Saturday, December 31, 2011

*What I learned in 2011*

I remember when I was younger I would count the years to see when I would finally grow up. I always stopped at 2011 and knew that would be the year that changed everything for me. I'd be grown and finally find my place in the world. I often wondered what my life would be like once I made it to this year that felt so far away then. I never really thought about the time to come after 2011...maybe because I couldn't fathom being any older than 23 at the time.

2011 did prove to be the year that changed everything for me. It's been a huge year of transition and becoming who I studied to be for so long. As any year before, it's been a year of ups and downs, but I am glad to say the ups for me far outweigh any of the downs. I have been truly blessed in more ways than one and any hard time has proven to be a learning experience. I don't think I'd change a thing about 2011. It taught me so many lessons.

I learned to trust God's timing. I was so upset this time last year that I was in college a year late, but now I am seeing that if I graduated on time I wouldn't of gotten the job that I did and I might not have the students that I do now. It was so worth it to make it through an extra year to fit right into the time table that made me and my student's lives intertwine the beautiful way they do now. I wouldn't change anything. Not one tear, not one stressful night, not one meeting in the library, not one of the many times of questioning I had to go through to get to where I am was worth it. It all came together in the right timing. It all came together better than I could have ever imagined back in my childhood days.

I learned that to love, to truly love, you may open yourself up to experience loss. I loved my students in my internship so deeply it felt like I almost broke in half when I had to leave them. I questioned how I was ever going to have a career that took my heart with it every single year. I wonder the same thing today as I think about next year when I won't have the same kids that I do now. I kinda wish that I could be like Mr. Feenie and be their teacher every year until they graduate, but nobody in their right mind wants me to be a high school teacher. Apparently trying to sit high schoolers in your lap when you think they've had a bad day doesn't go over well. Saying "Bye babies! Have fun at you!" isn't exactly what a teen is looking for. But how can you love little people so much and just let them go every year? I'm not quite sure yet, but what I do know is that any pain I feel from the loss was worth it to love with everything I had and it will be worth it again. To love deeply, I think our hearts have to be brave enough to feel pain. But the pain is worth it. Love is the greatest thing we can ever do for ourselves.

I learned that a nephew is a true treasure sent from the Lord himself. I can't comprehend my life without Samuel and I am so thankful to have him in my life. This morning I was woken up by a light and walked into Molly's room to see what it was. There Samuel was laying there, kicking his feet in the air. When he saw me he smiled so big and wrapped his little hands around my neck. He's growing up so fast. It's like he's no longer just a little baby, but a little person.

I learned that it's easier to grow up than I thought it was. Walking into my internship in January, I had no idea how I would ever manage a classroom by myself. I was terrified out of my mind and felt like there was no way I would find my footing in the scary real world. It seemed so out of reach, but I had the best support behind me and the most encouraging internship teacher that helped me figure out that I can be so much more than I thought I could. I slowly watched myself crack out of my timid shell and blossom into a confident teacher that took control of the room with an ease I never thought would come. It all started to fall into place and I realized that I could do this. I could be a teacher and I was more prepared than I knew. I was proud of who I was going to be and I liked watching who I had become. My last months in college were the most defining and I knew by the end of it that I was ready. Truly ready.

I learned that getting a first job offer is one of the most thrilling experiences ever! I don't think I got over that joyful high for months!! I was so happy and in awe and could not believe that such good things were happening for me. I couldn't believe how I got an offer at one of the greatest places to teach in the entire world BEFORE I even had my degree! It was one of the greatest feelings in my entire life and I will treasure those moments forever. I still think of my little corner classroom and feel so blessed to be where I am. It's almost unbelievable... but thankfully it's true.

I learned that sometimes I'm the bad guy. Sometimes I need to be the one to change in a situation. I learned that I always need to look at myself when offended by another, because I tend to be in the wrong, too. Sometimes I AM the wrong. Isn't it terrible when that's the case?

I learned that sometimes people come and go in my life to refine me. To teach me things about myself and help me realize what I need to work on. I learned that just because things don't work out with a guy, doesn't mean I have to feel offended or be angry at that person. This year has been a notorious year for dates gone wrong from it's beginning to it's end. It's almost comical thinking back on the whole year. Three guys...three guys with colorful stories to tell about each which is like WAY more than I bargained for in 2011. But maybe that's okay...maybe every time I'm getting one step closer to becoming who I'm supposed to be. Maybe I'm little bit closer to knowing what I want, and what I want to be for that person. My person. The person that will be single as long as I am. :)

I learned that God knows what He's doing and gives me the strength as I need it. He has had every encounter, every person met, and every single second of this year in the palm of his hand. There is nothing that was a surprise to Him and there won't be in 2012, either. He has been what has gotten me through this very defining year in my life and I owe any of my success to Him. So many things I couldn't have done without Him and He has given me strength for it all. He has truly helped me in every area of my life.

