Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Best Intentions

I was thinking to myself of how I had the itch to write something, then checked my blog and realized it's been two weeks since I've sat down to write anything with any kind of intention! No wonder the itch. No wonder the messy brain. No wonder the lack of focus. That's what you get for slacking, Anna. Do you have that one thing that you need to do in order to think clearly? Is it running? Or perhaps cooking? Maybe reading? Mine happens to be writing, even in silly little spurts like I am now.

I wouldn't dream of calling this post a piece of writing with intention, but it is a piece of writing nonetheless and it is mine. Even if it's unintentional. It's just going to blurt out however it comes. I have a random mess of jumbled thoughts in my brain that can only start with that very word: intentional.

Intentional is the favorite label that Christian-college-students use to describe everything. An intentional spiritual life. An intentional dating relationship. An intentional dorm life culture. Once, after I was out of college, I came into contact with this kind of thinking. I went on a few dates with a guy who said he wanted to "date me intentionally." I thought, "Well, that's nice! I'm not sure what that means. I would hope that you're dating me on purpose, but it sounds very respectful!" It turns out, in that case, that it was a weird reason to make dating kind of like what I would imagine "courting" to be and it was all too Duggar for my tastes. (No diss to the Duggars. I just can't weather the floor-length denim skirts. I like wearing pants! And tank tops! And I don't want 26 children!) All in all, "dating intentionally" felt a little weird...sort of like I was supposed to never cut my hair again and get really into quilting. It was over pretty quickly. Six months later, a guy named Brian asked me out. I suppose he did call me intentionally, but it wasn't all weird, and I liked how that worked out much better.

Unintentional food bliss at Dimo's in Wicker

I am trying, though, in my life, to be more intentional about things, so that stuff doesn't just happen for no reason, or by default, but rather by choice. My teaching, when I first started out, was not intentional. It was haphazard. Things just happened because they happened and there wasn't a lot of design going into the interworkings of my day. Now, my classroom is a place I absolutely love to be. My kids love it and I love it. I think through most of where I want everyone to be and how I want things to go. I'm clear with my kids about those intentions and we work hard on it together to follow through. This third year in the classroom has been like a breath of fresh air for me: I've realized that with just a few explicitly agreed upon intentions, my entire classroom culture can be successful both in academic growth and in the ways we treat each other.

Here's the two problems I'm finding, though, about being intentional. First, a lot of unintentional things are so fun! (See: random pizza place we tried in Wicker Park last weekend. Not in the plan, but definitely the best thing that could've happened.) Although I don't think that living with intention means that you can't embrace spontaneity. The second, and biggest problem? It takes so much work! I'm finding that this year's intentions with my teaching have been a success. Of course I have a million things yet to learn about teaching, but I feel really good about what I've put together and what I'm trying to do every day at work. Now ask me about my devotional life this year. Or the pile of unfolded laundry that's been growing into different shapes over the past few weeks. There are tons of great intentions for those areas of my life, too, but I just don't have the mental real estate available to manage them right now. I've been wanting to write more often, but the intentions there can't happen when my mind is swirling with guided reading plans, our solar system unit, and how to teach prepositional phrases to seven-year-olds. I'm in the middle of all of that and my overwhelmed mind just can't take the freaking 15 minutes or whatever it takes to fold the dumb laundry.

I don't think it's a surprise that so many wandering souls and hipster English majors are drawn to Thoreau's concept of living deliberately. There is something so captivating about the concept of knowing that you lived a life, and that the life didn't live you.

I'm hoping, that with time, God can start to work through my intentions to expand that mental real estate so that every movement of my day, from the laundry to the lessons to the letters I type, can be on purpose. Can be deliberate. Can be intentional. Maybe a big part of being in your twenties means excavating different spheres of life to make them closer and closer to being intentional. I'd like everything I do, my relationships, my work, my joy, my movements, my words, my breathing, to all be deliberate. Maybe that's not something I'll master by the time I'm out of my twenties, either. Perhaps it's more of a lifelong kind of thing.

