Summer is my favorite time of the year. Being from the upper Midwest and hating the cold, I look forward to the hot weather we enjoy in the South. And while the heat remains (though not as intense), Labor Day has come and gone – which is usually the point when it’s time to think about the fall. In fact, as we were driving through our neighborhood a few days ago, I noticed leaves of color had fallen on the ground. I was a little disappointed.
Yet real disappointment is no longer (at least right now) a tool in my repetoire. This past summer was a time of renewal for me. I had to “open wide” and face myself, what I had been, what I had become. I had to come face to face with a person I didn’t particularly like all that much. And I had to face myself and say, “This is not who you are, nor is it who you want to be.”
And so, as I mentioned in a previous post, I read a book entitled When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present. That was the beginning of, and fundamental to, my change. Through my readings, I really, in my heart of hearts, realized how my reactions to circumstances was really bringing me down. I realized how not getting control over my emotions was hindering my life. I spent about a month with that book. It’s a great one. Christian-oriented, and I highly recommend it for anyone.
But what really did it for me was The Courage To Teach by Parker Palmer. Oh, such a fabulous book (and not just for teachers)! I actually purchased it when I started teaching seven years ago. I don’t recall reading it, even though I’d highlighted it almost all the way through. Yet I must not have gotten it. If I had gotten it, I wouldn’t have had the year from hell I had last year. But I read it again. Here are a few quotes that impacted me greatly:
“As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together…teaching holds a mirror to the soul.”
“…the most practical thing we can achieve in any kind of work is insight into what is happening inside us as we do it. The more familiar we are with our inner terrain, the more surefooted our teaching – and living – becomes.”
“…the self is not a scrap of turf to be defended but a capacity to be enlarged.”
“‘Be not afraid’ does not say that we should not have fears – and if it did, we could dismiss it as an impossible counsel of perfection. Instead, it says that we do not need to be our fears, quite a different proposition…I need not teach from a fearful place: I can teach from curiosity or hope or empathy or honesty…I can have fear, but I need not be fear – if I am willing to stand someplace else in my inner landscape.”
If I could sum what I learned from this book, in a nutshell, it is that I don’t have to be afraid of my fears. I don’t have to rid myself of my fears. I can recognize my fears, understand my fears, learn to identify when they rear their heads (notice I didn’t say ugly heads), and enter a different place within and come out through those other places within myself. And I can not only teach, but I can be, out of those other places. It was so liberating for me to know I don’t have to rid myself of my fears. Not only is the effort draining, but the claim that I am not afraid of whatever, someday, would not be the truth.
But if that weren’t enough, I finished the summer reading Let Your Life Speak, also by Parker Palmer. In it, he talks of listening to yourself to determine your vocation, your calling. He speaks of living the life you were intended to live. Here are a couple more quotes:
“Each of us arrives here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials. We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as by experiencing our potentials.”
“We will become better teachers not by trying to fill the potholes in our souls but by knowing them so well that we can avoid falling into them.”
If you are experiencing depression, this seems to be a great book, as Parker Palmer discusses his dark nights of the soul and how he emerged from them. I found the narrative of his journey to be real and authentic (like I’m supposed to judge – how crazy!).
On top of that, I also began and continue to read Stephen Covey’s books. All of these readings, sources of wisdom, have taken me to another place in my spiritual and emotional life. And I’m so grateful. I’m more peaceful. I’m more playful (ask my husband). I don’t react to circumstances and situations with the same lack of care I did before. I’m by no means where I ought to be. Yet, I see the incredible potential of my life, my calling, my relationships as being so great. And I’m experiencing some of that greatness now. Because I made a choice to open wide and say “ah-h-h-h.”
Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.
“…there’s a saying I kinda remember: we spend our days worrying about the future, lamenting our pasts, ever forgetting our present. Sometimes I’ve found that the pain I remember evaporates as I allow the energy of joy into my heart. It’s not an easy time of it, but who ever said growing up was supposed to be easy (smile).”
