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Choosing Joy

Sunset on the Fox River - on our way to Chicago
This past week has been a whirlwind of emotions, ups and downs, and a crazy busy time of year.  Just a glimpse into the last seven days:  I took my eldest daughter down to Chicago to go back to college for the year.  In a time a social unrest, she's returning to a dorm room only a few miles from the looting and rioting a couple weeks ago.  In addition, due to higher rates of COVID infections in our state, she was required to quarantine for her first 14 days back in Illinois.  
The long drive to and from a bustling city provided an opportunity to either build anxiety or lay my worries at His feet.  I can't claim to be perfect in this matter as I really thought I was at peace after walking the streets with Katie on a sunshiny day with city-dwellers out for Sunday runs or coffee but ended up at home after 10 hours on the road pretty tired and grumpy.  And then I sat down with The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.  
I've b…
Recent posts

Slow Down

Lake Superior on a windy day looks as tumultuous as the ocean, the waves crashing against the craggy rocky shoreline.  However, on this day, I climbed the basalt shoreline, jumping across crevices, feeling the breeze through my hair, and hearing the waters crashing upon the same bedrock upon which I stood, and I felt the peace that comes from soaking in God's creation.  
As an educator, the summer has long meant time to settle, to rest and recover from the chaotic busyness of life during the school year.  These days, as an administrator, summers are still workdays but usually, the pace slows down enough to appreciate time for refueling and resting.  During a pandemic, however, my whole work-life balance has been upended as working from home has become a reality much of time and the slower pace of summer suddenly becoming a frantic neverending discussion of how to possibly begin school again in the fall with effective safety measures.  The stress and anxiety of decisions on a macro …

Together

This morning I have two things pressing on my mind and they both led me to the same scripture commanding action and changes to improve culture.  I've been doing some self-analysis for the past month.  We did a perceptions survey at work and the results were pretty hard to hear which has led to digging deep to figure out what needs to change.  If I want to build a positive culture in my school, I have to take ownership of where we've fallen short as leaders.  I recently read an article in Harvard Review about building trust among staff.  The author identified 3 areas that can make leaders less likely to be trusted by their employees: Can I trust your reasoning and judgment?  Are you as a leader authentic and real with us?  Do you care about me and my success, are you empathetic?  As I assessed myself as a leader to consider where my shortcomings might be, I was surprised to see that I do not present myself as an empathetic leader.  I genuinely care about my staff so why is it …

He Restores My Soul

This morning I am feasting on the Word of God, savoring every nuance, drinking deeply of the truth God speaks.  I'm letting Him fill me up to overflowing with hope, peace and love as I soak in Psalm 23.  Even though I've heard these words many times, they are fresh and new today.
I shall not want.
We live in a fast-paced consumer-driven society.  There is always something more, something better and our hunger seems to never be satisfied.  I think we have a tendency to be compulsively busy, getting antsy if there isn't something to occupy our minds or our hands.  This sitting at home business is boring and maybe it's just me, but I find myself itching to go somewhere, do something, or else I'm working at all hours of the day.  If I'm not working, I'm looking for a book to read or a show to watch - empty time and space in our days can seem vacuous.  Do we know what it means to not want?  Do we know how to settle down and just sit?  When we come to God and give…

Purpose and Motivation

Last week I challenged our students to do some math while they are doing school at home and to motivate them I promised to dye my hair blue if the majority of students participated.  I was thinking a little about how hard it is to be motivated to do your work from home when there isn't someone in front of you requiring you to sit down and get it done.  How hard it is, in general, to be self-motivated and self-disciplined without a clear goal, personal purpose, and possibly even a reward at the end of all that hard work.

At the same time, our new puppy has been doing a lot of treat training in the past couple of weeks; a treat for sitting still, a treat for coming, a treat for going potty, for shaking my hand, for walking by my side, for obeying in general.  The 5-year-old lab, however, has to be sometimes be trained with negative reinforcement.  She won't listen or stay in the yard so she has to have the electric fence as a reminder of her boundaries.

We can all be motivated …

Gratitude

It's been a month - 32 days since the Safe at Home order was first issued in Wisconsin and 44 days since school has been closed.  It's about this time that we need to remember to count our blessings and look for all the things to be thankful for and I'm going to try to find 32:

1.  It's been wonderful to be outside in the mornings with my beautiful Bella.  She lights up my day!

2.  Bailey and Jingle, the other two furry friends in our home also are a blessing.

3.  Morning coffee

4.  Peepers chirping each night and chickadees singing in the mornings

5.  Good books - I just finished Becoming by Michelle Obama and Educated  by Tara Westover


6.  Praise and worship music (Rend Collective does socially distant worship every week)

7.  Family time playing cards, board games, spike ball, etc

8. Baking and creating delicious beauty

9. Dusted off the espresso maker and finally figured out how to froth the milk

10.  Old movies - Netflix and Amazon Prime

11.  Wearing sweatpants all…

Exponential Growth

On my many trips to the outdoors this week (you can't go anywhere else), I noticed that my daffodils were starting to sprout.  That's one thing I love about perennials - even though they've died off in the fall, they will grow new again each spring.  They are a beautiful visual of God's seasonal purposes and the value of a long winter's rest. 

This whole coronavirus situation has got me thinking about growth.  There are lots of different kinds of growth.  Some growth is cyclical like my daffodils, hyacinths and brown eyed susans.  Death and rebirth reoccur regularly throughout the cycle of each plant's life.  Sometimes it feels like that in my spiritual life too.  I go through spiritually dry seasons where reading the Bible is a laborious task and nothing seems to awaken my soul.  And then I find myself thirsting for the Word, finding new insights daily, hearing God's voice on a regular basis as I seek Him each morning.   On the other hand, we see some growth…