A Shout Out to Teachers

Posted by jael on Aug 31, 2010 in Education, Parenting, Religion

Thinking of my grok-master mentor has brought to mind other teachers in my life.

I wonder about teachers.  I expect just the word teacher downloads an instant file in your mind and you immediately think of one particular grade or course or school or season.  I would love to hear about some of the teachers you most admire.  How cool would it be during this Back to School season were we to call to mind the teachers that have blessed our lives and just send them some love?  We could send a prayer out over the wires, or write a letter or ship a card…

What joyful Hallelujah noise would that play in their inbox, mail box or heart?

Along those lines then, I share this letter I wrote to Alicia Britt Chole, author of Annonymous, and many other soulful titles.  And though I do not know Alicia personally as I do Mamma Grok, one of her books sang Hallelujah to me loudly enough to help me hear the Holy Dove’s sweet song.

Dear Alicia,

My name is Jael.

I’m certain that you don’t remember me,

but we briefly met briefly at the women’s conference in Williamsburg.

The reason I was there was you.
God through you-
and a promise I made to our whimsical Father

Who delights in refrigerator poetry more than my children
and pens super quirky haikus…

I thought that my attendance would be sufficient satisfaction of this vow-
I passed on the opportunity to really speak with you.
I looked moistly into your deep eyes
and you commented that you liked my necklace
and I thought a really big, “Thank you!”
…to you,
and more to the One who hears

all praise,
and need
and want
and hope
spoken and unspoken.
I was done.
<big sigh>

Apparently not.

As I prayerfully sit with the dimensional content of Anonymous
I am aware I disregarded the wise counsel of several of my mentor sisters
in my choice to not try to really speak to you.
At the time,
it felt unnecessary

<and even selfish>

to divert your attention and resources
to hear once again

from another stranger

the powerful impact of your teaching.
I was unwilling to risk that-
or diminish my own Godly experience
with my meager words.

And now,
stuck like a popcorn hull in my tooth,
I wonder if my withheld words were ever supposed to have been for me-
perhaps they were meant for you,
and what you do or do not do with them,
or if my story
has nothing to do with me.

I feel the call to Obedience
and I will simply trust that there is a reason I cannot put down
the idea I should share with you the backstory
of how improbable
and unlikely
and simply miraculous
it was I was there this weekend.
Praise God.

I so hear His chuckle,
and even shear whimsy-
I confess I imagine this enough to make Him
and my beloved Beauty (grandmother)
snort milk over Oreos in heaven…
this daughter of His…
so NOT a joiner,
wounded , ex-Catholic,

excommunicated Mormon,
and former Evangelical atheist…
so unlikely a fan
to feel duty bound to write to you.

He’s interrupted my life too, you see.

And it’s all new enough that
I imagine He still thinks it’s

pretty sweet and funny-
I certainly do.
As I certainly should,
I dwell in possibilities now…

Pretty eternal and delicious really.
My awe snaps fresh like celery.

And so, I offer you this brief narrative:

Even before I realized, God had been busy with me.

However unlikely my hidden years made it seem to me; God chose for me a beautiful, sensitive, kind and Christ-like, best friend who became my husband.  One of the things that initially made us so well matched was our mutual church woundings and complete commitment to have nothing to do with God.  We respected the placebo effect others took from religion, but neither of us was going to do that again.

Time passed as we lived through a season where children were blessedly given to us as others were taken away.  The content was dense as were the daily chores incumbent upon us all and we were busy with our lives and jobs and home.  Like all families do, we enjoyed deep joys and situational challenges.

One particularly extended season of distress centered on the bright and beautiful life of our eldest daughter, [The Oldest Girl].  [The Oldest Girl] was born with a congenital heart defect that required surgery, and for the first 15 months of her little life, she was in and out of the hospital.  When she was three, her appendix burst and once again, we almost lost her.

Our Oldest Girl has always had a heart for God.  Her faith transcends words and translates worship.  When she was three, she told me one night as I tucked her in that she missed God and wanted to go Home to see Him.  She wasn’t kidding, she was making a decision.  As faithless as I was at the time, I have never been stupid.  I believed [The Oldest Girl’s] will had saved her life more than once before and that she chose to stay with us. So, I told her no.

