satin linings

June 27, 2017

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“Oh, Anna-I feel awful. Something’s wrong with me, I know …” She walked past me in her customary flurry, but this time on a mission to sink into her armchair. I followed her with a slightly panicked version of my usual (these days) concern over her increased aging ails. Worried that her insistence on going to the store had really done her in, I furrowed my brow and agreed with her stream of comments about how miserable this sickness was and how impossible it must be to imagine. “Do you feel this awful when you have malaria?,” she queried. Not sure exactly what I was comparing the feeling to, I decided to simply affirm that, sure, it must feel as awful. Still unsure what to actually do to help, though, I spontaneously put my hands on hers and closed my eyes. “Amen,” I breathed, after a few moments, adding Julian of Norwich ‘s All shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.

Looking up, I saw a calm smile and felt pleased with my decision. But then she spoke again. “My casket is out in the pantry – I mean den. I mean office. Do you know how hard it is to find good caskets anymore? They don’t make the satin-lined ones anymore. But we can’t afford those anyway. The last funeral we did cost us $8000 – can you believe that? I heard someone say they had found a good casket maker …” She paused for a moment and I thought perhaps I should chime in. “Oh-the kind lined with satin?” I tried, wondering if I was following her train of thought. “Oh no,” she responded. “You just put your own sheets and quilts in there.”
This time I just shook my head, done with trying to make sense of the conversation. “Grandma-you’re a nut.”

I hugged her goodbye and we headed on to Mom’s place, as planned. When we got to the house Mom was on the phone. Grandma had called to say that she thought she should go on to the hospital. Instantly I felt guilt for having left when I did, and for not lingering until the hospital trip had been decided upon. I should have anticipated it, right? I should have insisted on taking her myself …

The four of us sat down to dinner, with periodic calls coming in with updates. Once we had cleaned up, Mom announced that they needed to decide whether or not they should go as well. Quite frankly, it had not occurred to me to go join the waiting room party, but they said they’d head on over, expecting to be waiting till well into morning hours before she would be seen. We joked that Lou might as well bring his overnight bag so he’d be ready to start work in the morning (he works at the same hospital). Then Peter and I got back on the road to head to our place while they left for the hospital. “I feel really guilty,” I told him, as soon as we were in the car. “You want to go?” he asked. ” “No-but I feel like I should. In our family that’s what we do. If one person has a problem, everyone stops life in order to pitch in …or join the waiting party, as the case may be.”

And that is the way it stands as I write this. Grandma is waiting out another hospital visit, still with no idea what the actual problem might be. Is it natural aging aches and pains? Is there something more specific that needs treatment? I don’t know. But I do know that the angst -filled and agonizing waiting game that we reside in now is not a happy place. I flit about with random household tasks, unable to focus on Greek lessons—or on anything else that would require more than a 2-second attention span. Family. Life would be so much easier without such emotional entanglements, would it not? Without guilt . . . without conflict . . . without drama . . . without . . . love?

Postscript: All is well, for now. They spent 4 hours waiting and then, when the doctor saw her, he prescribed meds to treat an infection that she’d previously been aware of, but that had more symptoms than realized. Everyone went home around 11:00 that night and today things were normal . . . insomuch as a family is ever “normal” ;-)

