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Strength, Community, and Identity

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Six a.m. comes much too quickly each morning. Often, I am tempted to hit the snooze button, however, six a.m. has become a very important time for me. There is a gym, a crazy trainer, and the most unique group of people from Tacoma that are all ready to work hard.  An hour later I am exhausted, but feeling strong.  I then rush off to get ready for the day ahead. Monday through Friday, this is my routine, working out alongside some close friends.  I am amazed as I watch the powerful effect this gym life is having on all of us.

Training sessions in a gym setting have become my unexpected and passionate routine for the last two years. I have always been an athlete and runner, but weight training is a whole other animal. Fitness and healthy eating are enjoyable habits, yes, but there are deeper reasons which keep me pushing my own limits.

I was born with no fingers on my right hand. Growing up I was a bold, naturally athletic kid and I excelled in anything physical. Slight modifications needed perhaps, but it was hard to tell I was the one-handed girl on the basketball court or on the pitcher’s mound. My history in sports significantly aided in growing my confidence and belief in achieving what seemed unlikely. The same mindset has followed me into the gym as I dead lift on the Olympic bars, knock out dozens of pull-ups at a time, and lift kettle bells any which way with my fingerless hand. There are no limits when we step beyond what we think can be accomplished.

Strength had been an insecurity, believe it or not, throughout my young adult life. I inherited my father’s broad shoulders and biceps. I never felt I was feminine enough if my arms weren’t that of a petite little thing. I can laugh at those thoughts now, but only because I have been through the process of growing and healing from past self-consciousness. I remember a specific time in New Zealand, during a kayak expedition around a volcano, distinctly hearing God’s voice speaking to my spirit, that my strength was beautiful. It was an unexpected truth left on my heart and it set me on a course to believing that statement to the fullest.

The belief that my strength was beautiful has been the match to my fire. My journey in accepting and loving my strength was not all on my own. It’s been a community affair. I have been incredibly blessed to connect with trainers during my time in Kansas City and now with one of the same high caliber in Tacoma. These trainers did not see my hand as a limitation. Instead, they fully encouraged and pushed me past what I thought I could only physically manage. They have been influential in my life, along with the others crazies that fight through these sessions with me. They have all become so dear to my heart.

There is something to be said about friendships when they are built during common adversity. You find your physical self is being pushed to its limits. You’ve never felt more tired or felt more drenched in sweat. Yet, seeing the faces of those friends to the left and right of you with that same look of exhaustion, tends to give one so much more energy. This is what I have so loved about these last two years of personal/group training; community. I experienced the same type of people at rEvolution Gym as I do here now at Peak Performance. We are vulnerable, we are tired, we are supportive, and we are growing strong together. I am incredibly thankful for my God given strength and my gym community.

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As I divulge my love of the gym life, I also have come to a place of surrender. A reputation for being strong, intense, or a commonly stated badass, has become my “thing.”  It is easy to laugh that reference off, but I have been faced with numerous, hindering challenges this summer that has made me reflect on and even question where my identity lies. I had fallen ill and later ripped a toenail completely off, requiring me to slow down my training game. Granted, I did hike through a mountain pass the day after the toenail was lost. I am afraid there is a half marathon I am likely to miss next month due to being unable to properly train and my missing a few weeks in the gym. Being forced into a resting state also forces me to stop and ask myself what the effects of not being active are, not only for my body frame, but for my heart. Will I shutter at the thought of not being the “tough girl” that goes hard 24/7? Will I loose my abilities to out push-up most girls, or guys for that matter? The reality is, those abilities are not what defines success. Strength and athleticism are giftings I am grateful to have, but my identity lies not in them. My identity lies in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is my King whom I praise a top every mountain I climb and whom I thank after every training session or long run. My joy in being athletic lies not in my body, but in my God. My love, awe, and wonder have grown substantially over the years by being as active as I am. He has graciously given me this restful season, so I can squirm a little bit and return to the conclusion that I am His and that is my true success.

