Back to School– some Thoughts on Why I love Teachers and School Staff and want to be one Someday

(my youngest son wants to be a teacher too– this is his self portrait as one in a few years =) )

If I was going to start a fan club, I probably have around 10ish things that I really really love that I could start with. I’ll have to work on that list to share, but for sure, a big one on the list are teachers. I admire teachers so much. And it’s not just because so many of my favorite people are in education, whether it be in a school or homeschooling. But really, I just love their hearts for their students– their grit and passion day in and day out, and patience to deal with the sometimes crazy parents (I may or may not be talking about myself… 😉 ) And lets not forget, they had to study for and pass the Praxis exams, which I’m more than a little bit afraid of. 

But, more than that, the impact they have on the lives of their student’s is immeasurable.  It’s one of the reasons I’m currently going to school to get my degree in education.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that God had been putting teaching on my heart. Before this year, my last experience in school was completing my associate’s degree and taking a break because I really had no idea at that point what career I would even like to pursue. The ten years following that, I served on the mission field in Mexico. During that time, I spent more time with children than I had ever previously experienced as I got to serve in an after-school program in the community and also began my own family. 

         When we moved back to the United States and I had the opportunity to return to school, someone in my life asked me why I had not thought of going to school to become a teacher. I realized that I had never seriously considered it because I didn’t really like going to school when I was a kid.  Like, that’s an extreme understatement for how I felt. But, while serving in Mexico, I discovered that working with children and youth was one the greatest blessings, and teaching the Bible was something I enjoyed so much. So, I began to pray specifically about teaching, and more and more God showed me His heart for students.

 The realization that teaching was something God was leading me to pursue was scary for me, because I had to look back and consider what it was about my years in school that made the thought of teaching so unappealing. In praying and considering those years, I found that it was not so much the schools that were the problem, but more so my home life. The circumstances and challenges in my family during that time had tainted memories of those years because my focus really was not school, but simply surviving.

 In my college courses I’m actually learning about this right now. My textbook talks about this problem, saying, “before students will turn their attention to cognitive learning (the curriculum), they must feel physically safe and emotionally secure.” (Sousa& Tomlinson, 2018, p. 22) This was for sure a struggle of mine, while I always somehow maintained good grades during those years, my focus was never truly on being in school, and most days I dreaded being there. 

During those years though, God provided help for me through school counselors. This is where my passion for teaching today comes in. I wish that I could say that a teacher noticed the home struggles I was having, but I never had a close relationship with any of them. I did not have many close relationships with adults in my life at all, but I knew I needed help and began seeing the counselor at my school. 

During our counseling, he encouraged me that I needed to keep going in my education, and that I did not have to stay in the situation I was in. By my senior year, I had already lived through so many years of watching addiction and depression unfold in my home, and at that point I was living at a friend’s house, because I had been living with my dad in a motel from which he was later evicted. Things in my friend’s home started to go badly as well and I told my counselor that I was considering living in my car. Through opening up to him, he helped me to think more clearly and find a better solution. With his help I was able to apply for college and receive scholarships so that I would be able to live at the University. He really opened my eyes to opportunities that I never imagined I had. I can’t even begin to think of what could have happened if I had decided to not talk to anyone and just started living in my car instead.I know that God’s hand was guiding and protecting me then, even in His sovereignty through my counselor’s advice.

Teachers and those working in education have such a unique opportunity to be a safe person in students’ lives. My story is just one small example. In considering education for myself, it was hard for me to dig through these memories. But I realized how much that hard time was a blessing in disguise, because my story is just one of many stories of youth that walk through similar or worse circumstances. Many of them slip through the cracks unnoticed. 

My teachers that did not notice me were not bad people, or bad teachers, and  they probably noticed others that needed help. However, all of these considerations hit my heart so hard and made me realize that I would at least like the opportunity to notice a youth hurting like I was, and be able to help them somehow. The opportunity to be a safe person for them, to help them to see past their current situation to a future that can be so much different than their current reality is so encouraging.

