Monday, September 27, 2010

Proud Teaching Moments

This is my seventh year teaching and I feel as if I am really hitting my stride. I know when to give fake answers and when to say, "let's google that." I know how to use the strategy of "crop dusting" as taught by my friend Becky who used it when working as a flight attendant. I know how to tell when I'm being lied to and how to get them to confess. I know how to fall gracefully when tripping over the power cords. I know how to handle awkward moments when "slower" kids give off-the-wall, incorrect answers or when class clowns make inappropriate innuendos. I still have A LOT to learn about teaching- that's why I love this job so much- but I have come a long way in these seven years.

This past week a number of moments made me very proud. Here they are:

1. A student burst out in class, "I remembered what you taught us two years ago!" These words make teachers glow. We live for this affirmation. We long for it and crave it like Americans crave cheeseburgers. (at least this American does when she leaves the states) "They remembered. I got through to them." Sweet victory! This specific student is admittedly an overly excitable girl but school is not "her thing" so I was quite intrigued to hear about what she remembered. How to write a killer thesis? How to transition between paragraphs? Nope. She remembered and used the cheer I taught her as a freshman. What cheer you ask? The peer pressure cheer of course. You know:

Peer pressure,
peer pressure,
what does it do?
It squeezes
the Jesus
right out of you!

Totally theologically sound. I think Paul talked about it in one of his epistles. She might never remember how make the subject and verb agree in number but by gosh, she will not give into peer pressure:)

2. A graduate remembered Junior English class. A former student now in college found me at the football game and was thrilled to tell me about how Eli Wiesel is a new professor at her college. He is a Holocaust survivor and the author of Night, which I read with the Juniors. I was excited that A- she was excited and remembered the book and B- that he is so close I can go hear him speak. However, I admittedly was a bit preoccupied while she was talking because I realized I had been mispronouncing his name all along and was wondering if she remembered.

3. I made grammar fun. I don't mean to toot my horn here, but this was a major accomplishment for me. It was major because I rather despise teaching grammar and it is anything but fun. However, my love of board games was put to good use as I created an activity that involved the skills used in Scategories and Mad Libs and made it into a competition for candy. High scores got Laffy Taffy but they had to read the joke on the wrapper aloud. My favorite was "Why did the strawberry cross the road? Because he heard his mom was in a jam." Classic taffy humor. However, there was one major flaw in the game. Students had to think of unique and applicable adjectives for a bunch of nouns that I provided. Naive Katie put the noun "dream." Those of you with your minds in the gutter can imagine what the boy who loves to test his limits chose for his "applicable adjective." It was the first detention I assigned this year.

4. A wallflower shared her answer aloud without me calling on her. I had to explain the term "wallflower" to my students but I'm going to assume you know what it is. Perhaps you were this student- the one who sits in the back, speaks to no one, and never makes eye contact with the teacher for fear of getting called on. I love these kids. I make it a personal challenge to break them from their hardened shells of shyness and get them to feel so comfortable in class that they will laugh and smile and participate without me forcing them to. Last week, I broke the new girl. New to the Valley community, I can understand her hesitancy to speak up but last week....last week she knew the answer. And no one else did. I forget the question but I remember the awkward silence as students glanced around the room looking anywhere but at me. I remember looking up and seeing her eyes go wide and her lips pull upward into a smile as she announced the correct answer. We're warned not to "overpraise" but I'm pretty sure I jumped a little. And maybe peed a tiny bit. I was pretty stoked.

5. I made some of the "tough" boys cry. This is not a typical goal of mine but I was so moved when it happened. During homeroom we do daily devotions and last week I showed this music video by Matthew West. It's about how much we are loved by our creator. After watching, I told the class about this video by Francis Chan. In it he tells us to imagine the person we love the most. Then imagine them nailed to a cross. This is the kind of love that God has for us. I've heard countless sermons on the crucifixion but as I pictured my family on the cross, I could not imagine loving anyone so much I would put myself and my family through that kind of pain. Truly God's love is baffling. It makes sense why John would say: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10) Our human love cannot compare with this divine love. I was so thankful for an increased understanding of the immensity of His love for us, for you, and for me and I was so proud to see some of my boys getting it too. This is why I teach. This is why, although I miss the public schools, I am so grateful God has me here right now.

6. The girls on my team re-evaluated their place on this planet. As a team, we are going through the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan and we watched this brief clip about our planet and galaxy. If you haven't seen it, it's 3 minutes and 12 seconds. Watch it. It will not disappoint. So after watching it, I asked my girls what thoughts were going through their minds as they watched. A common theme was, "I had no idea we were so small," and "God is way bigger than I thought." American teenagers in private schools certainly have some "entitlement" issues and have been brainwashed to believe that life is indeed, all about them. I love my girls but I see how small their view of the world is, with them at the center- I too often fall into the same trap of making life all about myself. So to watch their jaws drop and minds struggle to wrap around this idea that they are really not a big deal at all, that they play a tiny, a rather miniscule role and serve a God larger than we can imagine, this was the highlight of my day.

7. My team played harder than usual when college coaches were present. I have one player who is pretty phenomenal. She has started beating me when we play 21 although I still let her believe that "I'm going easy on her." Everyone else on the team plays just for fun. No college aspirations- they just love the game and the team. We're not super talented and we're not very hard-core. So our 7th period open gyms aren't super intense. I don't yell and girls laugh more than you'd typically expect. We have fun. But when some coaches came to watch our point guard, I didn't have to say anything to the girls, they suddenly ran faster, dove on the ball more frequently, and played more aggressively. It made me chuckle and it made me proud. It's like when the principal comes into the room and though the class had just been obnoxiously loud, they immediately switch to "perfect angel" mode and fool him every time. They never need to be told and always breathe a sigh of relief when he leaves and resume laughing, and chewing their gum, and making borderline inappropriate comments.

While I've been reveling in my "proud teaching moments," I'd be lying if I didn't confess to the equally numerous, "not so proud moments." Here are a few:

1. I spelled Caribbean on the board with two "r's." Of course I have a baby genius in that freshman class who shot his hand up to inform me of my error. How did you know that kid? Go home and play some more Halo, and quit noticing my spelling errors.

2. I'm often stumped by SAT questions. I have an international students who stays after class so I can explain SAT questions to her. The problem is, that test is hard. It was when I was in high school and it still is today. Luckily, she'll circle the right answers and I just need to explain WHY that's the right answer. I still don't know always know. It's quite humbling.

3. I made my students scour the room for my "missing" keys. I searched the trash can and lay on the ground to scan under my desk. Later I checked my desk drawer. Brilliant. I got a lot of disapproving looks, head shakes, and the next day they started in on the blonde jokes.

