Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Trust

I’ve found that my infertility puts my faith in a precarious position.  I’ve always held the view, deep inside, that every facet of my life is touched by God’s hand.  Don’t get me wrong: I love God and I know He loves me.  That was never in question; in fact, it is a part of what has made this so disconcerting.  From the moment I heard the word “unexplained” come out of the doctor’s mouth, I felt there WAS an explanation: God’s hand. 

Naturally, then comes the question, “Why, God?”  I could write a book on the times I’ve asked this and the variety of answers I’ve imagined He might give.  The “answers” to “why” in my mind and heart have evolved over time, as has my sanity level.  At first, I couldn’t fathom any sensible explanation, but now I can see so many reasons “why,” many of which do make things easier to live with.  But there has been one thought as to “why” that has nagged at me relentlessly: did God decide He couldn’t trust me with this?

I’ve always been the super-responsible, get-it-done and get-it-done-well type.  Assign me the hardest class with a difficult professor and I’ll find a way to ace it.  Put a challenging student in my class and I’ll find a way to tame him (or I’ll at least keep a smile on my face while I try).  Ask me to teach at school all day, then teach at church that night, and I’ll have the lesson plans laid out, ready-to-go and give it my all.  There was no reason to think I couldn’t have two or three kids and keep balancing everything else on my plate…isn’t that what they call “having it all?” 

So, in addition to the heartbreak and confusion of infertility, quite frankly, I was pissed off.  Why would God “trust” seemingly everyone else with children and not entrust me with my own?  What had I done, or not done, to fall out of His favor when it came to motherhood?  Am I too much?  Not enough? Just not quite fit for it? 

Until just recently it hit me.  Perhaps it isn’t that I’m NOT fit for motherhood, but instead that I AM fit for so much else, so many opportunities that I would have overlooked or missed altogether had things gone according to my plan.  What would my life look like had I gotten what I thought I deserved?  I’m by no means discounting how amazing it would have been had it gone that way…but at what cost?  Friends I never would have made, students I never would have taught, a marriage less proven, a faith less tested, a heart untouched by this experience and those it has brought into my life… all in all, a shallower version of myself…

It isn’t that He doesn’t trust me.  It’s that He trusts me with something else, something different, something just as important…the truest version of myself.  He does, in fact, trust me and He expects me to make the most of the life HE has planned for me.  Not the one I had planned for myself.

How often do we really get what we expect?  When it comes to our faith, our relationships, our families, our jobs, our LIVES…do things really ever turn out like we plan?  It’s time that we stopped asking, “Why?” and started asking, “Why not?” and “Where do we go from here?”  …and it’s time that we truly trusted Him with the rest.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”  -Luke 12:48

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Calling All Teachers

At the beginning of the school year, I went out on a limb and uploaded some novel units I’ve created to Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT), an ingenious website where teachers can sell and purchase digital products to and from each other.  Pretty soon, I had sold about $30 worth of products and I talked to Brent about whether or not I should pay the $60 fee to upgrade to a premium seller account so I’d get a higher percentage of profits.  He said sure, we spend more than that on dinner out at times, so why not? 

It seemed too good to be true that it could be this easy to make extra money off documents I already had created, but I hesitantly upgraded my account anyway.  Now Brent picks on me because I’ve earned that $60 back more than 25 times over.  I will admit I’ve put more and more time into formatting my novel units, creating more, and tinkering with the website, but my dorky teacher self really enjoys doing it.

If you are a teacher (public school, private school, or home school), here’s what you need to know/do:

1. Check out this website regularly.  There are about 150,000 free items available for download and close to a million items for sale.  (Check out my featured free item here.)  Most items are priced more reasonably than what you would pay from a publishing company.  Looking for resources on TPT has become part of my regular lesson planning routine, and my students have benefitted from the awesome resources I’ve found.  It’s saved me a ton of time and I’ve been able to strengthen my instruction affordably and creatively.

2.  Consider becoming a TPT seller.  You can upgrade to a seller account for free to see if there would be interest in your products.  I was so surprised when my products started selling; you never know what other people are looking for.  One teacher’s strength is another teacher’s weakness, and I look at TPT as an amazing new version of collaboration!  One more thing: If you are creating a new seller account, use my referral link.  I’ll be glad to help you get started, whether you use my referral link or not- just let me know! 

3.  Even if TPT doesn’t interest you, help out a friend.  If you have a TPT account, please consider visiting my store and “following” me.  Despite what I consider a pretty good start, I only have 8 followers currently and I’m one of them- ha.   Here’s the link to my TPT store.  If you’re already selling on TPT, let me know so I can follow you back!