Maybe the reason growing up isn't as hard as I thought it would be is simply because the Lord has given me what I need to do it. Maybe I don't need to fear the future at all anymore, because He always comes through. 2012 will have nothing in it that I can't handle because I have the Lord to help me through anything.

Bye were a good one.

Monday, December 19, 2011

*He Wouldn't Change a Thing*

Leave it to me to be the teacher to embarrass myself while using the school intercom.

Calling the office was something that I always dreamed of as a child and it's even better than I imagined. The feeling of power and importance when you hit that button is unexplainable. As an elementary student I wanted to push it so bad sometimes, but luckily my dream came true. It's still as wonderful as I had hoped for growing up even if I make myself look like an airhead sometimes.

Today we had a game where the principal would come on the loud speaker and say a Christmas trivia question and we would email in and the "7th" correct email would get a door prize. I knew most of them, but one of them really stumped me and my class.

"When does Christmas come before Thanksgiving?" we heard from the chipper voice on the other side of the speaker. My kids and I thought long and hard about what it might be and finally came up with "Christmas in July". Well, the office ended up telling us who won and told us they found it in the dictionary.

So…of course I want to know the answer so I go find a dictionary immediately. After a few minutes of trying to figure out what the answer was, I got fed up and decided to call the office. "What exactly was the answer?" I said after I heard the speaker beep…."In a dictionary" she said back. "Right…that's what you said, but I can't find it." "No, IN the dictionary!" she said trying not to laugh. *Insert my airhead tendencies being displayed in the WRONG area of my life!* Yikes…..My twin sister thought my last post about Santa was real so I'm here to tell you that we come by it honestly. It is a burden we must bare.

On another note, I learned something about the character and personality of God while grading papers the other day. We are working hard on making sure to capitalize the first letters in our sentences and put periods at the end EVERYTIME we write. It is quite the battle, but I am full of hope. Because we've talked about it so much, I try to be pretty picky about the writing that is turned in by this time of year because I know it will pay off in the end. I don't look for perfect spelling other than spelling words, but what is important to know in first grade which is correct capitalization, punctuation, letter formation, and spacing as well as the actual content. (First grade spelling is the cutest spelling in the world by the way.) :)

Anyway, I found myself at my desk going through the things the kids did a few days ago and came across something that I could not be picky about and it was a cool reason why. I had the students write a Christmas card to Jesus to thank Him for coming as a baby and to just share their hearts on paper. I had the stack ready to go through and I saw the first sentence on the first paper did not start with a capitalization. The first thing I wanted to do was ask the student to change it the next day, but the very clear voice of God stopped me: "Don't touch those…those are Mine. They are perfect."

I got so overwhelmed with emotion that tears came to my eyes. Jesus didn't care one bit if those babies were using capital letters or not. He didn't care about the punctuation and if the "F" was written backwards. He wasn't looking for perfection, He treasured the fact that they poured their hearts out to Him. The neatest thing to me was how he called them "His" letters. He hears us and cares so much about what we say to Him. He loves every child in my class more than I can fathom. He wants to hear what they have to say and and He wants to hear what we have to say, too. Even if we are writing in a lonely lamplit room feeling like God doesn't hear what we are crying out…He does. He is right there reading it and treasuring what it says. He calls every word we write "His"….how neat. But neat doesn't describe it well enough and I'm not sure any word would.

We are so very loved and none of us have the slightest idea how deep that love goes or how near He truly is. Jesus wants us just as we are, backwards letters and all….and He wouldn't change a thing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

*The Day I Sat by Santa*

In my mind there are two types of people in the world. One type of person wants to go along and believe that I am friends with Santa, and the other lifts their nose in disgust and unbelief. The second type doesn't even try to dab into their youthful fun side which is very sad. I'm not sure if you knew this, but it says a ton about a person whether they want to believe me or not. I am in fact a very close friend of Santa Claus and I know many of you are wondering how that came to be. Even the skeptics have asked me how I became bff with Santa believing they could stump me, but I never gave them the satisfaction of a reply. It's about time, though…time to share the story with the world so it won't just look like I made a facebook persona named SantaClaus years ago for kicks and giggles.

It was a cold, winter day at the Denver airport in the days before pat downs were around. There were no video images scanned nor did a man with a creep stash check my back pockets for tweezers. It was a good time for flying and a magical day to be sure. It was nothing like my recent flying experiences/horrors and I didn't know to be grateful for it then.

I was flying home from Colorado on Christmas as my family usually does and I remember seeing Santa on the slopes that morning. After he gives all the boys and girls their presents, he usually relaxes with a few ski runs. I've seen him every year at Snowmass riding the lift on Christmas day, so I knew he was around. I didn't ever suspect he would be in an airport, though, because I assumed he took his slay everywhere. But I think he actually just does that for tradition and prefers the heated comforts of an airplane. He may even be looking into a private jet and only getting in the slay for photos and such. It's really cold and miserable apparently.