Well, The New Parent, you’re right. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to remind myself that right smack in my present (and presence) are joys all around if I just take a second to look. And so, in addition to the comment above, I’d like to leave us with something Albert Einstein said,
I’ve been absent for a bit attempting to figure out what I’m doing and where I’m going. I am understanding that I’m allowing my past to hinder my present.
I’m reading a few books now, including Women Who Run With the Wolves. One that I picked up again (and vow that I will complete next month) is entitled When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present. In it, Sue Augustine begins her first chapter with a quote from an unknown author stating,
“It is not the experience of today that drives us mad; it is the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday.”
I’ve been dealing with much remorse and bitterness for probably half my life, angry for being used and abused, rejected and abandoned. Interestingly, though, it’s amazing that I could go on for so many years being ignorant of the fact that I was bitter and angry. Yet, until my husband strongly suggested to me I was angry, I didn’t begin to have a clue.
Nonetheless, it’s been a long journey. I get bits and pieces of revelation as I go along. And I recently realized that I’d lost hope. I wasn’t very optimistic about the future. I didn’t really have grand expectations. I wasn’t joyfully anticipating good things to come. In fact, I was really just plodding along. And this type of living, I’ve decided, is not for me.
American author and playwright Jean Kerr once said,
“Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.“
Oh, how this resonated with me! So for those who might be experiencing feelings of hopelessness, know that it’s not over! There’s more on the other side. In fact…
‘Tis better to hope, though clouds hang low,
And keep the eyes uplifted;
For the sweet blue sky will soon peep through,
When the ominous clouds are lifted.
There never was a night without a day
Or an evening without a morning,
And the darkest hour, as the proverb goes,
Is the hour before the dawning.
To all the fathers out there, today’s your day! It is a day where your children cook you breakfast in bed, for a change. It is a day where your children reflect how wonderful and beautiful an influence you have been in their lives. It is a day when we all think about the sacrifices our fathers have made for us.
Yet, I know Father’s Day is not always a joyful time for some. For some, it is a time to try to forget, because daddy was abusive to you. It is a time to forget because daddy didn’t pay attention to you. It is a time to forget because daddy didn’t teach you how you should be treated by men. It is a time to forget because daddy abandoned you. It is a time to forget because daddy just let it all happen to you.
If this is you, I understand, at least a little bit. My father didn’t teach me the things fathers should teach their little girls. My father didn’t teach me what I should look for in boys. He didn’t teach me that I shouldn’t allow myself to be treated a certain way. When it came to relationships, I was on my own. More than that, he looked the other way.
Yet, I can’t blame him. What I know is he did the best he could with what he had. He didn’t know his primary job was to teach his children how to become responsible adults. He didn’t know he was supposed to teach me that men are supposed to honor me. He didn’t teach his son how to be a man.
I did the best I could to fend for myself. But emotionally, I became a basketcase.
Nevertheless, I love my father. He’s not perfect, but he’s my daddy. He’s always been my daddy, and he will always be my daddy. No matter what. And I sent him a card letting him know just that. That I appreciate all he did, and still does, for me. I can’t blame him for what happened to me emotionally – I myself made some bad choices. And while I don’t blame him, I forgive him.
I’m thankful for my husband, Manchild, who is the most thoughtful daddy I’ve ever seen (not that there aren’t others out there; I just know about this one quite well). He is intent on teaching our daughter right from wrong. He is intent on teaching our daughter how valuable she is. He is intent on teaching our daughter how men should treat her by how he treats her. In fact, her daddy is a wonderful model of what she will hopefully look for in a man as she grows up and matures.