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being home

June 23, 2017

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Don’t be fooled. This may look like a rather dull, and definitely uninteresting photo. But it is one that inspired me to grab Peter’s arm, as he attempted to drive 3 somewhat high maintenance “back-seat drivers” home on a drizzly June evening, requesting a sudden stop for a photo op. I had just learned, from PaCharley, that we were passing the patch of road where he had first spied my grandmother. She was walking from the office building where she worked to the pharmacy across the way. He, from the other side of the road, caught a glimpse of the beauty and, reserved and proper though he was, could not refrain from requesting the scoop on Beatrice from his buddy as they worked. But I told this story once before, years ago; I will refrain from launching into the tale once again. Have no fear, dear reader: if you so desire, you may read the story as I originally wrote it (if you choose to sample my unpolished, flowery, young writer wares), by going to this “story of a gentleman and a lady” link from my blog archives. One more note about this evening, however, before I leave you: tonight the story came with a bit more intensity than it originally bore. That time I was young and starry-eyed about the future of adventure and travel I envisioned ahead of me. This time I am not-so-young and decidedly un-starry-eyed. These days I am inclined to fret and flit about, anxious about to-do lists and logistics. But these days I am also blessed with the grounding presence of consistency in my immediate “family,” if not my immediate surroundings—yet. And as the two of us work towards a future of a bit more predictability and stability, in so much as it can depend upon us (can life ever promise such?), I cannot help but be struck by the profound blessing of a couple of nonagenarians who, when we have the privilege of being with them in this land of abundance, take every opportunity offered to remind us that we have a remarkable heritage . . . that we are rich in kin . . . that here, where they are, we are home.
*Here is another photo from our recent family gatherings: a bit telltale, so far as our quirkiness goes. But I suppose any family can say as much, can it not?
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IMG_6108Be forewarned: this post is written purely for the enjoyment of its writer. I have no intent to inspire, educate, or enlighten you with these words. Rather, I am writing it to relieve the stress of this past month for myself. And of this past weekend. In the throes of acting as makeup coordinator for the school Spring Musical, of writing final exams and study guides for my own students, of and writing term papers and tests for my professors, I’m a cooked goose. I’m tired of logistics. I’m tired of planning. And, believe it or not, I’m even tired of words!
Inspired by a podcast I listened to during my run today, I am, consequently, going to amuse myself by writing a “bucket list.” I have no idea what direction this post will take as, quite frankly, I have no idea what my bucket list is. But I like to dream. And I like to envision myself in less-demanding, less-frantic positions than this one in which I currently find myself. So here goes . . .
I want to go [back] to New Zealand. Spending one blessed Christmas holiday thawing out from Kabul’s chill, and basking in the welcome of a salt-of-the-earth family (who saw fit to adopt me in, for reasons I have yet to comprehend), I want to go back. I want to revisit that place, and experience its beauty with my husband.
I want to publish a book. A really good book. Not self-published, though: I want someone else to think that my story is worth telling to the world. And I want to tell it. I want to tell it well.
I want to visit Israel. Oftentimes I like to revisit places I’ve loved in the past. But in this case I want to put skin (dust?) on the studies I’ve been undertaking this past year in the Scriptures. Cliché though it is, I do, in fact, want to walk where Jesus walked.
I want to be a farmer. Ok, so maybe this one is a bit far-fetched. I’m probably no good at being a real farmer. But Peter and I have been seriously researching, talking about, and leaning towards some sort of simple, our-style, homesteading. We just know we don’t like a lot of stuff, and we like doing things ourselves—and the older we get the more we realize that we actually have a fair bit of experience and interest that lends itself well towards a somewhat self-sufficient lifestyle.
There’s a hole in my bucket . . .

. . . because I know there are TONS more items that I want to add to this list. But this is what I want to write tonight, before the hour gets late and the morning too near.

*Photo is from church this morning, before the service began. One of the deacons took this photo and sent it to me intending to show how good Peter and looked, side by side as we fellowshipped together. He didn’t realize that I had Peter’s kindle in my hands, and was, at the time, engrossed in Hillbilly Elegy.

People, Part 2

April 16, 2017

DSCN9976Still offline at home, so “Part 2” will be short and sweet, word-wise, while camped out at an internet hot spot. But who needs words when there are pictures, eh? :-)

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Enough said

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In front of my 1st idea for an Alphabet lesson: a poem I’d written before. Scratched that idea the next day . . .

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Being assisted by Rafyeku to “wash my hair,” which was really just an attempt to stay cool

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While on a village walk with Magdalena, accepting an invitation to join the women for a drink: corn-based beverage in a gourd bowl

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Peter in mid-construction of the base of the water tank

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Success: flowing water from a newly-dug bore hole

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Peter giving a closing message: a beautiful talk about who Jesus is, and why He came

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Another accepted invitation–this time to help pound Moringa leaves

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A second day’s idea for a lesson: one-line songs going through the alphabet, to learn different verses

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“If I were a fuzzy wuzzy bear . . .”

