Monday, February 27, 2023

The When and the Why

The other day, my mom brought up a 2019 post of mine about following God's calling that dealt with why I had decided (at the time) not to pursue an elementary education degree. At that point in time, I had thought the answer to that question was "no" when in reality the answer was "not yet."

I'd honestly forgotten about that post. Skimming through it now, there are a few things that make me cringe, and I see some of the reasons why I thought I would be a bad match for classroom teacher are things I still worry about today—managing a whole class, meeting every child's needs, differentiating instruction in a classroom setting. But what I mostly see is something I have thought about often even though I totally forgot about the post: I was considering teaching for all the wrong reasons. And even though it turns out the "what" wasn't ultimately wrong and outside of God's plan for my life, the reasons I was considering it and the things I would have been abandoning for it made it wrong at the time.

It's easiest and most straightforward to talk about why the "when" was wrong. Because I'm glad I didn't do it then for timing and logistical issues. For instance:

  • I didn't yet have my own car as I was still sharing my family's old minivan with my sister
  • I didn't have enough savings to pay for tuition until scholarships kicked in, let alone to weather quitting my primary job during my last year and a half of school
  • I not only would have had to take more classes due to it being before KSU pared down the education program to 120 hours, I would have been in school during COVID shutdowns
  • Building on that, I would have started my field experience during the 2020/2021 school year and yikes
  • I wouldn't necessarily have had the same opportunities in my classes to share things about God and the Bible, and I may not have had the same professors and definitely not the same classmates
  • I wouldn't have had the same kids in my field experience and I just can't imagine not working with those same children
  • I also would not have gone to Realm Makers, gotten to meet Jaye L. Knight and Tricia Mingerink in person, or published The Void—but those things honestly fit more in the "why"

The wrong "why" is a lot more personal, and a lot more important. Because I'm realizing that in life there are a lot of things that may not be wrong in and of themselves, but our motivation and attitude can make them wrong. And that's primarily what was wrong with me considering teaching back in early 2019.

One of the reasons was that I felt like my writing was going nowhere so I was going to give it up entirely. I'd been dealing with massive writer's block, I wasn't selling many books, and I was just going to walk away from all of it. Forever. That was something God didn't want me to do. I went to Realm Makers that summer, which revitalized my passion for writing, gave me the tools I needed to get The Void into publication shape, and—this I consider to be most important—was the avenue by which I was finally able to meet Jaye and Tricia. I'd known Jaye online for years already, since back when she was publishing as Molly Evangeline, but I hadn't met her in person and I barely knew Tricia. After that Realm Makers our friendship deepened and now, despite our geographical distance, I consider them some of my very best friends. And I really couldn't imagine life without their friendship. And while college is causing writing to be slow and painfully sporadic and my schedule makes getting together with my friends much more difficult, I know it's for a time, and it's not forever. And writing and these friendships are something I don't ever want to do without.

The other reason I was considering teaching was escape. I had some things going on in my personal life at the time that I just really wanted to escape. And I've had to realize that running away from difficult things is not the way to handle it. You have to face it, work through it, not just ditch everything and run. Life is hard. That's just a reality. We're promised trials in life. God will get us through them. But it's not a good idea to do something else—even if that thing might be good in and of itself—just to get away from our troubles.

But pursuing something for the right reasons is a different thing entirely. Pursuing it because that's what God is calling us to now is a good thing. Pursuing teaching because God has gifted me in teaching and this is how He seems to be leading me to use that gift in this season is right. Pursuing it because I have a heart for children is a good thing. Pursuing it because God has opened those doors now is a good thing. And yes, there were financial reasons involved in the decision as well because that's the reality of the world we live in, but I've approached even those financial aspects of the decision from a different perspective and motivation than I did four years ago.

It all goes back to the heart. Even when we do things for the wrong reason, God can still use it for good because He's sovereign and He works all things for good for them who love Him and are called according to His purpose. But it's so much better when we seek Him not only for the what and the when, but to get our hearts right in regards to the why. So many things go back to our attitudes and motivations. No matter what we're doing, let it all go back to this:

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 
—1 Corinthians 10:41

Note: Doing the wrong thing for what we might consider the "right" reasons is also a problem, but that's a topic for another day.

Monday, January 2, 2023

2022 in Review

2022 has been quite a year. It's been rather a mixed bag—lots of good things happened, but also it was rather rough for reasons I'll get to in a bit. But really, there were a lot of great things, even if it's been long and hard.