4. I got caught acting like an adolescent. At our basketball game on Saturday one of the girls put a rotten banana peel on my windshield. Naturally, I sought revenge. So I took the peel and snuck behind cars in the parking lot waiting for the culprit to drive by. Her window was down, my plan came to fruition and I lobbed the grimy peel right into her face and laughed with joyful glee....until I saw one of the mom's of my players walking near by shaking her head. "Kids...." she said. Ah man. This "kid" is coaching your daughter. Not such a proud moment.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reality Bites- Things I Don't Like

Doing chores, loud snores, unjust wars, cold sores, expensive stores, talks of Gore's, dropped s'mores, huge pores, and rocky shores;

getting scabies or rabies or ridiculously large food babies;

seatbelts, when icecream melts;

men in Speedos, all mosquitos;

gas-inducing burritos, fingers covered in Doritos or Cheetos;

cockroaches, tacky broaches;

stuck behind a semi-truck, hit in the head when I should duck;

trying to talk while crying, planes bouncing around while flying;

discovering lice, trying to make rice or just be nice to has-beens like Bo Bice;

shopping at Sears, the smell of beers, struggling with fears, and unfriendly jeers that bring me to tears;

burning food, acts that are lewd;

a rock in my shoe, stepping in poo, I pity the foo who can't go do do.

Swarming bees, losing keys, stupid fees, stinky cheese, and a mean brain freeze;

road rage, growing age;

a sore throat, a torn coat, Murder She Wrote, a lost remote, and getting sick on a boat;

mini-vans, failed plans;

unexpected cat scratches, burning my finger on matches;

feeling stressed or depressed or possessed or overdressed;

getting flipped the bird, or hit by a turd, being called nerd, or just plain absurd;

fluffy bangs, frightening gangs;

a song that's too long, being called wrong or a ding dong;

the high cost of rent, waking cold in a tent;

stepping on snails, insensitive males;

waking up sore, a brown apple core;

stubbing my toe, being told "no",

ponytails with bumps, faulty gas pumps, cancerous lumps, the term "my humps", hair of Donald Trump's, jiggly rumps, and scary old grumps;

numbers that are restricted, kind people getting evicted;

belly flops, hidden cops, blue tootsie pops, old pork chops, designer shops, and tie-dyed tops;

apples that are mushy, seats that aren't cushy, brothers slapping my tushy;

telling unfunny jokes, trying butterfly strokes, meeting unkind blokes or selfish folks, when anyone chokes or an old pet croaks;

kids rolling their eyes, those with DUIs;

being denied or rudely called wide;

cereal that's healthy, guilt for being wealthy;

an unsightly mole, a road with a toll, balls that won't go in the hole, and games with no goal;

invading ants, incompetent rants, running on slants, hearing "no's" "can'ts" and "shant's",

kitty litter, being bitter, pointless twitter and a mean babysitter;

feeling nauseous, driving too cautious, ruining shirts with too many washes;

painful foot blisters, terrifying twisters;

traffic jams, internet scams;

shampoo in my eyes, pointy ends of fries, mean rumors and lies;

the sound of the vacuum cleaner, the words moist, milky and wiener;

acne scars, crashing cars;

kicked in the shin, struggling with sin, losing when you should win, long hairs on my chin and not hitting one pin;

radio ads, diaper-size pads;

milk that's gone rotten, feeling forgotten;

parking tickets, maddening crickets;

stepping in tar, the crayon smell in my car;

tall, mean horses, tough race courses;

pitting out, lost in route, people who pout or tend to shout;

hiccups that are painful, strangers that are disdainful;

calves getting slapped, lips that are chapped;

chaperoning dances, missing great chances;

birds flying close, the smell of burnt toast;

flying bugs, lost Uggs, cracked mugs, ugly pugs, frightening thugs, car side hugs;

horror flicks, getting ticks, shaving nics, shooting bricks, New York Knicks, a dog that licks, cold fishsticks, and Michael Vicks;

reading maps, waking from naps;

a broken shopping cart, thinking it's a fart when it's truly a shart;

earthquakes, Christian fakes, slamming on brakes, going to wakes;

movies that are scary like that bloody scene in Carrie;

hair snarls, food from Carl's;

awkward blind dates, high airline rates;

hair in my food, people who are rude, or nude, or crude, or have attitude;

smoggy days, airballed treys, LA haze, no pay raise;

honky tonk songs, realizing my wrongs, wearing cheap thongs;

cottage cheese, warts on my knees, dogs with fleas;

cold fingers and toes, caught picking my nose;

dirty looks, Christy Miller books;

pencils that are dull, convos with an awkward lull, pushing a door when it says pull, and eating past the point of full.

Vicious baboons, scavenging raccoons, irksome jazz tunes, and eating gross prunes;

mouth full of soap, burns from a rope, having no hope, worship of the Pope, hearing the word grope, being called a dope, spelling the word taupe, and licking an envelope.

Charlie horses, evil forces;

fixing a flat tire, lint from the dryer;

unnecessary brakers, vexing soccer fakers;

jamming my thumb, when my tongue goes numb, or I'm followed by a bum or have to eat ABC gum and say something dumb.

Water up the nose, the Passion scene with crows, getting kinks in the hose and shrinking new clothes;

sports ending in a tie, getting caught in a lie;

Know-it-alls, refs' poor calls, getting hit with balls, frightening dolls, embarrassing falls, getting blocked calls, the taste of Halls, overwhelming malls, guilt like Saul's, and running into walls.

A bounced check or kink in the neck;

getting shots, my hair in knots;

finding blood clots, breaking down in Watts;

pumping gas, stepping in glass;

odor from a skunk, student being a punk;

when people eat off my plate, the feeling when I'm about to be late;

bullies at school, acting "too cool", trying to soften stool, a dog's nasty drool, debating a fool or an idiot tool who'll pee in your pool.

At the doctor's getting weighed, hot days without shade, the sick scent of Raid, shaving with a dull razor blade;

the smell of Ben-Gay, an awful toupee, discovering my zipper's been down the whole day;

hypocrits, smelly pits, giant zits, and called a ditz;

reprimands, my man hands;

shoes that hurt my feet, slow walkers crossing the street;

side hugs in cars, melted candy bars;

burning a meal, the face of Seal;

being tailgated or feeling sedated or getting berated;

an SBD, stung by a bee;

small bladders, unstable ladders;

realizing you're fatter, wasted cake batter;

itchy bug bites, loud cat fights, long sleepless nights, falling from heights, short yellow lights,...gosh, reality bites.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A World Planted in Pennies

Last weekend I attended the "Women of Faith" conference at the Pond. Okay, the "Honda Center" but I feel way cooler saying I went to "the Pond," home of the Mighty Ducks. Quack.


Let it build.


My favorite moment of the conference was when the worship team led us in a bunch of songs. I always love being in scenarios where thousands of people are praising God at once. It always makes me anticipate heaven and long for it even more.

