6 things I learned my First Year of teaching

What teaching has taught me the last 365 days:

(For the record, I’m an assistant teacher at Montessori Preschool)

1. Endure the hard days, Enjoy the great days.When you spend 8 hours a day with small humans (#preschoolteacher), your days are going to vary drastically because small humans are human too and have lots of emotions every day. One day can be horrible because no one is listening and and no one is cooperating. And the next day, you ask a child ONCE to do something and they excitedly agree and want to do more and more to help in the classroom.

 

2. You’re going to repeat yourself a lot. You’re going to repeat yourself a lot. I’m sure this is universal for teachers, but like, half my day is spent repeating myself. Whether its repeating instructions to the same child, or repeating the same instructions to different children. If you hate repeating yourself, teaching may not be for you.

 

3. Newfound Respect for teachers. My first few weeks of teaching opened my eyes to just how hard, rewarding, emotionally exhausting, physically demanding and amazing it is to be a teacher. I instantly wanted to hug all my teachers who poured so much into my life the last 18 years. Especially my middleschool teachers. (HOW DO YALL HANDLE ALL THE HORMONES AND THE LACK OF PERSONAL HYGIENE?) Whenever I meet someone and find out they are a teacher, I just want to hug them and say “You’re doing an amazing job” and I also want to hug them and ask “So you know how I feel, right?”

4. Patience, Patience, Patience, Patience….wait for it…..patience.   Even though these kiddos I’m around are 3-6 years old, I can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do. I have no control over them. Sure, I could do everything for them and it would be a lot faster. But then, at what cost? Their independence when they washed their own dish, or confidence when they rolled up their nap roll by themselves. It’s so imperative at this age to let children start doing things by themselves. And with that comes A LOT of patience. We have like 4 or 5 kids who take like 5 to 10 minutes to change their shoes after recess. But to watch them focus so intently and to see their eyes light up when they are done (some of them even say, I DID IT!!!) it’s worth every second.

5. Thighs of Steel and A Bladder of Stone. Yall, I was looking at my legs the other day and noticed a bump when I straightened my leg out, I think people call them muscles or something, I got thigh muscles now from standing all day. Also, my friends and I used to joke that I have a bladder the size of a peanut. But now, I can hold it like a boss. I didn’t really learn this while teaching, but its relatable, teachers can never pee, amirite?

6. An amazing Opportunity.  Where else in the world are you going to be entrusted with 20-150 kids, 8 hours a day, for 9 months of the year?  Sure, you are there to teach them material, make sure they pass that dumb STAR test, and help prepare them for kindergarten,  middle school, highschool, college, or their life ahead. But you are also given an amazing opportunity to impact these kids lives. I’ll never forget a few of my teachers who went far and beyond their job description to ensure my experience in their class was a great one. My 3rd grade teacher made the classroom fun and did not take herself too seriously. When her computer would freeze up, she’d talk to it and then hit it with her shoe and we’d all die laughing. My highschool band director said the funniest things, cared about us as people, and was a great listener. My college professors challenged me and encouraged me. My professors my junior year of college are extra special because they all worked with me on my assignments/exams when I was dealing with my parent’s separation/divorce. The great teachers I had in my life, inspire me to be a great teacher for these little ones.

 

I am embarking on another 365 days of teaching (#schoolopenallyear) and I am excited to learn more about myself, these small humans, and teaching.

 

You Don’t Define Who You are.

I got in my first argument with my mom when I was 3 years old. I wanted ice cream and so I went to my mom and said “Gungah,” which was what I called icecream when I was 3.Where on earth did I get the world gungah from? I have no clue. To this day, I’m still wondering if Gungah means icecream in any language on this planet.   That’ll always be a mystery, I guess. Anyways, so I’m standing there asking my mom for Gungah, and she responded: “Icecream, Marlie. You mean Icecream.”

“Gungah,” I retorted. Duh. Gungah. The cold creamy chocolate stuff that I get all over my face and hands. Gungah.

“Ice cream. Repeat after me: ICE….CREAM…”

“GUN…GAH….” I repeated again.

“No no no. if you want icecream you’re going to have to call it icecream. Let’s take it one word at a time. Say: ICE. Then Cream.”
“GUN….GAH.”

3 year old me was getting flustered. My mom says that I started to tear up a bit and my lower lip stuck out… and I murmured between sniffles, “Gun-gah???” And she caved due to my adorable blue eyes and bright blonde hair. And I got icecream🙂

I called it gungah for a year. Did me calling icecream by a different name alter or change the fact that icecream was called icecream? No. Bluebell didn’t recall all of its icecream (TOO SOON?) to change the labels from Blue Bell Icecream to Blue Bell Gungah. Just because I called it something different didn’t change the reality that it’s name is icecream. 