“No, [Oldest Girl], no.  Now is not the time for you to go back and see God.  You don’t need to go anywhere to see God.  God is right here.  God is everywhere.  You don’t need to miss God.  He sees you.  He loves you.  He knows you.  Your job is to stay here with Mama.  Your job is to grow up and get strong.  It is not time for you to go Home, [Oldest Girl].  This is your home now and God put you here for a reason.”

Not bad for a _________________ <whatever I was at the time> on the spot;  I wanted babygirl with me.

However, I was also aware that she had this God thing going on and that I needed to make space for it.  Don’t get me wrong… at the time I was in teacher mode… follow the child’s interests and all…  If she had expressed passion about dinosaurs, well, I would have gotten her books on T-Rexes and created a paleontology dig in the backyard.

As such, I began to talk to my sweet, kind, gentle, generous and atheist husband about shopping for a church.  Talking about it took time and space and created more conflict than hope.

Time passed.

Hearts began to heal,

And we began to shop churches.

<It wasn’t really pretty…>

By the time we stumbled into the church that is now our home, I was in complete porcupine- mode, “Don’t look at me, don’t talk to me, and don’t you dare pray for me.  I don’t want your coffee and I am not here looking for friends.”

You can imagine what a hit I made with the ladies of my church…

At the same time, they offered a Beth Moore bible study, Why Godly People Do Ungodly Things. I wanted to learn more about the bible and signed up.  To say that this was the wrong study for me at the wrong time is more of an understatement than ever published by Twain.  Quite simply, it brutalized me.  I had neither the heart nor experience for the message, and the only reason I did not quit was that I am an ardent student.  I don’t quit classes, I do my homework, and I complete my studies…

And I did, sans diploma or testimony and much like an elephant; I went away and waited for my Faith hopes to die.

However, [Oldest Girl] was who she is, thank God, and our duty as parents was not fulfilled by my wounded retreat, and so we returned to that same church that sponsored the study.

It had been months.  And the pastor’s wife, the very woman who had led that <for me> abysmal study, landed on me like a fly at a picnic the moment I entered the sanctuary.  She and I had had more than one tussle during the Moore study and I was altogether certain that I was every inch the one of “them” she talked about when she referred to non-believers.

She greeted me more warmly than was my comfort and with a hug I did not desire.  She told me that she had something for me in her purse and that had been there for months and that she had brought it every Sunday waiting to give it to me when I returned.  It was your Real Life, Real Pain, and a Real God CD.  As receptive as I was at the time, you can well deduce how long it was that tome gathered dust in my kitchen.  I faithfully shuffled it from pile to pile in our home with no intention to listen to it, unable to discard it; however unsolicited, it had been extended as a gift.

And so it sat for months, and I never looked at it without recalling that unexpected act of kindness.   After a particularly bleak day, when my family was kind enough to give me space to go for a run – and I still can’t recall the logic of why I thought to take it- I listened to your message.

The short run turned into a long run, and I didn’t return for hours until I had heard enough of your words to believe you were like me, and that you had something to say to me.  It was in that run and through your lessons that God interrupted my life.  You’re words delighted and surprised me…

…Who knew you bow-heads could be so smart, and funny and relevant?!?

God continues to transform me over time.  I am not an alter call girl and my passage from faithlessness to faith has been slow.  However, God gave me a voice I could finally hear through your words.  Wounded, fearful, and breathlessly grateful <literally, it was a 2-CD piece and you offer a lot of content>, I promised myself… and God… a short, anemic, I-did-not-know-how-to-do-it-or what-to-say-promise that if I ever, ever, ever, had the chance to see you in person I would.

Well… the conference invitation came up and I denied myself the possibility for weeks.  It was too expensive, I still didn’t volunteer for that kind of thing, etc.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Like telling you my story, however, I could not put down the promise I had made… and so… my husband and I found the money, we both took a day off of work, I campaigned a sister at church to be my roommate,  and I signed up.

I came and found you there-

your ever faithful voice still singing Praise;

your earnest, thoughtful words

still painting the Glorious face of our Savior…

As I knew He would if I went,

God had a Word for me there.

And my simple word to you, dear Alicia,

is that if you didn’t do what you do,

I wouldn’t have been there to hear it.

I value your voice,

I respect your Faithfulness,

I join your ardor and love of our Father.

