Wednesday, January 30, 2013

5 Things I Learned from my First Weeks of Teaching.

I wake up. It's 5:30 AM and the moon is still shining. I turn off my alarm clock, stretch, and pray: "God, help me."

My outfit was all set out and my lunch was packed but I was not adequately ready for what was waiting- a whole new type of day- the school day in which I am responsible for the learning of my students that I had yet to meet. 

Nothing could prepare me for this day.

I've changed quite a bit over the last 4 weeks. 

This is not a transformation that has been made due to a longer day and the burden of piles of paperwork- it's what comes when you're grown up and supposed to do this sort of thing.

I'm different because I've been introduced to a new set of beautiful kids with individual stories- and each are in my life for about 45 minutes a day. I've been witnessing the lives of hardworking-passion-filled teachers pouring themselves into the lives of kids in our community that are desperate for these examples.

I'm supposed to be that kind of example.

It'll change you.

In the midst of attempting to teach something I've learned more than I could ever explain in a lesson.

1) Responsibility is important-but you must remember you're not the one making the plans.

As much as I prepared for that first day of school or any day after there has always been a bump in the road... and I've survived. I won't stop planning but I will start realizing that I have only limited control of what each day brings. 

I never want to anxiously prepare plans for my future on a certain course and timeline again. Things haven't turned out the way I've planned- and that's because I'm not the one who's making my plans. God's in charge of that- and I believe it to be true more than ever.

They're better plans than mine, by the way.

2) You think you know but you have no idea.

No matter how much of an expert I think I am there's always going to be something I need to learn. 

Every day brings more opportunity to grow. I'm now determined to become less stuck in my own ways and be open to reflect, transform, and better myself to reach my fullest potential.

3) Give grace- most everyone is working hard to do some good.

I've met several incredible individuals in the school system that are true servants in my community. I would have never met them unless I had walked into the building.

Some may criticize the system, the government, or the hard times we're finding ourselves in, however, I now have hope in people that are working tirelessly to make Lincoln a better place. I'm guessing that every office building, grocery store, factory, and shopping mall there are kind-hearted people working honestly to do improve the lives of people.

I'm going to give strangers a little grace- they could be serving my coffee- or teaching my kids- or helping me with my mortgage some day.

4) Each person has a story.

Regardless of a student and their ability or their attitude I'm finding there's always more to the story.

Giving grace each day should extend for more reasons than the ways people are working- we should love people because we don't know what they've been through. They may have been through hell today.

Maybe we shouldn't honk and yell at someone in our car... unless... nevermind. I shouldn't.

5) Relax- breathe deep- God willing you'll get to wake up and do it again tomorrow. 

I've had a bad day... or two... or five. 

No matter how difficult things have become and I don't think I can make it through, I find that God provides the strength to survive another day.

I don't think I could do it alone, though. I'm asking for help and receiving excess encouragement.

I'm respecting myself with more rest, quiet time, and grace when things go very wrong.

I know you may not be writing lesson plans, passes to go to the bathroom, and grading papers this week but perhaps some of these things apply to you.

Maybe they don't and you're older, wiser, or more brilliant than I.

Despite the stressful situation I've been placed in I've never been so relaxed-- I'm needing to call on the God that gives me strength.

That's the best lesson I could ever learn.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I'm not that awesome.

It was a cold and windy day.

No, it was a frigid and blustery day.

It was a bitter cold blustery day.

The bike paths were clear of ice and snow and my Under Amour gear was warm. My mind needed to be cleared. I wanted to go on a run.

Against the advice of my loving family:

 “You’ll freeze to death, Kristin. Can’t you just run on a treadmill for once?”
“Kristin, it’s supposed to be 45 degrees tomorrow. Just wait.”
“Are you crazy?”
“You are crazy.”

I decided to go for it.

I put on several layers and squeezed my shoes over two pairs of socks.

Although it looked cold from the door and I could feel the draft coming through the cracks in the window, nothing mattered.

I stepped outside. Instead of feeling the cold, my soul was wakened by the brisk atmosphere. With each stride I took pride in my toughness.


Just as I felt this inner satisfaction, I see someone running down the bike path.

