Monday, May 16, 2011

Freshness

Sunday at church, Bro. Chip, our pastor, preached on what may be my most favorite theological ideal of Christianity… love. He has been focusing on John since October (I know, it seems impossible to spend the better part of a year on one book, but I love how our pastor preaches… he seriously breaks down verse after verse, showing how the semantics and linguistics of the Word shows us just how Divinely inspired the biblical writers were… it reveals so much about His intentions for us! I have learned so much because of Bro. Chip’s preaching. He truly is a teacher of the Word. Anyways, We were in John (13 or 14… I forget) at the part right before the betrayal…at the dinner before the crucifixion. Jesus is giving his “farewell” message in this part, and says He is going away to a place we cannot yet go, BUT before He leaves, He was going to give them a NEW commandment (it really wasn’t totally new… a similar commandment is written in Leviticus 19… Verse 18 says You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.  but He was going  to explain it in a WHOLE NEW way… HE made it different). This commandment was to love one another as HE loved us. It’s so interesting that Peter pipes up after this and is all worked up about exactly where Jesus was going and why he couldn’t come, too… he totally missed this whole commandment to love. LIGHTBULB moment! Doesn’t Peter represent so many of us Christians? We get so caught up in “following Jesus” we forget to follow Jesus in what is arguably the most important way! Showing HIS love for us, modeling, exemplifying, living in such a way that points DIRECTLY to the Lord by loving one another NO MATTER WHAT.
That’s right. Not just loving one another as ourselves… That whole mess about the golden rule is out now, but instead, we are to love one another as Christ loved us. It doesn’t matter how crazy-terrible you are. The blackest, ugliest, dirtiest spot is cleanses by His blood. He endured the pain on the cross, gave up and literally died to Himself so that we can be forgiven. Think about that for a second. He loved each of us, even the most despicable and undeserving, so much that He consciously chose to give Himself up.  That’s so far beyond the word love, there isn’t a word to describe that. THAT kind of love is our commandment. Feeling quite overwhelmed by this, which felt so good to hear articulated because it is an aspect of our faith that I feel is so overlooked by Christians, I listened closely during the invitational, and someone, I believe it was our Minister of Education, Shane, who, along with his wife, is becoming quite a friend and mentor, mentioned seeking a freshness in our walk with Him, a freshness in our ministry to others. Just on Saturday I blogged about being “checked out” of school. It dawned on me that I needed to check back in. Not just in the classroom either. I have a mission before me. God has called ME, Briana, to love like HE did. And how stale and dried out my love for others has been!  With this on my mind last night, I read through an essay a student (with a criminal record and reputation to match already) wrote for extra credit. I cried as she talked about how she believes others perceive her. I cried even more as she talked about her desire to stay away from the ‘gangbangers’ and drugs on the street, and how she hoped that some day she would be known as someone who worked hard and was loved. She talked about her dreams to be a singer, to be grow up and get married to a man who cared about her, and have kids that she would love and care for. Knowing this child’s background, my heart ached. I prayed for her right then and there, and I made it a point to love this girl. I pulled her aside today and told her bluntly today that I had been thinking of her and wanted to know how much I loved her. I told her I believe in her and her dreams. I hugged her and held her tight. She was a little taken a back at first, but the smile on her face, and the starry-eyed look told me that this was important to her.  I told her that the most important thing she could do in life to be happy was to love- love others strongly, especially when they don’t deserve it.
That one conversation was the best part of my day, the most important reason I got out of bed today. That girl knows that she is loved. It wasn’t my jigsaw lesson on fairy tales, my cutesy make-your-own fairy tale handout that the kids got a kick out of, or my mini-writing assignment from a highly engaging article on a student getting banned from prom… yes, I was an effective teacher today, but more importantly, I loved like Jesus, and told another to do the same.
My prayer today has been for freshness. Like I felt on that day I found out I had a job teaching, like morning of my wedding, like the feeling that reverberated through me when I was 15 and lifted out of the cool waters of the baptistery, I want to live and love with a freshness. Lord, keep me from being stale, and always remind me that let all things I do be done with love… and not just any love- YOUR kind of love! Amen! <3

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Springtime Rebirth

I know, I know. It's been MONTHS since my last post, mostly because I have been so overwhelmed with the second semester of school... what an exhausting school year it has been! Since January, I have lost three kids due to expulsion, started a new experience in team teaching, took a professional development course (only to find out I get no credit due to some clause that restricts credit to those going through ADEPT- SC's way of evaluating new teachers) and I've barely kept my head above water. This past week, we have been taking our end-of-year tests (read: pointless, expensive, high-stakes testing at it's finest) so the kids are now officially checked out. Student:Whuuuuut? Mrs. W, you meeeean we still gotta do work up in her'?  Me: Yes, indeed. If your bottom is in a desk in MY room, I will be teaching and you will be learning. Student: But testing's overrrrrrr!!!!

Fun times in seventh grade.  I'm not going to lie, I'm as checked out as they are. We've worked hard this year, and summertime is calling. I will say I am going to miss them dearly when the year ends in just two weeks, but they are getting to that point when they turn into eighth graders, and I cringe a little bit.
Enough school. I have so many thoughts and ideas to sort out, reflections on my "first" year, preparations for next year, but enough for now... 
In the last few months, we've been so busy, but made a lot of good memories.
Here's an overview:
January was snowy and cold.
February was kind of uneventful. Our Valentines Day included a nice dinner out, heart-shaped pancakes, flowers delivered at school, and a pretty pearl necklace. It was quiet and lovely. The one big event was that we officially became members at our church. Best. Decision. Everrr. :)
March included my birthday, plus a mini vacation to the beach to see the best friends in Georgetown, and of course, we spent most of our time on Pawleys. It was such a pleasant escape in the midst of a hectic month of teaching.
Here are a few pictures from my March escape. :)
April included Spring Break, a GIGANTIC hail storm, Easter (my favorite holiday of all!), and Jake and I found ourselves more and more in love with our new church.
 Jake and I posed at the Parade of Tables event at church.
 Goofing off at Jake's birthday dinner.
 Hail storm... caused $2200 worth of damage to Hubby's truck.

