would allow us to make an offer on the house we want (since it is in foreclosure and in need of a new roof, traditional financing wouldn't apply)!  We were elated at the possibilities that all was not lost!  Perhaps we would sell our house AND get to buy our dream house...

With this new type of loan, we would take out the amount of the house plus the construction of the roof.  Then once the roof is finished we can refinance the loan into a traditional mortgage loan.  So we started doing calculations, and with the amount we should be getting on our house, plus our savings, we should be able to refinance the loan, pay off Kyle's truck, and buy a used van by August!

Sunday we went in to talk with our realtor and draw up a real offer on the house we wanted.  The timing just seemed perfect, even the date we chose for closing was a day I had already taken off of work - the day before my C-section!  We calculated it would take about 6 weeks to close on the house we are selling... we'd have a baby, and I would recover from C-section between the two closing dates!  We went to bed Sunday night with a glow of hope in our hearts and minds.

Most people say that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.  But we felt like the timing of all of this was affirmation of God's perfect timing, teaching, and provision.  We feared that the situation might be too good to be true, but God Himself is more good than we can imagine, and He is true.  We may not get our way, but He is still always at work in us and around us.

On Monday, the guy interested in our house made an official offer.  It was slightly lower than he had initially led on, but not horrible.  But thankfully he feels about our house the way we feel about this other house... we both want "that one".   So we are all just making an offer and waiting to see!  Because of that, we couldn't really counter-offer or accept until we heard back from the offer we had made!  And he said he was waiting for us to respond before moving on to look at anything else.

Then we got some slightly bad news.  If you are going to get bad news, Mondays should be the days to get it, because it is already, well... Monday!  We found out there was already another bid on the house we want to buy.  The party that made the offer had been in negotiations for about a week, going back and forth over price.  Thankfully our offer was higher than theirs, so we were hoping that the bank would simply just take our offer over the other party, since they were going to get more money out of us.  So we waited and waited.  Monday.  Tuesday.  Wednesday.  No news from the bank.

Also on Monday, all the teachers at school were asked to fill out a letter of intent about next school year.  I have explained before that our district is moving all the 5th grade classes to the elementaries instead of being at the middle school. But the teachers that are still on temporary contracts (being in the district less than 3 full school years) were going to have to reapply and reinterview for any and all open positions, once all the positions were rearranged.  So I hadn't been expecting to have to tell the school a decision one way or the other about our decision on whether I was going to teach next year or not, since technically I don't have a job after May 23rd.  The thing is, we hadn't made a decision, and making one in the middle of all this waiting for everything else seemed overwhelming.  So basically, I didn't mark any of the choices on the letter of intent. I simply put an asterick at the bottom and said, "I still do not know what my decision will be about next year.  As soon as I know, I will update your office with my decision."

That evening, Kyle and I had to drive to Owasso and back, so we started to talk through all the situations, decisions, hopes, and fears as we sat in the car.  I told him that I had had to fill out a letter of intent that day at work.  I explained how I had been feeling every time someone asked me about my plans for next year - dishonest, unsure, sneaky, indecisive, and afraid.  I felt dishonest and sneaky, because I knew that we hoped I would not be working full-time.  But how do you say that without it sounding like you want to get out of a place?!  It wasn't that I hate teaching and just have to get out, it is that I want to be home more with my children while they are so little. So I just would say, "We're not sure yet", but in my heart I was set on an answer.  An answer I couldn't share.  But while we are waiting on so many other things, it did seem scary to go ahead and just make a final decision regarding my work.

And the thought of reapplying and reinterviewing while recovering from a C-section and nursing a newborn seemed like the worst kind of timing possible.  As I was explaining all of this, I saw it on Kyle's face immediately.  He saw it all as the perfect kind of timing to make a final decision.  He told me that we should just commit to me looking for part-time work by August and letting my school know now that I wasn't coming back next year.

In that moment, I felt such incredible relief and fear all at the same time.  Relief, because for the longest time when Kyle would say, "Really, whatever you want to do, I'll support you." made me feel like all the pressure was on me to decide and carry.  That isn't what he had ever meant, but the responsibility of it all was making me feel guilty and fearful.  But us talking it through and then making a commitment together felt like we were a team carrying this responsibility, and everything it implies, together!

