career

on wisps of passing thoughts…

Posted by on Feb 25, 2013 in perspective, writing | 0 comments

The last two months have been pretty abysmal for my personal writing. It always gets shoved to the bottom of my to-do list, and when I do finally sit down to write something, I find myself distracted and unfocused. I start post after post, and never seem to find a way to finish them. My thoughts and ideas swirl around and around, and I can’t seem to snag them and nail them down to the page, making them real instead of wisps of passing thoughts.

Daily tasks? These I can handle. The concreteness of baking a loaf of banana bread for our new neighbors or folding a pile of pajamas seems doable…almost comforting compared to the nebulousness of trying to document what is going on in my head. This takes time and space, and I have neither. Stolen moments between nap times and school pickups don’t really “cut the mustard”, as my Mom used to say.

So the days tick by, the moments slide through my fingertips, and I am stuck with a head full of half-conceived thoughts and memories. Instead, the floor gets vacuumed, my email is (sort of) answered, and the papers get graded. I suppose it’s not a bad trade…the mundane for the highbrow, the essential for the indulgent.

But I miss it horribly.

It is a release that is reminiscent of jumping on the treadmill after a long day, both cleansing and invigorating. Everyone needs that release, whether it comes in the form of creating or building or exploring, but it takes a bit of effort to get back on the wagon, one small step at a time. Perhaps not demanding long discourses to pour out of my fingertips, but simple moments with the kids. I can do that, right?

What is your release? Do you run? Write? Sew? Bake? Hike? What happens when it falls to the wayside? Do you start to crumble a bit inside like me? Find the courage to start again…one small imperfect step at a time.

…on new jobs and finding my melody…

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in career, Cornerstone | 4 comments

If I had been able to afford Houghton College, I would have never attended Cornerstone College, eight hours from my family.

If I had lost the election for student body secretary, I would have never gotten to know Ben, my future husband.

If I had skipped the trip to the job fair in Lansing, I would have never gotten an interview at Old Kent Bank.

If my boss had not taken a chance on me as an untested corporate trainer, I would have never found out how much I enjoy teaching.

If I had not taken the severance package from Old Kent, I would have never finished my masters degree so quickly.

If I had lost contact with my Cornerstone professors, I would have never known about an adjunct position when I wanted to work part-time.

If I had not taken a few years off from adjunct teaching, I would have never worked at Ben’s firm and started Mom Colored Glasses.

If I had not decided to teach again last fall, I would have never known about the faculty opening in the business department.

If I had lost my nerve to apply, I would have never gotten the job at Cornerstone.

I look at these moments, and the difficult stands out just as much as the good. I remember the loneliness of being far from home, the disquieting feeling of being laid off, the extra school loan payment every month, the last minute calls to teach a course, the pain of leaving a job I loved, the fear of the unknown, the restlessness of the “in-between”, the wait for a phone call…they all ring in my ears in a chaotic disharmony.

But then, somehow, the notes start to sort themselves out, and a melody emerges, strong and true. It’s my melody, one that sings of learning to trust God when things seem bleak and of finding the sweet spot where my experience and gifts collide. I love my melody, both the stanzas that trip all over themselves with excitement, and the rumbling passages that repeat over and over with frustration and fatigue. It is in the contrast that makes life interesting. It is in the contrast that we find out who we truly are.

This next movement? I’m not sure what it is going to sound like, except it is going to be very different. I haven’t worked full time in nine years, and I have never worked as a full time professor before. Add to that the prospect of starting my doctorate in the next year, and it is very clear to me that the beat of our family life is going to change in very real ways. I’m thrilled…and terrified at the same time. Change is never easy, and I just hope that I have dug out enough of the dirt beneath my feet to stay grounded in what my family needs and that I can keep trusting God to take care of the long view…the completed symphony…while I focus on the next stanza.

Ready, and…go.

