Stay Connected, Safely

Down to one.

For the past fourteen years, I’ve shown up each day at work to greet around twenty to thirty children as they come inside our classroom. I love that first part of the day when the air is fresh and the day is full of promise and hope. I see the anticipation on their little faces as they cross the threshold. Seeing their friends is the highlight of each new day.

I also thrive from calling out “hello” and “good morning” to dozens of other teachers and school staff before the first bell rings. Over the years, no matter which school I’m at or which class I have, we’ve been through a lot, the students and I…the staff and I. Ups and downs. Celebrations and heartbreak. And whether the situation is good or bad, we rally around each other and cheer each other on.

While there have been difficult times that we’ve inevitably faced, never have we been forced to band together for a difficult time….apart. Until now.

Today was the seventh school day that I’ve been away from my students because of the shelter in place to try to stop COVID-19 from spreading. We’ve met in video conferencing a few times, but it’s not the same. We are lucky to have such technology, but the human interaction is simply irreplaceable. I don’t have children of my own to look after, but luckily I have my dog and my husband. But he’s busy with his own job, and my dog doesn’t talk. I’m not even sure she listens.

I also miss my colleagues. I’m grateful for our custodians and other staff members who are still reporting to work to keep the campus clean and operating as smoothly as possible. I appreciate our principal thinking of ways to keep some of our routines going through social media, and I love seeing the dedication and helpfulness of our office, district, and other staff. I’m amazed to see my fellow teachers grow with their technology skills in the span of a week, and I never thought I’d be so excited to “attend” a staff meeting as I am now….online…just. to. see. another. face.

Because my world is pretty quiet right now. And I’m sure yours is as well.

I’m down to one.

Just me.

So, resilient as ever, I’ve found some solutions to share with you if you’ve had enough of it, too. And, no, TV isn’t the answer. LOL

Here are 5 things I’ve done this week to combat shelter in place loneliness:

#1) Call someone instead of sending a text. Hearing their voice is such a treat.

#2) Invite someone for a walk, but walk several feet apart from each other.

#3) Schedule a video meeting with a co-worker, friend, or family member (Google Hangout, Google Meet, Zoom, Vimeo, etc.).

#4) Order some take out and go pick up it curbside–it’s a good excuse to see another human being AND it supports your local business. Make sure to wash your hands!

#5) Check out Facebook. There’s more traffic on there lately because it’s a nice way to check in with people in real time while we’re all scrambling with this new normal.

I think it’s so important to maintain human interaction as best we can. As an introvert, I thought this kind of situation would be easy for me. But I’m finding it’s not.

People still need people.

Stay well, yet stay connected…safely!

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Challenge Accepted

God gave us hearts, He gave us souls. He gave us personalities and lives, some pleasant and idyllic…but some complicated and tragic. And some of us teeter on the fence, perilously suspended somewhere between fulfillment and discontent. Which are you?

We can choose to conform to all of who others want us to be—demand us to be—or we can choose to be ourselves and not worry so much about who we think we ought to be.

Some of us are like square pegs, and we may never ever fit into the round hole.

And wouldn’t that be nice?

To flee from the formulas, the agendas, the criteria. To breathe and be with God and for God…and not let the people be who we want to please, but instead seek contentment with the Creator? To love like Him and show love like Him and be love like Him.

My heart wants to dance on the white sands of night beaches and be free of alarm clocks and lists. My soul wants to rip the anxious ties that bind it and explore creativity with reckless abandon.

And where do we square pegs fit in this world of ambition and competition and the aspiration of enough-ness…when all we want is to simply be?

Just be.

I know I have responsibilities and I will not desert them, but they do not need to overwhelm my every hour of my every day.  My lungs needs space, my heart needs to maintain its rhythm, and my mind needs rest.

And so I will focus on what needs to be done—but at my own pace, with my own skill, and rising to my own expectations…listening to the voice of reason and not losing sight of who I am.

Just. be. you.

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Why I Love the Sunrise

There are mornings a sunrise appears weak…

and there are mornings when it radiates brilliance so bold it stops you in your tracks.

It’s all about the conditions surrounding it.

Is the thick fog in the way?

Are strong clouds supporting it? Or are they blocking it with their bulk?

Or could it be that it’s just about to shove through the clouds above it with all its might?

The sun will still rise despite the obstacles in its path.

It may not shine so brightly sometimes, but it will still rise.

And when it does, I am reminded that we are like the sunrise, you and I.

We wake up each morning…and sometimes there is fog in our way.

Sometimes we have support, and we beam with gratitude.

Sometimes we have obstacles before us and they block our rays of light.

Sometimes we are on the verge of greatness, and the promise of victory reflects down upon us to urge us onward.

The breathtaking glow, the kaleidoscope of tangerine and lemon…the welcoming encourager—the catalyst of joy.

And there are days when there is not a single cloud in the bluest of blue skies to stand in its way of lifting toward the heavens.