Tonight, we talked about identity. And we talked about all the different names we’ve called ourselves in our lives. I’ve called myself plenty of names, very unkind names, things I would never call other people. And when I start calling myself names, it always leads me into a dialogue…erm..argument with God.

“I really messed that up today. I’m a failure.” I said.

“No, you’re my Child and I love you.”

“Failure.”

“My child.”

“Fail…ure.”

“My…Child.”

If I wake up and feel like a failure and call myself that, God’s not going to be like “Oh snap. Thanks for correcting me.  You’re so right, Duh, you are a failure.” No. He’s going to grab my chin, lift it up and say “My child.”

I don’t define who I am, other people don’t define who I am, I am always and forever identified as a Child of God.My favorite song is Cornerstone by Hillsong United. And my favorite part is the last verse.

When He shall come with trumpet sound, oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in HIS righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.

No matter what I call myself, no matter what others call me, good or bad, I stand before God dressed in Christ’s robe of righteousness. I stand before God faultless, loved, co-heirs with Christ.

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

Colossians 1:22

 

Camp Agape 2016

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The world is shouting. Screams of pain, loss, tragedy, starvation, disease, injustice, shootings, disasters. The chaos hit particularly close to home when one of the officers who died in the Dallas shootings was a member at my church. Everything in me wanted to shut the world out, I felt hopeless, I felt useless, I felt worn out. The world shouts in pain  and just before I  decided to tune it all out, I arrived at Camp Buckner for my second year volunteering at Camp Agape. Camp agape is a bereavement camp for children who have had a family member die. I heard the cries, the shouts, the pain of these 34 children. And it was heart-shattering.

A room full of adults and children, candles in hand, tears flowing down cheeks. A young girl sings “You raise me up.” My body is covered in chills and I begin to cry. One by one we light a candle, and share the loved one we lost.It’s awkward, it’s hard, it’s surreal. I added a new name to the list this year, my best friend Katie. We barely get through all the names when the soft guitar music is beginning to be drowned out by sobs and even screams from children. A ripple effect ensues as children and adults realize that it is a safe place to cry, scream, shout, sit, stand, kneel. No one will tell them to stop, or to not talk about their loved one, or to “be strong.” Bless their hearts, this is not a time for strength. This is a time for them to grieve. And many do. Their losses are heavy. Children whose siblings drowned, died of cancer or committed suicide. Children with moms who died for health reasons, dads who died in car accidents. No one cried alone in that room, as campers and buddies trickled outside, no one sat alone. No one should grieve alone.

My camper had lost her oldest brother to suicide last year. The first night, before bed,the Buddy’s led devotionals with their campers. I’ll never forget her words, she said “I never got to say goodbye.” And a few minutes later, “I will never know why he did.that.” Death sucks, man. That next day she wrote on a balloon, during a forgiveness activity and released that heavy burden as she let the balloon go.  I wept as I saw the words “I forgive you for what you did, brother,” float up into the sky on that yellow balloon.

My camper loves animals, ketchup and was full of so many quick, witty one-liners. The first time I heard her say “Why run, when you can walk” made me laugh so hard, I doubled-over. One of my favorite moments was when I was telling her that during free time we could choose to swim or kayak. I was hoping she’d say swim, but I made sure she knew I was willing to do either. I said “Hey, so, today we can kayak during freetime or swim, it’s totally up to you.” Deep down i was saying PLEASE SAY SWIM, PLEASE SAY SWIM, ITS 100 DEGREES, PLEASE SAY SWIM. She said very matter of factly “Kayaking is A LOT OF WORK. Your arms get tired and you can’t even get in the water. I want to swim.” PRAISE THA LORD. We went swimming!  The joy she had despite her circumstances gave me hope.

We both drowned our food in ketchup (as she says, “If it’s not covered in ketchup, it needs more ketchup.) We both woke up like 10 minutes before it was time to leave and were ready in time (hair a bit messy, but we were ready!!) We both have brothers, we both love animals, hate running and loved to play Gaga ball. We also both have experienced losses due to suicide. I was her age when I lost my first friend to suicide. It was a beautiful experience to look at an almost 9 year old version of myself and pray with her, cry with her, laugh with her, sit with her, and encourage her.  To listen to one of the voices crying out in this broken world, and to be able to help give her the tools to grieve and to comfort her with the same comfort God has given me was a life-changing experience.

After my friend died in 2007, I found a quote that describes the grieving process so well, and it really captures what Camp Agape was like and so in spite of all my writing instincts, i’m going to end this here blog with a quote.