Even though this next school year looks a lot different for teachers and students, I can’t help but feel so emotional thinking about the impact  teachers are going to have right now in their students’ lives. Students right now are walking through a time none of us has walked through before, in a world that is so filled with fear and despair. The impact that a teacher can have being a light and encouragement for the student that comes to school right now is immeasurable. Or the impact that teacher may be, perhaps being the only voice  bringing a  kind or encouraging word in that student’s home as they learn online.The opportunity is there and needed more than ever to bring hope. I am so grateful for the teachers in our lives and my prayers are with you this school year.  I can’t wait to join you whenever I finally finish this degree and by a miracle pass my Praxis exams. You all are amazing.  

Love and God bless you,

Angelina 

Rose Colored Glasses for the {Im}perfect Momma

When I was younger, I would look to moms that are the age I am now, or have the number of kids I have, and think, “They must have their stuff together.” To my surprise–one morning I woke up and here I am, and hey, how come my stuff isn’t together? Did I miss something? Like, most of the time I can’t even figure out when to shower.  Sometimes, Brennan and I legitimately look at each other and are like, “Can you believe we have four kids?” Honestly still caught in surprise a bit. In surprise of the blessing, in surprise of the responsibility, and in surprise of how quickly time truly goes.  And in surprise of how not put together we really are. 

My mom skills, well– they aren’t always what I would hope they would be, and I definitely would not call them put together. One day last week for example, I started my day feeling pretty good. I got enough sleep, woke up early, had a Bible study, made the fam breakfast, and felt like this was going to be a good mom day… and then, on our way somewhere in the car, I lost it. I didn’t even know I was going to lose it, I went from peaceful to yelling in a snap. You would think it would be something pretty bad to derail my cool, but nope, the reason I lost it was because my oldest son was complaining he felt like he was going to throw up. 

What kind of person yells at someone for feeling sick? Yeah… I did that. Apparently that day, I was that person, and maybe the only one in history too because that’s pretty weird and not compassionate.  

In my defense, I did warn him ahead of time that he always gets car sick and shouldn’t bring his homework in the car, and he insisted. And so, there we were, on the highway, with him feeling sick, my five year old screaming for a snack or else he was threatening he would feel sick too, my two year old crying to hear the Moana soundtrack, and my seven year old feeling like my bestie for being the only kid not currently losing it. And so, I lost it too.

We got home and the tension was so thick you could cut it, our eyes were staring lasers at each other, and I just felt so defeated. And we get inside and Brennan looks up from his work at us and is like,” Tough ride huh??” Haha. I just have to share with you that’s where my mom skills are at some days. I know I’m not the only one who has embarrassing moments like this either and I’m writing about mine here as a virtual hug to you, because you’re not alone and we don’t have to stay there. 

 A good friend of mine would often pray for the moments that she fell short with her kiddos to fall away from their memories. Like, praying that when they remembered that day, she would hope that moment wouldn’t be the one they remembered.  I find myself praying similar prayers as these little ones are getting older.

 And as I’m writing this I’m thinking, can’t I pray that for myself too, but for the right now? Can’t I focus less on my shortcomings and imperfections of today? More and more my own imperfections and the realization that I need God’s grace, and don’t know what I’m doing, is more obvious. But I know that the time is short, and I know that one day very soon I’m going to look back at these moments with rose colored glasses because I’m going to miss this season so much. I’m going to miss it, and I don’t want to miss it right now because I’m focused on the negative.

 I already do miss the season of them being babies and barely remember the things that were hard in those days, and I’m sure I will soon be missing this season as well, and the next one, and the next one. Because each day is so precious with these people. I love them so much I want to squeeze them until they explode into confetti.

I’m thinking though, I need to put on those rose colored glasses sooner rather than later. I wonder what things about right now I’m going to look back on with rose colored glasses? What part of right now is the good old days? Is it possible to focus more on that instead of my shortcomings and mistakes ?

