Holding On…

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
― G.K. Chesterton

I have been taking part in an Online Bible Study and am loving it. One of my biggest regrets of being a WAWM (wicked awesome working mom) is that I don’t have the opportunity to participate in Bible Studies.

Problem. Solved.

I freaking love the internet.

Oh, you want to go to college but don’t actually want to GO to college? Go to college online!

You want to participate in Bible Studies, but can’t actually GET there? Go to Bible Study online!

Amazing.

The topic of this Bible study is centered around the book of Ruth. It is a practical approach to not quitting things.

Honestly, I’ve struggled a bit with having anything to apply this whole concept to as (and I hate to toot my own horn here) but I really don’t actually every quit things. I kill myself mentally, emotionally, and what often feels like physically…but I never, ever, ever quit. I mean really, that’s what being a WAWM is all about. Doing things and doing lots of things, and never giving up.

But as God always does I have been shown that there is an area of my life that I have quit…

I know, shocker. I was shocked myself when I realized it.

You see, I am this kind of person: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” ― Alexander Pope

And I have given up on hope.

Who really knows how it happened. As it does, life likely whittled and chipped away at the walls surrounding my soul until slowly but surely the  hope that once lived there began to slip away. Until one day I just quit having hope.

They (and don’t ask me who exactly because I really don’t know) say that the first step to fixing your problem is admitting it.

Well, here I am admitting it. I have quit hope. Which is really quite shocking because I truly love inspirational and motivational things. Maybe in an effort to jump-start my own dying soul…

It’s funny how you don’t always see the truth about yourself. There I was in the middle of a Bible study about quitting things and being all “I’m-so-awesome-I-never-quit-things” driving to work and I hear the words of the song by Danny Gokey:

There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen, there’s hope in front of me

And I realized all at once that I don’t have hope in front of me.

I don’t have hope at all.

I like to talk about hope, but I don’t actually have any.

I just take life and all that happens and goes on and try to deal with it. I just move along through life doubting anything and everything.

And the only place that has gotten me is into a depressed and negative place…like a dark, dark forest that you can feel closing in on all sides. And you can’t get out. At first, you want to. But then you sort of just get used to the forest. You tell yourself it’s not so bad. This is just what life is like. It just…it just is.

But it doesn’t have to be.

A quick search for the keyword ‘hope’ in the Bible revealed 151 results.

Well, guess I’m not the only one who has quit this thing!

So many  powerful reminders of what hope is…and where it can be found.

 

The way I see it, hope is rather like love. It’s not actually something that we feel. Like love, it is a choice. It is something that we do, and seek, and look for, and purposefully put into our hearts and souls.

And when we find ourselves in the heart of that oppressive forest we don’t give up. We look for hope. We look to Him to give us that hope. And we carry on victoriously in life with His hope in our hearts.

Because life doesn’t have to just be.

Hope gives us victory in life.

Since the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, I think I’m on the right track to not quitting hope.

I will hope that these college degrees are the tool He has equiped me with to make a difference…

There is hope in your future, says the Lord… Jeremiah 31:17 a

 I will hope that things will be fine financially, and not allow financial worries to consume me…

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. Lamentations 3:21-22

 I will remain hopeful that He has my best interest at heart…

That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments. Psalm 76:7

I will hold on to hope and will not fear my future…

Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

I will not let depression and anxiety fill my soul…

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

When I’m tempted to lose hope, I’ll turn to Hos word…

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. Psalm 119:114

When I want to worry and stress about my job, my kids, my life, my finances, anything and everything…I’ll let His promises comfort my heart…

 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I won’t let go of hope, instead, I’ll hold on to it…

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:23

And so my sweet Ellie and my passionate Kreade…

Find your hope. Find it in Him and hold fast to it. Don’t let your souls wander into that dark forest. Be hopeful. Remember that every detail of your future rests in His all knowing and perfect plan. And never lose hope. I pray that He fills you with so much hope in the midst of so much doubt that people cannot help but notice. And when they ask you why you dare to hope…tell them. Tell them why. Tell them where. And tell them Who. May the hope that He gives you be the reason that despairing souls find their way out of the darkness and into the light…

 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15

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Perfection & Professional Burnout

“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”
― Immanuel Kant

“The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is.”
― Oscar Wilde

I had a very successful day at work on Monday. After two years of partnering with the family of one of my students, we finally got him to receive the services that he needs. Speech, integrated pre-k placement, the whole nine-yards. I was so happy. So relieved. And so excited that this little boy who, crazy as he is I totally love, will finally be given the chance that he needs to be successful in life. It was definitely a professional high. We fought long and hard for this to happen.