“How could this be?” I thought to myself. “Surely no one is as hardcore as I.”

The person that was running towards me was a man. A man with a tank top, shorts, and a sweatband that communicated: “Don’t mess with me, little, pathetic person!”

He was running at an impeccable pace. His muscles were as defined as the difference between black and white. His hair was spiked up and his skin was shiny.

Suddenly my pride was vanquished. I felt frostbite come over my entire body. The wind made my eyes water.
I said to myself, “Can I please turn around now?”

Isn’t this how things seem to go?

Just when I think I’m awesome I’m reminded that there’s someone bigger, something better. The countless reasons I’m inferior are brought to surface just as I start to win.

Ah, sweet humility.

(Not So Random) Question: How would a king choose to enter the world?

In a parade? A sparkly unveiling from heaven? A blockbuster film? Reality television?

How about through the birth of a young unmarried woman in a dirty barn because she was not good enough to stay in a hotel for the evening?

Oh, by the way, she’s a pregnant virgin and she’s about to be married.


That’s what I thought.

Though Jesus had the most revolutionary birth in history, it came in the most unexpected way.
God had every reason for the hinge of His plan for the universe to come in extravagant form.

That’s not God, though. That’s why I love Him.

God himself chose to come to the world in a humble state.

If I am not that great, why do I believe I'm deserving of my luxurious lifestyle of blessings and comfort? And the truth is, I'm really not that great. I’m actually messed up; a complete wreck.

Reminders of my inferiority should not cause me to dwell in my shortcomings, rather will give more room for God to rebuild in my brokenness.

When humbled, I am brought back to the manger where Jesus laid and the cross where he died. In these gifts in the perfect story of God, I am restored.

One of the many reasons that I choose to follow Jesus is because His gospel is one of forgetting my self; a message found in the midst of gospels pursuing everything that will serve only me.

Every time I serve myself and praise myself, eventually, I will see that guy running by in the shorts again… reminding me I’ll never be the best. Instead of turning around and giving up because I'm relying on my own strength, I invest in a God who will make me strong. 

A self-serving life will always become miserable. However, when I accept room for a God greater than  I could ever deserve is when I experience the full purpose of my existence.

This happens to be a life that's not about me.

Merry Christmas to You.

Please remember that though you may do good things and you may be blessed, you’re not that awesome.

Do know God restores you in all the places you fall short.

Because He’s just that good.

Friday, November 30, 2012

This semester I have been Student Teaching in 7th grade Social Studies. I know you’re thinking it must be a blast interacting with these awkward and young searching souls on a regular basis… and you’re right.  It is great.

In the midst of the self-conscious behaviors and the aroma of pre-teenagers in desperate need of a lesson in deodorant, I’m able teach a little bit of World History. We’ve been focusing on areas of Asia- lately China and Korea in particular.

Throughout this study, there are some specific lessons that have been fascinating.

That's a great wall, alright.
First, the Emperor Qin, who only ruled for 15 years that managed to execute a building project that stretched 5500 miles and has lasted for over two thousands years. The Great Wall of China has remained one of the world’s most popular wonders, symbolizing the desire of China to keep the world at a distance. Some early Chinese leaders identified China as the Middle Kingdom because their national pride placed China at the center of the universe.

Demilitarized Zone

Second, the demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea after the Korean War. Today, the DMZ is only 2 miles wide and 150 miles long and lined with barbed wire, land mines, and armed soldiers. It could be considered one of the scariest places on earth. (
Disclaimer: self-declared judgment for the pictures and video footage I have seen…The hotel in the Shining was also pretty scary. Tie.)

What does this ancient and modern history have in common?


The same barriers that divide us in our homes, schools, and office cubical also exist on a larger scale.

In China, that scale is massive and wondrous yet a symbol of division and pride.

In Korea, a wall that is powerful and deadly, representing tension and unresolved conflict that has lasted several years.

With understanding this concept of barricades throughout history I see no difference in how we handle ourselves as individuals.

We each build walls of division that may be built upon division, arrogance, unresolved tension or pain that prevent us from experiencing community.

There times I’ve been heartbroken, disappointed, and closed myself off from those I love the most just as much as people I don’t know at all.