I am thankful for my strength. I am thankful for my community. I am thankful for my identity as a follower of Christ.

Sharpening Friendship

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It’s a Sunday and I’m faithfully enjoying my routine afternoon of solitude. Groceries and food prep for the week have been completed. I got a load of dishes and laundry done, plus school emails checked. What’s even more, all that goodness occurred before nine a.m. (and I made it to church on time). So really, I should be in a euphoric state of organization and life winning. Yet, to be frank, I’m unexpectedly in an anxious mood. I feel vulnerable, slightly confused, and it’s not that enjoyable. Duh. However, this realm of emotions I don’t tap into often has me praising God for friendship. Specifically, I’m referring to my friendships with women that now span across the U.S. and even other parts of the world.

Backtracking a bit, I’ve currently realized one small prayer I made in my senior year of high school had been heard and answered in enormously generous ways. I asked a God, for whom I wasn’t that close to yet, for solid friendships with women. I was not lacking relationships with either gals or guys and was extremely socially active. I loved my high school experience, and that can be a rarity. Yet, that specific year, my heart was being turned towards Jesus for really the first time in my life. I knew I wanted my future to consist of Jesus following women that encouraged, spoke truth, sharpened, loved, and adventured with me on this journey.

Almost ten years have passed since I prayed for sharpening friendships with women as a young and reckless (hardly) teenager. There has been a continued establishment of females in my life who call for my vulnerability through love and faithfulness. I have grown from an independent, “keep problems to myself and God ’cause I got this” personality, to a maturing friend who asks the women in her life for advice, prayer, forgiveness, and honesty.

I have received some incredible women in my life. It’s produced tenderness in my heart and a deeper trust of God’s hand in my every need or worry. I am so thankful. I know I could not do life sanely without the faithful and forgiving love of Jesus. But, I also know that I the seasons of life are so much more rich with these women I humbly have the honor to call my sisters. God has brought specific women for specific times of need in my life. Whether the need concerns career choices, commitment to God and community, family issues, or dating experiences, He has placed such wise women in the midst of it all for my sake. It hasn’t been all tea parties and roses. Real friendship, real character developing friendship has come through conflict and authenticity. As one with a history of avoiding conflict for the sake of people pleasing, it hasn’t been easy for me, but it’s been good.

So back to today, with my uncertainty of the unknown swirling, I had to stop and smile at the perfectly timed, but unexpected, texts of encouragement from friends. I don’t have to do life and think about life alone. I could totally be my own cheerleader and speaker of truth in anxiousness. I believe that’s all good and right. The difference is, I have been graced with Godly women who joyfully have committed to be that speaker of life in my own.

Here’s to friendship. Ladies, thank you.

Side-note — I’ve been double blessed to have solid friendships with some solid dudes as well who are excellent in their encouragement. Shout-out to my brothers from another mother.

A Disciplined Pursuit of Less

We are all familiar with the phrase less is more. Most would heartily agree with this statement. However, in western society, this has become a clique catch phrase, quite opposite to the culture’s current materialistic tendencies. More money, more clothes, more words, more opinions, and more arguments about each others’ opinions. We stay on top of the grind to make it up the ladder of success. We then acquire more goods, get the bigger house, keep our clothes closets on trend, and if we’re simultaneously the spiritual type, we’ll hashtag “blessed” for our Instagram picture of a Starbucks latte with our open bible along side. That’s our normal. Now, I am in no way wanting to rant on what society rants on, i.e. “basic white girls” or any person for that matter. I want to make observations in my own life, as I am a part of a society that is showing more and more of a tendency towards loosing itself in this ridiculous materialistic narcissism.