I take that back. My favorite moment was when the president of the conference was talking in the mic as she ascended the stairs to the stage and did a face plant. Cue thousands of simultaneous gasps of shock and concern and one socially unaware girl giggling with shoulders shaking and maybe a little bit of pointing and reinacting.

Another favorite moment was when Luci Swindoll spoke. She has a passion for the lost and for adventure and is shockingly silly. I didn't know 82 year olds could be so goofy. She sang a hilarious song about a frog and made these bizarre faces and sound effects- that was when I knew I wanted to be like her.

She spoke a lot about enjoying the life we have on earth. This surprised me. I don't know what I was expecting- maybe a message about how I should be doing more, serving more, surrendering more- but not about how I should be smiling more, laughing more, and savoring more of life's moments.

Her grandmother said to never go a day without falling into a heap laughing. And so, "we've spent our lives in heaps." I love that. I hope that I say that when I'm 82. I hope that I've lived a life of adventure and service to my king and I hope I've laughed and laughed and laughed.

I certainly did this past weekend I spent with my family. We were literally doubled over in heaps when my mom said "shitting" instead of "sitting" and when Vander did a face plant into the screen door and stood up with a bloody mouth, angry at the world and even more angry at his family trying unsuccessfully to suppress laughter.

At the conference Luci shared the following verse from First Timothy chapter 6: 17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Verses 18 and 19 talk about what we usually focus on to be a "good Christian."- do good deeds, be generous, share and you'll be rewarded in heaven. But Luci focused on verse 17 and how God has provided us with so much on this planet for our enjoyment.

Just today I read an essay to my Juniors called "Seeing" by Annie Dillard. Dillard so beautifully penned many of the points Luci was making about seeing and enjoying the world around us.

"I've been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But- and this is the point-who gets excited by a mere penny?...But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days."

I love that. And not just because of the alliteration. I don't know if Dillard is a believer but we talked about how indeed God has showered this world with "free surprises" but we must take the time to acknowledge them, give Him thanks, and then revel in them and savor these free gifts. To do this we must "cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity" where the small free gifts of the world can bring us wonder.

Of all the people I've met thus far in life, Andre is the best at this. I blogged about Andre a lot while in Mozambique. I saw Christ in him more clearly than I've ever seen Him in a person. He was so rich in joy though so poor in terms of earthly treasures. I wouldn't call Andre's a "healthy" poverty but he certainly lives in a state of simplicity where he finds joy and pleasure in the free surprises you and I might step right over. Indeed, our world is "planted in pennies" as our great God has littered the earth with free, abundant blessings, if we would but stop and notice.

In an attempt to pause and look around and acknowledge the free surprises, the pennies, the typically unnoticed treasures of this life, I started listing things I like. Then I made it rhyme.

See next post.

Pennies I Like

Pb n jelly, meat from the deli;

crunching a leaf, snorkeling a reef;

having hope, using Scope;

big dogs, funny blogs, dropping logs, warthogs, going for jogs, and my mom's clogs which were so bright red the hospital made it a new rule that nurses can't wear such "flashy" shoes.
Lucky Charms, dairy farms;

chocolate bars, seeing stars;

green lights, colorful kites;

the show Hey Dude, any food that's barbecued;

The Wonder Years, laughing till tears, the theme song of Cheers, and carnival mirrors;

Jason Bourne, candy corn, my car's horn, and jeans slightly torn and often worn so they aren't too tight when I eat too much a get a food baby and then have to unbutton them.

Fresh powder, clam chowder;

being right, the book Night;

drinking from hoses, awkward solo poses, stopping to smell roses, and people with funny-shaped noses;
old cartoons, hot air balloons, country tunes, cool sand dunes, ancient ruins, and National Lampoon's because all those movies with Chevy Chase are solid gold.

Finding cash in my pockets, shooting snot rockets;

body surfing waves, exploring bear caves;

tootsie rolls, grassy knolls, styling trolls, deep cereal bowels, pleasant strolls, and Shia Labeouf in Holes although my favorite work of his has to be Even Stevens- loved that kid Beans.

Face dimples, popping pimples;

a wagging tail, a storm with hail;

being in airports, candy of all sorts, building cool forts, and not being preggo but wearing maternity shorts because Nordstroms sells them in the juniors department so it is okay but it was not okay all those times I accidentally browsed the maternity section and was a tiny bit mortified when I realized it.

Cartwheels, kids' squeals;

Jack Bauer, a hot shower, a tall sunflower;
chicken curry, not having to worry or be in a hurry, boots that are furry;

synchronized dances, hypnotized trances, getting second chances and second glances;

Gilmore Girls, wearing pearls, carmel swirls, and flying squirrels- not the animals though, I hear those are quite frightening- but rather the type of pool dive where you grab your ankles mid-air and pray your nose doesn't scrape the bottom of the pool like mine did years ago leaving me with a huge nose scab.

Yodeled songs, zingers and ding dongs;

Jacob Black, the Outback;

the Sandlot, my cat Dot;

Crest whitening strips, crunching Pringles chips;

Thanksgiving turkey, smelly beef jerkey;

muddy runs, witty puns, fresh baked buns, squirt guns, and Sister Act nuns;
jumping on trampolines, teaching awkward teens, eating pork n beans and classic movie scenes like when Lloyd and Harry meet Sea Bass or when Elle shows up at Harvard, "What? Like it's hard?"

Warmth of the sun, nutella on a bun;

a good cry, a book that's Sci-fi;

when people run into screen doors, eating delicious s'mores;

life-long friends, picking split ends;
Honey Smacks, clearance racks, using Macs, peeling backs of others or myself because it is so oddly satisfying to peel off a huge strip of skin burnt by the sun.

Mr. Deeds, sunflower seeds;

watching Glee, having clear pee, the book Little Bee, AFV, an aqua sea, and calling a boy baby "she"- no wait, I actually HATE when that happens- I did it in India once and still cringe thinking about it- who dresses their baby boy in pink?

Corny jokes, ice cold cokes;

cracking my neck, sunning on a deck;

scuba-diving, go-cart driving;
rolling down grassy hills, watching people take spills, awkward moments of Phil's from Modern Family- if you haven't seen this show yet because you're turned off by Al Bundy since you weren't allowed to watch Married with Children, don't worry- he is hilarious.

An African chorus, jokes about Chuck Norris;

buzzer beaters, busting cheaters;

late night snacking, going back packing;

skipping super high, rolling lucky die;

silly faces, running races;

getting fun mail, exploring a new trail, reading a fun tale, being tan and not pale, going to Unique Nail and seeing a breaching whale which I did when my college team went whale watching but the only image I remember is of a lady leaning over the ship, puking her guts out on the school of dolphins swimming next to our boat.