Also, my own spiritual self suffers because I have the ability to build blockages, refusing to deal with my own issues and heal accordingly.

When these walls are up, I become reactive to the smallest frustrations, defensive to all criticism and full of pride. With the way I respond to the threat of intrusion to my defense, you could say I’m taking the T. Roosevelt approach and “speaking softly and carrying a big stick”. (History references come naturally right now, forgive me.)

Unlike the old adage, "Speek softly and carry a big stick, you will go far", suggests, I do NOT go far. 

Instead, I fall farther away from people and my junk piles up. The walls grow higher and I end up miserable and alone with my isolating principles.

I’ve indentified dividers I have built up in my life that obstruct authentic unity with other people. And myself.

Maybe you will recognize some of these walls.

The Wall of Excuses: Do phrases like “I’m too tired”, “I already do so much”, “I do not like him/her, this/that, fill-in-the-blank” sound familiar? Same here. 

It’s the age old excuse of excuses excusing us from having exception experiences. Try that tongue twister.

Busy Wall: The days that I’m busy doing things for several groups of people, going from place to place, eating in the car, and guzzling caffeinated beverages in all form do little to help me connect with those that I’m running around to please. It’s an easy place to hide, though, because it appears as if you’re thriving and successful and passionate. Really, when I’m behind the busy wall all I have are crumbs in my car, a long to-do list, and stress. Stress. STRESS!

The Wall of Patterns: This is what I like to call an accidental barricade. Oftentimes we naturally build our routine, block by block, and these traditions may put us behind a blockade from anyone that does not fit into our schedule, our standards, or what simply feels comfortable.

A pattern wall may also be built before we even enter the world! Our parents, our parents’ parents, and their way of life, opinions, and values may be already stacked and we may be positioning ourselves away from truth and authentic relationship without even knowing the reasons why.

DNB Wall: “Do Not Disturb” may be a good thing to place on your door during a vacation but it is no way to live. Of course, you can’t share all the dirty details of your life with everyone you meet, by for heaven sakes, ask for help every once in awhile (I’m talking to myself, by the way).

People have experienced painful, tragic events throughout life. All have experienced hurt on some degree. Hurt hurts and unresolved anger and grief will build walls within ourselves and cause us to refrain from living in community. 

So, now that I've identified some possible walls that obstruct connection, how do we find break them down? 

Well, I don't know for sure the answer to that question because I think it's different for everyone. 

(For the record, I don't know what'll take down the DMZ. Also, since we can see the Great Wall of China from space, I don't think that's going down anytime soon, either.)

I do know it begins with identifying these obstacles and slowly inviting honest interactions within our personal space. It will mean a change to our perfect schedule, giving up a commitment, or having a difficult conversation. It also will translate to giving love to those that may not deserve it or want it and accepting the same grace back in return. 

So, I challenge you to begin breaking a wall by taking a few pieces down and letting someone or some truth to sneak inside.

It's these honest encounters that will lead to accountability and change. 

It's the way God intended his children to live.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Brighter Tunnel

These last few months I’ve been going through a process with Teach for America- a non-profit that places young leaders in classrooms desperate for good teachers. Because of my conviction that every child deserves the opportunity for a equal, quality education, I applied and endured the six week process full with an essay, phone interview, test, evaluation, lesson performance, group project, and full length, in person interview. Weeks of time and energy were poured into the experience and it quickly morphed from an appealing option to an emotional investment.

And I did not want to fail.

Nevertheless, after an affirmative interview, I experienced rejection and all the passion quickly numbed to speechlessness. I immediately thought: Why? How? Who?

What. Now.

Sometimes you make plans and with those plans come expectations.... and when they’re not met you’re disappointed. Often I attribute rejection to God’s will and assume that it was not the right prospect of a future to offset the feelings of embarrassed inadequacy. Behind the “This must not be God’s plan” talk there were feelings of embarrassed inadequacy, I must admit.

After the revealing of the Teach for America status, a surprise break-up, a Cross Country team’s second place finish and loss by only one point, a second-rate running performance by my own self, and depravation of sleep, Saturday night a best friend of mine and I broke down in my Chevy Malibu. Stuck on the side of 27th Street at 11 PM, we began walking down the road in the dark, hopelessly unaware of cars, how they work, and whether or not I was out of gas or the transmission blew up. (Is that what transmissions do?)

