Monday, January 26, 2015

Sunday Morning Epiphanies...on Monday Night

These are the words to one of my absolute favorite songs we sing at Covenant Presbyterian. Come to Chicago and check it out if you want a morning of meaningful, beautiful worship.

I love it, and hope you would too. Check out the lyrics, they speak to my life in so many ways:


As a deer in want of water, so I long for you, O Lord.
All my heart and being falter, thirsting for your living word.
When shall I behold your face? When shall I receive your grace?
When shall I, your praises voicing, come before you with rejoicing?

Bitter tears of lamentation are my food by night and day. 
In my deep humiliation "Where is now your God?" they say.
When my sorrows weigh on me, then I bring to memory
how with throngs I would assemble, shouting praises in your temple.

O my soul, why are you grieving why disquieted in me?
Put your hope in God, believing he will still your refuge be. 
I again shall praise his grace for the comfort of his face;
he will show his help and favor for he is my God and Savior.


Aren't they amazing words? I feel like this is the inner dialogue in my heart most of the time when it comes to my spiritual life. It seems not very brave or sure of myself at all, because, well, that is kind of what I am: not all that brave or sure of myself. I think that's why this one resonates so deeply with me. Here's the cycle I follow fairly perpetually:

I go from waiting impatiently: When shall I behold your face? When shall I receive your grace? Basically I get sick of being a faithful follower of Jesus and want to take shortcuts. Why can't I have a payoff? Where's my blessing? Why is this life so hard? Why can't these choices be easier? 

To despair and doubts: In my deep humiliation "where is now your God?" they say. Is God even there? Does He even still speak to us? Where is he? 

To snapping out of it: O my soul why are you grieving, why disquieted in me? Wait, Anna, you know this. God is here, and he is working. Just open your eyes. 

To being a little bit braver than before: He will show his help and favor for he is my God and Savior.  I can face today. If He's really in charge, I can do today. 

Rinse, and repeat. 

Anybody have the illusion that Christians have it all together? Or are any more confident in themselves than anyone else? Or know what to do when they feel tired, weary, unsure, and worried?


I am just as confused, weak, and scared as anyone. I know better than to hope in myself. That's not going to do any good.

My hope is in God, my only refuge. He is the song I can sing. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Shake It Off

Today I got a missed call and a voicemail from my dad. I love when that happens.

His voicemail was 15 seconds of the radio cranked and him singing along to T-Swift's "Shake It Off," following an explanation that thanks me for introducing him to this song. He explains how he's going to incorporate it into his personal philosophy:

"That's my new motto. If there's a problem, I just SHAKE IT OFF!"

He thanked me for the CD Brian and I made for him featuring the song and exclaimed the above sentiment for me to re-listen anytime I need a pick-me-up.

Happy Tuesday, friends.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Teacher Drama

I type these words to you from my couch. It is 10:05 in the morning. On a regular Friday, my kids would have already had 100 minutes of class time, read with partners, learned in a guided reading group, taken a spelling test, completed an end-of-week reading assessment, and would be currently getting their snow pants and jackets on for morning recess. As much as I wish every Friday could be as productive as that, this Friday I'm awfully glad to be typing on my couch.

Let me tell you about the psyche of a teacher during weeks with treacherous weather. You have a back-and-forth series of emotions strong enough to give you whiplash. This is kind of how it went for me this week:

1. On Sunday night the Husband casually mentions that it's going to be below zero on Wednesday this week. You get sudden flashbacks of two blissful cancelled school days from last year, which you spent making silly trips to Target for frivolous things with your roommates, watched 9.5 straight hours of television, read an entire book, followed a 30-minute youtube yoga video to feel like you'd actually done something productive, and never changed out of your pajamas. Sweet nostalgia fills your mind and you start to hope that maybe, just maybe, you'll be able to indulge your indulgent side again to start out this new year.

2. You proverbially slap yourself and snap out of it, remembering the plans you've made, the ready-and-waiting classroom that's full of learning materials, and the end of year goals your kids have to reach. HOW ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO GET BACK INTO THEIR ROUTINE WITHOUT A NORMAL SCHEDULE?! You start to actually want school to go as scheduled, no, you start to NEED school to go as scheduled. You have too much to do.

3. Monday and Tuesday go by, cold but not too cold, and you are into the swing of regular routines and procedures, you realize how much you missed your kids, and feel ultra productive after having two weeks off for Christmas break. You get observed. It goes well. You feel like Super Teacher and accomplish a million things, including a health screening for life insurance, making dinner, and running on the treadmill before going to bed at a responsible hour. You are very nice to the Husband.

4. At said responsible bedtime hour, the Husband reveals that his school is, in fact, cancelled for Wednesday due to cold temperatures. Your school, in fact, is not cancelled for Wednesday. You turn into a whiny child who feels entitled to days off of work for no reason. You may or may not cry a little. He is nice about not rubbing it in your face that he doesn't have to go in to work when you do.

5. You self-righteously say goodbye to the Husband the next morning and carry on with your school day, surrounded by vacant area schools, Calvin Christian School the lone reed in a sea of quitters. You call yourself and your students "tough" for coming to school against all odds, valuing education above all else, braving cold and winds and treacherous roads (side note: the roads aren't really that bad) for the sake of your children's minds. You scroll through Facebook and mercilessly judge everyone who stayed home from school today, knowing that you've accomplished so much more than most of America alongside of the smartest kids ever. You rub this in to the Husband just a little. You even go to a dentist's appointment to prove your valor.