So on Tuesday, I emailed my former principal, our current HR person, and explained why the day before I had written that I had no idea on my letter of intent, but that today I was ready to confidently say that I was not coming back to work in the fall.  As I typed the email, I felt elation and fear take turns reigning in my heart and mind.  Each time I would feel relief about making a decision and knowing Kyle and I were in this together, the fear of "what if" came to mind.  But each time fear would take over saying, "What if we go through some kind of major financial crisis, and I am left without a full-time job?!", I would be reminded that God takes care of even sparrows, and I know that as His child His care for me is even greater.  What and whom should I fear?!

So even though we were still waiting to hear about the offer we had made on the house, I felt so at rest knowing we had grown up a lot in our marriage and faith by finally making this huge decision about our future!  I felt so proud of us, because I knew that even if this whole plan flops, we would trust in the Lord together, and move forward together.

Finally, on Thursday both us and the other hopeful house-buying party were told by the bank to offer our highest final offer by Friday at 1pm.  This was good and bad news.  Good, because that meant the house is still a possibility.  Bad, because now we had entered into a bidding game.

Oh, I hate the game!  You know what I'm talking about?  Now all the control was in the bank's hands.  Before when we thought we were the only people interested in the house, and it had been on the market for so long, we knew the only thing we were up against was the amount the bank was hoping to get out of the foreclosure.  Now, we were up against how much the bank could squeeze out of either party.  We knew our first offer had been higher than the other party's offer after a week of negotiating, but there is no way we could know these people's highest amount/budget.  So we were left to guess what we thought these complete strangers would offer in comparison with what our top dollar was, and try to outbid them... talk about a game that no matter how much strategy you have, you have no idea if any strategy will work!  Our final offer was filled out, signed, and sent in after Kyle got off work on Thursday.  Our realtor got word that the other bidder had turned in their final offer that evening as well.

And all day Friday we waited.  I tried not to be waiting, but that is pretty much impossible.  And all day long the bank's silence was deafening!

But the beautiful thing about this roller coaster we have been on these past 2 months have taught us both about how having a good marriage, raising kids, and enjoying life has nothing to do with which house you do it all in.  With the number of times we have thought we had lost any chance of buying this house and then finding out again that is is possible, then not possible, then possible again.  We have learned that our emotions are all too often caught up and controlled by our circumstances... when really our circumstances haven't changed at all!  Losing something you never had means you still have what you did before!  We still have each other, our children, and above all a loving Lord that hears our cries, knows our hopes, and is the hope for all people!

 My daughter can be a "princess ballerina" and play with her Barbie no matter where we live, where I work, or what kind of cars we have.  Her world is in her mind, and that can go wherever we go in whatever we get there in...

So before we even have heard back about this dream house we thought we just had to have weeks ago, we now are only hopeful about.  We still want it, we still prefer living there than where we currently do, and we have many plans in case we get it!  But we have learned so much about who God is (which is who He said He was all along), we have learned so much about ourselves, and we have learned to once again hold all things loosely.

So we went to look at another house on Friday still without knowledge of what the bank has decided about our offer.

This house is closer to NSU, and has pretty much the same kitchen/dining/living room layout as our dream house - just the opposite direction.  It needs no work and is move-in ready, for about the same price as the first house.  As we walked around and looked and talked, I also remembered that once again my plans are just that - plans.  And even if I had a million plans and back-up plans, His remains the constant and perfect plan.  A house is a just a house, and there are a million just like them.

One specific lesson we have learned and discussed on our way to look at this other house is that just because something is difficult or takes a long time doesn't mean the Lord isn't in it.  When God orchestrates things, it isn't always the easiest way.  Really, how often do we learn from those experiences?!  And just because something happens very easily, doesn't mean that it is "too good to be true".  There really is no such thing.  The way things happen is the way God wants it to happen, which means if it doesn't happen it was never good in the first place!  And just because something might be difficult, trying, or seem to take forever... as long as it ends up happening, then you know it was the good thing.  If all things truly work for the good of those who love the Lord and for His great name to be glorified, then there is nothing that is too good.  Everything goes through the Lord's hand, either His setting it in motion or His allowing it to come to pass.

Christians need to stop living life as if following God's direction looks the same as just being superstitious.  If something is too hard, they say "It must not be God's will."  If it is God's will, it will come to pass, but we aren't promised an easy straight-shot to the outcome!  God works things out in His timing, and we have to be okay with that.  And then when the outcome does come, we should be thankful for His answer.  Even when He says NO, He is present, in control, and still good.  The fact God cares for us and answers at all should be a huge source of comfort and joy for all of us as Believers!