“Our hearts are heavy and light, we laugh and scream and sing, our hearts are heavy and light.” 

 

A letter from Your Flesh

Hello. Allow me to formally introduce myself, although, we are already well acquainted. My name is Flesh. I’m not talking about the tangible gross flesh that zombies eat.  I am flesh. Some call me human nature. Some call me sin. Call me whatever you fancy, I don’t care. I exist in every human being who has ever lived: the young, the old, the crippled, the olympic athletes, the singers, doctors, pastors and politicians. Your mom, dad, your baby cousin and you.

What do I do? Why do I exist? To make you happy. no matter the cost. I want you to get what you want, whenever you want, however you want. Why? Because, you are the most important person and you deserve all the happiness that this earth can offer. How do I do that? Well first let me clarify something.  A lot of people confuse the terminology of flesh. They think all I do is make someone look at porn, masturbate or have a lot of sex. Though, those are all things I do. You’re missing about 90% of my work, if that’s all you notice, my friends.

When you’re at work, and you’re doing the best you can but no one notices. I’m that little spark of anger and that first thought of “I deserve recognition.”

When you’re driving, and someone cuts you off, rides your tail, or goes 10 mph under the speed limit: I’m what makes you act like a raving lunatic.

When you’re at a party and you’ve had too many drinks already, I’m that voice that says “One more. It won’t hurt ya!”

And when you start to feel guilty,  for yelling at your coworkers/boss for not noticing your hard work, and you feel emotionally exhausted from always being so angry in the car, or when you wake up and realized you sent countless of texts to an ex in your drunken stupor. I’m rational voice in your head that justifies your yelling at work, enables your anger the car and stands by your drunk texts.

But don’t be fooled, I’m at work 24/7. In your mind as you fall asleep, I want you to plan out your life, because after all you are in TOTAL control and need to have a plan. I’m in your circle of friends, making sure you know that every event and every gathering needs to be about you and your life because you’re most important. And if that’s not the case, then good riddance, let’s find better friends.

I’m even at your church.  My boss man hates the stuff that goes on there. I make sure your mind wanders frequently during worship, and that if you do ever “feel into worship” that your next thoughts are about how great you are for being so “into worship” unlike all the other people around you. I basically turn the whole church thing into a show  for you , after all,this life is about you. People need to know how much you serve, how often you read that book, how giving and caring you are. Because then they’ll think you are awesome and that’s AWESOME.

Speaking of Boss man, I need to let you know something. A little secret. It’s a long story, an apple, a snake, two people, blah blah blah. But ultimately, I’m going to kill you. I want to kill you. Boss man hates you and He’s got me working for him double time to make sure you die. And I mean physical death, but also on all levels, He just wants ya dead. So sometimes, when I say I want you to be happy, most of the time it means I want you dead. But i’d never tell you that, because then you’d stop listening to me. And I’d lose my power. And boss man would get upset. So it works better for most of us, if you continue to just listen to me and obey. And forget we ever had this talk.

-Your Flesh

The Prodigal Cat

A few weeks ago, my sweet indoor kitty Stinkle ran away. I don’t know how, I don’t know when it happened, all I knew was that Stinkle was gone. I think she had gotten outside Monday night in the middle of a storm. It was really unlike her to bolt out the door and run down the street. The few times she’d been outside, she would immediately turn around and meow to get back in. The storm must have really spooked her.

With cats, it takes awhile to realize the cat is missing  because  cats love to hide indoors so I spent Tuesday looking inside the house for her. I looked in all of her favorite hiding spaces, I shook the dry cat food around the house (her favorite sound), I ran the automatic can opener (her other favorite sound). Nothing.   A strange mix of despair and panic crept over me as I was running out ideas and places to look in the house. Mom came home that night and acted as a second pair of eyes and confirmed that Stinkle was definitely not inside. It was Wednesday. Stinkle was outside and that’s all I knew.

I spent that morning and  afternoon walking up and down the streets calling her name, looking in bushes, talking to neighbors and  texting a lot of people to pray.  As I walked the streets over and over again, that same wave of panic and despair fell over me. I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, but I also wanted to ring every doorbell on the street and ask if they had seen Stinkle. As I looked for Stinkle, I knew there were three possibilities.
1) Stinkle was dead.
2) Stinkle was outside hiding somewhere.
3) Stinkle was inside someone’s home.

If she was dead, I prayed that I wouldn’t be the one to find her. If she was outside, I prayed that she would hear my voice and come. I didn’t even want to consider option 3. To think that someone would see my cat, let her into their home and keep her forever made me sick. She was mine. I adopted her, I named her, I raised her since she was a kitten, I loved her.