 

“Teaching Becomes the Gift”….Reflections on “Many Communicate, Few Connect” by John C. Maxwell

Posted by on Jan 11, 2013 in Cornerstone, perspective | 2 comments

I have spent almost every waking moment this week buried in the books and materials for the J-Term class I am in the middle of teaching. One of the textbooks is a book by John C. Maxwell called Many Communicate, Few Connect, and I’m really digging it…as a communicator, as a parent, and as a Christian. However, being in the thick of teaching right now, I find myself applying what he says to how I communicate in the classroom, and there was a passage that I had to underline…twice. Here are my thoughts…

scribbled-out tasks on my rumpled to-do list…

Posted by on Dec 21, 2012 in career, Cornerstone, faith, motherhood, perspective, running | 0 comments

The past month or so has blown by in a blur of holiday gatherings, final exams, cookie making, and plenty of “nose to the grindstone” stuff”. As I barrel through my days, I find myself ticking things off my list and striding forward with barely a backward glance, which always gives me a distinct sense of satisfaction. Check…check…and double check.

It’s the journey, and frequently I find myself somewhere in the thick of it, traveling along and grinding it out. In theory, this sense of immediacy is a good thing, but it can also hinder my view of the past or future. Focus? Yes. Perspective? Not always.

But as I look at my rumpled to-do list, it gives me pause. Each one of those scribbled-out tasks left an distinct mark on me this last few months, and it is good to stop and pay attention. Tasks like…

todo

Submit Final Grades. I stood in front of my class at the end of the semester, and could barely choke back the tears as I thanked them for the opportunity to spend time with them for 14 weeks. When I agreed to teach the class, I wasn’t at all sure about my decision. I honestly didn’t think I would ever find myself back at Cornerstone, and here I was, trying to shake off the lingering feelings of burnout that had followed me since I took a break from teaching a few years ago. But I decided that I was going to pay attention to the “reason”, and I did. My “break” had freed me from the stress of perfectionism and had given me a renewed focus to paying attention to what my students needed…right then. They learned a few things from me, but I think I learned much more from them.

stone

Complete survey for The New Testament Challenge. I finished reading the New Testament from start to finish for the very first time this fall, thanks to an eight week program through our church. It was definitely “challenging”, but the impact of being in the Word every day was more powerful than I could have imagined. I usually read or study the Bible in small chunks, so I loved being able to see in broad strokes what it looks like to be a Christ-follower. Loving extravagantly, speaking Truth, giving generously, and using my gifts to serve the community of believers…all things that popped off the pages in very real ways this fall. I can only pray that I continue to water and weed the transformational change that began to take root in my heart this fall and allow it to produce life-affirming fruit. I want to be like Christ, and being in the Word is a big part of that.

Bible

Buy beef tenderloin. After a personal cooking lesson in early December (which deserves its very own post), I found myself buying groceries to host the firm Christmas party at our home last weekend. I was trying to be nonchalant about it, but I was honestly pretty terrified. One of the “mantras” my instructor kept telling me was “Don’t be afraid, Rachel”, and I needed that tattooed on the inside of my eyelids it as I picked out meat, prepped dishes that were way out of my wheelhouse, and cooked up a huge pot of risotto while our dinner guests lounged around the kitchen. Just a tad bit intimidating, don’t you think? The party was a success, even with my slightly undercooked risotto (yes, it’s true), and as Ben and I cleaned up the kitchen, I was so thankful for all of the entertaining we have been able to do since we moved in. I love having our home full of laughter and conversation, and it felt good to share with others.

risotto

Pre-register for the winter Hello Mornings Challenge: Earlier this summer, I jumped into an online accountability group that checks in on Facebook in the mornings to share what they are learning in their devotions. Honestly, I did it on a whim, but 12 weeks later, I felt such a kinship with these girls that live all over the Eastern Time Zone…from Panama to Alabama to Canada. When it ended, and we had to decide whether to continue, it was hardly a question. We were all in. Recently, one of the girls went through an incredibly difficult situation, and I sat in front of my computer crying for her, this girl I felt such a kinship with, even though we had never met. You can say what you want about technology, but there are so many amazing ways that it can be used for good…and this has been a Spirit-led movement in my life.

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Make sheep costume. Madi was asked to be a sheep in her Christmas program, which meant that I had to construct some semblance of a costume. I don’t sew…I’m not an especially astute crafter…which meant that we ended up wandering around Hobby Lobby with an image of a costume pulled up on my cell phone trying to find felt, polyfill, and fluffy pipe cleaners. Did it turn out? We managed. She did leave a trail of polyfill in her wake, and her ears were a bit precarious. But if anything, it certainly humbled me. I really didn’t know if her costume was going to stay together, and that was hard. Lesson learned…next time, I need to outsource.