Fathers are so incredibly important to the healthy development of their children. In my mind, they can make or break their emotional and spiritual growth. So to all the fathers out there, understand the role you play in your children’s lives. Listen to their cries – audible or not. Listen to their shouts of victory. Listen to their moments of defeat. Be there in their moments of fear. Reach out and establish boundaries for them. Be ever present in their lives. You have a power and influence mothers were not designed to have. Because…
Fathers are Wonderful People
Fathers are wonderful people
Too little understood,
And we do not sing their praises
As often as we should…
For, somehow, Father seems to be
The man who pays the bills,
While Mother binds up little hurts
And nurses all our ills…
And Father struggles daily
To live up to “HIS IMAGE”
As protector and provider
And “hero or the scrimmage”…
And perhaps that is the reason
We sometimes get the notion,
That Fathers are not subject
To the thing we call emotion,
But if you look inside Dad’s heart,
Where no one else can see
You’ll find he’s sentimental
And as “soft” as he can be…
But he’s so busy every day
In the grueling race of life,
He leaves the sentimental stuff
To his partner and his wife…
But Fathers are just WONDERFUL
In a million different ways,
And they merit loving compliments
And accolade of praise,
For the only reason Dad aspires
To fortune and success
Is to make the family proud of him
And to bring them happiness…
And like OUR HEAVENLY FATHER,
He’s a guardian and a guide,
Someone that we can count on
To be ALWAYS ON OUR SIDE. Helen Steiner Rice
I appreciate the wonderful people who come to my site and comment. It’s so important in continuing a dialogue where someone needs to demonstrate some sanity. Unfortunately, it seems those with the necessary sanity and wisdom do not run this country.
I love what Ebele had to say about this as she commented on my last post (she didn’t mean to write a blog entry as she commented):
“War never did anyone any good. If war is so important to the leaders of the countries who initiate it, then let the leaders themselves go to war instead of sending other people to do their dirty work.
“In Africa, there are still some parts where the strongest man in the village fights the strongest man in the rival village to settle a dispute. And I say they had/have the right idea.
“Too many people are dying for too many avoidable stupid reasons – it’s all a distraction from the real things the world needs to be dealing with. Ghandi was able to settle disputes and put his point across without raising his fist. He chose to raise his mind and his spirit instead. He’s not unique in his view. There are lots of people – ordinary people – who want what he wanted. What his spirit still wants.
“I think women should rule the world. Or children. Children are little leaders in their own right. When you sit down and ask them a worldly question, they give you such a clear answer. (There’s a belief (I think it’s Yoruba) that the more recently you’ve come from your mother’s womb, the wiser you are.)”
And Lisa pointed me to Pink’s incredibly powerful performance of her song, “Dear Mr. President.” Please click on this link to Lisa’s post (which, for Lisa, was a Mother’s Day post) and watch it. It expresses much of what Ebele said above in a different way, but communicating the same sentiment. I watched it once, then had to watch it again. Lisa describes it as “breathless.” It is.
“Saying, ‘I was wrong,’ or ‘I made a mistake’ or ‘I’ve changed my mind’ just might produce the ‘shock and awe’ you [Mr. President] sought when you initiated an escalating civil war that human hands will never win. As always, the choice to do so is yours alone to make. Only a bad wind refuses to change directions.”
Can the wind of the blogosphere permeate the atmosphere of the halls of our government in Washington? Let’s hope so.
I don’t normally post about political issues…Hell, let me not start out by apologizing.
Back in the 80s, I was a HUGE MC Hammer fan. I mostly loved his dance and choreography; I used to try to imitate him, and really was successful at times!
I discovered Hammer’s blog, on which was his video “Bring Our Brothers Home.” I found the images to be stirring, a little disturbing (not in a violent way at all). Yet, regardless of your political views on the war in Iraq, I really believe Hammer’s words say it all. Take a look.
If you’re having a problem with the video – like, it doesn’t show up, the link is:
He was told, “Go…” He was to leave the unfamiliar.
“In leaving the unfamiliar, you will be blessed beyond what you can imagine. Oh, and by the way, because of you, others will be blessed as well.”
