What I Learned in January, or We Got a Puppy

Thank the Lord January is over.  It has felt like three Januarys (Januaries?) joined hands in front of us and said, “You shall not pass.”  January brought the return to school routine, crazy events like lip-sync battling and Homecoming, April weather, and a little furball JD affectionately calls Poopface.  While I love the resolutions-new-beginnings-renewal-ness of January, it’s time to get this year rolling.  But before we roll right into February, here are a few things I learned in January:

1. If you listen closely when you’re out of the room, it sounds like someone has split personalities when talking to a dog. “Nooo….. Chew this…. Noooo…. Good girl…. No…..sit….. Goo–wait, noooo…. Don’t do that…. You’re so cute….” Training a puppy takes a lot of work and patience and “We’re in it togethers”, but the moment that furball kisses my face or stumbles as she runs toward me, I suddenly can’t remember the nips and accidents and spastic freakouts. Getting a puppy with JD has been an amazing (and amazingly tiring) start to 2015.


2. I think I would like and dislike being a Shakespearean actor. The more I read Shakespeare with my students, the more I feel like I would love to be saying those words for real, onstage. It’s incredible how much I put myself out there when I’m teaching (see #4). The passion, the vengeance, the agony–Shakespeare wrote real people (thank you, Samuel Johnson, for pointing that out). However, I love explaining the significance of what Macbeth has said or how the blood on Brutus’s hands is a symbol. I’m afraid if I toured with the Royal Shakespeare Company, I would be stopping every few lines to ask the audience if they caught that.

3. Sometimes you have to keep your options open.
Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset4. I am much goofier and braver in my classroom than I am in real life. But being goofy and brave in my classroom has made me more comfortable with myself outside the classroom. I will get on my knees to deliver an impassioned monologue, gallop around the room to illustrate iambic pentameter, and compare the Greek chorus to High School Musical just to draw a student into the lesson–things I would typically never do in front of my peers. But putting myself out there in front of my students has made me bolder in front of my peers. Students, you teach me every day to be brave.

5. I still need my mom sometimes to calm me down when I’m crying. I called her this week at 6:30 AM completely dissolved because Lucy had gotten sick. She gave me advice, “It’s gonna be okays,” and time to calm down, even though she had to get ready for work. She’s the best.

6. 5th grade heartbreak stories become funny when you look back on them at 25. I’m totally over you, Ryan.

7. Sometimes sharing a sunset with a pup quiets the heart more than 5 AM readings of Ezekiel.
LucysunsetWhat has January taught you?


A Different Kind of Resolution

In 2014, I resolved to read the Bible in a year.  I did pretty well.  I’ve just started November’s reading plan, so I’d say it was 10/12 of a success.  I ended up reading Job and Hebrews at the same time, which was a semi-confusing, yet semi-comforting, experience.  At the time, I felt some of the despair and questioning of Job, and it was like Hebrews was telling me to wait, hold on, be still, trust.  As Job and I were shaking our fists at the heavens, the writer of Hebrews was saying, “Your life is not all there is.  There is more you can’t see.”  I realized I just wanted to know everything was going to turn out okay.

Slowly, over the course of a few months, I started confronting the myth of resolution in my life. Blame it on too many romantic comedies where plots get wrapped up nicely with a bow or blame it on a childish notion of the world, but I have held in the back of my mind that I will see resolution in every open conflict and loose end.

I think there’s a difference between hoping for resolution and expecting a happy ending. And perhaps expecting it not a great word, because I as I wrote it, I thought about Oswald Chambers’ “breathless expectation” and all of creation “groaning in expectation,” but it’s the word I have on hand.  I’m thinking of expecting the way a child expects candy from a grocery trip.

It’s important to distinguish hoping and praying for resolution from feeling entitled to a happy ending story. We are creatures bound by time, so perhaps because we have a physical beginning and end, we want other things to have beginnings and ends that are clear cut. We want things neatly tied up and resolved–we don’t handle messy well. I don’t know why that is. We are inherently messy creatures. I mean, have you ever met someone in complete control of their emotions 24/7?

Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the control. If we can see resolution in our story, then we feel some control over our story, and God knows we feel out of control most of our lives. The most controlling people I’ve known are those who feel the least at peace with not being in control.

But seeing resolution within my lifespan is not a right or even a promise. That’s a narrow view of the world and of the Kingdom that’s coming and has already come.

“These all died in faith, not having received the things that they were promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on earth.” Hebrews 11:13

God’s story, God’s plan, God’s Kingdom outlasts my story. It goes beyond my lifespan. My decisions affect others beyond mine and JD’s life. The myth: God is making my story make sense within my own story. The truth: God is working the soil that may not produce for another two or three generations.

Before we get to the faith heroes list, we are urged to hold fast to our hope because God, the Promiser, is faithful. He is fulfilling. And one of our heroes does hope… even though he will not see it come to fruit. He gave his last breath hoping but not seeing.

“by faith Joseph…made mention of the exodus…” Hebrews 11:22

Joseph asked for his bones to be carried out of Egypt. He knew it wouldn’t happen in his life. Going home for him was not an option, but he had hope that outlasted his life. His view extended beyond his own story.

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart form us they should not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40

Our stories all weave together. Their stories are not finished because I am a part of their story. You are a part of their story. I am a part of their legacy. You are a part of their legacy.

My story is not about me. It’s about God and His people. He’s the Great Storyteller, and He’s weaving our stories together. This a perspective-giver. This means that resolution within my life is not important. Those loose ends may need to stay loose so that generations after me can tie them up.

“Therefore [because of the legacy of Hebrews 11], since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

We have confidence and encouragement–Our story is part of a larger story, so let us keep going. We don’t have to slow down and try and pick up the pieces or erect a half-thought out house. Let us run this race. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who is writing the story of our faith. A child doesn’t try to make everything make sense. She trusts that it will be taken care of, and that’s what we’re doing, too. We’re trusting.

“Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Hebrews 12:28

We are becoming a part of and coming into an unshakeable kingdom. Our place is secure. There’s not need for us to control because we can’t see it all. We can’t see what comes after us, we can’t accurately see what’s behind us, and if we’re being honest, we don’t always see what’s around us. Our forced, false resolutions are short-sighted. Perhaps I’ll see promises fulfilled in my lifetime, but perhaps my great-great-great-great-granddaughter will see it fulfilled instead.