Over the last couple of years, I have been tracking along with the (in)courage community, both because of the beautiful God-centered writing and the amazing projects that they have participated in. One of the connections they have developed is with the Mercy House in Kenya. Formed in 2010 by Kristen Welch, the blogger who writes at We Are THAT Family, and Maureen, a Compassion International graduate, the Mercy House facility helps support teen moms and their babies by giving them the education, nutrition, housing, prenatal care, Bible study, counseling and job skills they need for sustainable living.
So, the (in)courage community is banding together to give these girls five special gifts for Christmas this year, including a new van, generator, computer lab, additional classroom space, and another living space. I’m going to be specifically advocating for Phase 4, a computer lab for Mercy House, and will be back in November to talk more about it, but until then, you can visit the website for the (in)mercy project, and track the project’s funding progress in the sidebar!
I love the idea of equipping this ministry to do their work by giving them very tangible gifts. Don’t you?
Check out (in)mercy here!
I palmed my phone and tried to stifle a grin as I walked into chapel for my first university convocation as a faculty member. I had promised Ben that I would take a picture, so I tried to be inconspicuous as I snuck a few.
It was a new perspective on this annual ritual, from my view from the fourth row. Surrounded by who are now my peers, I sang and intoned and applauded as we followed the program notes. Prayer. Hymn. Stand. Sit. Listen.
And then, at the very end, we stood and read aloud the Cornerstone Covenant, an affirmation designed to unite us as a community. A room of voices raised to show our commitment to common actions and attitudes. Maturity. Peace. Joy. Wisdom.
There is a reason why we say things out loud. Marriage vows. Child dedication services. The Pledge of Allegiance. Corporate worship. It transforms a private belief into a public proclamation, adding weight to important words by giving them shape and sound. It is why I cried on my wedding day and why I often find myself teary-eyed when I pay attention to the words I sing on Sunday mornings. But on this Wednesday, a document was transformed from words on a screen to a living promise as it was spoken by the students, faculty, and staff. I found myself standing a bit straighter as I read the Faculty Affirmation:
“As faculty we will advance the presence of Christ in our community by honoring those with whom we serve.
We will seek the best for our students by modeling Christ before them, challenging them to excel and treating
them with respect. In our disciplines we will continually grow in knowledge and wisdom, and seek to nurture
those qualities in our students.”
Yes. I affirm.
I stood in the cafeteria entrance with a permagrin on my face. “Welcome to lunch!” I crowed , pointing dazed Moms and Nikon-laden Dads towards the shredded beef sandwiches, and jittery students towards the pizza counter. I was one of the “lunch greeters”, welcoming new students to their first official meal on Cornerstone’s campus after a morning of moving boxes into dorm rooms.
It took me back…way back to 1995, when my parents dropped me off at school. I missed out on new student arrival day, because I came early with the other fall athletes. It was a bit rough for a girl eight long hours from home. I remember passing out in my dorm’s loft in between grueling two-a-days, feeling desperately homesick, and shedding more than a few tears. When the rest of the students arrived, things didn’t get much better. I was still one of the “new kids”, so I clearly recognized that mixture of dread, excitement, and uncertainty in the eyes of some of the students heading towards the trays of brownies.
Thankfully, my memories didn’t stop there; I also remembered what happened over the next few weeks and months. Time passed. I quit volleyball and started playing soccer. I figured out what meals were worth eating. I adapted to college life. I thrived.
They will too.
I’m a “new kid” again this fall, right back on the campus where it all started. And while my mid-thirties sensibilities might keep me from crying into my pillow like I did as a freshman, I can’t ignore the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. I have been trying to ignore it, pretend that it isn’t a big deal, but as I watched the new students file past me, I realized that I needed to accept it to be able to move forward. Accept that I’m going to be jittery and distracted while I figure it all out. Realize that I might wake up with a sore jaw for a while as I grind my teeth through the night. Tell the people that I love how I’m feeling instead of just barreling through it on my own.
Change may come easier now that I’m older, but it is still a change. It is uncomfortable and challenging, but time will pass, and we will all adapt…the students…and me. It might take a few big plates of pizza and lemon bars, but we will figure it out.
We’re back on campus…ready or not.
Earlier this summer, I took the GMAT with mixed results. Actually, I was convinced that I bombed and that I was going to have to take it again later in the summer. Unfortunately, I had to wait a few weeks to get my final results, so in the meantime, I debated about what I should do. Take it again, because there is no way I could do any worse? Skip it, and move on? I was relieved when the results arrived, and solidified my decision. I didn’t bomb the other two parts of the test, and I had a pretty good GPA from my Masters program….10 years ago. Decision? No retake. Done…and done.
I still think it was an important lesson for me to learn that “good enough” can be just fine, and I don’t have to beat myself up about it. I am staring down a few years of hard work between getting acclimated to a new full time job, hopefully starting a doctorate program, and still keeping up with the home front, and I have an inkling that there will have to be plenty of “good enough” moments. A good lesson.