And then today rolls around. Even though the sun was shining as I drove in to work…I felt so burdened. This has been a really rough year. We had a training last week on Secondary Trauma. That pretty much sums up my school-year. So exhausted by the problems of everyone else, and so frustrated that there is only so much that I can do to help.

No matter how hard I try…it’s never enough.

And what about all those people out there? The ones who have suffered domestic violence. The children who are challenged by developmental delays and parents who possess limited skills and knowledge too.

We had a parent express her desire to become a lobotomist. From the bottom of her sweet, sincere heart she meant phlebotomist.

And I just feel so heartbroken for her. She has just beautiful dreams, but only time will tell if she possesses the ability to actually see them fulfilled. Though I doubt that they ever will. I guess we can’t all be rocket-scientists. And some of us can’t all be phlembotomists either. To each his own. And we all possess varying degrees of skills and abilities.

As I drove to work, I found myself wondering about the brokenness and lack of perfection in this world. It really is just not fair when you think about it. My heart started spontaneously communicating with The God Who Sees Me…me as I’m driving to work, surrounded by my own problems and worries. And I started asking why some have nothing and others have everything. Why I have hope while others have none. Why my dreams might come true, but theirs will not. Why God? Why can’t You just perfect the life of everyone around me?

And the truth always has a way of just staring you right in your face.

I already have.

I have already made a way. I am already making a place. And sometime soon, I will come and perfection will be once more.

Those truths that you have heard over and over again suddenly come flooding back to you. And it all starts to make sense. There will come a day. 

Maybe it’s not so much about attaining perfection here in this world. And maybe it is more about preparing to live in perfection in the world to come.

Maybe it’s not about helping others achieve a sense of perfection here and now, as it is about showing them the way to perfection that will last forever.

Still, there is only so much that I can do. I can’t force people to believe. But I certainly will alter the way that I pray.

Instead of praying that they will succeed in this world, I will also pray that their hearts will be willing to believe and that they will know the eternal perfection that only He can provide.

And I really hope to see the faces of these sweet people and their children that I work for alongside me in heaven someday soon.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

Ellie and Kreade, I want you always to remember that you can only do so much on this earth. Your heart has to do the rest. I pray that your hearts too will grow in faith so that you also will be perfected through His love. And as you learn to understand this, know too that you can only do so much for those around you. Their hearts have to do the rest also. So pray. Pray that they will know Him. So that one day we will be surrounded by the lives that we have touched during our imperfect life here on earth as we stand in awe of the One who has perfected eternity for us.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

In Which I Compare My Life to ‘The Mindy Project’ And Realize Just How Awesome My Husband Really Is

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“It makes me cry because it means that fewer and fewer people are believing it’s cool to want what I want, which is to be married and have kids and love each other in a monogamous, long-lasting relationship.”
― Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Danny: The thing that’s most beautiful about you is your confidence.
Mindy: Really? Because people say that is the most annoying part about me.-The Mindy Project, Season 4

The Mindy Project. It’s all I ever want to watch at the end of a long hard day of work, school, kids & life in general…cuz I know it will make me laugh – probably harder than I should – and take the edge off of, well, off of life.

But lately, the show has been tackling an issue that is really quite close to my heart. You know the topic – that one that everyone wants to avoid and no one wants to address but that really should be talked about more.

Working moms.

Yep. Leave it to Mindy Kaling to take this less-than-popular topic head on in her Hulu Original Series. And as hard as it is to watch, as much as I just want to yell at Danny every time he says something so heartless…I am interested to see just where she goes with it all. And I really can’t wait – because my life is like a mini version of this season’s plot.

I’m that woman. Just like Mindy Lahiri. The one who starts her career…cuz, you know, starting a career is just so awful and heinous when you’re a women. Then there I go…I get pregnant and horror of all horrors: I don’t quit my job. Cuz where I’m from, women kind of just are expected to be moms. And nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way diminishing motherhood and the calling that it is. But if you can have it your way, why can’t I have it mine?