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People, Part 1

April 15, 2017

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Settling in for the ride, I mention to Peter that it’s a lot easier to handle the prospect of this overnight bus journey at the tail end of the trip than at the beginning. Something about village stays just makes my a-bit-too-western self grateful for a comparably comfortable and dust-free seat appealing. I think through my mental photos and plan some quiet writing time while I mix a cup of my extra-cocoa chocolate mix for us. “Mind if I ration out my hot water and make it more of a pudding,” I ask. I interrupt him before he gets out his amused “mind?” response …”yeah yeah-you’re always there for me, ready to eat my sludge.”
As I take out my phone to begin tapping out notes for serious trip documentation, Jin pops his head over from the row in front of us. “What are you eating?” he asks. Peter starts to take the spoon out of his mouth and I answer for him “it’s chocolate mix,” I say. Jin’s eyes widen a bit. “Oh-it’s your lucky day!” Not missing a beat, Peter says “Nah-it’s my lucky life.” Jin’s 4th grade brain missed the meaning of this one; his mind jumped to jokes about random occasions for luck. But I was duly impressed with my generally un-verbally-romantic hubby. We moved on to various riddles and bantering conversations with Jin for some time.
So much for that quiet writing timeI thought. But then I realized that, realistically speaking, that’s one of the things I love about this sort of international life. In short, I find it comforting somehow to embrace life that is all-consuming, in practical sorts of ways, and that interrupts plans in a way that reminds you what is really important in that moment.
That said, I’m going to try to document this week in a bit of a different way than I generally feel compelled to do. I will share about moments that mattered to me without necessarily telling a start-to-finish explanation of the whole. We’ll see how it actually plays out once I start writing, but that’s the plan 😉
I want to tell you about my husband. He went into this trip already weary from a job that demands too much from him, and that exhausts his patience for on-call and help-me-now sorts of “needs.” But this week he dove into work that he was familiar with, thanks to the water engineering projects he did when we lived in China, and he did it with energetic enthusiasm. When the rest of us would finish and head home for showers and dinner, he’d be summoned to go shop for parts they might need for the next day’s work. And when concerns were voiced about the work ethics of the person hired to do the next stage of the project, Peter mentioned that he knew how to do it, so the outsourcing was canceled and Peter got the job. There is now a brand new bore hole providing good clean water for this dry and dusty village. There is also a weary man dozing in the seat next to me who I’m tickled pink to get to claim as mine 😍
I want to tell you about Yvonne. This woman has a serving spirit that puts me both in awe of her and ashamed at my own lack of the same. She tends to be so others-focused that I have learned to watch what I ask of her, in our friendship. I have to anticipate what ways she might overextend herself and go beyond what’s needed, so that I can keep from causing over work. Two days ago I noticed she was favoring one leg, as the three of us in one room readied for bed that night. Turns out she had a bad burn from a motorcycle exhaust pipe that she’d been hiding from us. She was walking around so much that it hurt worse by the day. The next day we were finishing up with lunch and she started to get up to join the group of us going to greet folks in the village. I forbade her to join us. “Sit under the tree,” I said, “with Peter. You’re not allowed to walk anymore.” I went over to Peter to tell him that she was going to stay with him in the “burn unit” (Peter’s redneck was so bad he was also forbidden to emerge from the shade). As I turned to go back over to Yvonne, I realized that she had gone over to the well and was washing everyone’s lunch dishes. I marched over and proceeded to arm wrestle her for the job. It still didn’t work. She allowed me to help her but would not leave until the job was done. This is just one instance in many of the same, as she goes about life with the unquestioned assumption that if something needs to be done, or someone needs help, she wants to do it. Period.