6. You repeat this process for Thursday, the coldest day yet this week. Nothing can stop you. You are SO GLAD that we didn't cancel school and tell this to your coworkers.

7. While making copies during your prep period, you hear murmurs from the office of a potentially cancelled Friday due to bus issues. The prideful feelings of #5 and #6 melt and give way to a desperate desire to stay in your pajamas all day tomorrow. No official word of a closing comes before you leave for the day. The roads actually are that bad on the commute home and it takes over an hour to get there. You start to bitterly make dinner. You are not very nice at all to the Husband, who innocently asks how the day went. You are grumpy for the next few hours, inexplicably. You may or may not cry a little.

8. The call and group text goes out from your principal that Friday, is indeed, cancelled due to bus issues. You are a little embarrassed at how excited you are about bus issues. You are ashamed of being happy. You sheepishly tell the Husband that you have school cancelled Friday, knowing that he has a full day ahead of him. You stop being totally mean to the Husband, who is not in fact responsible for the weather or for school being closed or for school staying open.

9. You wake up on Friday at 8:30, after an additional three hours of glorious sleep. You come to your senses and realize you have not been so nice to the Husband this week. You send an apology text, offering to start his laundry today and buy him some beer as a peace offering. He responds with an "I love you" and you remember to stop blaming him for things like the weather. He doesn't rub it in that you were crabby. Not even a little. You promise him that you will be more mature in the future, then go to the couch and turn on Netflix.

In conclusion: Teachers like routine, but they love missing school. Also, Brian is the nicest husband.

The fruits of my laundry labor.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On Lists and Saying "Yes"

I think I can safely say that Brian and I had a great time for New Year's Eve. We went out to a place in Wicker Park with Brian's college friends and my life friends (isn't it cool how you can adopt other people's college friends?) for dinner, drinks, conversations, and scrabble. A few of us even started the dance floor, which I'm not sure was really meant to be a dance floor, but a floor was present and we danced on it nonetheless. 

I was thinking about New Year's and how much I love the beginning of new things, fresh starts, and how much I always love to make New Year's Resolutions. A chance to make a list, you say? Sign me up! I make them every year. I even beat New Year's to the punch by making Birthday Resolutions each year. Yet, sometimes, I feel like these resolutions resound with the tone of Self Deprivation. Running, diets, yoga classes, bedtimes, water consumed, handwritten notes sent, and achievements reached are all forged out of some sort of intense gritting-of-the-teeth. Discipline. (Oh how I wish I was more disciplined!) When I inevitably fail to complete something on the list, then, this cycles me downward pretty quickly into feeling guilty, shaming myself, and needless stress. 


Instead of adding to that already-25-items-long-list that I made on my birthday, I decided to back off the resolutions a bit this year and give the to-do-lists a break. Lists are my weakness (do you notice that on the right hand side of this very blog the most common topic for my blog posts are lists?) and while they are helpful for organizing this scattered mind of mine, sometimes they need to just be set aside. A little less gritting of the teeth. Maybe I'll return to the list of resolutions another year, but I think 2015 will be a good year for taking a break.

2014 was a year of lists. Planning our wedding. Finishing grad school. Finishing Teach for America but continuing with my career in teaching. Finding a new job. Setting up a new classroom. Finding a new apartment. Changing my name. There were lots of things to complete on lots of to-do lists. They were all wonderful things. I want to do healthy, good, and loving things not because they've appeared on my list of obligations, but because I know they are healthy, good, and loving in and of themselves. I just want to take a break from approaching life in a theme of forcing myself away from bad things, always in self deprivation, and more toward consistently embracing what is truly good. Of course I want to run more, sleep well, choose kindness, pray daily, and live fully. For this year, though, maybe there doesn't have to be a list present in order for those things to happen. Change and improvement doesn't have to be forced, and it surely doesn't need to involve guilt when a mark is missed.

Maybe growth doesn't have to come from a place of deprivation, of saying "no" to all the wrong things, but from a place of saying "yes" to the right things: to peace, renewal, and the good. I know God can speak into my life without all of my lists, and this year I'm going to give Him a chance to do it. 

Stuff Students Say: December Edition

Okay, so yes, it is technically January. And yes, I am going to write two posts in one day because I forgot to post them while it was still officially December. But then I remembered I can do whatever I want on this blog because it's mine! How wonderful. Here's a few gems from December AKA THE MONTH OF CHRISTMAS CRAZY WHEN TEACHERS GO TO SLEEP AT 8:30 PM.

But first things first, do yourself a favor and listen to my kids along with the first graders reciting Luke 2 by clicking on this sentence. 

Student: I have two cats. 
Me: Oh you've never mentioned that you've had pets before. What are their names?
Student: Grace and Mercy. But Grace is dead.

(At recess.)
I stopped a tornado today. 

(Reading a book about Benjamin Franklin.)
Student: Scientists must be so smart if they can create lightning. 
Me: Actually, lightning was already created, it already existed. The scientist in this case discovered that electricity was present in the lightning bolt because it charged the key attached to the kite he was flying.
Student: Woah. You must be a scientist or something. 

Did you know that Christmas is named after Jesus Christ? GET IT?....CHRIST?! CHRIST-MAS! 

(I was playing classical music while they worked quietly.)
Is this called classy music?

Okay is your husband accepting Christmas gifts such as cookies?

Me: We all can think of ways to be more helpful to others. For example, can you think of a way to be helpful to your mom or dad?
Student 1: I help my mom by folding the towels.
Student 2: I help my mom by setting the table.
Student 3: I help my mom by leaving her be alone sometimes and not disturbing her.