Thank you for being a lighthouse

when my home and heart

needed a guide

to Light, and Home and Truth.

I Rejoice!


And, yes, to you lovers of equity, I promise I did drop Mamma Grok a line today too.  Her reply bid me to remember what Peter said to the people after the Accession.  Talk about a tough teaching assignment; Peter had to take the class full of kids Jesus left behind!  Those were some rise-up-and-walk-big shoes!  Mamma Grok wrote to me, “Peter stood up, he had the initiative to step into leadership after Jesus ascended. Peter understood brokenness and he loved being healed!”

Peter took on that tough teaching assignment and grieving student body through Grace to declare, and I use Mamma Grok’s paraphrase here,  “I cannot give you what you want, but I can give you what I have in order for you to be what you desire.”

That’s our Hallelujahs’ song.  They offer up what we have to Him that makes us whole.

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song,
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Back to School

Posted by jael on Aug 31, 2010 in Education, Parenting

Yesterday launched another school year.

Pause for Miss School Year 2010-2011 to make her way down the runway, folks.  Isn’t she lovely in her crown and sash!  Look at those tears of joy.

Tears are plenty too.  It’s back to school time all over the land.  In some houses, teachers weep to have to return to lunch duty.  Who could blame them really?  In others, children sob because they don’t want to leave home or get up early.  And, I am certain there are homes in which mothers cry out with joy to have their kids return to school, because they love them, dammit, but can they just breathe for a minute or get a pedicure for glory’s sake?

My four headed out to storm academic halls with new kicks, shiny backpacks, unbattered Sigg bottles, and mixed emotional features.

The Baby was thrilled to start kindergarten, but not certain that she wanted to stay the whole day.  Her attitude was as eager as the pleats of her skirt were pressed.

The Boy begrudged every aspect expect lunch.  Even his friends weren’t much of a draw this year.  He saw his friends plenty over the summer actually,  and you don’t have to take a Geometry quiz at a sleep over.

The Oldest Girl felt socially networked and gorgeous in her sassy, pirate shorts.  She’s being groomed for a leadership role in her classroom, and was happy to have us get out of her way so that she could get to her ambassadorial role, thank-you very much.

The Middle Girl was excited about getting her own desk this year.  Previously, she’s worked at team tables.  She’s been all about the desk quest since she visited her Mamma Grandma this summer.  She has aspirations to be a journalist or book writer and illustrates grand, epic tales.

As for me, I’m a cross between an anxious dash and a calendar page.  I think I was the bed-headed grump this morning who grouched, “I will not be your clock the entire year!  I am not Big Ben!  7:30 means 7:30!”  (Yes, yes, very Pinochio, I know. I want to be a mamma, a real, live mamma!) I always forget how much chase, chase, chase comes with the school pace, soccer teams, music lessons and tournaments.  I’m sure I’ll find my voice about it later, but right now, my phone is beeping to remind me of another family calendar event.  Again!

Until then, in their own words, original snippets from our kids’ first back-to-school assignments:

The Boy, 12, who was not only assigned reading, but also a Herculean, summer project:

“Would I Recommend This Book to Others?” 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Absolutely. This book is a canon classic, and is on many schools’ reading lists. However, I always recommend reading a book before it’s required by a teacher as it is always more fun to choose your own book.  We all know students hate being assigned to read over the summer.  The only thing worse than that is to have a summer project on an assigned book.”

The Oldest Girl, 10:

“My hobby is writing songs, I really like to see what the combination of melodies and syllables can make. Also, whether I am singing high or low, l feel at peace when I am singing.”

The Middle Girl, 8:

“This season in my life is ornge enthuseasan and warmth and energe.”

The Baby, 5, assigned a gingerbread man to decorate.  She made him into a piñata and dictated this verse:

Gingerbread Piñata

Friends, teachers,
Lend me your ears!
A gingerbread
piñata is here

Run, run,
to the big room!
if you do,
you’ll get a lollipop soon

Mrs. [Teacher],
you’re a dear!
We’ll lift our hands,
and give you a cheer!

Jesus, Jesus,
We love you!
You do things
no one else can do

K, kids,
Of the [Name of my] School!
As a matter of fact,
I know you rule!

Now’s the time,
I have to flee!
You can’t catch me,
I’m the gingerbread man!

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,

Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

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