I am twenty-eight years old. Not married, no kids, and no debt. My career field is in education and I have all my financial needs met and them some. Nothing to complain about here. But in a sobering take at being honest, I believe these can be, and have been, ingredients for the same materialistic narcissism that I, myself, have wanted to heartily avoid. I believe the Lord has seen this small seed of desire and has watered it with life’s circumstances. I have been in an extended season of purging my heart of the need or desire to have more. Practically, giving away or donating clothes and accessories has been refreshing (all the single ladies understand how quickly our closets can become the size of an entire boutique). Part of it is the desire of becoming more of who I was created to be. My personality traits, or tendencies, is to hoard nothing. If it’s not being used, then goodbye to it. I have very little sentiments towards material things and I am also a boarder- line OCD clean freak, so the purging and organizing of material items in my life is more refreshing than frightening.

I believe that making great money is good. I thank the Lord I can buy groceries and pay my bills at the same time without questioning the numbers in my account. That is an absolutely incredible gift. I can buy that new pair of hiking shoes or a patagonia jacket and be on my way. Awesome. But, am I looking at the world that is in pain and in need? Am I looking at people in my life and asking the Lord could I somehow supply a need in theirs? My saving grace is the faithful convicting guidance of the Spirit in my life. I have encountered the reality of what generosity really looks like in the eyes of God and I cannot ignore what it means for what I choose to do with His provision in my life. I want to be a joyful giver of time, resources, prayer, listening ears, and love. I have to continually ask the Spirit how I can mature in these areas.

Along with wanting a minimalistic attitude towards my things, I also have strong feelings on how and what I do with my time. I grew up with a television and watched my fair share of Saturday morning cartoons. I enjoy an episode of Parks and Rec every now and then. But, more and more I am just over tv. Besides having a deep disdain towards reality tv, I just cannot get into seasons of any show. My apartment does not have a tv or internet, and wow, it has been a really good thing. It is not just because I have always been more prone to want to be outside exploring, but what I allow my eyes and mind to take in really has an effect on my awareness of reality. Real talk; the world is in deep conflict. Kids are being sold into sex trafficking, Christians are being beheaded and while history reflects this is nothing new, it is nothing to shake our heads about then turn on an episode of Scandal and be over it (I literally hear people behind me in this coffee shop talking about a show called Scandal, so I’m going with, “it’s popular”). I may not have a long term answer to offer on how to react to the violence and oppression in this world, other than that Jesus is on the throne and will rule and reign from Jerusalem, establishing his Kingdom with justice for the oppressed and that I can pray for Him to hasten the day. I personally just want more than anything, not be wasteful of my time or be focused on the trivial. *note, this is a personal preference and not a judgmental rant of others and what they enjoy or choose to do.

I am in a disciplined pursuit of less in my twenties, so my thirties and beyond can be filled with greater love for Jesus, people, and adventure. I do desire to one day raise children with this perspective. I prefer to gather memories of travel, rather than things. Filling our time with activities that challenge, not numb. Giving our resources to others instead of collecting them for ourselves.

I trust the Spirit’s leading and continued challenge concerning these areas in my life. Jesus summed it up when He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

Amen and amen. Less is more, it really is.

Taking Stock

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Inspired by the drastic change of seasons in my life and an article in Real Simple, I decided I would do some light hearted reflecting. It’s an enjoyable insight into myself, mostly for myself. Give it a try yourself.

