Friday, November 27, 2015

Round Table

This year's Thanksgiving was spent with my in-laws. Their celebration is a far cry from a crowded house, buffet style animal eating, paper plates, and card tables. With a smaller crew, we all fit around one table (my first time not at a kid's table was after I got married!), and we get to use real silverware! The nice kind, even! My mother-in-law, Beth, worked herself crazy for 24 hours straight to prepare the most ridiculously delicious spread. I was all like CHEESE! WINE! MEATBALLS! POTATOES! SWEET POTATOES! AHHHH! everywhere I looked. I particularly get spoiled with the first two in that list at my in-laws' home.


When we were all sitting around the table, the food coma almost starting to kick in, my father-in-law directed the conversation to a Round Table. He asked 3 questions of the table, and each person took turns responding. I thought they were very thoughtful.

1. What are you thankful for this year?
2. What are some goals you have for this year?
3. If you could change anything about yourself or the world, what would it be? 

The goals for this year ranged from hilarious (Nanny, Brian's grandma, simply blurted: "Survive!") to practical (Beth wants to be healthier, as if she isn't already putting us all to shame with her paleo lifestyle) to heartfelt (Ed wants to be aware of God's grace each day, particularly by always setting aside devotional time).

Earlier in the day, I chatted with my dad and got some group texts from my immediate family about the Packers (don't even pretend you weren't weeping when Bart Starr and Brett Favre hugged before the game), saying thanks for each other, and sharing pictures of crazy indulgent Thanksgiving spreads.

How is this my life? How is all this mine? I haven't really unraveled just how blessed I am. I just was overwhelmed with the people in my life yesterday. People who are open, kind, thankful for each other, generous, funny, and intentional with these days and milestones in life. Of course each year, as we switch between families, one of us will miss being home, but when you have such wonderful in-laws, it's got to be the next best thing. The coolest thing is that we are home no matter which family we're present with on each holiday. Brian's a son in my family, and I'm a daughter in his.

I shared my answers at the table, so here are my 3 responses.

1. What are you thankful for this year? First, for Brian. For being a fantastic husband, being a great buddy to spend all the mundane and exciting and frustrating and happy days with. For supporting me and making me think. I also said my fantastic parents and siblings. I know a lot of people with horribly hurtful families, and of course we are not perfect, but I could not have asked for better. I continued on to my in-laws, who have just opened up a spot for me and accepted me as I am. I can't join in on those "my crazy mother-in-law" rants, because mine is thoughtful and sweet and not a control freak and a great friend. Basically, my thankfulness this year is for all these sweet and wonderful people.

2. What are your goals for this year? I have a few outlined each year during my birthday, so I'm working on those continually. Right now, I've started my goal of watching every Seinfeld episode in chronological order and making plans to visit Harry Potter World. Less importantly, I want to run a half marathon this year.

3. If you could change anything about yourself or the world, what would it be? This is that big question that always brings me to the same answer. The thing I would change is that justice would really happen, that it would really roll down like a stream for forever. That all that junk about what you look like, what zip code or country you're born into, what culture your family is from, would never hinder us from loving one another. That we would have those goggles to see each other as God sees us, that we would look at the heart. God infamously picks the left out, too old, too young, too poor, oppressed people to be great. I wish we all had more of that first-shall-be-last-and-last-shall-be-first conviction in our hearts as we govern societies, live intentionally, and decide how we're going to serve God in this world.

It was a very moving Round Table this year. If it sounds cheesy, it wasn't cheesy at all. It was great. And as much as we love our families, I know that it can be the hardest to be vulnerable and share from the heart with the ones who know you and love you the most. The more we practice this sharing, the more we open up to each other, I think the easier it will be to see the best in everyone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Letting Go of Good Things

Here's a rambling of my ideas, as of late.

It's been hard for me to write this fall, since starting at Timothy. You may notice that, over the past two years, it's been harder for me to write consistently. I think it has *something* to do with the juggling act of adulthood that hit me all at once when I got married, moved to the suburbs, and switched jobs to have my own classroom. All at once. 

I got bogged down with things like laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning and lesson planning and summer jobbing and it all just took over my day-to-day. 

Teddy and me. 
I have this habit in the morning that I've fallen into over the past few years. While I'm blow-drying my hair, instead of focusing on the styling thereof, I sit and scroll through interesting articles on social media and various news outlets. I get updated on the world and the world of my friends, both of the real and Facebook varieties. 