And then baby number two. So of course, you’re quitting your job now, right? How can you work and have two kids?

How can I not?

Some days, I wish that I could be nothing more than a stay at home mom. But God has created two types of women to ride the tides of Western Society; and I fall into the non-traditional category.

I used to be self-conscious about the fact that I am a working mom (try to explain to people that I also am a Grad-student and just imagine the looks on their faces). When we first got married, I thought that this was how my life would be. Eh, might as well work for a bit and then when we decide to have a baby -poof – God will make sure I can stay at home.

It’s amazing how God works.

I never would have imagined being anything but at stay at home mom at one point in my life. Looking back, I lacked so much self-confidence, and that “dream” of being a stay at home mom was born out of insecurity and self-doubt, lack of worth and lack of allowing God to use me as He would.

Financially, I have to work.

Mentally, I have to work too.

Spiritually, I need to work.

Because now I know that this is what God has called me to do. Now I am full of confidence – not my own, but the confidence that only God could have filled me with. I have self-worth, because in the depths of my heart, I know I am fulfilling my purpose here on this earth. And now I am totally secure in the knowledge that even though this full time job-grad student-mommy-wife thing is exhausting, it’s what I was born to do.

And I just feel so bad for Mindy Lahiri.

I get how she’s feeling. You love your babies. You love them so much. You love them so much that you know you will go completely insane if you are home all the time, so instead you hire someone who doesn’t go insane and go to work for some of the day.

You love your babies. But you love your job too. You love the platform that your job is – how it allows you to make a difference in other people’s lives. How you can experience the joy of bringing a smile to a child’s face, helping them learn and grow, and supporting their family through so many things. How your job makes you feel so fulfilled, and you know that for some of the day, this is just what you are meant to do with  your life.

Because some of us have bigger hearts – hearts that can hold both love for our children and husbands and love for our careers.

And we are enough.

But where I’m at in this series,  it’s not enough for Danny. And my heart breaks a little, I kind of don’t want to watch the show.

Because I can’t imagine if my Babe told me that I wasn’t a good mother to our children unless I stayed at home.

And I realize just how awesome my husband is.

There should probably be more Christian guys like him out there.

Truth is, if he said I should stay home, I would. It would break my heart (and I’d probably literally go crazy), but I would do it. I know that God asks that wives follow their husbands lead.

But marriage is a beautiful thing.

And when you love someone, and allow God to fill you up, it’s amazing how dreams align.

And I’m just so thankful for all that my husband is for me. Because I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it without him. And on my hardest days, when I’m totally stressing out about all I need to do at work, or the assignment I think might be a ‘B’, there he is…supporting me.

Cleaning up after dinner, playing with the kids while I finish writing my paper, making dinner, going in late so I can go in early and catch up on PTC’s, sitting next to me watching hockey while I’m frantically answering discussion board posts…quietly supporting. Cheering me on.

And I just know that he is my biggest fan.

And every woman who has a heart for family and work deserves someone who will cheer them on.

Because for some of us, God is calling us to both home and workplace. And it’s hard enough to follow this non-traditional path without the support of the one we love most.

So thank you Babe.

Thank you for how awesome you are. Thank you for supporting me, building up my confidence, encouraging my dreams, and letting me fly. I couldn’t do it without you.

So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:28

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” –Thomas Edison

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” –Thomas Jefferson

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go! This is the song that I sang this week as I headed back to school to substitute teach for the preschool summer classrooms. I call the weeks that I substitute in the summer my ‘mental health weeks’…they keep me sane and help me stay mentally balanced while being home for the summer with my adorable Ellie. A lot of people don’t understand why I substitute in the summer, after all, who would choose to work when they have the chance not to? In fact, some people wonder why I work at all, especially now that I have Ellie. And though they may not say it, I know they think it. After all, society all but expects women to stay at home all day cooking and cleaning the second they get pregnant. Ha! I worked full time and all school year and summer long my entire pregnancy. I didn’t have the luxury of napping, or sleeping in; and I loved it! I took 8 weeks off when Ellie was born and went back to work for the remainder of the school year. Take that society! I love being a working mom; it keeps me sane.