DSC_0001

Train for a 10k. Notice it doesn’t say “run a 10k”. I trained with my neighbor, because she was planning on running a 10k at Thanksgiving. I, on the other hand, didn’t have a race lined up. Still don’t, in fact. But strangely enough, I still had a tremendous sense of accomplishment when we hit our six mile run length, and didn’t pass out afterwards. It helps to have a good running partner, one that will always get out of bed to run at 5:45 and will say, “Let’s run the four mile route this morning”, even when it’s raining. That’s the kind of running partner you need. Better than that, though, is the friendship that that has been forged during the miles running up and down the streets of our neighborhood. Talking about everything and nothing…kids and family and jobs and history…it’s something that I don’t want to give up, even though the mornings are getting a bit colder.

running

Finish writing today’s post. This seems to make it on my list almost every day, to be either starting or finishing a post for Mom Colored Glasses or here. I love doing it, but there never seems to be enough time to write…keep up with emails…get our name to the right PR people…build our audience…all squeezed in-between the rest of my life. Some days it feels overwhelming, but then there are other days, when we are able to send a $100 gift card to someone that really needs it or write about something that is close to my heart or have a conversation with a friend about something I wrote…those moments continue to make it worth it. Writing is the quiet that centers me…the perspective that so often eludes me…and the connection that I so desperately need.

The last couple of months have been good for me. Not simple and not easy, but definitely a time of growth, discipline, and rediscovery. And truthfully, it is only as I look back that I can see how my path wove and intersected in just the perfect way.

I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store.

on finding the reason…

Posted by on Sep 16, 2012 in career, Cornerstone | 0 comments

When I agreed to teach a public speaking class this fall, I did it with a bit of resignation.

Sure…okay…whatever….

I had a bit of a bad attitude about it, if I was honest. I lamented the fact that I was going back to teaching, the amount of time I knew that I was going to have to spend on prep time, the early wake-up call for a 7:30 am class, and whatever else that popped into my mind. I just didn’t want to do it.

What I think I was ignoring was coming to terms with the period of time in my life when I decided to take a break from teaching after Fiona was born. It was a struggle. I knew that I should quit, but I didn’t want to quit, even though it was shredding me up physically and emotionally. I cried a ridiculous amount about my decision, and I am certain that everyone around me was sick of hearing about it, especially me.

It was the right decision, and it gave me the space to do other things. I started working part time for Ben. I helped launch MCG. I volunteered. I started to lead a Bible study group. I convinced myself that my teaching “break” was permanent. But then somehow, one thing led to another, and I agreed to teach again this fall, which takes me back to my bad attitude, which was in serious need of adjustment.

About a month ago, I found myself complaining to some friends of mine, and one of them told me that she had been praying for her soon-to-be freshman son’s professors.

*GULP*

Then she said, “Maybe you should be looking and praying that God will show you the reason why you are teaching this semester.”

*DOUBLE GULP*

So, ever since then, I have been thinking and praying about that very thing – maybe there is something my students need to hear from me, and even more likely, maybe there is something I need to learn. I was still a little grumpy as I tried to plow through a new textbook, dig through my notes from 2008, and deal with some unanticipated jitters.

Jitters? Really?

Fast forward to the first day of class. It was okay. Yeah, I was a little rusty. Plus, that bleary-eyed 7:30 am crowd is tough…none of my sorry attempts at jokes seemed to work. But as I sat there and listened to their first impromptu speeches, where I asked them to talk about a “defining moment” in their lives, I realized that I was in one…right now.

A moment where obedience took precedence over my preferences. A moment where I allowed myself to look beyond the now to the bigger picture. A moment where it wasn’t about me anymore, but was about the people around me, the students whose path had collided with mine for 14 short weeks. It wasn’t going to be easy or simple, and I’m certain it will be more than a little frustrating, but it is my path, and I will be keeping my eyes open for the reasons I am on it.

on stealing the swag…what I learned at Bloggy Boot Camp 2011

Posted by on Jul 19, 2012 in momcoloredglasses, My Mama Kat Moments..., perspective | 4 comments

Today, I am linking up with Mama Kat’s writing prompts with my take on the vlog prompt: “Have you been to a blog conference? Share why you would or would not be interested in going. If you’ve been…share something you learned from the experience. Would you go again?”

Mama’s Losin’ It

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