Sunday, January 25, 2015

What Worked and Didn't Work in 2014

On this windy but sunny Sunday, I am on my couch curled up with a cable-knit blanket, a cup of tea, and a thermometer as I anxiously check my temperature every half hour or so. Missing school tomorrow will be tough, since my room isn't totally ready for a substitute. That's what lesson planning on the weekends has come to- a feeling of unpreparedness and a bit of scrambling on Monday mornings. Without an ASPIRE team to plan first grade lessons with, these things take a lot more time than usual- but it is definitely something I want to aim for + change this year.

As I reflect on 2014, I think back on a year full of change, hardship, bottom-of-the-barrel-ness, and submission. I daily had to submit to the will of God to not take me out of the pit I was in, and see it as his love and goodness towards me. You see, God had a lot to teach me- and I had to be in the pit to learn it.

What Worked in 2014:

-Biblical counseling. I had never been to counseling before, and always felt that I wasn't weak or low enough to seek it out. Last year I battled those feelings as Andrew and I embarked on a journey towards healing and redemption with my anxiety and depression. I could not be more thankful for the time spent with our counselor as he pushed us towards Jesus, asked me hard questions, gave me amazing resources that spoke truth and volumes to me, and helped me move positively towards joy and believing that Christ is sufficient for my life. I realized how little I actually believed that, and it has been life-changing to know that Christ IS sufficient for my life- he is good, and I don't have to look elsewhere for satisfaction. And, the fact that he is good, means that he is also FOR my good- that anything that comes in my life is God's goodness towards me, even trial and tribulation, hardship and tears. God is good and he is for me, not against me, and clinging to this truth has been water to my soul.

-Reflective conversations with coworkers. Whether it was my old team at Foster Village, endless afternoons of bouncing ideas and thoughts off of my friend Jessica, or problem solving in my liaison Jeanette's office, reflective conversations held a lot of weight in my growth, mindset, mind shift, and learning last year. I was able to get out of my own head and let my thoughts and reflections fly, and had amazing friends to receive them and help me sort through them.

-Moving schools/changing jobs. It was a difficult transition at first, one that made me question everything I had done- had I made the right choice? Was this really for me? I had left Foster Village in a pretty fragile state, and the school year I was leaving behind had been my most difficult one yet. I loved my students at FVE, but this past year left me wondering if the teaching profession was truly for me. The passion and zeal I had once had was zapped after last year, and I spent the summer and time in counseling picking up the pieces. Needless to say, when I had moved I realized how much I missed all the students and relationships I had built at Foster Village despite the hardships, and I felt quite lonely as I began my journey as a Glenhope Gator. The position I have is in its first year of existence, and nothing like it exists nearby- which creates isolation + a feeling of being on my own island. I also had nothing to springboard off of, as no teacher had blazed this trail before me. I wasn't sure that this was the dream job I had signed up for, and I spent from August-November in this back-and-forth pendulum state of being as I dug into every resource + book + blog that I could to stay afloat. However, as the months passed and I came to absolutely love and treasure my students, it was in December that I called Jessica and told her, "It is back! My passion for teaching is back! I love being a teacher!" I think the first few months at Glenhope were reminiscent of my first year as a teacher in general- just laying groundwork and creating everything from scratch, but as I have grown this year I have learned where to look, what to prioritize, how to meet my kids' needs, and how to just plain enjoy my days with children in the classroom again. Moving schools was the change I needed to "begin again" (T Swift reference- one of many to come in this blog) and stretch my wings to see what I was truly capable of as a teacher. This job requires a lot of independence and critical thinking, creativity + problem solving + innovation to try to meet the educational and social/emotional needs of highly gifted students, but I have come to see that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else at this time. It's fascinating to be around these children who think and respond to things like I do, to see the world through a gifted lens and always want to explore + go deeper with things. I feel like I get to be the teacher I've always wanted to be when I am with them. So, despite the workload and the late nights, moving schools worked for me (and Andrew) in 2014. It helped my passion for teaching to return and it also helped our marriage in that I wasn't so distraught and distracted by the daily ongoings of school that I couldn't function or be present when I was at home.

-Un-Fancy. My friend Caroline Joy Rector is the author + creator of this amazing minimalist fashion blog and I have so much to thank her for. Not only has she helped me better budget + plan for my wardrobe, but her philosophies have spilled over into many areas of my life. For one, she has helped me to find and feel confident about my personal style, while being minimalist and not breaking the bank for clothing. As I followed her step-by-step process in building a capsule wardrobe, emptied my closet full of things that I never wore or felt-guilty-for getting-rid-of-but-I-would-really-never-wear-it-again type pieces, and discovered what clothing made me feel like ME- I now get up in the mornings to get ready for school or my day and have a choice of clothing that I absolutely love and feel best in, all with the purpose of having less but feeling like you've always got something to wear. Secondly, it has really helped Andrew and me as we look at our finances: I allow myself to shop for one season at a time, sticking to a budget, and then not shop for another 3 months until the next season rolls around. Win-win for both of us- I find a few new pieces for my wardrobe and he is happy that we stuck to a friendly amount. Lastly, un-fancy has also helped me battle comparisons and those self-imposed standards and fears that I put on myself and think that others are judging me for. I had a friend message me today as she was shopping for diaper bags for her soon-to-be little one, and she said: "I know it's striped...and I have so many things with stripes. But I am taking the advice from your fashion blogger and embracing that I love stripes, stripes are me, and it's ok to have lots of things with stripes!" Visit Caroline's blog (link above) if you are interested to know more.