Playing ro sham bo, eating raw cookie dough;

forgiving police, the actress Reese;

a zebra's stripes, the smell of pipes;

When Harry Met Sally, teaching at Valley, seeing underdogs rally, living in Cali and the host Mike O'Malley who hosted the show GUTS and was the inspiration behind the cheer my team used to say before we'd play, "Do do do do you have it? GUTS!"

The Potter books, getting strange looks;

Bass lake, funfetti cake, a thick shake, a juicy steak, and the teacher's lounge at break- mainly on Friday's when someone brings treat- I look forward to this moment all week.

Silent laughs, gangly giraffes;

slurpees, white tees, a cool breeze, no fees, snap peas, climbing trees, making threes, birds in v's, mac n cheese, catching z's, and candy from Sees like the butterscotch lollipops- but all other flavors are borderline nasty.
The Cucumber Larry, Little House on the Prairie, eating Pink Berry and skits with Cheri Oteri;

Pixar flicks, magic tricks, pogosticks, jumping pics, and Blossom and Six among other characters from that era like Screech, Urkle and the Fresh Prince.

Seeing God's hand, watching planes land;

sweatpants, monks' chants;

toe-headed kids, low e-Bay bids;
cartwheels, good deals;

Care Bear stares, funny dares, cheap concert fares, and Gummi Bears- both the candy and show. I caught myself singing "Magic and mystery is part of their history and so is the secret of Gummi Beary juice" a little too loudly while I pumped gas and got a very strange look.

A child's joy, the old slang term "doy";

long eyelashes, surprise birthday bashes;

skipping rocks, automatic locks, nature walks, thick, warm socks, transforming talks, Nike Shocks, Bass Lake docks, and comfy Crocs although I do not like the purple pair my brother wears all the time.

NBC on Thursday nights, looking at bright Christmas lights;
playing the infamous MASH, the song about a diaper rash, the game of Steve Nash, songs of Johnny Cash, and when old ladies talk trash at basketball games- the Westmont coach's mother is infamous for chanting "bad call" till she was blue in the face.

Tyrone Wells, bike cruisers with baskets and bells;

four hour naps, Eminem's raps, huge wall maps, playing the game craps and taking satisfying ones that leave you feeling 10 pounds lighter.

Ray ban sunglass, Globe Trotter trick passes;

Pottery barn dishes, dandelion wishes;

Jimmy Fallon's show, Edgar Allen Poe, The Hills star Lo, beating a foe, hearing Joey say "Whoa", the Simpson character Mo, teeth so white they glow, and Trav's joke about Joe- who? Jo Mama.

Watching college ball, the writings of Paul, crisp air in the fall and heels to make me tall;

the laughter of a kid, eating fried squid;

freshly cut grass, friends with some sass;

eating ham, my amazing fam, teaching at CAM, and the joke about the dam- "What did the fish say when it ran into the wall?"
Bebo Norman, a friendly doorman, and laying on the shore- man, life is pretty sweet and full of "free surprises" and pennies that I will attempt to acknowledge, enjoy and praise God for.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jumping on the Bandwagon: 25 Facts

Remember when everyone was writing those lists of 25 facts about themselves? People sounded so witty and clever and unique. I didn't feel like any of those at the time so I didn't write one. Plus, sometimes I don't jump on bandwagons just for the sake of not jumping so I can feel cool and rebellious because I've refused to give in and copy everyone else. Also, it seemed a bit narcissistic to focus so much on oneself.

Truth be told, I'm neither cool nor rebellious and I am a recovering narcissist. Thus, I am giving in and jumping on the bandwagon months later. Like I did with facebook. I clung to my "mySpace" account for an embarrassing amount of time.

I recently asked my students to write about how they became the person they are today- what people and experiences have shaped their perspectives and values. I then said,

"Realize that you'll change. Who you are today won't be who you are in 10 years. I am a much different person today than I was in high school...Thankfully."

"Why thankfully?" a curious student inquired upon seeing me laugh to myself.

"Well, for one, I was terribly socially awkward and terrified of boys. Plus, I was constantly comparing myself to others and was insecure about who I actually was. The moments since high school have shaped me into a secure woman who knows that she is loved by her creator and that is all that matters."

That being said, here is my list of 25 Random Facts:

1. I am a daughter of the king and have surrendered my life to following Christ and bringing Him glory.

2. I am a giraffe whisperer although this picture might seem otherwise. Proof. I apologize in advance for how obnoxious my commentary is in the video. Whenever I see myself talking to a camera, I am severely annoyed with myself. I'm even more irritating in this one.
3. I am terrified of earthquakes- especially after living through this when I visited the Philippines in 1990.
4. I am on a chocolate milk diet.

5. I am a competitive gamer known for making kids play down-by-the-banks with me and for throwing a ping-pong paddle at my brother's face when I was losing and he was taunting.
6. I am scarred by thirty warts that plagued my legs throughout my adolescent years.

7. I am amused by life's random moments. Proof.

8. I am great at making double chins, imitating monkeys and peacocks, and blowing bubbles.
9. I am not so great at confrontation, baking, losing, being on time, clapping and singing at the same time, dancing, or swimming. Though I once was a swim instructor.
10. I am the middle child and sister to Heidi, Trent and Travis. This means as a toddler I had to learn to self-sooth and sucked my thumb until third grade. This also means that I have learned how to do the following: cover my sandwiches so they don't get punched, watch where I sit so I won't sit on a waiting hand, hide and hoard any sweets I want to save for later, and duck when I hear the whizzing sound of my brothers spitting boogers across the room.
11. I am a basketball coach who has been mistaken for a player but also for a mom of one of my players. I am not sure which is more insulting.
12. I am a cat-owner but dog-lover. Go ahead. Make your judgments. Dotty is awesome.

13. I am a life-long student, reader, and nerd. If you think my B.U.M sweatshirt was cool, you should have seen my collection of Big Dog t-shirts.
14. I am able to sing with my lips shut, blow spit bubbles, and pull out my "innie" belly button.

15. I am a traveller, risk-taker, runner, and awkward hugger.

16. I am an English teacher who only took one college English course, occasionally wears running shoes with skirts, and loves saying, "pass up your homework," when nothing was assigned. Freaks 'em out every time.
17. I am terrified of bugs and will run like a pansy when threatened with them. Proof.

18. I am an international ugly-face maker.
19. I am a proud aunt, experienced bridesmaid, bunco-league member, Westmont grad, and Iron Well sister.
20. I am always in search of adventure and an adrenaline rush. Proof.

21. I am easily startled but also love to scare people. However, I hate that moment before the unsuspecting victim turns the corner and I'm so filled with anticipation of a great scare that I can hardly control my breathing and nearly wet myself.

22. I am often taller than guys and require that my future husband be both vertically and horizontally larger than me.
23. I am a magnet for awkward moments and awkward men.