Making: a really great turkey sandwich. Oh how my feelings for sandwiches run deep.
Cooking: with venison. My freezer is all deer. I love it.
Drinking: hot chocolate. It’s a year-round staple.
Reading: a quite in-depth, brain hurting, insightful book called Conscious Love.
Wanting: a good running dog. There’s a 20-pound animal limit at my apt. I’ll have to get creative.
Looking: closely at old married couples. It’s a beautiful miracle.
Playing: a new find, James Bay, on repeat. Seriously my jam right now.
Wasting: time looking through an REI catalog.
Wishing: for another weekend in the snowy mountains. Snowboarding anyone??
Enjoying: a nap – the golden ticket in a Sunday afternoon. Any afternoon, really.
Waiting: for the sun to set later than 4:30. Need my running game back on point.
Liking: that each weekly morning, one of my students always tells me I’m pretty. Um, who wouldn’t want to hear that? It’s adorable.
Wondering: how on earth I’m gonna file taxes for three different states this year. Oiy ve.
Loving: my new apartment and the simple moments of solitude.
Hoping: to partake of some Chipotle sooner than later.
Marveling: at my students now reading!
Needing: a lamp for my little living room.
Smelling: coffee that I set on a timer the night before. I’m either a full grown up or lazy.
Wearing: basically, exclusively dresses, and rain boots. Never simultaneously though, I’m not crazy.
Following: my dreams and the good Lord Jesus.
Noticing: a stronger heart.
Knowing: and accepting my limits.
Thinking: constantly about how this new chapter of life in the pnw is full of challenges and rewards.
Feeling: loved.
Bookmarking: crock-pot recipes.
Opening: boxes of crayons for my students. They covet the perfectly new crayons like gold only to snap them in half. I don’t get it.
Giggling: when my one of students (same one that calls me pretty, daily) continually comments on why I don’t have a wedding ring yet. Yes, I’m single. I get it child. She builds my confidence only to tear it down. Haha, I kid.
Feeling: full of life.

Herding Cats

I have become acquainted with the most interesting and on point phrase that sums up my teaching experience over the last two months, herding cats. The idea of successfully navigating cats through any type of situation is next to impossible in one’s mind, right?  I  have discovered, as reality would have it, that this is pretty much a daily task for a kindergarten teacher, oh, lucky me!

No one can quite prepare you for the first months of teaching a room full of six year olds other than repeating to you the phrase, “it gets better.” They look absolutely adorable at first encounter, but don’t be fooled. They have selective hearing, the ability to cry on the spot, and an affinity for all things mud puddles (curse you constant northwest rain). They also possess a remarkable flexibility and will demonstrate it by sitting on their chairs in every position other than how a chair is actually made to be sat on. If I could have a prerecording of, “please show me the expectations for sitting in a chair,” to play on repeat over and over, that would be great.

There are times when I am tired of repeating myself, tired of juggling so many responsibilities at once, tired of tying shoes, and putting on band-aids, and tired of hearing the girls argue over who gets do be which Frozen character at recess. LET IT GO. Teaching kindergarteners is no easy task, that has become more obvious to me. Herding cats actually sounds a bit more  of a manageable task on some of my school days. But the thing is, my stamina is building! And on Fridays, when the students have left the building and are away from my sight for two whole days, I am left reflecting on so much more than my momentary hair pulling urges in my classroom.

I find myself reflecting on the wonderful pieces of writing these kids are beginning to create and share with each other. I look at each of their assessments and wow, what a great feeling it is to see each student’s recognition of letters and sounds growing. It’s even better when they see their own growth and tell me it’s because their older siblings are practicing at home with them. I am so motivated to work hard because I believe in these kids and I believe nothing will hold them back from surpassing standards. I continually reflect on how this challenging job is made wonderful by the support of co-workers in the building. The staff at my school and the amazing other Kinder teachers are full of laughter, creative ideas, and have the same desire to work really, really hard for the sake of student growth. I do not know how I would thrive without a working community like the one I’ve come to cherish after only a mere two months in.

There is a lot of work ahead of me this year in implementing academic growth in the classroom. Honestly, looking at the grand scheme of it all can be frightening at times. I’m in a constant state of growing an as educator and I know that’s part of the job. However, I am daily reminding myself to take it all in and remember the great teaching and learning moments that help put the “herding of the cats” into perspective. I am so thankful for these precious little wild ones. I realize my influence in their first year of school is significant. It sobers me into remembering to carry myself with patience, forgiveness, and a growth mindset, believing they are indeed all capable kids. But, also, I need to remember the sweet moments amidst the harder ones.

