Honestly?

I’ll be honest. These past few weeks back on the ground have been pretty tough. I can’t really pinpoint any one reason. I’ve just been physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and not ready to take on this summer. Some of our teachers have said that they’re already feeling beaten down – that it seems like they can’t go on. Is Satan doing his best to bring us down in the middle of the miraculous? Or is the Lord allowing these “light and momentary troubles” into our lives for a far greater purpose?

I don’t know.

Pray that our team would continue to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

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Exchanging Lies for the Truth

Those first two weeks back after furlough were difficult for me. I was discouraged in the classroom. I was exhausted at home. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything right. I was yelling at my kids. I wasn’t spending time with my husband. I wasn’t disciplining well at home or at school.

Why was I struggling so much? I realized that I had been listening to some lies – lies that I had allowed to enter my thought life and poison the very way I was looking at the world. So these past few days, I’ve decided to think through those falsehoods and combat them with the only thing I know that can obliterate them from my mind. I’ve decided to exchange those lies for the Truth.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 

Lie. You’re not meant for this teaching business.
TruthFor we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Lie? No one enjoys being in your classroom.
Truth. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…  Colossians 3:23 

Lie. You’ll never be organized. You’re not creative enough. Your Spanish isn’t good enough. You’re just not enough.
Truth. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Lie. There’s too much pressure. This is too hard.
Truth. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Lie. Your personality isn’t “strong” enough to do this.
Truth.  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10

Lie. You shouldn’t have to deal with these problems. Look at all you’ve given up for the Lord!
Truth. 
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 

Lie. You’re the only one who is going through difficult circumstances right now. No one understands what it’s like to be in your shoes.
Truth. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

Lie. These kids are never going to learn. You’re just beating a dead horse.
Truth. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

I’m looking forward to a week with different perspectives. Lord, help me to take every thought captive!

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(So Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote this amazing book called Lies Women Believe.  I realized halfway through writing this post that I “stole” her format. No intent to plagiarize here. I recommend that book, by the way. And… the end.)

Flat tires, Moldy Mattresses, and Village Drama

We’ve been in the DR about 2 weeks now. It’s always a battle to get back into the groove, to have the right perspective. Things always seem to “go wrong” when we’re trying to get settled in again. My attitude can go from happy to grumpy in just seconds flat.

This time, it started off with a flat tire on our new car. Flat tires are a normal part of life here, and I really shouldn’t have been surprised. We were gone for a month. Scott took care of it, and life went on. But when other frustrations started piling up, it was just too easy to add the flat tire to my “I have every right to be annoyed right now” list.

A couple of days ago, Scott blew another tire as he was returning from an early morning airport run. Thankfully, I was able to go rescue him. After we drove all over the city looking for an open tire place, we were able to get the car back on the road.

Our first day back, we spent several hours unpacking the myriad of supplies, clothes and randomness we bought in the States. After getting things somewhat organized, we fell into bed exhausted late that evening. I suddenly looked at Scott and asked him if he smelled something awful. I turned over and sniffed the mattress. Apparently, it had rained a ton while we were gone. Our bed had been absolutely soaked with rain water. It was a mildewy mess. Talk about trying to have a joyful attitude having traveled the entire day on 4ish hours of sleep. Blah!

We teachers recently had the opportunity to talk to parents in the villages about their children’s first quarter grades. While our school was on vacation, one of the public school teachers spread some lies about us to parents. While we’re slowly gaining the trust and confidence of these precious people, it can be frustrating when we hit road bumps along the way.

As you pray for us, remember me – I want to learn to respond correctly when stressful or frustrating situations arise. I desperately want to grow in my ability to cast my anxieties on my Savior first instead of reacting negatively to the circumstances around me.

Two More Weeks?!

Two more weeks until this first quarter of the new school year is over. *Gasp* I feel like it’s been one big dream.

The last couple of months have honestly been a bit of a struggle for me. It’s been difficult to find a connection with several of these sweeties. I want them to love learning and to have fun discovering new things about their world and their Creator as they walk through this year. It’s hard to stomach the fact that they don’t always enjoy being with me. I know building relationships takes time and that each class is different. I’m learning to let the Lord be my strength. I just want Him to fill me with His love and patience in each moment.

Here are (most of) my Kinderkids this year. Even though there may be some tough cookies in this crowd, they are adorable!

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New Beginnings

Week 2 in our brand new school building is almost complete! What a rollercoaster! So many emotions over the last 14 days.

I’ve felt excitement. Finally – my very own classroom! A place to store school supplies! Running water! Real bathrooms! Two to three extra hours in my day since we don’t all have to run the bus route!