24. I am forever changed by my Sundays spent in the village of Shiparango. Proof.

25. I am a Hardeman. This means I thrive on competition, believe in the power of the jinx, can touch my nose with my tongue, basketball runs through my veins, I have a love for other nations and evangelism, pork n beans are in my tacos, I hate to lose at anything, I can laugh at myself, and I have freakishly long toes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Public Restrooms: Breeding Grounds for Awkwardness

This was the bathroom in the village of Shiparango. Talk about a breeding ground for awkward moments. I made sure to eat and drink very little on Sunday mornings so I never had to use this. I get awkward in normal American bathrooms that have toilets, doors and running water so I knew this flimsy, porta-potty constructed of tarps would only spell trouble for me.

I started thinking about these awkward moments in bathrooms when I was running along the beach and swung open one of the bathroom doors to discover a middle-aged woman squatting over the toilet, pants at her ankles, in the very awkward, very vulnerable position none of us ever desires to be caught in. I quickly snapped my eyes shut and flung the door closed but not before she called out, "Sorry!" I was hoping she hadn't seen me but apparently my expression was one of such horror she felt the need to apologize to ME for making this awkward moment possible by not locking the door. I really don't know which I like least- walking in on someone or being walked in on.

And then the first day of school rolled around last week. There is only one bathroom stall for female faculty in my building but luckily my room is right next to it. However, since our bladders have not yet adjusted to a school schedule, it was constantly occupied on the first day. By lunch time I was about to lose it. Literally, I gave myself 2-3 minutes before I would need new, dry pants and an explanation. There was a line outside the bathroom and I asked my waiting roommate if it would be totally inappropriate for me to use the students' bathroom since we were just instructed NOT to. Her advice was to go in and announce, "teacher present."


Students already see us as not fully human and freak out when they see us in public eating or walking or simply existing outside of classroom walls. When my team was doing sit-ups, I once let one loose by accident. You really have no control over that when doing sit-ups. I excused myself and blushed, the team erupted into laughter and by the end of the day most of the school knew that Miss Hardeman farted. We're human and have normal bodily functions but this concept is mind-boggling for most students. So the thought of them hearing me pee? That's a 100 % guarantee for an awkward moment for everyone involved. You want me to announce my presence? "Teacher here! I'm going to pee and you'll hear it. And I'll hear you pee as well. Just so we're all clear and prepared to be super awkward."

I couldn't do it. So I snuck inside and lifted up my feet so they couldn't peek under the stall and see my "teacher shoes."

This of course got me thinking about the many awkward moments I endure in public restrooms. There is no deep meaning in this post. God has yet to speak to me through toilets; however, I won't limit Him to doing just that. Perhaps you don't feel awkward in public bathrooms. Perhaps you're a guy and these scenarios don't present themselves in your world of urinals. I wouldn't know. Perhaps it's just me. Or, perhaps you should be awkward but just didn't realize it until now. Either way, here are the moments I cringe inside the public commode:

* When the crack between stalls is an uncomfortably large gap. I've yet to make eye contact through this crack with anyone but I hate that it is a possibility. Plus, when I'm standing in line, I can't help but glance at the crack and if it's large and I see movement in there, I'll avoid that stall or bathroom altogether.

* When there are no doors on the stalls. Have you been to these older parks where the restrooms architects forgot one major necessity? The door? Doors are NOT optional. Were they trying to save money? Did they install hidden cameras? Did they just want to torture people? I've only been desperate enough to use these a few times. I always walk to the very end making lots of noise so any unsuspecting users could alert me of their presence with a loud cough or sneeze. Once at the end, I set my purse far out so it's clear the stall is occupied. The risky part is having to glance to see if the stall is already taken. I keep my eyes on the ground and look for shoes. Making eye contact with someone sitting on the pot is worse than watching a puppy get run over.

* When someone knocks on the door. I've yet to discover the proper response to this. "I'm in here?" "Go away?" "Can I help you?" "Who is it?" Really, what are we supposed to say? This once happened at a gas station bathroom when I was traveling with my college basketball team. The knocker was loud and forceful so I assumed it was a teammate because I always give the polite, gentle knock so as not to offend or startle the potty user. Since I assumed it was a friend and I had recently seen Forrest Gump, I not so politely yelled, "Seat taken!" I thought I was pretty clever until I emerged and discovered not a teammate but an unsmiling older women. Joke's on you crabby; I did not go number one.

* When waiting in a line but noticing open stalls. Should you point this out to the people in front? Do you dare go check out the open stall yourself to see why it's being neglected? If you do and it's because the people in front are unobservant, do you tell them it's open or grab it yourself? Or do you wait it out, frustrated but unwilling to risk that embarrassing moment when you discover the nasty toilet clogged to the brim with nastiness. "Ohhhhh. That's why it's unoccupied."

* When it seems that all the stalls are occupied and you have to start the line. First, you must ensure that there are no free toilets to avoid the previously mentioned awkward moment. How does one do this though? Many push on the stall doors to see if they swing open. I am not a proponent of this method. What if the lock didn't latch? This has happened too many times to too many innocent, unsuspecting victims like myself and when someone pushes on the unlocked door I've had to yell, "Hey!" and slam the stall back. No fun. I prefer the duck and peek for shoes method. This is the polite way to check and ensure you won't intrude on anyone. I always feel a bit silly though when someone else walks in and I'm ducking low to the ground checking all the stalls. It's worse when there are none open and now I have to start the line but others have since joined the bathroom. Where should I start the line now? You are clearly behind me but I can't go back to the natural starting point because you're blocking me. So I have to start this line in the middle of the stalls which leaves me in the direct line of view of many cracks- between the stalls and elsewhere.

* When there are only two in the bathroom and you enter the stalls at the same time. I try to avoid this scenario whenever possible but it happened just the other day. There we were, both seated on side-by-side pots and the race was on. Who would start the stream first? Of course this moment becomes a competition for me and I feel even more pressure to "win" and start peeing asap. That moment of silence while we both wait for the pee to come is one of my least favorite moments in life. I always feel the need to suppress a nervous chuckle and refrain from announcing, "Sometimes I get stage fright." I really do though and will occasionally flush the toilet or spin the toilet paper rolls loudly to break the terribly awkward silence before pee flow.

* When there is no toilet paper and you forgot to check the roll before going. Now the debate begins: drip dry, scratchy seat cover, or ask for help? I've done all three. I prefer asking for help but the exchange of paper beneath a stall is never very comfortable. Plus, how do you get your neighbor's attention? Put your hand under their stall and say, "hello there?" Knock on their stall and say, "pardon me?" I've learned it is best to check the roll first. Always check the roll.