 He's silly.
 Rainy trout fishing trip with Daddy!
 Lots of motorcycle riding for Jake... Plus, time to dye Easter eggs!
 Easter morning!


As a teacher, the month of May feels a bit like a slip-in-slide. As soon as you start, you're already at the bottom and the ride's over. Fortunately, back in April for Jake's birthday, I bought him tickets to Merlefest, a bluegrass/folk/Americana music festival held in the NC mountains each year in memory of bluegrass/country legend Doc Watson's son Merle. We decided to rent a room at a B&B for the weekend, and wow... what a wonderful respite before testing and the craziness of May began. We had a blast!
 Friday night arriving in our quaint little abode.





 Saturday morning on the way to Merlefest.
 Ms. Brenda's BEAUTIFUL roses. :)
 Me, enjoying the bluegrass. <3

 PERFECT NAP.
 SNOWCONES before hearing The Waybacks.



 Leaving Sunday morning after breakfast... I hated to leave!

Getting some plants from Grandma's garden at our Mother's Day/Birthday cookout. Daddy had a tickle war with my cousin's youngest. It was too cute!
Obviously, this Spring has been great- hectic- but great! We have had some life changes as well. As I mentioned, we joined the church in February, and we have gotten more and more involved. I can feel our spiritual life growing exponentially. It has been amazing to gain such a huge church family, and to feel God prepare you for something great. Jake is playing church softball, and I love going to his games and cheering the team on. We are in a Sunday school class we love, full of couples in all different stages, some with kids- babies through teenagers, some without. I love First Baptist. I love the preaching, the ministry opportunities, and the family we've gained. I totally feel like it is the church we will raise our family in. Jake and I both will be back next year at our same schools; however, Jake will be teaching 3rd grade instead of 4th. He's looking forward to it. Jake and I have been pondering more changes as well. We have been feeling the itch to sell our house, mostly because we want more land. We've looked at few, but nothing has felt right just yet. Also, with my first year of teaching coming to a close, Jake and I had the conversation about having children. A while back, I posted a blog about how tired I was of people being pregnant. It was kind of a rant. The reason I felt this way is that so many of the people I know have been having kids, most of them very young, and it was just so many of them at once. I felt overwhelmingly alone in my kidlessness. I think, though, deep down, there was a splotch of jealousy. You see, I've known for most of my life that I am meant to be a mother. On top of it, I always had a fear that for some reason, I wouldn't be able to have kids. Well, in December, about the time that my Facebook wall was inundated on a daily basis with pregnancy announcements, my doctor tells me that I'm annovulatory- basically having kids on my own would be challenging if not impossible. We took a few months to contemplate it and weighed the options of either going on the pill again (uggh), or beginning infertility treatments. With a lot of prayer and soul searching, Jake and I realized that it's time for us to start the journey. No rush for kids, but ready and excited to open the door for the possibility. But, I have sworn up and down that I am not going to become like some I know and publicly antagonize over each cycle, posting HCG, progesterone, and FsH levels and whatnot, wailing and complaining about whacked-out hormones and "BFN" results. That's "Big Fat Negative" for those if you not up to date on "TTC" (trying to conceive) lingo. It's seriously like another language. As of today, I am on day 5 of my second cycle.  And this will probably be one of the only times I ever go into any detail about my treatments. I just don't think it very tasteful, nor is it anyone else's business. I mean, it's not that I wouldn't share or talk about it... just don't expect to read about it in a Facebook status. I've done a lot of praying about it, and I am honestly peaceful about this journey. I am a little scared, I'll admit, but I am SO, SO, SO confidant that God is making big, big, big plans for Jake and me. I had someone ask me at a baby shower (one of 4 over a two-week time frame... see why I was overwhelmed with pregnant friends?) today when Jake and I were going to have kids, and I explained that I was on my second round of infertility treatment, so whenever it happened, it would. I tried to ignore the comment, "Oh, I didn't know you had a problem!" Normally, I wouldn't have understood why I have heard friends who have gone through infertility treatment complain about people's responses, but today I did. I mean, it made me feel like she thought I was defective. Like damaged goods.  I know she didn't mean anything hurtful at all- she's a sweet lady- but it stung. It was such a strange feeling. It reinforced to me why this is something that I won't share much about. On top of it all, I am feeling such a HUGE pull towards the road of adoption. Whether we get pregnant or not is irrelevant. I'm not leaning towards adoption as a second best, a way of settling if we can't have kids on our own... no, not at all. I mean, I feel a leaning towards adoption because Jake and I see first hand on a daily basis just how many children who are born into the world without a loving Christ-filled home where they are safe, stable, and surrounded by love and learning experiences. There is a couple at church who adopted a son (they had three children already) from China, and hearing their story just reassures me that this might be a road God leads my little family down. Either way, we are ready to start a family, and we are leaving the how and when in His hands. It may be next month- it may be in a few years- whenever it happens is okay by me, because I feel like our journey to parenthood is God-ordained... it will happen when and how He sees fit for whatever amazing plan He has for us.
Between all the discussion about work, church, infertility, adoption, moving, Jake and I have spent this spring sitting and talking about the future a lot. A nice way to summarize it all is that we are sitting, waiting, listening, and praying for direction, for doors to open, and that we will know when and how will be taken care of.
All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well