Thursday through Saturday I was out of town and couldn’t look for my cat. Luckily, I was kept pretty busy. Still no word of anyone finding her. We had put out fliers, and posted on every social media site possible. Sunday came and I was overwhelmed. A whole week without kitty snuggles, her purring in my ear or sitting on my feet as I read. Was this my new reality? If it was, I didn’t like it. I spent a lot of time that day begging God to bring Stinkle home. The shock/denial of her being gone was fading, and the anger had definitely set in. Luckily, I had church so I could pray forgiveness for the things I said to God in my car. (mostly kidding…but not really). That night I met with my community group and I talked about my cat, saying everything I said here. I choked back tears and we all prayed that Stinkle would come home.

After group, I started talking to someone and after our conversation I checked my phone. It was a text from my mom.

“She’s home!!!” And there was a picture of my cat eating food in the kitchen.

A few members of my community group were standing close by and I managed to squeak out one of their names and I said “SHE’S HOMEEEE. STINKLE CAME HOME.” and then instant bawling. Just lots of sobs of joy, and just an overwhelming feeling of relief.  My community surrounded me as I cried.  My cat was found a few houses down in someone’s backyard. They got in contact with my mom and the rescue mission ensued all while I was at church. After the longest drive home ever, I burst through the door and held my cat in my arms. She had dried up mud on her tummy and so I got a washcloth and scrubbed the mud off.

I really wrestle  with apathy. Specifically, apathy towards God. I am apathetic because I falsely believe that  God is apathetic towards me. I think I love the Prodigal son story because the Father is anything BUT apathetic as He sprints towards his son who has come home. In a  weird kind of way, I got to live the Prodigal son story through the eyes of the father this week. And as I experienced what it was like to lose my cat and  not know if she was dead, alive or lost forever, I experienced a small bit of what God must go through all the time. Here’s some things I learned.

God aches for you:  Whenever I thought about Stinkle (which was a lot that week she was missing) my heart literally hurt. I wanted her home so badly . How much more does God ache for those who are lost? God aches for you. When you find rest, comfort, your identity in anything other than Christ, it’s like you’re Stinkle living in someone else’s home. I thought about my life and how I’ve made gods out of myself, people, being liked, control and comfort. God is aching for me to return home to my First Love, and He is aching fro you to do the same.

God pursuits you: I spent several hours a day looking for Stinkle. I walked until I was too tired and needed to rest. When it wasn’t a physical battle, it was mental one.  I let despair win sometimes and I would stop looking.  God is pursuing you. He does not need rest and He will not give up. God became man and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He left all of Heaven’s glory, praise and perfection, for this measly place where there’s headaches, sunburns, blisters, rejection, fatigue, hunger and heartbreak. Nothing stopped Jesus from making away for you to be reconciled to God. Not even death on a cross. Not even death itself. What an amazing God.

God celebrates when you are found: If anything changed my view of God, it was all the emotion I felt when i got that text from my mom. I remember thinking “Gosh, if I feel this much joy and relief about a cat, how much more joy does God feel when sinners become saved?” There’s a party in Heaven every time someone accepts Christ, and for the longest time I thought that was weird and corny. But now,  man, I believe it and can’t wait to join in on that party. But until then, I want to give my life to make sure everyone knows that they are invited to this party  and that the creator of the Universe loves them way more than I love my cat (which is a lot guys)

 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:20-24

Dear Stinkle

Seven days ago, for some unknown reason, you (an indoor cat) decided to escape and run outside. You haven’t come home yet. And whether you come back tomorrow, or you’re gone forever,  I have a lot to say to you.  I know  you’re a cat and you can’t read. But, hey, I gotta process this stuff.

I got the awesome pleasure of naming you.  I looked up names and found Periwinkle which means, Sweet Remembrance. As a kitten,  Periwinkle was perfect. Overtime, you grew up and just became the weirdest cat I’ve ever had. I mean that in the nicest way possible. You purred all the time LIKE ALL THE TIME , you squawked instead of meowed, you had to be with me all the time,  even in the bathroom. You were such a unique kitty. For some unknown reason, you started gaining a lot of weight and you got that adorable chubby belly. That belly which stood between you and cleaning yourself, and thus you were nicknamed Stinkle. Even after you lost the weight, we still called you stinkle because it just fits your personality so well.