So he dared to go. He left the comforts of his homeland. That homeland – where the deer and the antelope play. That homeland – where seldom is heard a discouraging word.
And in the process, this man trusted God…
Sometimes. A little bit.
Except when he put his wife on the block – at least twice – to protect his own interests.
Except when he tried to usurp God’s plan to fulfill the promise He made to the man to bless him.
Really, all he did was live life. Trying the best he could to provide for his family. Trying the best he could to raise his children. He had his favorites, though.
But in all his many imperfections, foibles, and missteps, God still blessed him. Even late in his life.
He demonstrated “great” faith – only once that I know of. Late in his life.
Yet, God didn’t demand perfection.
He just asked him to “Go.” And he went.
As I thought about the wonderful comments that so many of you took the time to share with me over the past few days, I sat here and thought to myself, “I really am in a good place.” I started out uncomfortable not knowing in which direction to go. But here’s what I take away from the story I heard above. I don’t really need to know in which direction to go always. The psalmist said,
“Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
when He delights in our way;
though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24)
I believe that’s what God did for the man in the story. God directed this man where to go. So clearly, God delighted in the man way some kind of way. Even when he stumbled. Even when he made mistakes. Even though he wasn’t perfect. God held him by the hand and ultimately, this man arrived at his destination.
God spoke through your comments. And he said, “It’s okay. Be in that spot. I will show you the way, through your husband, your daughter, your friends, your students, the clouds, the rainbows, the rain… It’s okay. You can just be. For I am holding you with My own hand.”
Thank you for allowing God to bless me through you (you know who you are).
For those of you who’ve been reading my blog the past few days, you know that I’ve been struggling in a place that I don’t feel quite comfortable, a place I’m trying to make sense of. The wonderful readers of my blog gave me some wonderful encouragement and advice, and I’d like to share some of their wisdom, particularly for those who may be feeling as I am, not quite knowing which direction to turn, not quite knowing if the direction taken is the right one, not quite knowing if the road taken is the road one should travel.
Lisa Gates, author of the blog Design Your Writing Life compassionately commented on my post “Unsettledness,” and suggests I answer several questions. I’d like to begin by answering her first two questions as I seek to understand the direction in which I should go:
What could you learn by staying in the unsettled place for a while?
What is this unsettling trying to tell you?
I believe it will take a little courage to attempt to stay in this unsettled place as things unfold and clear up for me. I don’t say that arrogantly, as if, “KWiz, you’re so courageous!” It’s my nature to want things to have an explanation. But I’ve seen my husband live not having to explain everything or have everything make sense. In fact, that is what a life of faith is about – letting God have His way. And while, ultimately, He has had His way – which has resulted in so much tremendous goodness in my life – it’s not been easy to let go and let God orchestrate some things in my life. In fact, I’ll crack the door, peek out, and it is through those openings, I believe, God chooses to slip in and work. Why do I believe that? Jesus advised the people of a church that needed stern teaching and discipline in the book of Revelation:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him…” (Revelation 3:20).
It’s been difficult for me to allow God to be God in my life. Yet, He’s been good, gracious, and generous. I need to trust that God will speak to me in my unsettled space, comfort me in that space, and lead me through and out when it is time.
So in response to Lisa’s question, “What is this unsettling trying to tell you?” I believe it’s trying to tell me to trust that no matter where I am, I am not alone (thank you, Camille). I am not alone in my…
For some Christians, “doubt” carries connotations of the “4-letter word.” Like questioning God is a sin. I’m perfectly okay with it, though. God’s not struck me down yet. Because I believe it is in the doubt where one asks questions. And it is in the questioning that one gains insight and understanding. To me, to say you can’t or shouldn’t ask questions of God implies a bit of arrogance, and really, I can’t pretend I know a dash about God to say I know enough not to question. But in the less than a dash that I do know, He’s merciful, compassionate, loving. And He knows the doubt I have in my mind and heart. He’s not requiring perfect faith of me – or anyone else for that matter. And for that anyone else who wonders about questioning God, it’s okay. He expects the questions. He wants the questions. Will I always receive the answer I want? HA! Will I receive the answers I need? Most definitely – yes. And going back to the fact that I am not alone, very often, the answers come from the community of which I belong. And at the moment, Lisa, Camille, Anna, The New Parent, Paula, Susan, and last but not least, Manchild, are some of you who are “with me” in my unsettledness. Thank you.