Well, this morning on my daily catch-up, I came across a post from Elizabeth Gilbert that was really great. Here's part of it: 

"Long ago, when I was struggling to become a writer, a wise older woman once said to me, "What are you willing to give up, in order to have the life you keep saying you want?"
I said, "You're right — I really need to start learning how to say no to things I don't want to do."
She corrected me: "No, it's much harder than that. You need to learn how start saying no to things you DO want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life, and you don't have time and energy for everything."
So she continued on with a statement she posed to many good, but needing-to-be-cut things in her life. This is what she said to them: I love you, but I'm letting you go. 
This just resonated with me so much. This fall has been one big blur without the catharsis of writing in my life. It was the beginning of the year rush and then the October slump and now we're entering the holiday hustle and oh my goodness I have hardly processed what's been going on. My life has been ruled a little too strongly by media of all kinds. From news to Facebook to Instagram to Netflix to Hulu to Huffington to blogs to Vine when I'm feeling ridiculous and everything in between. If I look back, this media monster has probably eaten hours and hours of my life this fall. In some ways, media is great. It connects me to the world and all that nonsense, but it really kind of disconnects me in the end. I've been consuming so much that I've been losing my ability to create. The only thing I've written in the last little while that I've been any ounce of proud about was my little tribute to my Grandpa Gesch. My uncle Curt dubbed it to be "perfect," and that is just about the best validation I could've asked for, coming from such a fantastic writer. 
So I've decided to take a note from Liz Gilbert, such an incredible writer herself, and say to my overkill on media: I love you, but I'm letting you go. I thought about it long and hard, and I figured out that the things that make me feel creative and alive and myself are the two simplest: reading and writing. And I'm not going to confuse reading with scrolling. I just started the book we'll be reading for book club when we meet over Thanksgiving weekend. And so as a part of all of this I'm back here, feeling good about writing, checking in on my life, and archiving where I'm at right now. 
So what have I been up to? 
One small struggle is that I am missing a lot from year to year. I miss last year. I really, really miss Calvin Christian School. I miss the city life. I miss living with roommates with whom I could share clothes. I miss my Teach For America hustle and realness and colleagues. I miss attending grad school (I know, nerd alert.) I miss living with my best college friends. I miss a lot. And I've only been at this adulating thing for three and a half years. 
Brian has been a huge catalyst for me becoming who I am going to be this year. He is here, he is supportive, and he is so, so dependable. I'm not even here, supportive, or dependable for myself! He gets the teacher thing, and I love building our friendship right along with our marriage. Sometimes I roll my eyes in annoyance at his quirks, and then sometimes I sigh with relief as he endures all of mine. Sometimes we watch dumb TV shows together (Hello, Bob's Burgers) and completely get each other. Sometimes we are in the day to day and that's all it feels like: a regular old routine day where our paths don't do too much crossing. Sometimes I can't even believe how much I love him. It's all of the above. 
One huge effort in my life is that I've been looking for and grasping at community out here in the Western suburbs. We've joined a small group in Oak Park, I've been attending a Writer's Group with my mother-in-law (actually super cool), joined a Thursday night volleyball league, I'm joining/starting a book club with my friend Reese, and I started a more intense Bible study with my mentor and another girl from church. When I see all of that in one list, I feel pretty proud. I'm starting to feel a little more grounded in all of life. I know and can surely feel that the grind of the fourth year of teaching in the third consecutive school is getting to me too, with all the upheaval that goes along with that. But these little groups, little connections that God has allowed me to receive, have made me feel oh so much more connected. To other people, to myself, to Him.
So thanks, Liz Gilbert, for the advice. I miss a lot of things. I'm learning to let some of those go to make way for the new. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stuff Students Say: October Edition

My mom tells me that if someone doesn’t know Jesus the best way to show them that you know him is to be so kind that they want to know where the kindness comes from. 

I don’t know if you have kids or not but if you do you should come to my brother’s birthday party. If you don’t have kids you can still come though too. 

Dear God, please protect us so that we don’t die too soon so that we can enjoy your creation and stuff. Amen. 

We're going to target you guys! Booya I love that place!

Guess what my biggest nightmare is! Applesauce! Or mashed potatoes!