We began laughing, crying (because we were laughing), and filled with delight to be alive and together and to have carried on despite a bad day.

Still smiling with some of my favorite people after a not-so-good race.
In that moment I found peace in the character of God and how His love is reflected and the blessing of community.

As I kept laughing, I was encompassed with joy and the disappointment of the days prior became pale and hope cultivated within my soul.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it actually happens to be quite bright in here.

This last weekend it was 70 degrees and sunny on Saturday and on Sunday I walked outside early in the morning and saw the frost on the trees. Sometimes there are drastic changes. One day may be good and the next could be very, very... well, not-so-good. 

This is a reminder that it’s not so much of God’s plan being perfectly set out for me to precisely follow. Rather trust in the hope that God is carrying me and giving purpose in every step, trust in each failure, and diminishing fear in all life’s bleak or unknown phases. Most importantly, an example in the life of Jesus. All moments are a gift and this life isn’t my own. I just am looking to find a way to best serve like Him while I’m here.

So, for all those twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, or eighty-somethings wondering what's next, this is my best answer: God's never ending pool of grace in whatever path you choose (or don't choose). 

"God helps us where fear holds us. Our feet wouldn't touch the bottom even in the shallow end of His love"-Bob Goff, Love Does

Monday, November 5, 2012


I decided to add this photo because of how realistic it seemed. 
I’m graduating in just a few weeks and before I start getting sentimental, telling you about my future plans and how difficult it is to grow up and let go of my young adulthood, and quoting past presidents and philosophers, I’ll just include this Vitamin C's "Graduation Song" and call it “good”. It captured all my emotions at 8th grade graduation and it still triggers the heartstrings. Plus, I have no official future plans and I’m not quite ready to let go of young adulthood.

What I am writing about is the importance of defining moments.

Whether or not we realize when they’re occurring, there are, in fact, crucial times that make up our character and direct the steps of where we’re headed.

I think of times we decide to stand up for what was right, even when it’s not easy.

The instant we met our best friend.

Driving away from our mothers and fathers with a car fully packed.

Signing a contract, making a commitment, quitting a bad habit.

What I do not understand is why these cliché turning points become ways of characterizing ourselves. It’s as if when we decide to put on a cap and gown or a white dress or a new uniform everything from that moment will, with no doubt, change us forever. In that specific instant.

I’m not challenging the importance of these cliché occasions: they are, indeed, significant.

Except…I don’t believe is that these moments truly define who we are are.

With my current cliché circumstance, about to graduate and starting the “next stage” of life, I don’t find myself anxious about the future plans that I know God has in store, strangely enough. Not the geographic location, vocation, roommate, husband, hobbies, or friends. 

I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about these things for years. As I’m nearing this “next stage”, is it my concern? Nope.

What I find myself troubled with is discovering and focusing the heart of who I’m called to be.

“*See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.”-1 John 3:1-3 (NLT)

*In the King James Version, instead of the “See how”, this particular passage starts with the word “Behold!” and from what I’ve read, the biblical definition of "Behold!" means PAY ATTENTION. 



And what is the message upon this alert for our concentration?

You ARE GOD’S child.

Phew. Wow. Really, God? You want my attention while I’m reading this, and while I’m stressed trying to get all my ducks in a row, you’re simply communicating: You are mine. You were bought at a price. I AM YOURS and that’s the very essence of who you are.

Now when I’m trying to decide where I’m going to be and what I’m going to do, maybe it’s not so much about the specific details of my plans, my salary, and my location. Maybe it has everything to do with recognizing where I belong: and that’s the heart of God. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Selfie.

Smiling, practicing your best stoic "hot" face, readjusting your hair... a little lipstick for the girl, a bicep flex for the guy- and SNAP! There it is. There you have it. A perfect picture of yourself.

Will you Instagram it? Post it to Facebook? Tweetpic? Or will you just keep it your little secret?