-The eldership process. Andrew spent the last full year going through our church's candidacy for pastor eldership, and I was able to join him for many of the steps along the way. Whether it was at a training or equipping meeting, a night of fellowship and getting to know other pastor-elders at the church, or sitting beside him as he struggled through and grew through his assignments, I loved being able to support my husband in his calling. Andrew has felt the call to pastor a church since he became a believer at the age of 18, and 10 years later things are beginning to come to fruition. This process also strengthened our marriage as we were asked many tough questions and had to reflect on our relationship constantly. The pastor-elders of The City Church have been so gracious to us, and now Andrew is officially installed as a pastor-elder as of last week. We are both thankful for the growth we are both experiencing as he steps into this role.

-YOGA! In 2014 I took a yoga class over the summer and fell in love with yoga forever. I take classes at Karmany Yoga on Hulen, and the classes can be the best parts of my week. Sometimes accompanied by my friend Erin and sometimes alone, yoga was the exercise method I had been craving and looking for. I had tried gym memberships that never got used, and honestly, getting on a machine or lifting weights was one of the least appealing things I could think of doing. I knew I needed to stay in shape and keep my heart healthy and build muscle, but how was I going to do that in a way that didn't make me cringe? The power yoga classes I go to do just that. I get to build + lengthen + strengthen muscles, stretch + build flexibility, and slow down after a long day or long week. I am a proud yogi, and I love it.

What Didn't Work in 2014

-Time management. This stretches over many, many pockets of our life. My inability to manage time well in general makes this one particularly hard for me. We did not manage our time well in balancing time spent with family vs. friends (both of our immediate families are local, as well as our church family- and that's a lot to balance). We did not manage our time well in balancing time with others vs. ourselves (our calendar filled up so quickly each week, and we were often left without even one night alone to spend together). We did not manage our time well in balancing alone time- I am more of an introvert who, after spending all of my days with children and others, needs time to write, play music, read, go to yoga, sit at a coffee shop, and just decompress...where as Andrew is more of an extrovert, always wanting to be together or with others, and doesn't need as much alone time since he works at a desk all day and is often alone. We did not manage our time well in balancing work vs. play- there would be many-a-time when assignments for church or lesson plans or things we needed to get done were overpowered by time for play and recreation, but then on the flip-side, there would be many-a-time where assignments + work + lesson plans were over-prioritized and we went for a full week without any rest or time for fun. Overall, time management is a big goal for us in 2015.

-My over-worked summer. When school is out, a teacher really just needs to rest up for the next school year. I know that people often judge teachers for having a full 2 months off in the summertime, but it is so. necessary. I love everything summer: pools, water, sun, towels, sunscreen, being outside, parks, just everything summer. I feel like Olaf in that I could probably write a song myself about how much I love summer! And this past summer, I did not get to fully enjoy the season I love the most because I honestly worked for most of it. Truthfully, I love my friends, and I love their kids, and I love serving and helping them out- but I was exhausted last summer. I had originally set aside 2 weeks in June for teaching swimming lessons, and I don't want to seem ungrateful for what did happen because it was more than I expected and I was honored to do it- but what was supposed to be 2 weeks grew to 5 weeks, and what was only 2 weeks of swimming lessons turned to 5 weeks of swimming lessons + nannying my friend's kids across town 2-3 days per week. And then July rolled around and I had 5 weeks straight of training for my new job, and then school started. So, I did not get to really rest or recreate last summer, and I was beat when school began. As much as I love teaching swim to my friends' precious kiddos, it was a good/hard lesson in learning my capacity and when to say no.

-Chasing perfectionism and control. See that word up there? It's one of my words for 2015. I want to CHASE after my Jesus. I want to CHASE after the things that bring me life, not death. Most of the anxiety and depression I dealt with last year come down to these two things. Chasing them does not bring life. Chasing them does not bring joy. Chasing them is going against what God says is true: that Christ is made perfect in my weakness, and when I am weak then HE is strong; that God is sovereign over all things, and through him and to him and for him are all things, who could be his counselor?, who knows the mind of the Lord?; that I am to not boast in anything but the death and resurrection of Jesus; that I am an imperfect sinner who has been called and made righteous through Christ, and that Christ lives in me and I in him. None of those life-giving truths cater to chasing perfectionism and control. Not one. All that chasing those things did for me was drive me into a deeper pit and create more disbelief. Things I am still learning and fighting today.

My reflective Sunday is now coming to a close, and I need to rest up and watch a lot of Lost this afternoon to kick the low-grade fever I'm experiencing. I challenge and ask you these things: What worked or didn't work for you in 2014?

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