Blocks of Clay

Listening to podcasts and radio in my car is probably one of my favorite things.  I can laugh hysterically and no one will judge me. There are several that I enjoy thoroughly and Brant Hanson on Air1 in the afternoons is probably one of the funniest and most insightful that I listen to.  Okay, so I know that Christian radio can be super cheesy, but sometimes there are snippets of wisdom that stick out and are so encouraging.

One thing I heard recently was a story of a young woman who had emancipated herself from her parents at a young age because of their drug and criminal problems.  She lived on her own and worked three jobs to put herself through high school.  In one of those jobs she became friends with a girl, whose family later asked her to move in with them for her senior year of high school.  See, this family wanted the young woman to really enjoy her senior year and not have to stress so much about making enough money to pay bills.

Later on, this young woman was able to go to college, get a bachelors and masters degree, find love and raise a family.  Sure, there might have been other factors, but probably one that made a huge difference was this family seeing the potential in this young woman and they wanted to grace for her to help her reach her potential.

See, the reason this made such a huge impact on me was what the radio host said afterwards.

An artist looks at a block of clay and sees the sculpture or sees the painting on a blank canvas.
This family saw the end result in this young woman and made it possible for her to get there. They chiseled away part of the block of clay in order for her to become the piece of art that God intended.

As a teacher, I have to think like an artist

In my classroom full of squirrely middle schoolers, I really have a bunch of blocks of clay.

I have to see past:
their rude and disrespectful comments
their constant taping of pencils
their incessant need to talk ALL the time
….and see what kind of pieces of art they might become.

If I think like an artist, I am able to show them grace in those moments of frustration. I am able to see that a kind word instead of a reprimand would go a lot further.  It will help me say no and set limits for them.  It would mean giving them grace in their immaturity and shrugging off some of those unfiltered thoughts.

This is hard to do, because I sometimes feel like a crappy teacher if they aren’t always compliant and quietly listening to my instructions. I have that fear that my boss will walk in and see the chaos and think I have no classroom management skills. [Sometimes even if students are quiet and compliant doesn’t mean that they are learning.]  And sometimes in the midst of chaos, giving grace and loving them might mean letting them be themselves. 

Also, I guess if I am thinking like an artist, I am to enjoy the process of creating right? So I have to enjoy the process of them getting there.  I can’t measure myself on how perfectly the process is going. [I am sure Picasso, Monet, and Rembrandht made mistakes along the way. ]

This applies to myself too! I have to think about who I want to be in 10 years and how maybe having grace about my life circumstances or my mistakes help me live in freedom.  Perhaps this will untangle things in my heart and help me get on that road to where I want to be or open my heart to what God wants to do with me. 

So I know all of you aren’t teachers, but where in your life should you think like an artist,where do you need to think about the end result and extend grace right now, whether to others or yourself?

Small Wins

I frequently read the Biggest Loser Olivia and Hannah’s blog and recently they talked about the Bad Days.  …..the days that we fall back into old habits
…..the days that we are discouraged
…..the days when all we want to eat is…well everything we see. 

In this video, Olivia mentions something that was something I never though to do.  Make a list of all the things you did right.  If you are like me and get to the end of the day and can only think about all the ways that you didn’t meet your own expectations or others for you, this could change your life.

So instead of making a list of all the ways I have failed….I am going to make a list of the things I did right…the small wins!

Here are 3 ways that this idea has begun to change my year: 

1. My job: As a teacher of 12-13 year olds, I constantly feel like I am losing the battle to win their attention, their focus, and any ounce of academic success for them.  I feel like I have been losing the battle for the past couple of months.  

Thursday as I drove away from school, I wept because I felt that I had let down my students by harboring frustrations from hour to hour.  My impatience grew when they didn’t understand something I thought I had explained clearly and the apathy they showed to this assignment I was excited about, drove me crazy!!

Today, could have been about the same, but I am choosing to celebrate the small wins.  The little things that went right today.
– I didn’t have to write a detention or referrals today.
– The student who didn’t do anything yesterday in class, completed his assignment today with little prompting.
– We had library day, which meant that they worked on a fun activity.
– I got all my grades updated.
– I make Certificates of Awesome for the kids who did great first semester!
– Created a rubric for in class debates on Monday.
– Our newest ELL student who doesn’t speak any English seemed to make some friends.
– I found out that I would look really cute in hipster glasses. (All the girls at least thought so!)
– My 7th hour were very concerned with whether I was having a good day today.
– I had fun!!