* When you have the pre-pee toots. We all get them on occasion. Yet, I'm continually embarrassed and ashamed by my lack of control of them. And then I'm ashamed by my lack of maturity and ability to control the laughter that follows when they escape from me or anyone else in the stalls. Again, I revert to the "make as much noise as possible" technique when I feel them coming. Sometimes I'll take seat covers and crinkle them up into balls just for the sound or suddenly fall into a fit of fake coughs. The problem is when I hear others do the fake cough and I know exactly what they are doing and can't stop myself from laughing.

* When the inevitable plop happens. Yesterday my nephew Vander made me stand outside while he went number two. He chatted with himself the entire time and then said, "Ally oop" followed by the PLOP. Three year olds don't get awkward. That sound is so shameful and if there is a splash, it's even worse. I cringe for others when I hear them and want to hand them seat covers and say, "Here, use these to muffle the sound." My friend who shall remain anonymous was so uncomfortable doing the deed where others could hear that she refused to use the dorm bathrooms. Instead, she made the trek across campus to find a private stall. She made the mistake of telling me about this. Naturally I watched and waited patiently until finally, late one night I saw her leave the dorm and practicing my sneaky skills, I followed and stuck my camera over the stall and destroyed her place of peaceful pooping.

* When you hear a grunter. This is a rare moment and although awkward, I kind of love when it happens since it's just so ridiculous. Either the person is deaf, lacking social awareness, having major bowel issues, or just doesn't care. It takes every ounce of maturity I have to hold back the giggles. I once thought I saw my friend's mom following me towards the bathroom. Since she didn't see me, when I heard her come inside I did a huge fake production inside complete with a long stretch of awkward grunts. She held it together and didn't laugh at all. Then I came out of the stall and realized she had actually not entered the bathroom. Someone else had who I did not know. I've never washed my hands as fast as I did that day.

Years ago my aunt told me about an experience she had in a Walmart bathroom. Her neighbor was a grunter. My aunt is mature and did not laugh. But it got worse. Her neighbor was handicapped and then asked in a low, hoarse voice, "Excuse me? Can you help me?" She was not asking for my aunt to pass over some paper. She needed help wiping. This begs the question- would you help wipe a stranger's butt? My aunt did. I think it's one of the most Christ-like acts I've ever heard of someone actually doing. Moral of the story: never, under any circumstances, use a Walmart bathroom.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What I Love About Being an Aunt

Logan John slid into the world today weighing in at 8 pounds even. Heidi's smallest babe yet. He is healthy and perfect. He has lots of blonde hair which Heidi already was styling, incredibly long lashes, and what appears to be the Hardeman toes gene- sorry bud.

Emma and I brought his big brothers to the hospital and maybe one of my favorite moments ever is seeing them react to their new bro bro. Vander, in typical adorable and affectionate fashion, gently hugged Logan. Huddy, who has always been pumped about babies, was ecstatic about his very own baby and immediately welcomed to the family by giving him a noogie. Logan will soon learn that in our family, that is a sign of affection.

Heidi and Dan got a glimpse of what life will be like with three crazy boys. As the attention was all focused on Logan, Huddy grabbed two suckers and he and Vander slipped into the bathroom to play and closed the door behind them. We heard giggling and then a toilet flushing and when Dan opened the door, Vander had the "caught in the act" expression and Huddy just laughed as he continued to dip his suckers in the flushing toilet. Heidi really is super mom though because when she heard the toilet flush she said, "I bet Huddy is dunking his suckers right now." The now middle child really is hilarious.

Heidi is superwoman. Literally. She makes labor seem like a piece of cake. I got this text this morning from her: "How was your run? Have epidural and haven't felt any contractions but am having them:)" I can't think of many women who include smiley faces in their texts and ask about other people's days WHILE THEY ARE IN LABOR! I also can't think of many women who deliver a child and look like they just stepped out of a magazine in a hospital gown. Hair curled and styled, make-up perfect,... I felt a bit self-conscious walking in looking like a mess after my run. Afterwards I was in the room when the nurse was giving her pain medication. She asked her on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst pain ever, what Heidi was feeling. Heidi paused, considered, and said, "Oh about a 3." A three. This of course made me think of this bit by Brian Regan.

So in honor of Logan's arrival, here is a list of things I love about being an aunt.

* I can tell my nephews ANYTHING and they will believe it. The other night Vander was sharing my milk because I told him it was magic milk. But I said he could only share if he didn't backwash. He then asked me what it means to backwash. I realized that if I told him the truth, he, without question, would spit his food in my milk. Thus the lie. I didn't realize its effect until I heard my mom:

"Vander, stop it! What are you doing? Katie, why is Vander putting his hand in your milk and rubbing his back?"


* I get to play in ways that are socially unacceptable if you are not accompanied by a kid. I can climb trees, swing on the swings, and slide down slides without looks of disapproval. I get to do cannon balls and swan dives and wear goggles and have tea parties without fear of judgement. I get to hang out under the kitchen table eating marshmallows and toss water balloons at imaginary dragons and no one bats an eye. I get to dress up in costumes and have sword fights and no one doubts my sanity. I get to hide in neighbor's side yards without worrying about them calling the cops and run around fountains playing chase without fear of raised eyebrows.

* I get to watch cartoons without feeling judged. I do still watch them on my own but I notice the lifted eyebrows and mocking condescension. Phineas and Ferb is certainly a favorite of the newer brand of cartoons but I also found a Care Bear DVD which I bought for the boys...or really for myself but I watch it with them. What better excuse to watch the Care Bear stare and Loony Tunes again than doing it "for my nephews."

* I don't have to do any disciplining. Maybe I'm supposed to but I don't. Sometimes I even tattle on them and they get spanked. It's awesome. (Okay stop judging me- I only tattled once and Vander was disobeying my mom so I told Dan about it. My mom was not happy with me. Apparently it's true- nobody likes a snitch.) When Vander doesn't do what I tell him to, I just threaten to stop playing with him. Works like a charm.

* I get to feel like the coolest person alive. Whenever I need a self-esteem boost, I go see my nephews. No one else cheers when I enter a room. It's always a little awkward when Vander tries to get others to share in his enthusiasm upon my arrival- "Hey guys, Katie is here!" The downside of this attention is that everyone always knows when I'm in the bathroom. If I manage to escape his attention for a moment to sneak to the commode, I instantly hear, "Where'd Katie go?" knock, knock, knock. "Katie you in there? Can I come in? Hey guys, I found her- she's in the bathroom." Thanks Van.

* I rarely change diapers. I know what you're thinking- your sister must secretly resent you for this. I really don't think she does. She doesn't seem to. I can count on one hand how many times I've changed them. Once I put Huddy's diaper on backwards and another time he rolled around in his poop. Maybe that's why Heidi never asks me. When Vander was being potty trained we were playing in the "jungle" on the hill in my parents' backyard. We were squatting as we hid from the bad guys and he kept ripping 'em so I said,

"Vander do you have to go potty?"

