Miracles Between the Trees

Last Sunday, after my duties with the orchestra were completed, a fellow musician and I awkwardly made our way to the only seats available, the very front row.  Then I sat in that front row and listened to a powerful message called “Between the Trees.”  You should really go watch or listen to the whole thing, but for the purpose of this blog post, here is the bottom line:

The garden of Eden was full of light and joy and meaningful work.  After Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God cast them out of the garden.  He assigned angels to guard the Tree of Life, to protect Adam and Eve from eating of its fruit and living forever in a broken world.  (Yes.  Wow.)

At the other end of the story, the Tree of Life is described as a central feature in the heavenly city, bearing fruit in abundance, growing on both sides of a great river of life.  This city will be full of light, and joy, and meaningful work, and the Tree of Life will produce fruit enough for all of us to have plenty.  (Yeah.  Wow, again.  I swear, when this pastor speaks, it’s like I’ve never heard these stories before.)

But right now, we live between the trees.  This part of the story, between the trees, has brokenness.  Violence.  Hate.  Selfishness.  Insecurity.  Illness.  So many things are void of light and joy and meaning.  But…there are miracles.  Supernatural miracles and everyday miracles.  Things that fill us with light, and joy, and meaning, in the midst of brokenness.  Perhaps, Pastor Mark proposes, God is giving us little portions of true reality, of how things are supposed to be, of how things are outside of the brokenness between the trees.

And fitting for celebrating Thanksgiving, I see so much good between the trees!

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On Monday, a student brought something she had made over the weekend.  A ribbon will a flag for each member of the class, including myself and the teaching practicum student that is with us for a couple of months.  This girl worked so hard on these flags.  The classroom is a busy, stressful, demanding place lately, and love shines through anyway.

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A conversation with my two-year-old niece at 5:30 in the morning one day recently:  “Have lunch, please?”  Yes, we can have breakfast.  Are you hungry?  “Yes, right here (pointing), my tummy?  My tummy feels hungry.”  What should we have?  Grapes?  “Yes, grapes.”  How about some toast?  “Oh, yes, toast, toast!!!  Yes, please!  Toast, please!  It’s so yummy and good!”  Okay, let’s go make some toast!  “Yes, please!  Make toast!  And butter?  Please?  Put butter on?  So yummy and good!!!”

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On Sunday, I was grading trimester reading tests and having some really, really big feelings.  About data.  It turned out to be numbers I can live with, but still, disappointing, and a bit of an emotional ride.  I took a break to surf Facebook for a moment, and I found this video of Alondra de la Parra conducting a symphony rehearsal.  Such visible passion!  I love an animated, passionate conductor.  Then later that afternoon I went to an orchestra rehearsal of my own and had some soul-healing moments in real life.  I am so grateful that a little musical passion often seems to solve all my problems.  I’m so grateful that I’m wired with a soul-deep love for music.  I know it’s a gift not offered to everyone, and I can only hope that everyone can recognize a soul-deep love for something in themselves.

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Liberal Arts

Several moments lately have reawakened my love for reading.  Conversations with friends, a good book that has consumed me, and a movie.  I recently watched the move Liberal Arts, and the characters just made me love myself a little more, strange as that may sound.  Anna is only in the movie for a small portion of the story, but she made the biggest impact on me.  She seems unwilling to compromise who she is and what she loves for what people expect her to be.  She says she is trying to read less and go be social more, but not because of what the world expects, but because of the value she sees for herself.  Jesse, the main character, tells a college kid, “I have a soft spot for good readers.  They are hard to find these days.”  The movie is full of discussion of serious literature, trendy vampire novels, and classical music.  Watching it was like reading a good book – I wanted to highlight quotes I liked!  I’m so grateful for the off-beat, smart movies like Liberal Arts and lots of others that I love.  I’m so grateful for fiction (in the form of movies, TV shows, books) that make me feel inspired to do what I do and feel free to love what I love.  I’m so grateful for the propensity to be absorbed by a good book.

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A few days ago I made chicken noodle soup.  Like, from ingredients.  Potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, chicken stock, herbs.  Bay leaves, for crying out loud!  I used a cutting board and a soup pot.  I scrubbed, peeled, and chopped.  The smells of simmering soup filled my house.  In my life, which is just as busy as I like it, cooking from ingredients is a rare treat.  And it always refreshes my love for my home!

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There are the usual gratitudes of family, friends, health, home, etc.  And I love all of those things more than I can adequately describe.  But this life between the trees is full of small moments of passion, of light, joy, and meaning, of secret little moments that go unspoken.  I’m so grateful for them.