But what about your children? It’s not fair to them that you work. Or is it? For me, I need to work. I go crazy if I’m not doing something, I loose patience, I feel like I have no purpose, so I get depressed…and you’re fooling yourself if you think that this doesn’t effect my parenting. Of course it does! I find that I spend far more quality time with Ellie when I am on my work schedule. Furthermore, in an article by The Washington Post research concerning working mothers is reported. The study that the article refers to found that the effects on child development of full-time working mothers was neutral; there was no difference in a child’s development when comparing a child of a working mother and a child of a stay at home mother. Additionally, the Post reports that working mothers “displayed greater “maternal sensitivity,” or responsiveness toward their children, than stay-at-home mothers”. Again, take that society. You were wrong once again.

Not that society is the only social influence that makes working moms feel bad. For a long time religion has also advocated stay at home motherhood. I find this rather amusing. Religious groups from wide and far love Proverbs 31…a wife should be virtuous, she will be praised by her children, she will gird herself with strength. Yes, I agree. But it seems that we so often focus on only these things and skip over the in between. Proverbs 31 also speaks of a woman who “willingly works with her hands” (this can apply to baking bread or working on an assembly line), she “considers a field and buys it…plants a vineyard” (she could have an at home vegetable garden or be a smart business woman), she “perceives that her merchandise is good” (maybe she sews clothes for her family or maybe she is an entrepreneur), and “her hands hold the spindle” (perhaps she makes things for her family or maybe she works as a seamstress), while she also “supplies sashes for the merchants” (aka: she has a job). Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not attacking stay at home moms. But they need to understand that all too often you make the rest of us feel like really horrible people because of the fact that we work; and based on what? A Biblical passage that you take bits and pieces of, the bits and pieces that you want to. The key word here is or. The actions of the virtuous wife that Proverbs 31 talks about could be considered in both lights. It is important to remember that either choice is not wrong, we are all different and pursue this adventure of life differently, but we do need to understand and support each other regardless of what path a person chooses.

For me, I have to work. I love it. As Thomas Edison says, I would have missed so many opportunities if I did not work and teach. I wouldn’t have been able to give that little boy a winter jacket, or pray for that little girl who witnessed her mother being shot, or hug that child who was having a bad day, or refer that child for speech services, or pray for an entire class of children that someday God would touch their hearts and they would come to know Him as their savior. Not that this was easy; teaching is hard work. Leaving my daughter while I work is not easy either; but it’s worth it. Not only is she able to spend time with family members, but she is learning independence. I want to raise a child who some day has the confidence to go out into the world and make her own way; independence starts young. Besides, she gets to have so many adventures of her own while I am at work. And not only this, but I believe so much in what I do; I believe that it is a work worth doing as Thomas Jefferson says. With an emphasis on foreign missions, churches sometimes forget about the poor and weary and suffering within our own communities. My job allows me to serve within my community and work to love and teach and support families and children who need it most. It is fulfilling. It keeps my humble. It gives me opportunity that I would never have if I stayed at home. And it teaches Ellie that there are other people in the world that mumma needs to help besides her; it teaches her selflessness and giving. I know she is only seventeen months, and she may not fully understand for a few more years, but the lesson will be there when she is ready.

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(Ellie hanging out with her Aunties and Mam while Mumma is at work)

Was this week a long one? Certainly! I worked hours that I do not prefer while also taking two upper level college courses. It was hard. Ellie was less than happy, but she survived. And someday she will understand. Despite long hours of teaching only to head straight to class or home to write essays and complete other homework, I had tons of fun! I had conversations about what kind of car we would all drive when we grew  up. One girl wanted a “very very very pink pink pink cars with stickers I can take on and off”. While a little boy wanted a “blue truck with spikey nails and stickers.” I got to hug a child when he fell down, and engage in wondrous observation of an inchworm. Then I helped to coordinate the construction of two fabulous sand castles that five or six three and four year olds worked together to create, complete with landscaping consisting of bushes and grass and apple and banana trees, a moat and several drawbridges and firebridges.

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It’s a pretty awesome sandcastle. And it was a pretty awesome, yet crazy and difficult week. Some people may question or lack understanding for why I work and attend college. They may believe that it is not fair to my child. But I would not have chosen another path or another adventure. I love what I do; work and school alike. And it is my prayer that someday Ellie will look back on my adventure and understand. She will see my hard work and the way that I value it. She will see my love for learning and my commitment to furthering my knowledge. Hopefully she will learn from my adventures and be given the desire to follow her own path, valuing hard work and education as much as I did.