As I’ve had the opportunity to think about these questions, I believe the last question Lisa asks me is very key:
What if being unsettled is where the divine will meet up with you and show you the way?
I believe God waits for this. And I believe this to be true.
I believe God spoke to me through all of you. Thank you for being gracious vessels.
I hope those of you who are experiencing a similar state will find comfort in reflecting on Lisa’s questions.
I’m not quite comfortable with where I am right now. I’m about to be a stay-at-home mom for the summer. How in the world do women who do it full-time, all the time, actually do it? During the school year everyday, I drop my daughter off at daycare (which is on the campus of the school where I teach). I teach, discipline (right!), grade papers and tests, attend faculty and departmental meetings, and serve in other functions I’ve assigned myself at the school. Everyday. And when I (and sometimes my husband and I) pick up our daughter, I get to see the wonderful artwork she’s prepared at the hands of her wonderful teacher, get reports on how she never has a potty accident (she has been dry when she wakes up for the past couple of weeks!!!), and watch her run to me screaming because she’s excited to see me everyday when I pick her up after school.
She’s home for the summer. All day. Everyday. What do we do?
Now I not so clueless as not to know. Really. We have story time a couple times a day. I’ve actually decided to lose the 15-20 pounds this summer by taking her with me in the stroller on my walks each morning. But she won’t play with her toys by herself (she is an only child, and there aren’t children her age in the community in which we live, at least not that I’ve identified yet)!!!
So I’ve been researching what type of inexpensive activities are available for a three-year old to partake in. No. Activities I need for her to do outside of the house!!! I’ve got a plan. I may have found a place to take her a few times a week. That might just do it.
So I’m an unsettled mom.
I’m an unsettled teacher. Not particularly satisfied with my teaching this past year. I’ve determined I am going to work over the summer to revise my curricula, prepare in advance (didn’t have a chance to do that last year because I was taking care of my mother before she passed last summer), and be ready when the school year arrives in mid-August. Related to all this, I’ve got to prepare materials for my performance review this fall. Not a good year to do this, since I didn’t have the best of years. But it is giving me an opportunity to reflect a bunch.
I’m an unsettled teacher.
I’ve also decided that I’m going to put together a proposal to publish a supplement for a textbook I use in one of my courses. My first attempt at publishing! But even preparing the proposal seems to be a bit daunting.
I’m an unsettled would-be writer.
Let me not go on, because I’m unsettled in a variety of areas, and it’ll get a bit too personal.
I say all this to say that I’ve not been writing posts because, frankly, I’m unsettled. I’m especially unsettled because I feel my focus is a bit off. My area of specialty is Bible. I study scripture. I teach Old and New Testament. That’s what I do. Yet, I’ve not introduced it much on this blog. Why?
I’m trying to figure that out. I’m not a Bible-thumper. I don’t believe in beating people over the head with it. But I also know that God is real in my life. And I’m currently praying and seeking answers to the unsettledness I feel right now. It’s like I’m not where I’m supposed to be.
And as I read this, the unfocused nature of this post, I see my own unsettledness right before my eyes.
So excuse me as I try to figure it out. Posts will come. But I’m trying to figure out, in my heart, what they’re supposed to be about. What I’m supposed to share. What I am really supposed to communicate here.
Thanks for listening…reading, I should say. Comments are welcomed.