No matter what the conditions are, the sun still rises and lights the world.

It climbs higher and higher with purpose and steadfastness.

And so we rise, too.

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Let Joy Win

I’m doing laundry today. You know…my favorite thing. Just kidding! While my hands are busy, my mind has been engaged in a gentle spin of a thousand thoughts.

Despite a list of challenges I’ve encountered in the last month or two, this morning I woke up feeling energized and excited for the week ahead. Such a gift— a new dawn, a new day…and I was feeling good. Then, as I went to make my coffee and start the first load of clothes, the memories of those recent hardships tried to cancel out all those positive thoughts.

Thankfully, some kind advice from a friend earlier this week came to mind—the reminder to “take it all in stride”. Being able to accept and tackle difficulties well is truly a life skill, and one I have been able to accomplish more and more. But it takes practice. Instead of dwelling on all the negatives, I instead chose to shake off all those things weighing on my mind and trust in whatever the outcomes may be.

And just like that, joy wins.

Throughout my life as far back I can remember I’ve had my fair share of trials, as well as accomplishments. We all have. We all face obstacles that can feel annoying or insurmountable. They can threaten our joy. But we all have a list of things we can be proud of (and if you think you don’t, I challenge you to make a list of wins in your life to remind you of your awesomeness). It’s important to recall the good stuff.

In this last half of my life (because a few weeks ago the doctor declared I was middle-aged), I am never more thankful than now for the fact that God can see through to our hearts. He knows when we feel overwhelm…He knows what we can handle, and He will give us what we need to persevere. He is available to us through prayer, and His word will equip us through even the hardest of times.

We have that access to Him all because of Jesus and what He sacrificed for us. We are loved—YOU are loved—THAT much. The creator of the universe is our constant companion. We are not alone in our trials, and the love of God–the joy He offers–will carry us through, if we just seek it out.

So hold your head high, my friend. Follow the loving path of the One who loved you first. Remember your strengths and focus on that. You don’t need to dwell on the past…and you don’t need to fear the future. It is waiting for you with joyful anticipation, because with God by your side you can handle anything.

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“…Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” -James 1:2-3

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16

 

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye, I dream of you now,

As I labor to remember the gift of your freedom.

My soul is a weary traveler—

It wishes to be restored by your subtle splendor once more.

 

Remembering your Scottish air, so crisp and vibrant,

Gives life to my timid heart.

Cleaner than white cotton sheets left to dry in the breeze,

Fresh and comforting—

A temporary refuge that feels like home.

 

Your fierce night winds intrigue me…

I recall them with joy,

For they made me feel alive

While nestled warm inside, like a bear cub in her den,

As the windows battled against your strength—

Where grace & mercy let the night pass in stormy calm.

 

The sea, it surrounds you

While the cobalt waters sing to my soul.

The merry salt in the air, the abrupt silence…

The solitude and beauty that only the bravest can endure.

 

You are what I dream of, my escape…

The place where everything else falls away.

And it is just you and I—

Land and sea, wind and sun,

Finding friends along the way

To help us remember to laugh and run and live without fear.

 

The destination which I’ll carry in my heart forever;

The memory of you bolsters my hope.

Because, for a little while,

I was as close to the top of the world that I’ve ever been.

And perhaps we’ll meet again,

my beloved Isle of Skye.

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You Are Significant

Do you even know? Can you see it? That glow inside of you that the world sees?

You’re doing all the things. You’re doing the best you can, and you’re pouring out your heart and soul into what you think matters.

And you think no one knows, that no one can even begin to know how hard you work…how high you strive…you may think no one knows what you’re up against or what you’ve battled to get to where you are now.  What they think doesn’t matter…there’s only one opinion that matters, and that’s of the One who made you…who formed you into the special person that you are.

You plug in each day, you try your best, and you keep showing up. You are amazing. Your grit may not be noticed by the passersby, but something within you still says, “Just keep going. You’ve got this.”

So, you persevere. Because the alternative is giving in to self-pity—and there is no time for that. You’ve got bills to pay and people to feed and laundry to do and lives to inspire.

The world needs you…needs your voice, your love…your joy.

Your light is shining for all to see…can’t you see it? I hope you do.

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An Image of Frustration

A man is shaking his fist at the indigo sky.  The horizontal lines gripping his forehead cram together as if it’s stuck in a trash compactor. The tight corners of his mouth dive down deep to meet his jawline. Tears pool and threaten to sprint past his hollow cheeks, dripping onto his shirt…his eyes are hauntingly desperate, his brow defeated with sweat.

But I see his strength in the bottom lip that quivers, like a table about to buckle because it’s been loaded with too much weight. As he struggles to yield to the hope which still exists within him, he breathes deeply and closes his eyes.  This torrent too shall pass.

For all those who are frustrated today, hang in there. Breathe. Pray. Choose to shake it off and focus on something that will make you smile. Or even better, something that will maybe make you laugh. Look for it.

The Lord says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

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