I’m not much one for a sales pitch and if TPT hadn’t been the most exciting find of my teaching career, I wouldn’t waste your time.  Thanks for hearing me out and take it from a skeptic – this website IS worth all the hype!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Four Reasons to Read Divergent

A lot of people I know just read, are currently reading, or are about to read the Divergent series.  More than one friend recommended these books to me before Christmas, and I’ve doled out my share of recommendations since.  If you’re one of those people, beware: at the end of this post, I’m going to divulge the final four sentences at the end of the trilogy. But I promise I’m not the kind of person who would ruin the ending of a good book or a good movie. 

(Now, a bad movie on the other hand, I’d be glad to ruin.  For example, do not ever bother watching The Perfect Storm.  By the time it’s over, you’ll feel seasick and they’ll all be dead. I still haven’t gotten over the fact I endured that movie on the fourth row of the good ole K-ville theater when I was a teenager.)

On the contrary, I am counting the days until the Divergent movie comes out in March.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book as good as these.  I commented the other night that it might be my favorite book/series ever, and my middle school language arts teacher brother-in-law laughed at me, as if the latest teenage movie craze could not possibly be considered my favorite piece of literature.  Well, he was only 50 pages into the first book…I’m betting he’ll be changing his tune soon.   Move over Of Mice and Men; Mr. Elkins is about to have a new favorite book!

At first glance, it may seem that this series fits right in with the young adult fiction mania of the past several years: Twilight, Hunger Games, etc.  But for me, this series was more well-written, more enticing, more thought-provoking and just plain better than any of those.  So for that reason, I’d like to encourage you to read it with my short list entitled Four Reasons to Read Divergent.  And yes, I chose four reasons because one of the main characters is named Four. :)

1.  The factions are fascinating.
The books take place in a futuristic Chicago, where the people living there have been placed inside a fence and divided into five factions: Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor and Amity.  Each faction has a strong suit that enables them to contribute positively to society (selflessness, bravery, intelligence, honesty, and peace) but also a converse weakness that contributes to their possible downfall.  As you are reading, you can’t help but think about which faction you’d find yourself in, which one you’d choose, and which ones you’d even be able to cut it in.  You’ll also think of others and where they would fit.  And you realize we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and many times they are inherent, so perhaps we should be a little more forgiving. 

2.  Tris is a terrific heroine.
One of my problems with the Hunger Games books was that Katniss drove me a little bit crazy.  Not that I would have done any better in her situation, but I still found her to be rather frustrating.  Tris, on the other hand, is much easier to relate to.  You’ll find yourself cheering for her, laughing with her, scared to death for her, and crying with her.  While she makes some questionable decisions at times, I could totally understand why she did what she did – every time.   And she’s a lot quicker to act than Katniss…these books move really fast!

3.  You won’t be able to put them down.
The books are written in first person and present tense.  Almost every chapter is a cliffhanger.  There is a lot of dialogue and since they are technically young adult novels, the spacing is generous.  While the books look thick, you’ll fly through them.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that kept me up at night, but these did.   My husband started reading them the same time as me, and we tried to share my one set of hardcover books (a Christmas gift from my awesome sister).  Brent read the books so fast that I had a hard time staying ahead of him so he could have the next one when he was finished.  The teacher in me suggested we read the last one out loud to each other, but Brent laughed as if that was ridiculous.  It’s his loss – he’s still not finished with the third one and I am…I could have read it to him in my best teacher voice if he had taken me up on the offer! 

4.  You’ll remember why we’re here in the first place.
These books caused me to reflect not only on the state of our society, but also on my own life and what matters.  They reminded me that no matter what goes on around us, what counts is how we interact with and support the people around us.  There are love stories, familial relationships, and close friendships woven throughout the plot, even as unthinkable conflict is occurring.  Not so different than our own lives really.  The last four sentences of the third novel summed up so much of the way I’m trying to live my life these days.  It ends,  Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one.  We can’t escape that damage.  But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended.  We mend each other.”

So true, and so worth the read!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stop

We teachers have enjoyed the good ole two-hour delay twice this week.  It was a nice gift from above in easing back into the morning routine after Christmas break.  Not that we really get to come in two hours late like the kids, but we do manage to slink in at least twenty minutes late.  Today (Thursday) we were back on regular schedule since the temperature finally hit freezing yesterday.  And Thursdays are morning meeting days for my grade level, which means that twenty minutes I’d been cheating on came back to bite me and I had to be at work twenty minutes early today instead.