"No. Let's just keep playing."

"Okay, but if you poop your pants, I'm not cleaning you up."

He laughed.

Then he pooped his pants.

I did not clean him up.

He loves telling that story. He also LOVES telling people the story of when he fell and I picked him up but then took one step and slipped in a puddle and fell on top of him. My ankle is literally scarred from that fall so I can never forget about that very embarrassing evening when my mom thought I broke Vander's foot.

I love these little boys more than I thought possible. I love playing with them even though they suck the energy right out of me. (Heidi has taken numerous pictures of me passed out on the couch after just an hour with them) I love snuggling them, swimming with them, and reading to them. I love teaching them new things like how to make a water balloon and do the "worm." I love watching them grow and change and pray and play. Heidi and Dan are incredible parents and they certainly have been blessed with three absolutely amazing boys.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lorenzo Won't Let Me Forget

Some days my year in Africa feels like a dream. But Lorenzo won't let me forget that it was real. This picture of him hangs by mirror so I'll see it every morning and remember. I love this picture of him. I love it because it captures some of his spunky personality and because he seems to be saying, "Don't you dare forget us Katie. Don't forget what you saw here. Don't forget our village, don't forget how you saw God working in huge ways and don't forget the poverty. It is real. Don't you dare forget."

But I do forget. America does a great job of hiding poverty so we don't have to see it. Sure, we'll encounter the occasional homeless person and feel uncomfortable and lie about how much change we have in our wallets, but for the most part, we don't see poverty. And so we forget. I forget. Sometimes it's a conscious decision because, "well heck, what am I going to do about it?" and sometimes it's because I'm stuck in Katie's self-centered world and I don't stop to look outside of my bubble. I see the news and the pictures of the pot-bellied kids and although I'm often drawn to tears, I don't do anything.

This is especially troubling for me because I met those pot-bellied kids. I spent Sundays with them for a year playing silly games with them, laughing with them and loving them. Lorenzo is one of those kids. Here is a picture of him with some of the other kids of Shiparango on the first Sunday I met them. His expressions in these two pictures are such polar opposites. One of cold distrust on the first Sunday to one of quiet joy on the last Sunday.

In Maputo, Mozambique the shantytowns are constructed right across the street from the gated neighborhoods with mansions. There was no escaping the poverty in Maputo. It smacked you in the face and assaulted all your senses so there was no ignoring it. I have no excuse for not helping the poor more because I saw it. I lived in the midst of it. I can't claim ignorance.

So why don't I do more? Here is a list of ways I've justified not giving more to help the poor. I realize many of these are silly and incredibly selfish- I've never actually voiced these justifications because I know they are flimsy and ridiculous. But I use them all the same to appease my conscience or to shut up the Holy Spirit.

1. I can't give away everything I have. How would I live? I have to draw the line somewhere. I have to pay the bills.

Take a look in your closet. Then take a look at Luke 18:22. If you have a computer, you're rich. Stop deluding yourself and call a spade a spade. (Yes! I've always wanted to use that expression. I feel so cool right now.)

2. But I've earned my money and should be wise about saving it.

Really? That money is yours? How do you think you got it? How did you get to a spot in life where you could get a good education and stable job? Did you choose your family situation? Did you forget that every good and perfect gift is from the Father? Everything you have is because of Him. Consider how He would want you to be spending your paychecks.

3. I tithe. What else does God want from me?

Your heart. All of it. A surrendered life. All of it.

4. Those organizations don't even use all the money to help the people. A lot of it just goes to the organization.

So what? Is your true concern that you want to help the people so badly you can't stand the thought that some of the money is used to keep a charity running?

5. What is my small contribution really going to do? It won't make any difference.

I'm glad the rest of the world doesn't think like you. Why exactly do you vote then?

6. Helping charities is such a trendy thing right now and I don't want to jump on the bandwagon. If Bono jumped off a bridge, I would stay planted.

Really? You're deciding NOW to take a stand against trends? Now?- when a trend is actually a good one that lines up with scripture? Here are just a few bandwagons you've jumped on recently: Lost, leggings, Twilight, blogging, Justin Bieber, gladiator sandals, facebook...need I go on? Clearly your issue is not with bandwagons and following trends.

7. I don't like how charities make me feel guilty. Some of them seem like such pretentious do-gooders who seem to be bragging about how great they are since they are helping the poor.

Sure, some might struggle with pride but that isn't your concern. Is it the charity making you feel guilty or the Holy Spirit?

8. I don't like to focus on all the suffering in the world when I can do so little to stop it. What's the point of feeling sad and guilty all the time? Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

Aren't we called to be His hands and feet? You won't feel guilty if you man up and do something about the poverty rather than closing your eyes and ears and pretending it's not there.

9. I will give more but I have too much going on right now. I'll think about how I can help later when I'm not so busy.

Procrastination. Classic excuse. Let me remind you of Matthew 25:34-45. Do you think Jesus meant what he said in this parable?

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

(I was really tempted to end that passage at verse 40 because 41-45 kinda freak me out. God's truth does that some times.)

So why all this talk about how I justify the selfish ways I use my pay check? Because I'm trying to change. Because I'm seeing how utterly moronic my excuses are and I'm trying to break free from "Katie's world." Because I read about an opportunity to develop clean water projects in developing nations. Pause right now. Are any of my 1-9 excuses running through the back of your head? Are you labeling me as a "pretentious do-gooder trying to make herself look better"? I confess that a number of those excuses floated around in my own head when I first read about the project on this blog entry. But then the Holy Spirit kept nagging and Lorenzo kept pointing his stupid finger at me daring me to forget about the poverty I saw. Here's a way I can help. Not specifically helping Lorenzo but kids and people just like him.

You may already support a bunch of charities and not feel like this is something you're interested in supporting. However, if you are looking for ways to help, not just to appease your guilty conscience although that may be one motivating factor, because you know we're called to help, here is an opportunity.

The organization is called My Charity: Water. Here is their site where you can give if like me, you're tired of the silly reasons not to. Watch the video-it's pretty cool. They suggest donating money to the cause rather than giving birthday presents. Neat idea but I'll admit that I'm not into it. I love giving gifts to the people I love and though my dad's birthday is in September, I don't think he'd be stoked to get a piece of paper saying I gave his gift money to charity. Maybe he would. He'd certainly have to fake that he was happy about it because no one can say, "Sweet. I'd rather have had the i-Pod shuffle." (don't worry Dad- we're not getting you that) So I'm not going along with the birthday idea but I will donate. It's about time I break free from "Katie's world" and do a little more. Care a little more. Surrender a little more.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

You Live In Katie's World

My sister is my best friend. She knows me better than anyone else. Knows when I'm annoyed and trying not to be, knows when to leave me alone and how to cheer me up. She tells me when my toenails are ugly or my outfit doesn't match and she thinks I'm funnier than I actually am. However, it was not always this way.