They laugh a lot. Especially when their teacher does read alouds, occasionally in a British accent. They rock at complimenting each other and their teacher. I mean really, who doesn’t love being told they look pretty every morning? I sure do. They’re so honest as well. They will tell you when you look tired. I usually respond with an “I wonder why” and a wink. They love to hug and be told that they are hard workers. They are doing their best to remember kindness. My students continually practice apologizing and forgiving each other. It’s a concept I am choosing to stress again and again with them, because if I can also help them learn to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry, that would be pretty awesome.

For a whole school year these twenty-one kindergarteners are mine to teach, to laugh with, to pray over, and to watch grow into the awesome little people they are meant to be.

Herding cats, my new specialty.

Dolce Bakery

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There is a sweet dream of a bakery located near the heart of Kansas City. This week is the seventh anniversary of Dolce Bakery. Thus, I find it very fitting to take time to try to describe the almost indescribable elements of this charming shop located in the quaint Prairie Village Shopping Center. I had the pleasure of working there the last three summers and holidays among some of the brightest, talented and beautiful women I know. There is an atmosphere in this bakery that exudes so much more than the smell of their sweet treats. The experience I garnered and the relationships I built will be with me for a lifetime.

Dolce Bakery has been reviewed in magazines and articles numerous times, gaining well deserved praise for the excellence in desserts such as cookies, cinnamon rolls, and their out of this world lemon bars. They lack nothing in the level of creativity and quality. Yet, I write about this bakery not to focus on their products, but on their people. Because, while I have never tasted a cupcake so delicious as a Dolce’s double chocolate with vanilla cream cheese frosting, I have been changed by their people.

Rustic, timeless, and inviting describes Dolce’s interior; a place where sitting with coffee and a scone can turn into hours of conversation with the ‘usuals’ – also known as the faithful customers that have made the bakery their own. I’ve watched countless groups of people make memories in this little piece of heaven. Erin and her team have created a shop that is so full of love and light. Dolce has become more than the typical run of the mill bakery. It has grown into a classy and professional establishment that creates the most stunning and delicious wedding cakes, scones, chocolate croissants, and countless other incredible, freshly baked goods.

Dolce’s owner, Erin Brown, is a woman of excellence, to say the least. She possesses such determination, wisdom, patience and love for her business and also for every person she comes in contact with. Her standards in business and customer service deserve praise, for she has built Dolce on integrity and joy. I stand in awe of her journey with Dolce and her vision for its purpose. I have been honored to grow in friendship with Erin and her family over the years. She has given me encouragement, challenged me to pursue my dreams, served me in multiple ways with a selflessness that is so kind. She is a listening ear and knows how to light a fire under you! The layers to her character are beautiful {much like her cakes}. She has become my mentor and friend for life.

Some of my own friendships have started and grown in this shop. Taking a friend to Dolce for an orange roll and coffee was my go to because of how beautiful and welcoming of an atmosphere the Dolce team had created. While working front of house, I grew in friendships with my co-workers, who felt more like my sisters in the end. Laughter is one of the main ingredients behind the kitchen doors of Dolce.

My Kansas City friends, if you have yet to visit this bakery, bring a friend and try one of everything on the menu.

Congratulations Erin and the Dolce babes for seven years of hard work. You’ve won the hearts of many customers. You have certainly left your mark and memory on mine. While I am now settled across the country, I eagerly look forward to a visit to my favorite bakery – where love is baked right in.

Visit Dolcebakes.com for a look at their lovely seasonal menu!

The Whirlwind

Where do I begin to describe the last month of my life? I could start with a number of verbs: transplanting, pruning, rebuilding. I let the flow of life that I have known for the past four years be diverted 1,900 miles off course. A month into this diversion, I am looking back over the events that have taken place in this short time span. I can tell you with much certainty that there was nothing spontaneous about my move from Kansas City, Missouri to Tacoma, Washington.