I rushed around the house and made it out the door, school bag and lunch in one hand, Mountain Dew in the other.  I was watching the clock all the way to school, as I do every Thursday, wondering if I’d actually make it to the conference room by the 7:30 start time (I’m about 50/50 on that one).  About 7:23, I had to brake for a red light and I’m sure I audibly sighed, figuring that I was again going to be beat by my co-worker who actually gets herself AND two toddlers ready and out the door each morning and STILL manages to saunter into the meeting looking more together than me.  “Oh, well,” I thought, and leaned my head back on the headrest. 

That’s when I actually looked up, and saw this (see below).  I smiled, and reminded myself how lucky I am that my morning drive takes me east so I get to see plenty of beautiful sunrises.  I’m not at all a morning person so the fact that I can even find a good point of a morning drive is a miracle in itself.  Next, I grabbed my phone from my cup holder and took this shot.  In these days of Instagram, we have to always be ready, right?

But when I looked down at the photo as the light turned green, I realized that it spoke to more to me than I could put in an Instagram caption.   It pretty much sums up my life for the past few years, and I’m sure the same could be said for many of us.  How many times do we travel along, sure of the route we have planned for ourselves, only to have our path blocked?  It’s true of the little things and the big things- but what matters, every single day, is what we do while we’re at the red light. 


Too many times, I’ve become fixated on the stoplight, and never looked past it to the beauty that God wants me to take in while I wait.  “Never again,” I whispered to myself, and to God, this morning as I drove along.  Never again…


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Top 13 of 2013

Near the end of 2013, I received an email from someone with the subject line, “What a Year!” in reference to some things that had gone on in my life.   The phrase has stuck in my mind, as it really was quite a year for me.  I’m still new to blogging and I’m still trying to give you a full picture of what my life looks like.  I figure what better way than to re-cap the top 13 things of 2013 in my life.  So, here goes…

1.  Milestone Birthdays
There are pros and cons to marrying someone ten years older.  The fact that your milestone birthdays fall in the same year could probably be considered both.  Even though you’re both a little sad about getting older, at least you have each other!  And from my perspective, 30 sounded pretty manageable since I was busy planning Brent’s 40th.  Thanks to awesome celebrations with our amazing friends and family, our milestone birthdays were definitely high points and not low points of 2013. 


2.  Viva Las Vegas (again)
We kicked off 2013 travel with our third trip to Las Vegas over spring break.  We had originally visited Vegas about three years before, and I’ll admit I was skeptical about the destination at first.  However, we’ve loved it every time, which is what keeps us going back.  I highly recommend it if you haven’t been – there’s something for everyone and it is what you make it.


3.  NB and TOY (if you aren’t a teacher, read on to see what that means)
In the midst of turning 30 and going to Vegas for spring break, I was slaving away trying to achieve National Board certification for teaching.  This was the most challenging task I’ve conquered since college, and I spent more than one night crying over my laptop telling Brent that I’d made a mistake in starting the process.   However, thanks to support from the wonderful people in my life, including a fabulous student teacher who filled my teacher shoes for six weeks, I got it done and submitted by May 31st.   But this really was an “event” of 2013, because the scores didn’t come back until November!  I was so excited and surprised that I achieved certification on first try.  Only two weeks after finding out, I received another surprise in the professional realm.  One day while I was teaching, my principal and assistant principal showed up at the door with flowers, a balloon, and an announcement that I had been voted Teacher of the Year for my school.  My students screamed and jumped up and down like Ed McMahon was at the door.  Their reaction was the best, but the feeling of knowing my colleagues recognize and appreciate what I at least try to do well everyday was also pretty good. 


4. Lake White
A couple of years ago, my parents bought a house at White Lake, a vacation destination from my childhood.  We’ve enjoyed some fun times there the past few summers, and this summer was no exception.  We also just recently discovered that the only nearby town, Elizabethtown, has some fun shopping.  This just might help the place live up to the name that Donnay and I have given it: Lake White.  We decided that fancier, nicer lakes have the word “Lake” first, so we’d call it that.  This has caused plenty of laughs, but in all seriousness, I’d call the clear waters and warm temperatures of White Lake pretty nice any day.  (Especially today as I’m dreaming of summer in these frigid temperatures!)


5.  Everybody Down in Houston Calls Him Texas…
This spring, I got hooked on country newcomer Jana Kramer’s CD, which I’d highly recommend if you’re a country music dork like me  I have every song memorized.  I burned copies of the CD for a few people close to me because I felt like I needed to spread the love, and because I needed people to sing “Whiskey” with me at the top of our lungs, before it hit the radio.  As luck would have it, Jana opened for Darius Rucker in May in Greensboro.  Donnay got online and got us 4th row tickets as soon as they went on sale and it shaped up to be a night to remember for sure!


