May is for Superheroes: The Teacher Homestretch

I’m exhausted.

Last week I had a student ask me if he could play me a song on his nose.

Befuddled, I nodded. They didn’t teach me how to answer that question in college.

He proceeded to place a finger on the side of his nostril and create a rattly humming sound as he “played” me a very unique rendition of Jingle Bells. I stood there in the hallway, questioning my life, and listened. Listening turned into singing as I joined my student in the medley. There I stood in the middle of the hallway, performing a nostril duet to a Christmas song.

Tomorrow is May 1. The official start of the homestretch (according to the calendar based on my opinion and perspective).

Like most teachers, I am looking ahead to the last day of school like it’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A shining beacon of hope that calls me to keep walking as the days feel impossibly long and the list of spring commitments grows impossibly more extensive.

I have reached the point where I would rather pull my hair out than say “Bummer” one more time.

Yes, Timmy, it is a bummer that you tied your shoelaces together and now you can’t walk.

I probably say “bummer” as many times as I hear my own name in one day (70,000).

I’ve reached the point where I have heard about so many lost teeth that when they tell me they lost a tooth, I tell them “I hope you find it” and laugh hysterically at my own joke.

It’s the time of the year that I’m questioning everything:

Can I do this? No, like seriously; is this actually possible?

Will I make it until June 14? Will those around me make it until June 14 having to deal with me?

Am I actually losing my mind or does it just appear that way in every facet possible?

I am so tired. Everything in me wants to auto-pilot the next 30 school days, getting through them with caffeine and a prayer. And while I will use both of those things in excessive amounts over the next month or so, I really want to fight the urge to mentally check out.

As summer break draws near and even as the curriculum winds down, those kids still deserve the best version of me. I think it’s possible to still look forward to summer yet live mindfully over the next 6 weeks.

In many classrooms in my district, we have been focusing on mindfulness with our students. With so many distractions, being present in the current moment is now something that really has to be taught, especially to some of our children who struggle behaviorally.

If I am going to practice mindfulness over the next few weeks, I am able to still be excited for summer, however I can’t be living there.

I can look forward to the pool time without inflating the floats and sleeping on them nightly.

The kids in front of us in May need us as much as they did in September. It may feel like we have nothing left to give: no ounce of creative energy, no ability to write another learning objective, no patience to respond kindly when a student still hasn’t learned an appropriate time to ask to use the restroom.

But the month of May is where the inner-super-hero comes out. Somehow we do it, year after year. We make it until the last day of school, sometimes with sanity hanging by a thread, but we do it.

We are going to make it. We are. The goal I am putting in front of myself is to not wish away each day, because the days go fast. The year has been like a  movie roll: month after month changing the calendar in the front of the room wondering, “How did we get here?”

I don’t want to wish away the years of my life, looking only forward to the next chapter (no matter how needed or well-deserved it is).

Even the day that feels the longest flies by and the years whiz past right along with them;  I don’t want to wish them away.

The weeks that are left, as exhausting as they will be, still have little moments that are going to feed my soul. They will have giggles and “aha” moments and new discovery. They will have dry markers, broken pencils, squirrelly behavior and probably some tears on my end and the students. But we are going to make it because that’s what we do.

Finish strong, stay in the moment and caffeinate regularly. Recommended dosage is 4 cups a day. Superheroes need their fuel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Closes a Door, He Can Do More Than Open a Window.

I don’t particularly like the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”

As someone who has walked face-first into many of her own doors (both figuratively and literally), I find this line a little depressing.

Because my doors have been really pretty.

My doors have had some really awesome stuff behind them, just waiting for me to experience:

Leaving a job I already loved for an  ‘even better dream job’ 3 years ago

Marrying the person I thought should have been the right one

Being Captain of Safety Patrol in 5th grade

Playing college sports

Getting cast as ANYTHING in the Civic Theater’s production of “Annie” in 1999. (I still rehash that audition in my head. I totally blew it).

I decorated my doors and tested the waters…maybe putting one foot through, anxiously  tasting how it was going to feel when I was FINALLY able to pass through it.

I planned what I would do when I finally walked through the door. I stood at the doorsteps and looked as far into the future as I could, dreaming, planning, plotting, and organizing. (Can you tell I almost NEVER get ahead of myself?)

Since I like to do this thing where I plant one foot on the other side of a door even when God hasn’t told me to pass through yet, I do all I can do to make it harder for God to tell me that door is not for me. Sometimes I think I can trick God, like “Oh you accidentally thought I wasn’t going to get this job! Whoops! I have already started planning and buying things for my new classroom so looks like you got it wrong, Big Guy!”

He will thank me for all the laughs one day.