2. Mental/Physically: Over the past 3 months, I have gained about 10 lbs back from where I was.  Big picture, this is not that big of a deal.  However, I was so close to my goal weight and I got off track after I ran my 3rd Half marathon this fall.  As I try to get back on track with eating well, (Let’s be honest, that is the hardest part of losing weight and I am a stress eater!)  thinking about the small wins of the day helps me be more positive about my progress. 

So this week instead of thinking about the gummy worms that I ate on Monday night, I want to think about my small wins!
– I worked out 5 days this week.
– I ran outside on Wednesday!
– Resisted the 2 offers of doughtnuts on Thursday (This was the stressful day!)
– Instead of getting Chipotle with friends on Friday night, I made an omelet! (Saved me money too!)
– Had salads 2 days for lunch this week!
– I didn’t eat anything after dinner 4 times this week.
– Resisted buying snacky foods that keep me munching!
– No cookies or chips for me during a meeting today at church! (It wouldn’t have been worth it.)
– Got up early this morning and ran with a friend. (Big win since I usually like to run by myself!)

3. 2012 Reflections: Don’t get me wrong 2012 was a great year and ended with a fantastic trip Down Under, but I started thinking about all the things that didn’t happen instead of all the things that did. 

So here are some good things that happened in 2012!

– Made a lot of new friends!
– Ran 2 Half Marathons
– Traveled to Denver to visit one of my favorite people in the world.
– Took 7 hours of Grad classes
Survived year 3 of teaching.
– Made it very close to my goal weight!
– Put myself out there and went on a few dates! (Didn’t turn out too well, but it was a good first step!)
– Stepped into a different role at church
– Said yes to a lot of things! (Color Run, going to Concerts, going to Australia!)
– Traveled halfway around the world to AUSTRALIA!
– Took on a lot of new things for my job and personally.

See I would say that 2012 was a great year.  I easily discredit it because not everything I wanted to happen happened….but whose to say that God doesn’t want to spread out the good things.

Ultimately, making a list like this brings to light the fact that as much as a fail, God is so abundantly gracious to me and does not leave me alone in that failure.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

In what areas would it be helpful to make a list of your small wins?  What are some ways that you can practice grace to yourself or others around you?

Confession Time..

I have been avoiding posting this all day, because today I feel like somewhat of a failure. I went to a musical show last night with my roommate and her sister. And because my eating schedule is totally off, I ate lunch at like 4 in the afternoon. ( I know…can we say lazy!!)

We left the house at 6:15…I left with a banana. Yep, the show is like 2 hours long and didn’t start till 8. I should have been more prepared. I was really hungry by 7. And I gave in…..I bought some popcorn after sampling it from my roommate’s sister. (I am also a totally moocher, I don’t think the calories count if it is off somebody else plate.)

The bag of popcorn was kettle corn, it was addictive. And loaded with fat and sugar. It was a big bag….had to be a pound of at least. Yep, I ate 2/3 of it. And then I finally threw the rest away. I was almost sick with as much as I ate of it. I had the munchies and I was hungry….not a good combination. (And let’s not even talk about how overpriced it was either.)

I do this sometimes, I overeat something and I get really disappointed in myself, thinking that “I should know better than this after a year of changing my life.” I have extremely high expectations for myself, that when I fail, I tend to be really hard on myself. And perhaps that is why I was 24 years old and 255lbs. I would continually fail, and just figure there was no reason in starting over, I was already there. I was paralyzed into doing nothing about my mistakes or failures.

However…what I have learned in the last year is that tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow, I can try again with eating well. I can try to be self-controlled and diligent about what I put in my mouth.

As I think type this out and I think….wow….this translates in every area of my life right now. Spiritually, emotionally, professionally. I struggle with high expectations in every area and sometimes I have to allow myself to experience God’s grace that fills the gap when I mess up, and that I don’t have to continue to try to save myself. (Who do I think I am that I can do that anyways?) Professionally, when I have a horrible day when I feel like I didn’t teach them anything, I have to remember that the next day is a new day and who knows where those preteen’s emotions are going to be.

Am I alone in this thinking? Or do you also struggle with holding the previous days mistakes against yourself? So much so that it prevents you from changing or moving forward?