6. All Things Ashe County
The past few years, Brent and I have been spending more and more time with our friends, Jeff and Janice.  While we’d love them even without any added benefits, they have a cabin in West Jefferson that they frequent on weekends.  We love spending time there with them when we can, and in the process we’ve learned to love and appreciate all things Ashe County.  We’re hooked on the cheese, the restaurants, the people, the relaxation, the scenery, and we’ve put numerous miles on our kayaks on the New River.  My mountain boy at heart husband has been trying to grow my enthusiasm for the mountains for years, and I think he’s finally lucked up thanks to Jeff and Janice.


7.  A Random Road Trip
There really are good things about getting older, and one of those is you get to be friends with people that you used to babysit. Donnay and I have a joke with our friend Katie that we used to be her “baby-sitters” because she once referred to us as that, but really we were so much more.  When she was little, she was our pretend little sister, but it never really felt all that fake and it still doesn’t.  I hadn’t had a chance to go to the beach with Katie in the past 10 years or so, so I jumped at the chance for a quick road trip to join her, her grandma and her aunt (whom I also love) at the beach for a couple of days.  It was a lot different than it was more than a decade ago – more sunbathing and less building sand castles, but it was a 2013 memory that I definitely look back on and smile.


8.  Speak Up, Step Up, Stand Up
Every year, I plan my summers around two church events: Caswell and Vacation Bible School.  While the teacher in me loves VBS, I must say that Caswell gets me even more excited.  I’m probably a little off balance to get excited about taking 15 or so teenagers to camp for a week each summer, but what can I say?  It’s a great location and a really great group of teens.  And God always has a message for me as well.  This year’s theme was “Speak Up, Step Up, Stand Up” and it was so encouraging to be there with our youth group while they took in this message and to watch have watched them live it out upon our return.    


9.  Getting to Florida with a little Floo Powder…
Ever since Universal Studios opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I’ve been trying to talk Brent into going.  We went to Disneyworld right after we got married and he hated it, so it hasn’t been an easy sell.  However, Donnay and Brendan love Harry Potter even more than I do so once it became three against one, Brent eventually gave in.  We visited Universal in August and had an awesome time!  Even Brent liked it and has agreed another trip is in our future.


10. My First Roller Coaster
You’d think this one would go with the previous paragraph, but I avoided anything considered a roller coaster at Universal, in true Deana style.  I hate heights and I’m not a big fan of high speed, so I’m usually the one holding everyone else’s sunglasses and waiting on a bench.  However, my friend Lisa and her family had season passes to Carowinds this summer, so I planned a couple of day trips with them, mostly for the company of her awesome kids, Tommy and Lanie.  It turns out there is a roller coaster I can conquer!  Sweet Lanie held my hand the whole way and taught me to love the ole Goldrusher.  Brent laughed when I told him I was proud I rode it, if that tells you anything.  But for me and Lanie, it was a big deal, and not a moment I’ll soon forget.

11.  Niagara Falls
I won’t belabor this point since I’ve already written a whole post on it, but I couldn’t leave Niagara Falls off my Top 13 of 2013.  As I’ve said, this destination exceeded my expectations and needs to earn a place on everyone’s bucket list!


12.  It All Happened in the Country
While I already bragged about my youth group previously in this post, I have to also give a shout out to the kids at my church, who also add so much light to my life.  In December, along with the help of some other awesome ladies, we put on a full-length play at church for Christmas.  While I’m not so great at Christmas festivities, I do love to direct a bunch of kids and teens, and while the practices weren’t seamless, the kids and youth took the play very seriously and did an AMAZING job!  I was so proud of them and this play is definitely something I’ll look back on when I think of the highlights of 2013.
(*and I typed up the entire script and lyrics on PowerPoint, so if you ever do this play at your church, let me know…I’ll be glad to share!)


13.  Only Let Us Live
Last but not least, 2013 will go down as the year I started blogging.  I mulled over this idea for much of the year, but once I decided to start, I wanted to go all in.  It’s been a little scary but very gratifying, being as honest as I’ve ever been publicly about where I am personally and spiritually.  I hope to increase the reach, the topics covered, and the frequency of posts throughout 2014 and I hope you will continue with me on the journey. 


As we start a new year, I thank Him for all He allowed me to experience during the previous year and encourage us all to remember: only let us live up to what we have already attained!