Tuesday, August 09, 2016

On the first day of school

If the first day of school is any indication how the year will go, this year will be even tougher than year one.
My day started so well- I got to watch the sunrise (and, of course, cry. You would think I would eventually get over it and stop crying at the sunrise but y'all it is my weakness #beccacriesatthesunriseagain), I got to see all my sweet babies again, I got to have my coffee and a good breakfast, and I had an awesome lunch packed. And even while I was at school it wasn't awful. It was during the drive home that it all hit me.
The behavior problems are still behavior problems, they didn't grow up and magically mature over the summer (or move away) like I had hoped. The huge gaps we have in front of us make leaping seem impossible. The whole state is talking about MY school system, MY babies, MY community in the worst way (if you are curious about that, just google JPS audit 2015/16 and I'm sure it will come up).
I found myself wondering if a drastic change is even possible, and then I remembered my morning.

"Your love is all-consuming. YOU NEVER STOP PURSUING. Nothing I can face could take it away, oh Your love!
Your love is like no other, nothing else satisfies! It flows through the deepest waters, it rests on the mountains high. Your love is overwhelming, brought me to life again! Your love, it will last forever, in You there will be no end!"

Why do we accept the darkness of this world as fact? Why do I assume that my kids are stuck the way they are, and drastic positive changes are impossible? I'm sick of it. I'm sick of feeling like our margin of growth is doomed to be tiny. I'm sick of hearing people talk about Jackson Public Schools as if it is the bane of Mississippi education's existence.
We have our problems, we have our weaknesses, we have plenty of room for growth. As humans, as a school, as a district, as a state, as a nation.
But why do we just accept that and live with it weighing us down? Why don't we try to grow?
Sure, it hurts like hell. I couldn't talk to anyone for my first hour home from school cause my heart hurt so much. I ugly-cried and hyperventilated for another 30 minutes after that. It's not fun.
But I'm tired of accepting the "now" as "forever", personally and for my students.
His love is big enough to change me, to change us, to change history. If His love is big enough to RESURRECT, literally, then why do we live as though that power doesn't exist? If His love is big enough to RESURRECT, then it can change my heart, and trickle down to my students' hearts. It can change mindsets and lives.
It may take a lot of tears- I'm ready to give that.
It may take a lot of time- I'm less ready to give that, but will do whatever is necessary.
It may take a lot of effort- more than I, selfishly, am prepared to give.

It will take more of me than I would like for it to. But that's teaching. That's love. That's LIFE.

I'm so tired of seeing these happy teacher posts. I'm not often a happy teacher.
If you ask my how my school or job is, I will tell you honestly and enthusiastically- I LOVE MY JOB. every day is a challenge, some days I just go home and cry, but I love it.
Loving it doesn't mean I'm always happy about it or a cheerful giver of time and effort and love. But I'm sure as heck gonna try. I'm not going to give up or walk out because it's "tough". There's too much of that in the world already.

Let's keep trying. Let's be persevering. Let's stop using our tongues to tear one another down, and use them to build each other up. Let's be willing to accept change and try things a new way. Let's not mark anyone off the list of CAPABLE or WORTHY or LOVELY. Let's just give a bit more of ourselves and see what becomes of it. Just grab a little bit of hope and start walking into the day clinging to Him.

“The Lord takes pleasure in those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy and loving-kindness.” Psalm‬ ‭147:11‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Yeah, if today is any indication for how the year will go, it will tear my heart out even more than last year did. It will require more of me; it will be tougher than last year, but it will also be more rewarding than last year. I am determined to find and cultivate growth everywhere I can this school year.
It's gonna be a long ride through the darkness, but I bet the sunrise at the end will be spectacular.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

inspired by a new picture in an old frame

hello, virtual readers. it's been a pretty minute since I slipped some words into this space, but it felt like the right time. it's funny how for a season, a couple years ago, I felt like I had nothing but words. They poured out of my fingertips onto the keyboard- into emails and blips of google docs- and slipped from my pen in journal entries and letters and little jots here and there. They pulled me along as they flew out of me, I think.

and now they don't, not so much at least. not as easily. they drift around me a lot. maybe I just keep them to myself more now. maybe I finally learned how to store things up and ponder them in my heart. maybe it's good, maybe it's not.

so here I am, with some words. whether they are important or not is not up to me to say, but I'm glad you've kept reading this far. stay a little more, please.

I just did a tiny thing that felt really monumental, and I'm quite emotional about it.
I changed out a picture in a frame. I put the frame in a place I look every morning. (then cried.)

to explain why this is monumental, I have to backtrack a good bit, so please bear with me.

summer of 2014. specifically, the beginning of august. I had been dating Casey Key for nearly four blissful months.