Anyway, as I was walking to my terminal I kept hearing the faint sound of "Ho Ho Ho" coming from behind me over and over. I figured it was a weirdo having fun on Christmas day and didn't think much about it. Not soon after, it was time to board the plane and I found a window seat as fast as I could. I knew the plane wasn't completely full so I was hoping that nobody would sit beside me in the empty chair. One lesson my dad taught me that I hold dear is to look absolutely repulsive on an airplane. He told me to do everything in my power to look unappealing to the other passengers so they will forgo the empty seat beside me. I remember years ago he told me one day on a plane: "Abby, you are looking too cute and seat partner worthy, you must start to fake a horrible cough onto the next seat or scream how your tacos aren't sitting right! Otherwise you will have someone sitting by you in no time!"….. "Okay, dad!" I said, " I'll try!" Unfortunately, a boy about my age ended up sitting between us, so I needed to learn to up my game. There's nothing worse than having a stranger that smells like sausage egg biscuits mixed with bad breath sitting next to you in close quarters. It's happened to me and it is scarring for sure. Anyway…back to the story.

So there I was on that Christmas day trying to implement the best advice my dad had ever given me years before. I started hacking and coughing into the seat next to me and taking up waaaay more than my share of space. When I saw someone eyeing the seat next to me I made sure to give them the crazy eyes and twitch a little bit….I also tried hard to look like I was foaming at the mouth. I would have made dad proud for sure.

Just when I was in the middle of the best fake hacking cough performance of my life, a large, old man sat down next to me. "Need a cough drop?" he said as I looked out the window with a defeated frown. My nose caught a whiff of hot cocoa mixed with candy canes and sugar cookies as he spoke. "No thanks" I said while trying to pretend I was about to fall asleep. Conversation with strangers always makes me nervous and queazy so I'd rather fake sleep.

I felt the plane start to move on the runway and the fasten seat belt ding came through the loud speaker. I sat up to buckle my seatbelt and noticed the shoes this old man was wearing were quite strange. They were dark red boots with golden shoelaces. They had what looked like snow stuck to the bottom, but the weird part was that it wasn't melting. The snow had made a comfortable home on the shoe and didn't look like it was going anywhere. I glanced over curiously at the man right as he was turning around and our eyes met….there was a twinkle and I really think I heard a jingle bell faintly in the distance whenever he blinked his eyes. "Funny we are spending our Christmas on an airplane don't you think?" he said as another wave of candy canes and cocoa filled my nose.

"I usually spend my Christmas on an airplane." I said back to him, a little bit creeped out at the twinkle and the jingle bell sounds. "I guess it's meant to be that we are sitting by each other today." he said as I tried to come up with any plan to make this strange man stop talking to me. It always bothers me when strangers want to chat.

Just as I was turning back towards the window to pursue another round of fake sleeping he tapped me on the shoulder. "I really need some help and I know you're the perfect person to ask, Abby." I dropped my mouth open in utter shock. "Wait…time out….I NEVER told you my name was Abby!?!?!"….. I tried to scoot away from him but realized I was pretty much stuck.

He smiled at me and somehow began to look familiar. "Do I know you?" I said with a bit of confusion in my tone. He looked at me with a kind stare and said, "You've known me your entire life in your dreams…in your stories. You feed my reindeer sometimes and you used to leave me cookies at Christmas." Then all at once it hit me….I was sitting by Santa Claus himself.

He then proceeded to tell me that he needed my help and there was a reason he got on the plane that day. Turns out he needed someone to help him write a letter to make Comet come back. Comet had run away and Santa said he had no idea how to put his feelings on paper. He had teared up at the letters I sent him growing up and said they had really moved him. He said he wanted to write a letter that would move Comet like that, too.

We then proceeded to get out a piece of paper and write to Comet by using cliches that always make people cry. We ended up getting really close on that plane trip and he asked me if we could skype when he got back to the north pole. I said that would be great because I really wanted to know what happened with Comet.

A week later, we skyped and Comet WAS back at the north pole. Cliches are always the way to win someone back. Sometimes all it takes is a heartfelt letter full of other people's ideas to make things better. They had a misunderstanding and both were in the wrong which is usually a case in any fight. Both parties are usually right and wrong…which is why fights are so strange and useless.

Anyway, the rest is history basically. We kept in touch and became closer friends over the years which has been really good. I wouldn't change that day for the world and I'm really happy it happened. It makes me think twice before trying to keep the seat beside me empty, ya know? You never know what may happen on what seems like an ordinary day in an ordinary airplane.