I’ve felt anticipation.  I get to start fresh with a brand new bunch of kiddos. Hoping to hone my lesson plans, activities, and discipline strategies throughout the year. I can’t wait to see what all we’re going to learn and experience together.

I’ve felt sadness. I don’t know if I should admit this, but I think I have a slight case of the “kindergarten blues”. I see my big guys and gals from last year walking down the sidewalk to their new first grade classroom, and I feel like I’ve lost a little part of my heart. They’re next door to me, yet it feels strange not to be involved in their lives on a daily level.

I’ve felt inadequacy. My personal standards for where I want to be as a teacher and where I actually am are not aligned. I know I sometimes put undue pressure on myself to be perfect, but there are so many areas in which I can improve. I desire to give these students who have been entrusted to me the best possible chance at success. I want them to be able to grow in their knowledge of the Lord and His love for them. I don’t want any of my shortcomings to get in the way of that.

I’ve felt anger. There have already been some intense experiences in the timeout corner. The other day, Carla gave me the best cussin’ session she could muster as I wrestled with her in the corner. Yudeison and Fernando and Daidon have each taken their turns screaming at the top of their lungs after I sent them to the corner. While there are moments I find it hard not to take it personally, I’ve felt myself getting getting angry because these little souls are rebelling against the holy God who created them.

I’ve felt pride. I love hearing Fabiola and Carla and Yeny belt out our very first sight word we’re learning. And today before leaving, I looked over at Daidon and saw his dark eyes locked on mine, waiting for me to call his name to get in line instead of running around the room.

I’ve felt guilt. I haven’t been spending much time with my babies or my husband or Yuleisy.

I’ve felt absolute exhaustion. The busy pace of life and the amount of energy it takes to keep up with 5-year-olds (and my own little men) is incredible. Doing this craziness on minimal sleep hasn’t helped exactly. My fuzzy brain feels like it’s running on empty, and patience has run thin.

I’ve felt encouragement. Our two short-term teams so far have done much to pour into my life already. Encouraging letters and emails, patience and cooperation in the classroom – how I love sharing life with others.

I’ve felt peace. In the middle of the daily struggles and the busy schedule and little annoyances, I’ve felt the Lord’s presence as another year begins. I want to learn to constantly take hold of the comfort that the Holy Spirit offers. It’s by His strength and grace that I’m able to take part in His awesome plan for these precious ones.

Here’s to another year!

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Practicing letter matching in centers

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Sonia and Miss Angela

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Time out

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Story time

Layered Answers

Another exhausting day of school had just ended. We were riding home in the back of the safari truck, bouncing and jouncing over the rocky terrain. I could hardly swallow my water or scarf down my soggy ham and cheese sandwich Scott had packed me for lunch. My hair was in tangles, my shirt reeked of sweat, and my fingernails were caked with the dirt of the day. My dry, scratchy eyes could barely squint through the whirlwind of dust that enveloped me. And it hit me again, like it often does – that moment where I just have to ask myself: How in the world did I get here?

The last I remember, I was driving a little red Honda Civic to high school for morning student council meetings. I was sitting in English class, reading classic literature like The Pearl and The Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick. The last thing I knew, I was dressing up for silly hall dinners in college with new friends. I was swooning over a lanky, long-haired boy I met my sophomore year. Not too long ago, I was settled cozily into a one-bedroom apartment in Virginia with my new husband, master’s degree, and a bouncing baby boy.

So how did I end up sitting on a truck in the middle of a sugar cane field on an island out in the Caribbean?

And even more importantly, why am I doing this?

I mean, seriously. Are these kids in my kindergarten class learning anything? Do their parents – these families who live for today with little thought for the future – do they have any idea what an education can do for their children? Do these people get it? That it often feels like I’m leaving the job of mom and dad to my husband so I can laminate letters and put filthy, too-tight shoes on their children?

As I begin to peel back the layers to this onion of a question, I realize that there are so many reasons for why I’m here – all so tightly packed together that it’s difficult to see where one answer ends and another begins.

One reason actually revolves around me. You know, I’ve been a bit selfish by choosing to live here. These little boys and girls have become so precious to me, and this marathon of a discipleship process has just begun. I’m still getting to know our students and their families. But I can’t imagine having to give up the budding relationships and experiences I’ve collected so far. I want my hugs from lovable Anllelo and winsome Alfredo. I secretly love Javier’s goofy dances and crazy-eyed head nods as we transition around the room. To miss Nicol’s bright smiles and deep-seated dimples as she runs towards the truck each morning in Cabeza de Toro would be to miss a beautiful sunrise.