I started off the year with new piano students and 6 classes. Yes, I decided to do a crazy and take 18 credit hours last spring. 4 of the classes were online, so schedule-wise it wasn't actually horrible, but it certainly was a lot of work. As part of one of my classes, I volunteered with MUST Ministries for about 6 weeks. It was a really great experience and I was glad to see firsthand the work they do helping those in need and connecting people with jobs that suit their needs and skillset. 

I also did fun experiments like shine a flashlight on a Styrofoam ball to model the phases of the moon. 😂 Elementary education, amiright? (That lab kit of a flashlight, Styrofoam balls, and ziplocs of sand and potting soil was so overpriced for what it was, but I digress.) I also took American history last spring, which I was unsure about to start, but ended up really enjoying. I love American history and I picked the class that covered my favorite eras, but I was concerned about the perspective. As it turned out, my professor was fairly balanced and I got along really well with him. AND I got to write a paper on the Salem Witch Trials using transcriptions of the original court records from the Trials and it was SO COOL. I might have written most of it with an ice pack tied to my head so I could muscle through a headache and get it done on time, but I did it. 

Phases of the moon with my 
overpriced Styrofoam ball

A fun display a coworker and I made at the library

We made this one in the fall, but anywho,
I'm rather proud of it

Throughout this semester, we started watching Psych, which was a super fun, low commitment show for a busy semester. Shawn and Gus may be immature, but they're hilarious, and I totally shipped Shules from early on in the show. "Last Night Gus," though. That's the best.

The cast of Psych

I had a lot of homework, but I did manage to take spring break to make some new dresses...after I got fabric on a whim going into Hobby Lobby for colored popsicle sticks. Eh, it was a week off. And I needed some dresses. And then I spent some of the time leading into finals reading The Selection series instead of studying. But I still got straight A's, so it didn't hurt me any.

Then May was great. My sister Addy and I drove up to meet our good friends Tricia Mingerink (also known as Tara Grayce) and Jaye L. Knight at an adorable cabin we rented by a lake in Kentucky. We visited the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, kayaked on the lake, watched Clone Wars, practiced a few sword fighting stances, brainstormed solutions to problems in our stories together, wrote and edited, talked and talked and talked, and had just as hard a time as ever saying goodbye. Our group of evil authors helped tremendously in helping me figure out the plot of Acktorek 2, though I haven't had the time to put that plan into action yet. And really, it was just so great to get to hang out with them. So much fun!

Adorable little loft perfect for writing!

The lake down the hill from the cabin

At the Ark!

It's so huge!

Wishing we didn't have to say goodbye

Once we got back, it was time to jump into both summer school and music recital. I always love seeing how much my students have progressed, and I was super proud of them for all the things they learned. 

I took 3 classes over the summer, which ended up being pretty chill after my 18 credit hour semester. One of my classes was basically a music appreciation class, online, and I had to watch 3 concerts and write papers on them. Only requirement was that they had to be at least 50 minutes long. So I watched a super cool Stephen Spielberg and John Williams concert, the Candlelight Processional from Disney World, and Doctor Who at the BBC Proms 2008. It was pretty great. Also, the summer had me watching Obi-Wan Kenobi, which I absolutely loved, and walking in my hometown's Independence Day parade.

At the end of summer my family went to Disney World! It was hot and I am not a fan of Lightning Lane, but we still had a good time. We got to go backstage and pet a rhino named Dugan (sadly they don't allow pictures backstage), rode our favorite rides, met cool characters, got swindled by Hondo Ohnaka on Millennium Falcon Smuggler's Run (also, I might have been reading all the aurebesh signs in Galaxy's Edge—I taught myself aurebesh in like an hour when I was bored once), went to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review at Fort Wilderness, and waited out a thunderstorm in Mickey's Philhar Magic. It may not have been our favorite Disney trip, but there was still a lot to enjoy.

Hoop-Dee-Doo was loads of fun!

The drawing class at Rafiki's Planet Watch

After we saw Dugan!

First time on the Ratatouille ride

Spaceship Earth

Rise of the Resistance!

I love the Beauty and the Beast show!

Walking into Magic Kingdom!

Thunderstorm rolling in over the castle

When the unloading area backs up on Pirates,
you can actually get some pictures

And then we get to fall semester, wherein I all but dropped off the face of the internet. It wasn't all bad, it really wasn't, but it was most definitely the hardest semester I've been through. Thing is, elementary education classes aren't hard content-wise, but the program is still very demanding and stressful, and coordinating all the moving pieces of classes and field experience and jobs is basically a nightmare. Add in kid germs spreading around colds and flu and strep and whatever else, and it's no wonder all of us prospective teachers are so stressed out.