I also recently wrote about packing my scale away for the summer. I am glad I wrote about it, because I came home from our trip and really wanted to know if I had eaten my customary five pounds of fried walleye and grilled polish. But I didn’t pull it out. I even opened my drawer to put away my toiletries and saw a measuring tape sitting in there, tempting me to check my inches instead, and I didn’t do that either. Sounds small, but this was a big deal for me. If I don’t get my head straight before Madi becomes a teenager, I’m going to be in big trouble. How can I talk to her about building a positive self-image if I am not actively working on it myself? An ongoing challenge.
I have talked on and off about this ominous “new job” of mine that will be my first full time job since I was pregnant with Madi nine years ago. To say that I am nervous about it would be an understatement. I took a survey recently that asked what I would do professionally if I wasn’t afraid, and at this moment in my life, I am doing something that terrifies me. It’s not about the work, because I have taught before. It’s everything else, from acclimating to the culture to finding people to eat lunch with to making sure things are taken care of with my family. That is what freaks me out, and is where my “good enough” lesson grows feet and sprints away.
The problem is, I’m not sure what “good enough” looks like yet in this new parallel universe. The ship hasn’t quite landed, and I’m still trying to figure out which way to hold the map. So if you see me wandering around with a dazed look on my face, just know that I might need someone to remind me that I will indeed figure this all out.
It has been two months since Fiona’s birthday, so it feels a little ridiculous to write about it, but I’m falling victim to the “keep everything equal” conundrum. I wrote about Madi and Parker’s “Cele-Bake” birthday back in March, so I have to write about Fiona’s big day. I kinda feel like I can’t move on until I do. Weird.
Now for Fiona’s birthday tour. We kicked it off with the McClelland boys at the farm. I can’t believe that I actually got this many of the kids to stop for a picture before they scattered. All we were missing was Judah, and he was probably already out riding one of the Jeeps around the barn.
I knew that the kids wouldn’t stick around for much, but we did get them to run around finding fun little scavenger hunt clues that Madi made up, all ending at the big mail bin in the front yard. That was about their limit…
Then it was off for cupcakes and presents. And yes, I realize there should be four candles on the cupcake. Brain hiccup.
I love how deliciously happy she looks. As the youngest kid, she has to “go with the flow” a lot, so it is always great to have a special moment just for her without having to share everything.
The next weekend, we drummed up a little pig-themed party at our house. Yes, pigs. Fiona loves pigs with a vengeance because…well, I’m not sure why. Maybe because they are pink? But for whatever reason, she can’t live without them, so Mom and the girls set off to make pig cupcakes. They turned out so cute, just like the pig cookies I remember my Mom making when I was a kid, complete with marshmallow noses.
For the party, the kids made pig pictures…
…played Pin the Tail on the pig, courtesy of Parker’s art project from school…
The kids grabbed cotton balls with silicone pig potholders…
…and helpful aunties blew bubbles…
Fiona got a pony to go along with her new American Girl doll…
…and it ended as it had started…with more silly, silly faces…
Those kids love to mug for the camera, especially when it involves crossed eyeballs and wacky looks. Maybe a reaction to the millions of pictures that we subject them to? If I still had 24 exposures to work with and a little square disposable flashbulb, I certainly wouldn’t be asking them to make such awesome faces.
Happy Birthday, Fiona!
I reached the final screen of the test, and was faced with two options. Accept my score and receive the unofficial score report or reject the score, stand up, and walk out like I was never there. They give you two minutes to decide before they automatically delete your test, and I sat there for a good minute thinking about the past three and a half hours.
Quantitative…not good. Even with all the equations I memorized and scribbled in the margin of my scratch pad, I could not seem to wrap my head around question after question full of letters, exponents, and quadratic equations. Then, I didn’t realize how slow I was going, and had to guess at about the last 10 questions because time was almost out. Visibly shaking, I clicked through the last couple of questions, knowing that my score was trending down…down…down…and I still had one more section to complete.
Verbal…I knew that I needed to get a slam-bam score on my last section to salvage my score, so I buckled down and worked my way through it.
Back to the final screen. Accept or Reject. I thought maybe…just maybe…so I clicked “Accept”, covered my eyes, and then peeked out between my fingers. The score popped up. Not what I wanted…or expected…
Somehow, I made it out of the testing center and down the sidewalk to where I was meeting Ben for lunch without losing it. Then I lost it.
Disappointed. Frustrated. Mad. Sad. Irritated. All the feelings that come when things don’t work out the way you expected.
Today it was a score on a test, but it wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time that I fail at something. Not that it made today’s disappointment any easier, but it did make it more survivable. And I was able to eke out some perspective over the next few days, some lessons learned when faced with failure.
The first was how essential it is to have a solid support system when you are in a position where failure is possible. Something difficult, something new, something risky…if you don’t have someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself, you might as well throw in the towel at the start. I couldn’t have asked for a better support than Ben throughout the whole process, but he was especially amazing afterwards, when I fell apart in the middle of the sidewalk. He bought me lunch and we talked through all the possible scenarios (while I blubbered). Then he went back to work, dug up the admission materials for the school I’m looking at, printed it all off, and put it in a binder for me. How’s that for great support?