(somehow a lot of things come back to this. I want to go ahead and clarify that this is not because of Casey. I love that man dearly, and I love our story, but not because of him or me or us. things don't revolve around that because of us. 
things revolve around it because it's a turning point on my heart's journey to the Lord. 
Casey is a huge part of my life because Jesus is a huge part of Casey, and of my relationship with him.)

so after four months, I thought we were kinda serious- at least I was serious about it. in all honesty, I knew six days into dating him that he was the only person I ever wanted to date or kiss or love.
for him, figuring it out wasn't that fast. I'm glad it wasn't.
anyway, I fly with his mom to Houston to pick him up from working at PineCove for 6 weeks. this was during the season I had a lot of words, therefore I had written him 42 letters, one for every day. I had also mailed him a lock of my hair, but that's beside the point.
during this time in Houston, I met his mom's birth mother (this is important and you'll see why in a minute). we picked Casey up from camp; I was smitten, he was less than thrilled to see me. we drove back to his house, talking about his family and hearing stories of his parents dating and all that fun stuff. so many times on that trip, I thought, "I just want to be part of this family."

we get back, talk a bit, and all part ways to get some sleep. the next morning we all go to his parents' church together. once there, Casey doesn't talk to me, doesn't get very close to me, doesn't hold my hand or lay his arm across the back of the pew. we get Cane's for lunch and take it home. we eat with minimal talking. Casey seems very off, and i'm internally freaking out. I ask him if I should just go ahead and drive home, he says "yeah I think that would be good."

the alarms in my heart start blaring.
I knew. this was it.
he walks me to my car, muttering about dragonflies. he opens my door, I get in, he gives me a peck that I don't reciprocate.
I immediately regret it and give him a decent peck back. I close the door and drive away and cry most of the way home.
I try not to act like anything is wrong. I tell myself "he was just tired". I don't let myself cry at first.
a few days later I ask him if everything is okay with us; he won't answer me.
"can we just wait and talk about it in person when I get back in town sunday?"
I write a sad song, I say "fine."

I wait and wait and wait. the slowest week of my life.
I call my mom on sunday and cry for hours. I knew it was coming. I tried to tell myself, "we're not about to break up." I tried to suck up my tears and be happy and go to dinner with friends.
He texts me, "can I come over?" at 9 PM.
He comes over.
He's wearing yellow.
He gives me a sad smile and it takes so much of me to keep from crying.
Liv leaves us alone to talk downstairs.

He says a lot of things I don't remember.
I force myself to look him in the eyes the whole time.
I force myself to not say anything, not guessingly finish any of his thoughts, let him say what he means.
I don't cry.
he talks a lot and I remember none of it, just the look on his face. just seeing my refrigerator behind him. just shaky insides.
he ends with saying he guesses this means we are breaking up for good.
I ask a few questions, I still don't let myself cry, I sit and stare a bit. I try to breathe the thick, awkward air between us, but it hurts my chest.
he asks if he can pray for me.

he holds my hands. I want to pull them away but he holds them.
he utters a sentence and my shaky insides burst. I cry big alligator tears, bigger than I had cried in many years.
my tears fall on the backs of his hands, I remember that part so vividly.
when the first one drops he pauses his prayer and says "don't cry, please" so shakily, but I can't stop. he keeps praying. I think he cried some on the inside.

"Amen." we look at each other. I'm crying. he wells up. I sniffle my tears in a little. we stand up, awkward goodbye, i don't even want to hug him but I do.
he leaves me with a note on yellow paper, "don't read it until I leave."

he walks out. I walk to the kitchen table and sit. I open the letter.
it feels like I disintegrated in that moment.
heaving sobs and trying to read through my tears and wanting to hate him but having no reason to.
"it seems that our relationship may be coming to a halt..."
"I can't give you what you need right now as a boyfriend..."
"Please keep loving like you do. seriously, scare people by how evident your love is for them."

I call my mom and tell her. I'm surprised she could make out any words through the sobs. I walk upstairs and fall on liv's bed and tell her and cry and cry.
I cry myself to sleep. I wake myself up crying. I cry in the shower, I try to stop, I tell myself "you can cry now, but when you start blow drying your hair, you have to stop." I blow dry my hair. I cry some more.
I text close heart-friends and tell them, and I cry at their responses. So much love, and support, and loyalty.

For three days, I managed not to cry in public, but I would walk in my front door and sit on the piece of my couch he sat on, and cry and stare at the wall. for hours.
I would run to the bathroom at the school I was student teaching at, just so I could let a few tears slip out when they needed to.
I cried every day for months. I hated seeing him.
I wanted to hate him, I wanted to be mad, but I just kept loving him, and that was worse.
I vowed to myself that I would love people so much that it scared them, and I reminded myself of that every morning.
I started writing.
I wrote 30 pages of what will hopefully someday become a book.
I would always start out being sad, and it would turn into me realizing how much I loved him. how willing I was to be stabbed in the heart by God's will for our relationship.