But if cute kids and sugary smiles were the only reasons for my living here, I don’t think I’d last very long. I’ve already alluded to the fact that life is not always butterflies and roses. Anllelo has a stubborn streak, and Javier can push the limits. Nicol can wipe her snotty nose down the front of my leg and invade my personal space at an all-too-early hour for my foggy brain. Kids can disappoint and disrespect. They can grate on nerves and cause emotional and physical fatigue.

So there has to be another reason for my living so far away from everything and everyone I’ve ever known. Allow me to pull back another layer to this complex question.

The need for education in the Dominican is incredible. We’ve seen firsthand that the boys and girls in “our” villages are dreadfully behind academically – teenagers and some adults can’t read or even recognize enough letters to write their names. Teachers in the public schools are absent about as often as they’re present. Between holidays, rain days, and strikes, the normal four-hour school day can hardly be described as consistent.

So what happens when the adventure and the “feel-good” sensations wear off? What happens when I remember that there’s need in every single corner of this broken world? My heart feels an even deeper sting than the watery eyes and burning nose that usually accompany the slicing open of your ordinary onion.

To be satisfied with doing life in this very different country, there has to be more.

Thankfully, when I cut down to the quick of it, there is more.

The real reason for my sitting on a dusty, bumpy safari truck – the primary purpose I have in holding those snotty kids close – my major motivation in enlightening them with the ever-so-profound truth that “the B says ‘buh'” – is that my Jesus asked me to do it.

There it is. The most basic layer to my “onion” question is that I’m doing it for my Savior.

What’s that little saying? “Christ died for me, so I’ll live for him.” Paul didn’t say anything about onions in Acts 20, but I love the way he puts it:

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Call it cliché. Call it traditional. Call it “aw-bless-her-little-heart” or dedicated or radical or just plain crazy. I find no greater satisfaction in this world than to know that God has called me here – “for such a time as this” – to live out this plan He has. For these people. And for me.

Life is not easy. It isn’t always fun. I sometimes lose perspective. I’ve wanted to throw in the towel.

But that’s when I can stop and thank God for the difficult days and uncomfortable truck rides. I can praise Him for those reminders (disguised as little trials) that prompt me to reflect on why I’m here and how incredible it is to be used by Him.

This Started Out as an Update about Summer School…

What a whirlwind. We’re finishing up Week 5 of our water-themed, English-focused summer school. On a scale of “tired” to “bone-weary”, I’ve surpassed all normal exhaustion levels and moved into the “fatigue” arena. Most mornings, I wake up all fuzzy-brained and achy. I don’t feel like my Spanish (or my English) make any sense whatsoever. On top of that, my own little tornadoes (Noah and Leyton) need so much attention at this stage of life – I am constantly chasing them, attempting to keep them from demolishing everything they touch. Either that, or I’m feeling guilty for putting them to sleep in their cyclone of a room because I literally don’t have the strength to pick up every toy they own for the fifth time that day.

Sometimes I feel discouraged. Ok, scratch that. Most of the time, I feel discouraged. I get so drained from sending the same kids to the time-out corner in kindergarten. There are days that I am positive not one single word I belt out actually “sticks” in their brains. I hate that I don’t get to spend the amount of time I want to learning about each of their likes and dislikes and family life and social circles.

Frustration levels are through the roof. My computer just died a terrible death. We think we’ll be able to salvage the 2+ years of photos I never backed up. (Smart, Ang. Real smart.) If that file rescue doesn’t happen, I don’t want to think about the countless hours of lost research and planning and documents that I had prepared – for kindergarten alone.  Today, the power company cut our lights because the last tenants didn’t pay a ginormous bill. Thankfully, we’re stealing internet from our missionary friends. We’ve dropped a power cord down from their third story apartment to keep our fridge running. Welcome to mornings with cold showers and nights without fans. In other news, our jeep is with the mechanic – again. C’mon now. Wasn’t it just in the shop last week? (We missionaries get all giddy inside when we go a month without a car repair.)

There is no good conclusion here. Scott and I – we’re just tired. And discouraged. And frustrated. And maybe we’re complaining a little bit. In our minds, we know that the physical and mental and emotional exhaustion is temporary. We understand that if we let Him, God can use these little hardships to grow us in our relationships with Him. We realize that we are so blessed to have our home churches and families and friends encouraging us through visits and financial support. But in the middle of the difficulties, it’s hard to see the trials for what they are – more opportunities to allow God be lifted up in our lives.

If you think of it, we could use a little extra prayer tonight. We don’t just want to “grin and bear it.” Somehow, we want our Savior to be glorified in the middle of the mess.

 But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

Job 23:10

 (Update: more extension cords are now running through our house – we have airflow! Praise Jesus.)