The next “must-have” is a healthy dose of reality. Is what you are striving for actually feasible? I remember saying to Ben the night before that I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull off the score I wanted, because none of my practice scores had hit that mark. Probably a pretty accurate statement, and I think that stands true no matter what you are attempting. Yes, miracles happen, but you still have to be realistic about your capabilities and your skill set. I have spent my whole education and career focusing on business and communication from a people perspective, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I wouldn’t be “up to speed” on math related topics. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s like expecting to catch a 100 yard touchdown when you have never even caught a 70 yard throw. Silly.
Lastly, I remembered once more how important it is to not have your self-worth tied up into things that are temporal. I found myself slipping into these awful feelings of self-doubt, and that’s definitely not where I want to be. It is so easy to only feel as good as your last accomplishment, forgetting that we are all more than our last test score, our last job interview, or our last work project. So much more. I think I need to tattoo it on the inside of my eyelids, “Rachel, you are more than enough”, because every time I forget, I find myself fighting insecurity and stalling out. Not a good way to live.
So, I didn’t get the score I wanted. It totally stinks, but life goes on. It doesn’t change who I am as a person or how competent I am. And maybe it’s plenty anyways…because I’m a totally awesome doctoral school candidate. Ben said so…
There is something anonymous about sitting alone in a cafe, kind of like you are hiding underneath a Hogwarts invisibility cloak. Or at least that is what it seemed like today as I factored and figured my way through 30 pages of math problems in the corner of the D& W cafe. I wasn’t trying to listen in to the conversations around me, but subconsciously, bits and pieces trickled in between the numbers.
There were the two personal trainers, decked out in yoga pants and running shoes, commiserating about a common thorn in their side – a boss, perhaps or a fellow trainer – either way, someone who seemed to spiteful and self-esteem crushing. They sat sipping ice water out of plastic Starbucks cups, trying out ideas on each other – “This is how I tell my clients to lift…” “I’m thinking of advertising my services on a t-shirt, what do you think?” – and built scaffolding around each other’s confidence – “You have such great ideas!” “He is not who gives you your worth”. Insecurities softened by the words batted back and forth until they had to go, move on to their next client, with the promise to talk again soon.
Then a trio of twenty-somethings came in, wearing the uniform of the entry-level employee – ill-fitting suit jackets, logo polo shirts, long lanyards peeking out of khaki pockets. They gobbled down their family sized portions of mashed potatoes and meatloaf, shouting war stories from work and play. Stories of falling asleep on the toilet while reading Reddit and waking up hours later with legs of lead…another of the 25 minutes spent with a client, an Army vet, who spun tales and life lessons for the grateful kid. They slammed high fives and laughed loudly, stroking egos and throwing around innuendos like a 90 mile per hour fastball right at the gut. “This is a good day”, one stated bluntly, and you could tell he probably believed every day was a good day as he sauntered out of the cafe.
Two interactions that took place in the same booth, but couldn’t have been more different – separated by gender and age, introspection and self-deprecation, ego and the lack thereof.
The table was finally quiet, but it was time for me to leave. I folded up my invisibility cloak up neatly and packed it away for another day, wondering what messages I send when I sit in a cafe, talking loudly next to a table for one.
Remember when you were a kid in gym class and you had to climb the rope attached to the ceiling? It was hard business for a little third grader, rope burns on your hands and sore biceps to boot. I was horrible at it, but just like everyone else, I had to try and climb the rope, even though I only made it up a few knots. It has been a long time since I attempted to climb up a rope. I don’t think I would be any better at it now, and I can’t think of a reason why I would ever need to try.
That’s the great thing about being an adult; you can do what you want for the most part. But it can also make you complacent, don’t you think? I have to be very purposeful about doing things outside of my comfort zone, because if there is a choice between something difficult and something simple, I will usually choose the latter. Normal life is tough enough.
Take math, for example, where my comfort zone is pretty tiny. Frankly, I don’t have much need to know how to do anything more difficult than calculate sale prices at the grocery store. That is, until I found out that I needed to take the GMAT as part of my application process for my doctorate. Consider me shoved out of my comfort zone.
Actually, it kind of feels like a rope burn on my brain as I have attempted to haul myself up and remember basic concepts of algebra and geometry. Everyone keeps telling me that I’m going to be fine, but as I have struggled to recalibrate my brain to think through functions and terms and equations that are buried in dusty synapses, it has seriously made me question my intellectual ability to do this “big thing”.
I know…that’s probably a little dramatic. I’m not getting a finance degree, and this is just a standardized entrance exam. But when you spend most of your time choosing to do things that you know you will be good at, it makes you woefully unprepared when you try something else that isn’t “your thing”.
It’s good to push ourselves into what is uncomfortable. It’s good to do things that could be a failure. It’s good to look up that rope, all bristly and rough, grab a knot, and start climbing. It’s good…in a painful sort of way.
What rope are you…or should be…climbing?