I want to tell you about The Mothers. They are technically grandmothers to some on our team, but I mentally called them mom’s the whole time as I felt we were all mothered by them. Split into teams for our different assignments, these two ladies were the cooking team. Last year we cooked for ourselves over an open fire, peeling charred skin off our potatoes so that each meal left our hands and faces smeared charcoal. This year we ate hand-rolled rice balls with seaweed and sesame, spicy noodles, and kimchee. “I’m in food heaven,” I would say, asking someone to translate my words to the chefs.
These ladies were not your average grandma, mind you. When we were in between jobs and hanging out under a mango tree, one of them walked over to a man standing by his bike. She was curious how it would ride and he gestured she was welcome to try it. With him holding it steady from behind (it being too tall for her to mount easily), she began wheeling circles around us. Her guide wasn’t watching the ground in front of her, though, so she realized she was getting too close to a child crouched on the ground; without being able to brake herself, she quickly veered the handlebars so sharply that she forced the bike to fall. Rolling herself quickly back up to her feet, she shooed away the rest of us running to her, brushed the dirt from her clothes, and smiled widely.
Later we moved to another mango tree for a meeting with the village. Chairs were carried over for us, as special guests. She walked over to a log in the back, however, squeezing in amidst all the children. They giggled a bit. She laughed with them.
I want to tell you about a child. As I mentioned in an Instagram post, I fell in love with a wide-eyed face, and the animated conversations coming out of that mouth . We couldn’t understand each other in the slightest, but that didn’t hinder her one bit as she rattled off stories, instructions, and reprimands to me. Eventually we had a focused enough interaction, outside of the schoolhouse, in which I wrote out the spelling of my name in the dirt, and then found out hers. She nodded and repeated “Anna” to my own nod, smiling with a childlike but also a bit too old-soul sort of pride. Sefia.
I want to tell you about People. The reason for sharing details about this trip is a bit of a complicated one for me. A part of me hesitates to tell the stories, for fear of coming across as some sort of heroic figure. Our team this past week worked hard, and did well. But we did what anyone could have done just as well. There was no need for a bunch of “obronis” (foreigners) to come do the songs, dances, drilling, teaching, and medical care that we did; in fact, I suspect that some of the work we did could have been done just as well, if not better, by those who live in that village. There is an inordinate amount of brilliance and genius to be found in anyone, anywhere . . . a remote village in Western Africa just as much as in a bustling city in the Western world. One look into the blazing eyes of Sefia confirms this truth to me. But we—Peter and I, at least—went on this trip because we believe that there is a profound beauty in the celebration of differences within humanity. We learn from each other, and in sharing who we are with others in the world we become, in baby steps, a tiny bit wiser, a tad more patient, and a little more loving. We become whole.
*So tomorrow I will share the photos that tell the rest of this written story. Today our internet is not working, and I have just enough time at a friend’s place to post this one. Maybe I will get the rest posted tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. When the time is right it will happen . . .

“Wait,” Part II

March 29, 2017

Wait.
Another day.
Maybe it was for the note waiting for me in my inbox the next morning: an email reply from a new acquaintance, in which that same “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength . . .” verse was the featured focal point.
Maybe it was for the moment I had, thanks to an extra set of hands in the library during my lunch duty there, to join in with the student praise team for their practice. They were singing a new song, and my heart soared in equal measure with my vocal chords, exulting in the joyous harmonies, and in the joy of getting to do this during my workday. Only afterwards did I realize the significance of the words I had been singing. “Speak to me. With each word you breath new life, bringing hope to me.”
Maybe it was for the 2nd day of crossing paths with that over-extrovert at the pool. This time she pointed to my tattoo. “I’ve seen that before.” I assured her that she likely had. I then explained to her what the “ichthus” meant—or at least what it means to me, as a symbol of my faith. She grinned widely. “Oh! I’m gonna tell my uncle what I know now . . .” again dashing out the door before she’d finished her sentence. I hope she did.
Maybe . . .
Wait.