I had a yearning to return to my Northwest roots for a solid year. I was not lacking in joy during this time. I had wonderful friends, I taught 3rd graders at an amazing school, was part of an incredible gym getting my rear kicked into mean shape with friends, and attended a bible study group that was so supportive and meaningful to my life. Why would I leave that behind, in what seemed to be at the drop of a hat? There has been an internal dialogue between the Lord and myself concerning my future, which I had felt was on the “back burner” in God’s mind. There were so many passions in my own heart that I believed were kept on hold for a distant unknown season. I desired to teach in public schools again. I wanted to someday raise children near the ocean and mountains. Down to my core, I missed the evergreens and all the beautiful hikes. I thrive in nature. It is my solitude, my escape, and a direct line to the worship of Jesus in my life. I can try to compare the beauty of Washington State to Kansas City without bias, but I’ll just say the mountains were calling.

The feeling of ones future being on “pause” is a bit uncomfortable. However, I am the kind of person who puts their hand to the grind, remaining faithful in the present job commitments and responsibilities taken on. I had believed as this last school year came to an end, that I would continue on with the norm, without reservation or complaint – which I would have done. Yet, I was unaware of an amazing plan that was unfolding for my life. Most details I’ll keep to myself, but my surprise trip home for my Dad’s retirement party led me to some budget plan consulting. I then sent an off-chance inquiring Facebook message to a close teacher friend who resided in Tacoma. The end of that weekend resulted in my making contact with a principal, scheduling an interview, and planning a tentative date to move back across the country. Let me tell you, I am not one to make drastic decisions or go off on a whim without having the solid and sincere peace of God. I am a feeler of sorts when it comes to discerning and decision-making in my life. A “go for it” rang loud in my heart from that point on, after I chose to press forward and enter the new door placed before me.

Fast-forward two weeks to a packed U-haul trailer hitched to my vehicle, driving away from Kansas City. Add a beaming Dad in the driver’s seat, and you have the beginning of the next chapter in my life. Thank God for the timing of my Dad’s retirement and his availability to assist – also known as doing pretty much all the driving in a 38 hour period. Each time I reflected on the massive turn of events, I was awestruck at how many little pieces of the puzzle had come together, even before I had any inclination of making the move. God had seriously come behind and before me, preparing the way. He knew me and he knew the level of peace I needed concerning the idea and logistics of transplanting my life back to the west coast. Thankfulness is almost too weak a word to describe my feelings of gratitude.

Just days after arriving home, I was interviewed, hired, and quickly trained on all things regarding this public school system – and Kindergarten! I am so excited to be challenged in new ways as an educator and to excel within a professional learning community of teachers. The joy in this career venture is magnified with the joy of being back, making more memories with my family and re-connecting with friends via many hikes and outdoor adventures. My heart has come alive in ways that I had not expected and am filled with the anticipation of the good things yet to be experienced.

We can plan our lives out and think we are doing a pretty good job of it. We can use our strengths and try to make those hard decisions. In the whirlwind that has been my own reality, I solemnly stand firm on the faith that there is a God who knows our individual frame. He writes our story and amidst our decision-making, He takes us through each challenge, giving us the grace to step out in faith. I am grateful, humbled, blessed, challenged, and hungry for more of His presence as I take further steps into this school year and life back in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. God is good. All the time.

Teaching and Learning Relational Wholeness

We are all weak. We all fail to communicate to each other in truth, love, and honesty. However, we are given a new chance each morning to embrace growth, healthy conflict, and responsibility. I am in a sincerely serious season of walking in relational wholeness and doing my part to press into authentic dialogue and friendship with others.

Provoking my earnest desire for growth were my own students this past school year. The female students were really struggling in friendship. A cycle of hurt feelings seemed endless. I watched the process as they would refuse to communicate to whom they were in conflict with and instead “ice” them out by giving a cold shoulder when in class or recess. It broke my heart know there was so much communication break down amongst these young woman who should be carefree and full of joy.