I think it is a worthy endeavor.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


About a month ago, I had the privilege to be a guest at Beth's (my mother-in-law!) ministry group's retreat. She started a women's ministry, called Woven, with two of her best friends. They are the cutest three ladies ever and also some of the smartest. I was never the "women's ministry" kind of person in the past, not for any reason in particular other than ignorance. I've never actually been on a retreat with any church in my adulthood since high school, so I had no idea what this weekend would be like. I'm so thankful I was able to go.

I was invited there along with Rachel and Michal, two of my favorites, as we listened to Beth and her friends, Julie and Kim, lead us in thinking and praying and sharing. (Two years ago, I didn't know any of the three people in the picture below. Now, I consider them all to be my family. How cool is that?!) It was so good to be alongside of them.


The weekend's theme was Unshakable. The whole idea, or at least what I took away from it, was to ponder the times in life when we are shaken, even in those first-world-problem ways like anxiety and discontent (because those are extremely real storms to weather nonetheless!), and how to position ourselves spiritually in a posture of readiness and gratefulness for any storm we experience, in light of the reality of who God is. I think it is a beautiful thing to talk about. Anyone can list off the Proverbs 31 cliches, call it a Women's Bible study, and make us feel endlessly guilty about not measuring up. I think it is incredible when someone can drop the fronts and get honest about the hard things. The things that suck. The things we can't explain or don't want to explain or can't face. I love that our God is concerned with flailing, struggling, shaken people. It's kind of awesome to acknowledge that not measuring up is sort of part of the gig of all human beings, and that the only one who can fix anything happens to be the one who endlessly loves us and holds the world in his hands.


One of the coolest parts of the whole shebang was the feature of a Prayer Room. The room was centered around Psalm 46 (...which was read at our wedding! ...and one of my all time favorites!) and was so timely for me. I think it was timely for our world too. The mountains can be shaking, nations can be in uproar, kingdoms can be falling, and we, little old us? We need only to be still. We need only to know who God is. In the end, it seems, knowing God is what this is all about. Knowing God helps us orient ourselves to understand who we are, why we're here, and allows us a small view into redemption beyond terrible things like cancer, depression, fights, hurt, death, and sorrows.

Beth said herself that this weekend, though titled Unshakable, does not mean you actually won't be shaken, as if you could rise above emotion or experience. In fact, we are all guaranteed that we'll be shaken in this life. To me, being unshakable is knowing that outward chaos does not mean God can't grant me a peaceful heart.

You guys? These days, when we're hearing news about armies taking over, lives cut short, kids going hungry, and hate and evil gaining ground on every side, isn't it is so, so good to know where you stand? And on whose rock you stand? You stand with the one who will break every bow, shatter every spear, and end every war. All conflict melts away at his voice.

I know the One on whom I stand. I am so thankful to have people in my life that remind me of Him.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Stuff Students Say: February Edition

I know I know...two days late. My bad. Things, though, are looking up! It's March! It's technically a spring month! Warmth is coming! My kids and I consistently compare this Chicago winter to Narnia...a classic case of it's-always-winter-but-never-Christmas in the doldrums of January and February. We made it through alive, and now it's time for the big thaw to come. Here's a few gems from my kids this month.

(I was trying to introduce an inquiry-based project to my class, and asking them to think about times when they got to be in charge of their learning.)
Me: Who likes to be in charge?! Raise your hand if you like to make your own decisions sometimes!
Student: LIKES to be in charge? I AM in charge!

Mrs. Whartnaby I want to be your child.

(After a fiesta in Spanish class to celebrate all the names of foods they learned)
I feel like a fat buffalo. 

Student 1: Are you Taylor Swift in disguise as our teacher?
Student 2: Yeah and then at night you put on sparkly dresses and sing the Shake It Off song?!

(We named our class teddy bear Brian the Third, after my dad who is Brian and my husband who is Brian.)
Look! We're making Brian do the splits in his gymnastics class!

Finding adverbs is the most fun thing I've done today. 

Mr. Brian should teach us for a day and you should teach his students for a day so we can get to know him. He could do it! Second graders are just like high schoolers except not sassy or bossy. 

(Holding up a tablet during our Reading block)
Does Wifi come through the light as a solar power?