wait

March 28, 2017

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At the sound of the bell I fled in frustration. “Failure,” I sighed. Far too often, that word associates itself with this particular class. It was one of those days. But today I knew that I bore the weight of this failure. Sure, they were their usual moody, and unmotivated, adolescent selves; but I was the one who, shortly into the block, felt my own motivation dwindle. By the end of the first half hour, I had pretty much given up on inspiring them to learn this lesson.
Feeling the weight of that knowledge, I began to question my own assumptions about work. I think I have always assumed that the older I get, and the more experience I gain, the better I will be at any given job. But recently, I am wondering if I’m actually getting any better at this teaching gig. No matter how many techniques I try to incorporate, or how many pep talks I give myself, I can’t seem to pull myself up by the bootstraps from this general malaise when it comes to my job. The moments of joy just stay moments, while the daily grind stays dreary.
This was the state in which I began my afternoon swim, with an ache and a longing for comfort. I wished I had a functioning MP3 player, missing my daily audio Bible readings. But instead I started to breath out prayers at each exhale, so I could actually hear my audible “groans” bubbling out before my head came up for air at each stroke.
A talk I had recently heard on Faith Conversations came to mind, in which Mike McHargue (of the podcasts Ask Science Mike and The Liturgists) spoke of his conversion experience to, and then out of, atheism. When explaining his process of coming to terms with his personal faith, he mentioned that, for all of his evangelical church training, his scientific and cosmological studies, and his apologetics (both Christian and atheistic), when it came down to it, his faith was prayer. Period.
I decided to spend this swimming time pursuing prayer, in a way that would go beyond my usual “arrow” or daily life prayers. One of my recent prayers has been a sort of “Speak, Lord.” I envision Samuel when I say this, sometimes adding, “your servant is listening.” I struggle, though, with the apparent lack of “speech” that I get in return. “How can I really know if God is speaking to me?,” I wonder. Today I grew more bold. What if God really talked to me right now, while I am swimming? If I have enough faith, will He talk to me?
As often happens when I am doing anything meditative, I began to “sing” [kinda hard to actually sing underwater ;-)] lines from songs that came to mind. I was in the middle of “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength . . .” when another song popped into my head. An old high school favorite—“40,” by U2. I began to go through the lyrics to this one: “I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit. Out of the mire and clay. I will sing, sing a new song . . .” Then tears sprang to my eyes, blurring my already foggy-goggle vision. That was what I needed to hear. Hope returned. It then occurred to me that I had just jumped from one “wait” song to another. I tried to think of all the verses that spoke of this word but my memory didn’t do that well at coming up with a list. I did, however, settle into those two songs for the remainder of my swim. And I also felt certain that God had indeed spoken to me just then—and that what He said was “wait.”
Wait for what? I don’t know.
Maybe it was for the little one who started to tug on me each time I passed her, shouting out “Auntie—hello!” Turns out she was just an overly extroverted youngster who continued to talk to me in the pool (about how she was watching me swim my deep end laps while she tried to get to the other side of the shallow end) and then in the changing room (“Auntie—why is there a shower in here?” Um, I don’t know. “There’s a shower out there and one in here . . .” her voice trailing off as she walked out to investigate other strangenesses).
Maybe it was for the memory of another class today, after which I had a completely unexpected chat with a high schooler who didn’t see anything wrong with legalizing prostitution. I told him of stories I’ve heard from friends who work with sex trafficking victims, and I explained my perspective on it. He was clearly ignorant about bits of knowledge I simply take for granted, and it struck me that I was in the right place at the right time. It was a rare occurrence of heartfelt (not just head) knowledge that I was, in fact, doing some good in this teaching gig.
Maybe . . .
Wait.

reason to laugh

March 16, 2017

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Today I chose to laugh. I did not feel like it. I would have, in fact, preferred to crumple into a weepy mess on the floor. But considering the circumstances of a classroom of 13-year-olds watching me, I managed to suck up my inclination in favor of a more productive response.

For some time now, I have lived in fear of a student—a middle schooler who has managed to hold an inordinate amount of power over me in the classroom. I had her for one semester last year, when I was struggling to figure out this classroom teacher business, and also battling significant dorm parent issues in the home, with a boarding kid who was also in this class. It was, quite simply, a daily nightmare.

As a result, I spent a large portion of last semester dreading this one, when that group would once more grace me with their classroom presence. The class is smaller this year, and only a handful of the same students from last year remain . . .but they are a powerful few, and I’m afraid  I still dread each 80-minute block with them. To be fair, I have grown in my teacher identity since last year, and have learned some better classroom management skills for that age group. Some days I feel much better. But some days I don’t. Today I did not. Today the ringleader saw the opportunity to snag the upper hand and she took it. She also, I believe, was quite aware that she had control, as she is an extremely smart teen. I do not think that she is consciously out to spite me; rather, I suspect that she is hurting, in some form or fashion, and that she uses her influence with her peers in order to comfort herself. I try to remind myself of this, and to not take it personally, but I know I do it poorly, with my complete lack of a “poker face,” and my tendency to be frustratingly visible with my emotions.

Anyhow, all that to say, I was not a happy camper today. In the midst of the power struggle (which happened while they were taking a practice test), I had no reply to one of her jabs and just turned away to hide my face. Doing so, I turned towards another student—one whom I’ve enjoyed in different contexts at the school (like my girls’ fitness class). While I watched her, she looked up from her paper and loudly called to another student by name, “Hey—what time is it?” I frowned and immediately called her out for talking in the middle of the test. She looked so confused that I walked over to her desk to see what was going on. I, incidentally, was confused by the realization that the wall clock hung directly in front of her.

When I looked down at her paper, she simply pointed at the question she was working on, looking at me with that still genuinely perplexed expression.

Then I laughed. The instructions were to show me various forms of translation to the French language. The question she was looking at read: “Ask a classmate what time it is?”

She had simply forgotten that she was taking a French test and taken the sentence literally :-)

In that moment, I realized that this girl was my “escape hatch” for the class period. If I looked at, and listened to, the students who were simply trying to do their work, I would be able to almost-forget the hurt, and able to laugh—even if that laughter was masking tears.