I began to seek out the dialogue needed to form healthy communication. I made sure each one knew I was a safe authority to pour their hurt out to because I was for them. They learned it would not be okay to continue “gossip” amongst each other because that was creating “clicks” and deeper hurt. Slowly, their little hearts began to open. They would share with me their pain of rejection and being misunderstood. We discussed how to handle these real feelings in ways that did not create pain for others, but sought reconciliation. It was a trying time for all of us. Group discussions amongst the female students revealed their lack of understanding true forgiveness. Now, I was well aware they were nine year olds, but I also knew they each had grids for what forgiveness meant and from where they received the power to do so.

One group discussion centered on the parable of the unforgiving servant.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

The students did the math with me; 70 X 7 equals 490. I bluntly asked if they thought they had reached 490 times of forgiveness with each other. Unsurprisingly, they agreed no and were even able to grasp the point that forgiveness doesn’t end at number 491. The next step was to dialogue how they too could bring up hurt feelings to each other in honesty and kindness, AND how to ask for forgiveness after really listening to what others said. I will be honest, relational wholeness with a group of kids is difficult, but not impossible. I watched as these young girls put into practice what they learned each time we had these “relational sessions.” They were feeling safe to speak up to one another, knowing they were being heard. Over time they were receiving correction better and accepting responsibility for their actions and words.

I have deep emotions of thanksgiving when I think about the process we entered into as a class. I am their teacher and strive for academic excellence, but if I am honest about why I love teaching, it is moments like this where real discipleship takes place. I know they won’t walk in perfection with relationships, I don’t even, but wisdom was imparted.

As I taught the students what communicating to each other in truth, love, and honesty looked like, I myself was learning the same lessons. I refuse to fear conflict and I choose to be a peace maker. One who doesn’t hide issues under the rug, but cares for those around them enough to speak the truth in love while keeping a repentant and open heart.

 

Quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19

My Beloved Father

Today my Father turns 57 and in less than ten days retires from a 37 year career in demolition. That is right, he smashes and bashes all kinds of buildings. His high school wrestling nickname, Crusher Cross, really was a glimpse into his future career. Brian, my father, is one of my absolute favorite people on this earth. He is one of the hardest working men I know and I cannot get over my excitement for him and feelings of pride in his accomplishment.

I made it home for the holidays this past year and was continually reminded how great is the gift of a father, my father. I really love to describe this man. He is tough – I mean his biceps alone have always been huge! He’s got a mean handshake that gave just the right amount of intimidation when the boys came knocking on his door asking for his daughter.

Beyond the strength my dad has, he carries a gentleness and engaging demeanor that makes people feel safe and enjoyed. I loved bringing friends around him, his abilities to tease and encourage were in perfect harmony. He was great at disciplining my brother and I in ways that weren’t full of harsh anger. I really believe the Lord is deeply proud of my father in this area. He is only a man, and not perfect, but by the grace of God he’s done a great job fathering.

My dad is consistently helpful and generous with his time. Neighbors always bring him gifts in gratitude for his help. I’m cool with boasting about that. He is a good giver. While the freezers are always full of beef, venison, or fish, it is my dad’s joy to give his fresh caught or butchered meat for others to enjoy.

My dad served me in ways for which I cannot thank him enough. I inherited my dad’s passion for athletics. Starting from my earliest years, he coached me in sports and trained with me daily. During each volleyball, basketball, or softball season, he would be my biggest cheerleader at each game and my most faithful practice partner. I cannot help but smile when I think about all the hours he put in being my practice catcher during my nine year pitching career. Boy was he full of patience on my good days and bad.

My father has always been an avid fisherman and hunter. He built our beautiful house with his own hands. He raised up incredible gardens and delicious life stock (the mooing kind) and created the most beautiful landscapes in our yard. He has taught my brother and I so much in this life. I have learned how to fish for king salmon off the Pacific Ocean, to dig in the sand like a mad woman for razor clams, even how to stalk elk with a bow. Never once would he not want to be around us or take us on adventures, whether it be to the ocean or the woods behind our house. He has always been devoted to his family.