What Are You Modeling?

Think back on someone memorable, an adult who made a big impact on you when you were a child.  What do you remember well about that person?  Do you remember something they said?  Do you remember something you saw them do?  Do you remember a pattern of things, or single moments?  If you’re like me, you have a variety of answers, depending on the person you are remembering.

Now, think about these two questions:  What do you think the adult was intending to teach you?  What do you think he or she was hoping you would remember?

When you are a teacher (or in any way a significant adult in a child’s experience), it’s almost impossible to say for certain what choices are making a permanent impact, positive or negative, on your students.  I truly believe that the best thing we can do is to continue striving to live our own lives with integrity and character, and build positive relationships with the children in our care as well as the other adults in our lives.  But once in awhile, it’s good to reflect upon those things that our students might be seeing us do and hearing us say.

Yesterday, I was at a quilt show with family, including my 2-year-old niece.  She is impressively aware of her behavior and is visibly developing self-control.  Someone who doesn’t know her would be surprised at how few times she touched the quilts.  And each time she touched the quilts, her momma picked her up and talked to her about how she shouldn’t touch the quilts, and since she touched the quilts she would have to be carried for a few minutes and then she could try again.  And after a few unhappy moments of being carried, my niece would say, “Don’t touch the quilts.”  And my sister would put her down, and my niece would toddle around and look at the quilts (and people, and everything else) and keep her little fingers away from them for a good long while.

One time, I was pointing very closely at something on a quilt, and almost immediately, my niece touched a quilt and was picked up for her “momma time-out.”  I realized, when we pointed so closely to the quilts, it might look like touching.  So from her toddler perspective, it was possible that we were telling her not to touch the quilts, but we were modeling touching the quilts.  I decided to test this theory a little bit, so when she was just about done with her “momma time-out,” I picked her up and cheerily taught her how to point at things we like.  Then I set her down and followed her around for a few minutes, letting her choose what to point at.  A bright and cheery “Don’t touch, but point” became my mantra for a few minutes, and we oohed and aahed at bright colors and boats and butterflies.  It mostly worked, but it just as easily might not have, depending on if I was right about what she was noticing, or a multitude of other factors as well.

The point is, as a teacher (in any capacity of relating to kids), it’s good to examine not only my own choices and intentions, but also what I might be modeling unintentionally.  I might be wrong about their perceptions.  In fact, I certainly will be wrong sometimes.  I can’t read their minds.  But you will be close enough to right often enough to make this a very helpful thing to think about, in the classroom and beyond.

DPP 2013 / Directions / Dec 19

DPP 2013 / Directions / Dec 19

Number 4 is the best! 🙂

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DPP 2013 / After / Dec 23

DPP 2013 / After / Dec 23

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DPP 2013 / Sleepy Baby Fingers / Dec 22

DPP 2013 / Sleepy Baby Fingers / Dec 22

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DPP 2013 / Frosty Winter / Dec 21

DPP 2013 / Frosty Winter / Dec 21

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Exhaustion

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It comes with the week of too much.  Too much work.  Too many preschoolers.  Not enough paraeducators.  (Actually, no paras.  Just me.  And ALL the preschoolers.  Mostly who are only children, who need, like, 20 hours of attention in a 7 hour school day.  Each.  That is 140 hours of ME in one 7 hour school day.)  Too much snow.  Too many slippery roads.  Too many dreams about people I can’t see today, but just get to think about all day long.

(Get your head out of the gutter.  I dreamed I lived in some kind of apartment that was more like a dorm room, because I had to leave my apartment to go take a shower in the big dorm-like bathroom.  Except this bathroom was in another building, a bathroom building like you would find at a beach or a campground.  So I had to leave my apartment, go outside in the snow, in the dark at 5:30 a.m., to go take a shower.  And on my way, I ran into Mike.  Like, he was walking down the sidewalk in one direction, and here I come in the other direction, in my pajamas and snow boots, and it was like, “Hey, I didn’t expect to see you at this time of day!”  Weird, weird, weird, just like most of the dreams I have.)

I’ve decided procrastination is the devil’s toy.  I am an awful procrastinator.  But it feels so good to do something right away, instead of putting it off.  If I put it off, and things happen beyond my control, getting it done becomes huge stress.  Wouldn’t it feel better if it was done already?  So this week turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.  So what?  It would have been so nice to know that what I needed to have done by Friday was done already.

I’ve decided that there are tasks in this world that can avoid procrastination altogether.  They can either be done right away, or they can be forgotten.  If it is unneccesary, and it has been procrastinated, and it would release some stress to just let it go, maybe that’s what should be done.

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