There was a period in our history that I refer to as "the years when Heidi hated me." We shared a room for years but when she hit junior high, she got too cool for her little sis. She got her head gear, started listening that crazy music by Chicago and moved into the guest room. I remember being hurt but then excited because I got to put up all the cat posters I wanted to. We went to separate high schools and had separate friends. I don't have many regrets but one that I do have is that we weren't close sooner. Well that and I regret ever wearing as much make up as I did in the following picture. It is one my most embarrassing looks and I cringe looking at it even now but too funny to not post. Sorry Heid.
During this stage when we weren't friends, Heidi had a bunch of classic teenager moments. When my parents were late to pick her up from the house, she would sit on the curb and scowl at the world. I remember being amazed by how often and quickly she could roll her eyes. I think I even practiced rolling my own like she did. She used to say, "RRRRer, retract those claws" when I got angry at her for reading my Hello-Kitty diary. One of her favorite lines to say to me struck a cord and I still think about it today. She used to say, "Oh I'm sorry I forgot- it's Katie's world. We all just live in it." At thirteen she had mastered eye-rolling and sarcasm.

Despite the dripping sarcasm from that comment, I confess that it is often true in how I perceive the world. God has been reteaching me this lesson this summer and it has been humbling and freeing and absolutely wonderful all at the same time.

I once heard a sermon by Francis Chan with the following analogy: we are all extras in the epic movie about God's redemption story. We are allowed to play tiny parts in this masterpiece and it is an honor to be allowed the two seconds in which we pass by in the background of the movie about God and His plan for the world. It would be beyond silly to claim that the movie is about us. In the grand scheme, we play tiny roles all designed to bring Him glory. However, we (now I'll switch pronouns in case you aren't as self-centered as I can be) I often live as though the movie is all about me. I forget why I am here on earth and that is when I am impatient with others, don't offer grace, and get annoyed.

The grand irony is that when I make life all about me, my life sucks. People don't treat me like I want them to. Others get in the way of my plans or don't meet my expectations. My problems and worries are magnified and I am often upset because things aren't always going my way. What a terrible way to live and yet, I often fall into this trap and forget that it really isn't my world and life really isn't all about me. I'm understanding more and more why John the Baptist said, "He must become greater, I must become less." (John 3:30) Why is this so hard for me? I know that I must become less and yet and I continually try to steal the spotlight and make the movie about me. As long as I am making myself the star of the movie, I am failing to fulfill my purpose here on earth. This idea is the core of one of my favorite songs by Shane and Shane called "The Answer"

My happiness is found in less of me and more of you.
I have found the answer is to love you and be loved by you alone.
You crucify me and the world to me
and I will only boast in you.

Indeed, when I focus less on myself and more on my Savior, I am happier. I am happier because my worries don't seem as significant in the grand scheme of God's plan for the world. I am content playing my small, 2-second role as an extra because the star of the movie loves me and has let me play a role and has thus, given my life purpose. My purpose is to glorify Him and point the world to Him by how I live. My purpose is not to make my life comfortable and fun.

I was reminded of this while reading A Wind in the Door this summer. Yes, it's a bit of a fantasy book written for kids but it was full of biblical themes as evidenced in the following passage:

" The temptation for man is to stay an immature pleasure-seeker. When we seek our own pleasure as the ultimate good we place ourselves as the center of the universe. Man has his place in the universe, but nothing created is the center."

One of Satan's ploys to get me to stop serving and stop surrendering is to convince me that life is all about me- that I am the star and I should be trying to attain as much pleasure for myself as possible. Satan and society whisper this lie to me every day and thus it is a daily struggle to remember that I am not the star- that I have great purpose but it is not about me. It is about my Savior, the true star.

I was convicted by Brennan Manning's words about humility in his book Ruthless Trust:

"A poor self-image reveals a lack of humility. Feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, inferiority, and self-hatred rivet our attention on ourselves. Humble men and women do not have a low opinion of themselves; they have no opinion of themselves, because they so rarely think about themselves. The heart of humility lies in undivided attention to God, a fascination with his beauty revealed in creation, a contemplative presence to each person who speaks to us, and a "de-selfing" of our plans, projects, ambitions, and soul."

God gave me a glimpse of myself this summer which was scary. He revealed how much I think about myself and make life all about Katie. He also showed me how in the moments when I had an "undivided attention to Him," burdens were lifted. When I paused and allowed myself to wonder at His creation, my worries seemed small. I've been trying to practice this "de-selfing" this summer and take a posture of humility that I've lacked for so long. I've been trying to let go of my plans, projects, ambitions, and soul and let God have all of me to use as He sees fit and it has been hard. It has been hard giving up my role as the star.

I resonate with the Psalmist who wrote, "Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law." (Psalm 119:109) I want to be completely surrendered, yet I see my tendency to forget why I'm here. I want to make life all about God and making Him the center, but I so easily forget and so often make myself the center of my universe. I want to live as an alien and stranger here on earth, fully aware that my citizenship is in heaven, but so often I live as a resident- as thee star resident of earth.

Francis Chan had this to say on the topic in his book Forgotten God:

"It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But it's absolutely vital to grasp that He didn't call you there so you could settle in and live out your life in comfort and superficial peace. His purposes are not random or arbitrary. If you are still alive on this planet, it's because He has something for you to do. He placed us on this earth for purposes that He orchestrated long before we were born (Eph. 2:8-10). Do you believe you exist not for your own pleasure but to help people know the love of Jesus and to come fully alive in Him? If so, then that will shape how you live your life."

The battle is an unseen one but I feel it waging. The battle for my allegiance. Will I live today for myself or for my God? If I forget that I am fighting a battle, I will live for myself. Thus I have to make a conscious effort to begin each day in surrender and asking for reminders and strength and wisdom to live in a way that makes God the center instead of myself.

Another irony in relearning this lesson is that while learning it this summer, I decided to start blogging again. Seems contradictory since I'm making a whole page all about myself- my stories and my thoughts. However, I hope that this blog points to Jesus and not just myself. That is my intention. Even when I write about trivial life moments I hope it is clear that I am a slave to Christ and am living, breathing and typing because of Him and for Him.

If you know my sister, you know that she too is a servant of the Lord. She is one of the kindest people I know and is more generous and genuine than most. She is humble and patient and compassionate and joyful. She might not have been all these things when she was 13, but who was? Okay Jesus was but who else? Thanks Heid for being the big sister who pointed out when her little sister was being a self-centered brat.

I have a bunch of really awful and embarrassing pictures of Heidi and myself growing up but since I already used two, here is one normal picture so others can see how beautiful my big sister is today- nine months pregnant and gorgeous. Clearly the yodeling outfit did not do her justice.