And if God has created it, allowed it, and approved of it, then the circumstances can change one hundred times over.  Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore.  And even though He is more good than I can imagine, He is never too good to be true!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Oh Ye of Little Faith, Little Brains, and Big Egos... Okay, Just Keisha... LISTEN!!!

Wow!  I had to reread my last post before I could continue, because so much has happened in a week, I wasn't sure what had all occurred in our selling/buying a new home adventure and when!  Much more is in the works than I will discuss today; mainly because I want to see how the Lord will work in these situations and then tell the story in full.  But it is amazing how much we think we have it all figured out sometimes, but in all honesty we have deceived ourselves greatly.  Here is a snippet of one part of this whole fiasco that went on this past week, and how I reacted.  From one point-of-view, it isn't pretty, but as with all things God can make beauty from ashes over and over again.

In my previous post we were waiting to find out about a possible offer on our house.  And that was all we were waiting on so that if it was decent, we would accept, and then make an offer on the house we wanted.

Well, the guy came in to make an offer, and it was pretty close to our asking price.  And while that is GREAT news, we also got devastating news that no bank was going to finance us to buy the house we want because it is a foreclosure in need of a new roof.  Apparently for banks to finance buyers on foreclosures, the house has to 100% pass inspection...

We had only put our house up for sale, because we wanted THAT house.  We had only looked at 2 other houses, but they didn't meet the main requirements we needed.  So, it was a blow, but my first reaction was just to give it all up and just stay where we are.  I mean, if we can't have THAT house, then why make myself homeless?!  I could tell that wasn't what Kyle wanted, and really neither did I.  But I knew that we couldn't afford a house that size at regular cost.  A part of me still wanted to find another house, too, because I had enjoyed the dreams of what we could do with a larger home.  But I also knew that more house at regular cost meant more income would be required than we planned on making the coming school year.  So it just came down to Kyle and I talking it out, right?  We'd talk about what we wanted more and figure it out!

So since I was "feeling" so stable about the whole thing, I thought I would be generous to my husband and bring up this subject.  I had played in my mind over and over again an offer, a sacrifice on my part, because I knew how badly he wanted a larger house for our college ministry and for raising our children.  So several days before this bad news came, I had settled in my mind to make a "generous" offer to my husband in the situation where we would have to pay more for a bigger home than we had planned.

My offer was going to be that I would continue teaching full-time if it meant we could afford a larger home.

In my mind, I really thought I was being selfless.  I thought I was being a big girl who cared more for her husband's wants more than my own.

So when he told me that news that the house we wanted was probably not an option anymore, I told myself, 'Okay, now is the time to offer your sacrifice so he will feel relieved and that I am on his side about shopping for another house.'

So I said it.  Out loud.  To his face.

And then he responded...

Right then with his response, I knew I had set him up.  I knew instantly that it wasn't a real offer.  I didn't mean it.  I knew in that moment that I wanted to be home more with our kids, much more than I wanted a stupid bigger house for the college ministry and being more hospitable.

His response was the equivalent to him failing me in a major way, although he had no idea.  And I knew it wasn't fair of me to have ever brought it up in the first place.  But at the time, I really thought, 'This will make me a good wife.'  I hadn't paid much attention to the other part of me that was saying, 'But he better immediately tell me that me staying home was more important than a bigger house.'

He didn't say that.  In fact, I don't even remember what he did say.  I think it was only something like, "It may come to that", or something along those lines.

But as a typical woman who hears one thing when someone said something else, all I could think of was 'We don't have the same priorities anymore.  How can we have a good marriage if we don't have the same priorities?  How will I be able to respect him when I feel like he tricked me into abandoning my hopes?!'

And I burst into tears.  I tried to cry silently, which was stupid because he was sitting across the table from me.  No matter how quietly I cried, he has eyes!  He, of course, asked me if I was okay.  I said that I was fine.  He asked me several more times, and I would respond with the "I'm fine" lie each time.

Soon he softly said, "I want you to be home with our kids.  That is very important to me."

I didn't believe him for a second, and I told him so.  I could tell it hurt him deeply for me to accuse him of what I had been thinking in my head.  We talked it through, and I realized that I was guilty of what I had accused him of - I had tried to trick him into a certain response.

I also knew that with the bad news came the true measure of my trust in the Lord.

I hadn't been stressed or nervous a week earlier when we were just waiting to see what would happen!  But once I had heard that 2 desires in one day may be no-gos, I withdrew my trust and tried to fix it in my own power.