Now. It had some really great moments. I absolutely loved both the preK class and the 2nd grade class I was in for field experience last semester. I worked with some really great teachers and both classes were full of really great students. I practiced planning and teaching lessons and got to work both in small groups and one on one with the kids and it was fabulous. I spent a lot more time with the 2nd graders, and while before starting the program I had decided I wanted to teach 4th grade because of the social studies standards, I'm no longer so decided. I really loved 2nd grade. Part of it might be that I lucked out with a great teacher and class (I know it's not always like that, I've heard stories), but it's a really fun age. I miss the kids so much, and I'm so glad I got to work with their class.

But...working with kids has downsides. Namely germs. It only took one day at the preK for me to come down with a nasty cold and, well, that was pretty much the end of me being well. I came down with the cold September 13 (I know because it's the day Wishtress and Flight came out) and that weekend, it turned into a sinus infection. I went to the school clinic for antibiotic #1. Infection mostly went away, but not completely and after I'd been finished with the antibiotic for a few days, the symptoms came back pretty much full force, along with some gland pain in the glands under my chin. So I went back to the school clinic, got another prescription for an antibiotic along with a steroid course, took a math test feeling totally miserable (thankfully it was easy and I got an A on it in spite of how I was feeling), and had to hang around Walmart for a good while waiting for them to actually fill the prescription. That prescription mostly kicked out the infection, but the steroid kept me from sleeping which really badly messed up my stomach (I had to ask my professor to let me go home in the middle of class. I don't do stuff like that). 

Then a little while after I finished all of that, I took my car over to the shop because it was having trouble starting in the cold as my glands started to feel like they were swelling again. The next morning, a Saturday I was supposed to work, I woke up with my glands so swollen I practically had a double chin. Not to mention it hurt like crazy. So instead of work, I went to urgent care and got antibiotic #3. Then spent the rest of the day miserable on the couch instead of at work.

That weekend was also the weekend registration for spring classes started. During the fall semester, I had barely been able to fit classes, teaching music, field experience, and work at the library into the week. The way registration was shaping up, it was looking even more difficult. And with the lack of time I had for homework, let alone rest, I had to come to the difficult decision that something had to go. And the thing that made the most sense was my library job. I was going to have to quit to do my student teaching in fall of '23 anyway, so it would just be a semester earlier. At that point, it was just a few more weeks until the end of the semester, so I figured I might as well tough it out and make it to the end of the year. But the end of the year would be it. I just knew that I couldn't do a semester like this again, being so overworked and constantly sick, not to mention having more migraines than I used to.

The swelling went away with antibiotic #3, but not all of the congestion. I'm still not consistently off all the Mucinex and antihistamines and extra vitamins.

The semester started to wrap up, things got easier to keep up with as I finished all my major assignments, and, well, then I got another cold with a nasty lingering cough that made it difficult to sleep for a little while, but that did go away. We visited family for Thanksgiving, school officially ended, and then some of my family went up to Indiana to surprise my great grandma for her 90th birthday.

Everybody at the surprise party

I got to do the library's special Christmas programs one last time, which was fun and a little bittersweet. And I spent many evenings rewatching Timeless with the cat, which was fun. I really love that show.

Pippin watching Timeless

And then the week before Christmas I got swollen glands again. This time though, due to the lack of other significant symptoms, the doctor was pretty sure it was allergies, and the fact that Benadryl caused significant improvement supports the theory.

So it's no wonder, really, that I haven't really written anything in the last few months. A few small snippets here and there, but not really anything of note. And I haven't done much reading in the last few months either. My brain just hasn't had the opportunity to recover from the last semester yet.

Going into 2023, my life looks rather different. I've worked at the library for 7 years, so it's very strange that I'm not there anymore. I'm still teaching music, so I have that. I'll have 5 classes and field experience in a 4th grade class, and that's what I have to keep up with. It seems like so much less than last fall, but I guess we'll see how that actually looks when the semester starts. 

Will I be able to read and write now that something is off my plate? I don't know. I hope so, but I just don't know. I do know that I'll make it through the semester, take my summer classes, and then jump into student teaching in the fall. But what else will this year hold? Only God knows, and I'm trusting that whatever it is, He'll get me through it.