That was the first time I had ever died to my self. You hear in church about "dying to self," and "denying self," and that kind of stuff. it was all just jargon before that. I thought I knew what it meant, but I didn't.
I finally, then, learned what it was. it wouldn't have happened if Casey had not been listening to God's heartbeat. I hate that part of the story. I hate that it had to happen, but I'm so thankful for what that season did to each of our hearts separately.

we were 'apart' for six months, but we stayed best friends. after the first week of silence, we texted daily. we met every couple of weeks for coffee and life-chats that still lasted a minimum of three hours. we still talked about the hard things, the deep things, the us things. we chose the hard and holy choices. we stayed close.

in a moment that was nothing short of miraculous, after six months apart, Casey told me he still cared about me. I shared my feelings too. We realized we didn't want to date other people. We talked and prayed about it for a couple weeks, just to make sure we weren't jumping back into something because it was easy. we sought wise counsel.
then we came back together and said, "Yep. this is it."

our story didn't stop there, but that chapter ended and another began. We're very different people now than we were two augusts ago, or than we were when we got back together, or than we were a month ago. God moves our relationship closer to Him a bit more each day, and some days I hate how difficult it is. But goodness, am I thankful for our season apart and our seasons since then.

NOW, here we are. two augusts later. two thousand sixteen. it feels like lifetimes have gone by.
and yet the other day, God gave us the strangest way for this part of our story to come full-circle.

it was saturday, we were at his house for his brother's graduation and going-away party. his mom's biological mom (the one I had met in Houston) came to town for it. It was the first time I had seen her since That Weekend in 2014. when we were alone, I commented to Casey "isn't it crazy that it's been almost exactly two years since I first met Sheila? the last time I saw her was That Weekend." he agreed, we talked about how glad we were for that season to have existed, and to be done. I thought that was the end of it.

later that night we sat at opposite ends of the table during a family card game. something ticked in me, and my heart started shaking again. it felt just like that time when we sat at the table after church and he wouldn't look into my eyes.
later that night, I got weird about it and we talked about it and I realized I'm just going to be a mess this August. last year I was consumed with first-year teaching prep, too much to realize anything else going on around me. this year, the memories of 2014 started drowning me.
I cried and he comforted me and we prayed together, and the next morning I assumed I was fine.

We went to church with his parents. I started being startlingly aware of the similarities in "this time in 2014" and now.
We sat on the same row.
But this time he looked at me. He said my name the way he does (he doesn't even know he says it a certain way), the way his eyes crinkle in the middle of it. He held my hand and squeezed it and saw my eyes fill with tears at the memories, and offered his shoulder to cry on. He stuck by my side and held my hand, even when I shrunk away and tried not to hold his because the memories hurt.

After church, we were planning to return home and eat leftover pizza, but I asked his dad what the lunch plans were anyway.
"I think pizza, but we may stop by Cane's and pick up some chicken too."

I laughed out loud. I looked at Casey and said, "OF COURSE!"
Nothing else would make sense. God was flashing this in front of my face and I couldn't help but laugh. I was weird most of the afternoon though, and I tried to pull away from Casey, like I do when I want to be alone in my hurt and not bother him with my heaviness.
We finally had some time alone to talk, and I let out my big tears again, about how much it hurt to see this in front of my face again, about how scared I was that things would be too similar to 2014.

I kind of wish I could share Casey's heart in those moments. He is nothing but the most loving, tender, patient human in the face of my panic and worry. I love many things about him, but that part of him is one of my favorites. I am so glad God gives him the strength and patience and grace to love me well, especially in those times.
Casey always soothes me and helps me breathe again in places I never realize I have been gasping for air.

And to finish off that circle, I left my hug-pillow at Casey's house accidentally. My hug-pillow is the one I hug closer at night when I miss Casey and wish he could be beside me.
When I drove back from the Key house and realized I had left the hug-pillow behind, light-hearted laughter bubbled out of me and it felt like an agonizing leading-tone chord had finally resolved back to tonic.
How perfectly wonderful that this time, the only thing I left at Casey's house was a pillow, and not our relationship.

and now, back to the tiny thing that felt so monumental:
I rediscovered my favorite picture frame tonight; in it was a picture of my favorite day of the 2012 London semester program.
I took the frame from the dusty windowsill it hid on, and dusted it off. I opened up the back of it and took out the old picture, and put a new one in.

And then I remembered how much it hurt to leave London behind. To move on without something that I loved so dearly, with only a vague promise of returning someday.
So I whispered a "thank you" to my Jesus, who has heard my heart these many times over these many days.

"Thank you for taking some things away, for letting them die. Thank you for bringing them back to life and finishing the circle."

welcome to midnight.

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