Why didn't I ask God to calm my heart?  Why didn't I ask God to lead my husband in a decision?  Why didn't I ask God first how I could actually be a good wife, instead of just wanting to look like one?

So many times we see the Lord as a person, just like you or I.  A person that isn't more powerful than myself.  Someone that may not have my best interest at heart... and for some reason, we think we can figure it out on our own.

How many times must He prove Himself before we - especially I - freely trust Him?!  I mean, in Hebrews chapter 11 alone, is a list of times God was faithful.  Times He accounted people undeserved righteousness, kept someone from experiencing death, saved a family and animals from world-wide destruction, inspired a man to leave everything he knew to go to a place he didn't know, caused a 90-year-old woman to conceive a child after being barren all her life, saved a baby from the mass murder of his people in Egypt, provided a way of escape for an entire people group so they would no longer be enslaved or killed, conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, gave and kept promises, and even stopped the mouths of lions from devouring His child.  And for those that were not protected from hardship or even death, still He provided an eternal home in His incomprehensible presence!  Scripture doesn't stop there!  Then in Hebrews 12, it implores we as believers to remember these past testaments of faithful provision and to be inspired to run the race, throwing off sin, and seeking the Lord - for anything I may face is nothing in light of what Christ put Himself through "for the joy that was set before Him".  He endured the cross, and even the shame of the cross, so that I may be reconciled to Him.  So that He may intercede for me.

And all I can focus on is me, me, me.  I want to be home with my children more.  I want my husband to say and do and feel the way I want.  I want the selling of our home and the buying of another I really want to run smoothly and without complication.  I want, I want, I want.

But just as much as I KNOW God is who He says He is, my first reaction is to panic.  It is to take back all I had given Him previously and say, "Never mind, I got this one."

God WANTS to take care of His children.  He LOVES to forgive us.  He LOVES to provide for us.  He LOVES to teach us, strengthen us, and show us who He really is.


All of this started me thinking about something that had happened the day before.  Emersyn had taken an ink pen and written all over the inside of my car door.  When I saw it, I was definitely not happy about it.  I asked her, "Where is the only place we are supposed to write with a pen?"  She immediately answered with great big crocodile tears, "On pay-puh."

She knew not to write on the door, because it isn't paper.  But she wrote on the door anyway.

But what crushed me completely was the next day, the day we had received all this bad news about the house.  We were driving home, and she said, "I'm sorry I write this." as she pointed to the car door.  I immediately teared up, because even though I had fully forgiven her the day before, she still felt like she wasn't forgiven.

I said, "Baby, thank you for being sorry for doing a no-no, but I promise that I am not mad anymore.  We still should only write on paper, but I forgive you for writing on my door.  You don't have to be sorry anymore.  I forgive you."

She cried again but said, "Okay, Mommy."

How do I prove to my daughter that I am not going to hold every one of her wrongs over her head for the rest of her life?  How do I make her realize that I love her no matter what she does, even if I would prefer her to behave otherwise?

Since that day, Emersyn has said she is sorry every day for writing on the door. And every day I explain to her how I forgive her completely.


The night of the bad news and attempt at manipulation of my husband, I remembered all of this happening with Emersyn in the car, and I caught a glimpse of how much God wants me to know that He is in control and trustworthy.  He wants me to see that He truly LOVES me, no matter what.  He knows best for me, no matter what.  He knows my desires - the good ones and the bad ones - and my needs.  I may not be a little girl who fears she hasn't been forgiven, but I am a woman who fears she will not be provided for.  I am His child, but I fear some days that He won't be the Father He promises me He is and always will be.

And how much more does it break God's heart since His love for me is so much deeper than my love goes for my daughter... and believe me, the latter is much deeper than I even know.

God is immeasurably trustworthy.  Beyond understanding.

And in my finite brain, I keep trying to hold my universe together with my own two hands.

He holds galaxies and cells together, every single one.  He created every eye shape, knows the number of hairs on every head, and will never change.

And in one piece of bad news, I mistrust Him.

Why?  Because just as my daughter's limitation of understanding of my love for her inhibits her from being free from the bondage of guilt, how much more does my limitation of understanding how good God is keep me from feeling free and secure to truly rest in Him?

I don't have to have my way.  I don't have to manipulate my husband.  I don't have to worry about where I will lay my head at night.

God has it all in His hands.  Without effort, He orchestrates all things "for the good of those who love Him".

But if I love Him, I will obey Him.  To obey Him is to trust Him.

"Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."