. . . ok, so maybe it’s only completely different in my odd-ball world :-)

A spoken “blog” post

 

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I’m participating this week in a blog post link-up with Emily Freeman about seasonal learning. Whatever “winter” is supposed to mean in this hemisphere, here’s my short list.

  1. “Heaven is a wonderful place . . .

. . . filled with glory and grace . . . “

Any of you out there who grew up with 80’s Church camp may be singing along with my right now :-) The lyrics to this slightly annoying but catchy tune have been running through my head for a few days now. I know the truth of the concept, and have for decades now. But the enthusiasm is new, thanks to a beautiful moment in my ladies’ Bible study this week. We were studying the book of Romans, and focusing on 8: 22-23. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” A few women began to talk about what that actually would look like: the bodily redemption that was to come in heaven. As they did so, the idea of actually being able to do all the activities I love in this life, with none of the frustrations, just hit me in a way that it had not before. “Thank you!” I blurted out as they talked. I continued, explained that I had suddenly had a beautiful lifting of the spirit at the realization that I didn’t have to just trudge gloomily through my days, as I generally feel I am doing. It has been a season of Eeyore-ish-ness for me, with my daily activities simply feeling like a list of chores and obligations. But suddenly I realized that, my nature being one of goal-oriented motivation, I can handle any sort of hardship if I can see the end in sight. And in this case, what a stunning end!

The version I was actually reading was French, in which the word for “groaning” translates literally as “sighing.” I am a sigh-er, vocalizing my annoyance and frustration more often than I wish. So if I consider these frequent sighs, on any given day, as a reminder of a glory that is to come, I feel as if I might be able to step a bit more lightly, and smile a bit more brightly. When the ladies left and my husband came out from his office hiding place, I was still on a bit of a high. So much so that I spontaneously serenaded him with full-on, belted out serenades (Hanson Brothers, anyone?).

2. I’m not a very good teacher.

There was a time in my life when work came easily and naturally to me—when I felt confident about my career and proud of my accomplishments. This is not that time. Full time classroom teaching has stretched me beyond my comfort level and stripped me of the illusion that I know what I’m doing. I have learned that one classroom can have me teary-eyed with joy while the next can provoke tears of frustration and, at times, even panic. I am grateful for the lesson in humility that this has been . . . but I am growing weary of the challenges and beginning to suspect it is time to settle back into work that is a bit more natural for my introverted and intuitive (INFJ, if you’re a Myers Briggs person) sensitivities.

3. I’m a pretty good student.

I never thought I would do seminary. I was, in fact, originally headed towards a Doctorate in Education. But that program did not offer a scholarship; this one does. So I’ve ended up discovering a somewhat surprising side of me, in that I really enjoy being a student, and learning, again. I guess I knew that to a certain extent [I like to say that I became a librarian so that I could have a job of learning everything about everything] But the actual experience of enjoying my studies—and of craving time to be able to do it—is a bit of a surprise considering what I thought I knew about my student personality [thinking I was goal-oriented about it, as opposed to just enjoying the study itself]. In this case, I have no professional aspiration for this MDiv . . . but I’m enjoying the process,

4. I love my students when I’m dancing with them.

At the end of International Day festivities today, several of the high schoolers taught a few of their respective dance moves. As I followed along with them, and watched their rhythmic beauty, my smile grew to a ridiculous grandeur. I thought of the happy moments spent with them in such times—like when I have done dances with them during Girls’ Fitness class a few weeks each year. It was a blessedly needed reminder of the beauty of humanity as a whole, and of each of these students in her unique giftedness. After a morning of frustration with my abilities in the classroom, this vantage-point shift was life giving.

5. I love my students when I’m playing nurse.

Because the school does not currently have a nurse, I have ended up acting as one a couple times, seeing students needing something as I passed. Today I was freed up from normal schedules due to the afternoon festivities, and so was able to sit with an elementary student while she was on the breathing machine for an asthma attack. I decided to start telling her stories, to distract her from the fact that she was alone while her classmates were out having fun. At the end of the 20-minute treatment, she took her mask off and smiled at me. “Can I have more stories on Monday?” she asked? I was simultaneously saddened (at the knowledge that next week would be normal classroom teaching for me) and gladdened (at the exquisite certainty that I had been in the right place at the right time, if only for today).