Taking the time to reminisce about the man who always called me his ‘princess’ conjures up, for me, awe in the power of the Lord’s plan in our lives. My dad’s youth was typical of a party jock in the seventies. You know, a top athlete in the school district, ladies man, driving the classic sports car, and let’s not forget about those side burns and mustache. The pictures of my dad at 18 are pretty iconic. But in his 20’s God would take hold of him unexpectedly.

The story goes that as he was ‘hitting’ on these two pretty girls at a local gym and they invited him to a bible study (well done ladies). He met some seriously awesome Christian dudes, gave his entire life to follow Jesus, and not long after would do a double take at church as this gorgeous woman in a red dress walked by (that hottie would be my mom). God took this wild man and made him a disciple of Christ. Twenty seven years later, his daughter is a confident and independent woman learning to devote her own life to Christ. I believe am a testimony to God’s heart for men to become great leaders and fathers.

The trend of broken father-daughter relationships on this earth is real and painful. It is a miracle this relationship I have with my dad. I hold it as one of the dearest relationships in my life and I have felt this way as long as I have known him. I remember as a child waking up to the sound of him driving off to work at 5 am. There were moments when I would cry and pray the Lord would protect him and bring my daddy back at the end of the workday because I could not imagine life without him. He would – and continues to – spend every morning reading the Bible and praying for his family. I still get random voicemails from him just reminding me how much he loves me and is proud to be my dad.

One day he will get to be a father-in-law and grandfather. Honestly, it excites me because he has so much love to give and so much to teach the families my brother and I start.

My love for my dad runs deep and my prayers are still the same. I pray to God I get to spend so much more of this earthly life making memories with my beloved father.

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Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and he when he is old he will not turn from it.

 

Discipleship in the Classroom

The New Year’s resolution craze is upon us. Oh, you know, those various personal goals we believe weren’t accomplished the year before. I’m not quite into the hype of the whole tradition, but I have viewed the beginning of this new year as an opportunity to sign up for believing in the deeper purposes of being an educator.

Christmas Break has once again come to an end and Spring Semester is arriving. A day remains between me and my reunion with a group of funny, sweet, hardworking, energetic, and smart eight year olds (many of them would argue 8 and a half!). While I’ve been very adventurous and travel friendly this holiday season, I have mulled over the direction my students are heading and where I want them to go before they leave Room 214. Excellence in academics is what I have been trained to maintain in my classroom, and I will. However, my hope and prayer is to see the incredible opportunity standing before me, at this Christian Academy, to teach these students more than arithmetic and constructing the perfect paragraph (which they will).

Teaching carries with it a position of influence. I have roughly eight hours a day with these young ones to be a life giving influence.  I desire to disciple them as young believers and help their character grow into the likeness of Christ.

I am continually in question of what is the goal of discipleship in the classroom? What does my influence look like as their teacher in a school where we can openly talk about the beauty of Jesus? It’s not for my glory, it’s for God’s glory. I’m being led to a deeper seeking of God’s Spirit for revelation about those moments because I believe it’s Jesus’ joy for me to find them.

So my aim is to further remind myself to look for ways I can encourage these students to serve their classmates and enjoy putting others first. As their teacher, discipleship will take place as the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, meekness, faithfulness, self-control) are modeled in my actions in the classroom, and as they are taught to bear the fruits themselves. The incredible truth to my students, and this school, is the the fact that there is a grid for Jesus, his love, and his word in their hearts. I don’t have a troubled classroom,  but they are not perfect either. I know they can grow as young Christians in loving the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, and each other.

I ask myself how can I be more intentional in discipleship because I want to be another adult in my students’ lives that helps them better understand who God is, what He has done, and who He has made them. It’s a priceless gift and an honor, getting to look for opportunities to teach and show God’s love. They can be true Christ followers, walking in power and love as young ones.

My role as an educator becomes so much more than a ‘job’ when discipleship in the classroom takes place.

There is my New Year’s Resolution.

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