When God tries to gently close doors in my life, I do this adorable thing where I use my upper body and push back against Him and the door. I let Him know that I understand He is trying to close it, but He must not see that I have already planned my life on the other side of the door.

I know some faithful servants of God that trust Him enough to notice Him gently shutting a door, so they back up and walk away, although it hurts, their faith carries them to obedience.

With them, God is able to gently and gracefully close a door, ever so slowly, in a much less painful fashion. They are so tuned in and they are so faithful and trusting, they get clear out of the way for God to carefully close the door.

Yeah, not me.

If my upper body’s strength fails me, I have also been known to get down on the floor and put both feet on the door, and use every ounce of energy in my body to kick the door down so it isn’t closed all the way.

I will sacrifice a foot to keep my door ajar, just in case what God has for me instead isn’t going to be better.

So due to my stubborn pride, God has had to slam a few doors in my life.

And I can truly say looking back, while at the time I was angry and confused as to why the door had to SLAM shut in such a dramatic way, it was for my own good and my own protection. (Okay and maybe  because I was literally kicking and pounding on the door in a mild state of refusal when He tried to close it softly.)

Looking back, I see where He tried to gently coax me away from most of those doors. Warning signs. Red flags. Nudges in my gut.

But again, in my stubborn pride, I politely said, no thank you, I want this door.

So…

I got rejected for the job I thought I wanted more than anything.

I went through a painful breakup instead of an engagement.

I was chosen as Lieutenant of Safety Patrol and had to answer to the Captain, (Lindsay, you did a great job, no hard feelings).

I injured my throwing arm so badly junior year of high school, that I never pitched again.

I never even got a call back for Annie.

So when you tell me that when God shuts a door He opens a window, I find it depressing. 

When God turns our life around and doesn’t give us what we want, He is going to do a lot more than just open a measly window.

I think the issue with the window analogy has been my view of God.

I look longingly back at my own pretty door, dark mahogany with a beautiful brass doorknob and an adorable welcome mat, and then I see the window that I have set in my mind is God’s plan for me.

It’s covered in cobwebs and has dust all over it.

I try to open it but it has those frustrating locks that you can’t figure out which way to push the levers.

The glass is dirty and when I look down it’s a pile of branches and dead leaves.

When God closes doors in my life, that is how I see this hypothetical window.

Oh, how wrong I have it.

Did I really think that if God was going to close the doors that I built with my own hands, that His alternative would be me crawling through a dusty, dirty, tiny window?

Did I really doubt purpose in the pain?

When God closes a door, He can do so much more than open a window.

He can construct a beautiful alley covered in Spanish moss and gorgeous tiled floors.

He can blow the roof of of the little house in which you hold your dreams.

If only we trust Him.

If only we remember there is purpose in the pain of closed doors.

Sometimes we learn of the purpose on this side of heaven, and others we are left to trust only by faith that one day we will.

For me,

If I would have gotten that job 3 years ago, I would be missing some of the deepest friendships and greatest joys of my entire life at the job I stayed in.

If I would have walked through my own door in the relationship I thought I wanted, I would have spent my life in unnecessary turmoil and a state of constant anxiety.

My tenure as Lieutenant of Safety Patrol in 5th grade was riddled with parent complaints about me abusing my power and “taking my job too seriously”. Clearly, the position of being Captain would have been too dangerous for the tyrant that was 10 year old me.

Stress and anxiety almost got the best of me in college, let alone if I would have played college sports. I never could have handled the demands. God protected me.

As for the Annie audition, I still have no idea why I was not cast in this production. I was a natural talent and a perfect fit for one of the older orphans, so this one still confuses me. I hold on in faith that one day I will know.

I guess what I am trying to say is that, if I would have had a greater view of God during all of those moments of my life- some serious and some not, it would have changed so much.

Of course we grieve for the plans that we build that never come to fruition.

I have pounded on doors that God has closed in my life.

I have wept on their doorstep.

I have yanked and shook the doorknob violently, desperate for it to open.

So many times in my life, I have refused to turn around and walk away from the door and look at what I just knew would be a small, dusty window covered in cobwebs.

Blinded by the pain of the sound of a door slamming shut, I didn’t want to consider there could be something even more beautiful in another direction.

So if God has shut a door in your life lately, hang on. You can grieve it. You can pound on it if you want.

But then walk away.

It might feel like a dusty, dirty window at first as you crawl and blindly feel against the walls for support as you walk in the new and unknown.

I am not saying the path where He takes us will be without pain or without obstacles or without confusion, but I am saying that there is purpose.

 

But whether you find out on this side of heaven or not, there is SO much more than a rickety window for you.

Take comfort in what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in chapter 3:

‘ For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’

Blessings, not chins

Jenna