Whenever people would ask about my cats, I used to say “then there’s stinkle. she’s just weird.”  I remember the moment I stopped calling you ‘weird’, and started calling you ‘mine.’  It was when I realized after months of you sleeping with me, waking me up, following me around the house and up the stairs, that maybe you liked me a lot. And  that is something I’ve always wanted, an animal who loved me as much as I loved him or her. And believe me, we tried to find an animal that loved me back. We tried a dog, she followed my mom around. We tried a kitten, but he hated people and ran away. Then we found you! So, I started to embrace your weirdness.  I looked forward to going upstairs to my room, because every night you’d chase me up the stairs (or beat me up there) and make sure I was following you to my room. I looked forward to sleeping because I knew you’d make a bed on my back, or right next to me while I slept. When friends would ask about my cats,   I would say “then there’s stinkle, she’s my kitty.”

I miss you rolling around on the floor on your back. I miss you annoying me while I was trying to read on my bed (believe me, now, I’d put the book down and pet you.) I miss your constant purring in my ear as I slept, that stuff was like white noise and it’s so quiet at night now. I miss making fun of your little belly that flapped around whenever you ran around the house. I miss taking a nap/snuggling with you in the afternoon to avoid my adult responsibilities.

There’s always some sense of guilt when I’m sad about losing an animal, I’m tempted to tell myself “It was just a cat.” Because there are people out there who have said that to me in the past. Stinkle wasn’t just a cat and for animals lovers out there I know you understand. But for those who don’t,  Man, I feel bad for them. There’s truly something unique about the bond between animal and human. It’s love without words, it’s unconditional love: I loved her even when she decided to pee in my bath tub for a month, and she loved me even when I pushed her off my bed when I was annoyed by her. It’s those  moments like when I was crying one day, and she jumped on my bed,   laid down on my chest and purred. As if she was saying, “It’s okay. You’ll be alright.”

My heart hurts. Even though you could come back any day, it doesn’t make waiting any easier. I’ve done my fair share of pleading with the Lord the last few days as the denial/shock of what’s happened fades. It’s nearly impossible to think that I might not see you again. But we won’t think like that, because that’s too sad. If nothing else, I had the extreme pleasure to love and to be loved by a cat for 7 amazing years.

Stinkle, the door is always open. Your brothers miss you (yes, even Phantom). Come home, your favorite blanket awaits.

Love,

Your Human Marlie. 12071050_716166628517651_1354363181_n

 

 

A love like Gravity

Sometimes at recess, the kiddos drag me into their pretend games. One girl and I decided we were going to fly into space. “3…2…1…BLASTOFF!!!” She yelled gripping the monkeybars (our rocketship). She began to swing back and forth. A few moments later, we had landed on a foreign planet. She hopped off the monkey bar and said “come on ms marlie! Let’s go!” She started walking around, and I said “Wait a sec. You’re in space! you have to float around, there’s no gravity in space!” (Sometimes I forget these are 4 &5 year olds.) “What’s gravity??” She asked. “It’s what keeps your feet on the ground when you’re on earth.” She blinked a few times and continued to explore the planet.

I spent the rest of that recess pondering that conversation. None of those kids knew anything about gravity, yet, there they were totally being held to the planet by  gravity.  We don’t do anything without gravity effecting us. It doesn’t change based on our mood, our circumstances or our ability to acknowledge or understand it. It just is. All of Earth is effected by gravity. every person and creature.

One time during school, a girl and I were talking about all the people who love her. she began to list the people:  “my Mommy loves me. My daddy loves me. My sister loves me.” I asked her: “You know who else  loves you?” “Who?” she asked. “God loves you!” “Why?” she asked. ‘Because He made you!” I responded. She blinked a few times and continued to list other people who loved her.

I spent the rest of the day pondering that conversation. None of those kids could grasp just how much God loved them, yet, there they were totally being loved and cherished by the Lord. We don’t do anything without God’s love effecting us. God’s love does not change based on our mood, our circumstances, or our ability to acknowledge or understand His love. He just loves because He is love. All of Earth is effected by His love, every person and creature.

His love, like gravity, is unwavering despite man’s depravity. I was going to write a poem instead of a blog post about this idea. But I couldn’t come up with anymore rhymes. So there’s a one-lined poem  for you. But seriously. The gravitational pull doesn’t change day to day, it’s not based on your actions or beliefs. You don’t experience more gravity one day, and less gravity the next. It’s constant. So is the Lord’s love. He has loved you and will always love you as much as He does right now which is more than we can fathom. The Lord’s love has nothing to do with us earning, or deserving love. But it has everything to do with God who IS love, who wants a relationship with us. Gravity doesn’t do much more than just keep you on the ground. The Lord’s love saves you, gives you hope, transforms you to be more like Christ. My prayer for you and for myself, echoes that of Paul’s.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17b-19