Don't act like you have no idea! These questionable photos have flooded our Twitter feeds and Facebook news reels. Is it time to stop this smart Phone, iPhone, Blackberry "this is me" picture madness? 

I've heard some call it a "selfie."  Are you above the selfie

I'm not. 


We're pretty obsessed with ourselves, aren't we?

Correction, I'm selfish. 

I'll speak for me and say this it's "all-about-me" obsession inflates when I have a Smart Phone, online profile with thousands of photos and my documented life, my own blog, and a program where I supposedly form something in 140 characters or less that must mean something to the world. 

Does this stop online? Oh no, that's just the beginning! I've made decisions and said words and worn specific sets of clothes in order to simply impress those that are surrounding me. I stress about my future and finding a man and keeping a job and finishing school and staying in shape and.... I'M SO VAIN! And I probably think this blog post is about me, too! Lord, save me from my stupid self(ie).

We have the ability form our identity to our friends and family online that could easily be far from our true selves. Have you ever seen a selfie that looks nothing like the person in the picture?

In Matthew 10, when Jesus is talking to his disciples, he tells them they shouldn't love their father, mother, or children more than Him. Then, he tells them they must sacrifice, "taking up their cross daily" (v.8). As if this wasn't hard enough, Jesus tells them to lose their own lives! For what in return? Finding it back, full, in Him. 

He goes on to explain that when we love by invite others in our lives, letting them stay, and feeding them, we are serving God himself. When Christ came, we could forget about this self-driven life and gain a life led by God where we're given the opportunity to take part in what is HE doing.

Our actions will speak for themselves and our lives will be a reflection of God's love. When we decide to give our lives to God and seek a Christ-like, selfless heart, our pictures will form themselves and will be much more beautiful than the one we've posed and taken of ourselves. 

Now someone tell me... Why am I still trying to make the selfie work?

"Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."-2 Corinthians 3:1-3

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

my god v. THE God.

There's no doubt God has a place in many of the people's lives and families in my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska as I see several churches, buildings big and small. Each with varying titles and negative or positive or dissenting connotations, depending on whether or not we care to disagree. Or agree, for that matter.
However, if all of these God believers lined up and saw this Nebraska sunset I'm sure most of them would attribute it to God's beauty and I'm left asking myself: How does this happen?

I've heard "God always" does this and "God never does that" and I've seen Him back up campaigns for "the left" and "the right",  financial plans, a variety of church missions, and the lifestyles of people that seemingly conflict... and follow the same God. 

In the midst of these varying definitions of who God is and what he wants for our lives, there's varying reactions to recognizing this God who lives within distinct and different doctrine, diet, parenting, financing,  political, and lifestyle choices.

People may place God on a judging throne while yearning to discover what's a "no-no" and what's a "yes-yes"down here on Earth until learning the hard way. 

Others may accepting that God is a loving God and with an "anything goes" sort of mentality. 

Some may dismiss Him entirely because the hypocritical, unpredictable followers of God and the church as a whole are difficult to accept.  

All of these reactions are missing the point.

I believe God is a loving, gracious God and that He does want us to do the right thing and good for our world. 

In the Old Testament book of wisdom, Ecclesiastes, we can read:

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5) 

I'm struck in awe in God because he is (for lack of a better word) awesome... and He's also difficult to define and understand. I also believe that the life Jesus lived was a gift and glimpse of God himself:

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

When I read the first chapter of John, when Jesus comes enters the story and the relationship between God and humankind completes:

1) I'm given hope because "grace" and "truth" are what I am constantly yearning for in all of these complex interpretations of God within religion and lifestyle and politics. I don't have to stand confused, rather, I've been given an example. Straight-up. No excuses.

2) I'm humbled in the flat on my face, ashamed sort of way because the self-sacrificing-radically-different-than-the-rest-of-the-world-life Jesus lived is far from the one that I am living.  

While I do have my own opinions and lifestyle choices that reflect my interpretation of God and while I do think it's essential to follow our convictions in boldness I am finding God is not a some "thing" that I can define or use to justify my actions, judgements, and opinions. Rather, he's living among us and asking us to drop our (my) agenda of control and to humbly accept the things we cannot understand while walking in the perfect example of Christ's life of grace and truth.