Mommas, we’re not going to be perfect, but that in itself is perfect. It’s perfect because it makes room for a God who is. I may not feel put together or like I know what I’m doing, but God does. And that perfect God chose us to be these kids’ parents. He chose us. He chose me, even knowing my imperfections. He didn’t just choose us and then leave us to figure it out. He lets us come to Him for guidance, for strength, for forgiveness, for grace. He knows I am weak, and He gives me strength. He says that His strength is actually made perfect in my weakness. 

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

He knows I’m going to mess up, but He compassionately offers the way back. My parenting was never really about me being perfect anyway, it’s about me being able to point my kids to the One Who is. 

And so my rocky situation that day didn’t go perfectly, but God showed up. After taking some time to pray,  I could apologize, and my son was super sweet and gracious. And I got to talk to him about how I’m not perfect, and just because I respond a certain way sometimes doesn’t mean it was right that I did, nor am I happy that I did, because I make mistakes too and I’m sorry, and that I’m so grateful for forgiveness.

 As I was explaining it to him that I’m not perfect, I realized that so much of my problem starts with the error in thinking I’m going to be perfect in the first place. In the morning, when I thought I was going to have such a good day, did that in my mind mean a day without conflict and one where I wouldn’t need any grace? My kids are going to have imperfect days too, and how I handle mine is teaching them something a perfect day can’t. It shows them how God is so faithful to be there, how He forgives, redeems, helps, gives grace, strength and patience. 

 So, I’m praying for us mommas, and for our kiddos, that we wouldn’t focus and remember so much about what went wrong, or how we fell short, but that we would remember instead the forgiving hugs, patience, love, grace, laughs, and sometimes the growing pains of our faith.

What a blessing and gift it is to be a momma! And to not have to be a perfect one, but to be able to lean on the One who is, and to point our little ones to Him too. The best thing we can give our little ones is our lives lived in faith. 

Love and Hugs,

Angelina

“So, Where did you Meet?”

“So, where did you meet?”

I have to be honest, I love telling “our” story. Even though most of the time I’ll default to letting Brennan tell it because it makes me feel so shy. But it’s just so fun to get to share, “Oh, we met in El Salvador.” Like, no big deal. Haha, sometimes I can play it pretty cool but most of the time  I still nerd out about it. It really is a big deal, because I still think it’s just so cool that God brought me all the way out of the country to meet the man who would be my husband. God writes the best love stories.

I decided to post about it now because Brennan reminded me that it was around this time of year eleven years ago when God really put it on his heart that he needed to ask for permission to marry me. It was the sweetest thing, it was at a Good Friday service at church. Brennan was praying and God impressed on his heart that he hadn’t asked my dad for permission to marry me yet. 

My dad at the time wasn’t very involved in my life, so Brennan didn’t get it, and was asking God, “How? Her dad doesn’t seem to even care?” But God replied to him, “No, you need to ask ME.”

This part of our story is so sweet and important for me because God was taking care of me. I love to be able to share it because I know that there are a lot of girls out there that may not have parents or dad’s looking out for them. I want you to know God will look out for you. He is the best Father you could imagine.

But, I have to backtrack a little to when we first met. At that time, I was just starting to really walk with the Lord. I had been going to church for a little while, but still very much walking “one foot in the church, one foot in the world” as churchy people say. For a while I had no idea what Brennan was even talking about most of the time because I didn’t speak the lingo yet. He’d use an expression like, “God’s got his eye on the sparrow,” to encourage me not to worry, and I was like, what the heck is he talking about. Haha, but anyway back to the story. You know what I mean, I was going to church but I hadn’t truly surrendered my life to Jesus yet. So, one night, when my one foot was in the church, I heard about a mission trip to El Salvador and I knew right away that I was supposed to go.

 I started saving money and making plans but so many obstacles started popping up. God is so amazing and He blew the obstacles out of the water for me to get there. It was crazy, like on the way to the airport, I got a flat tire. At the airport, my name was spelled wrong on the ticket, and then when the customer service agent re-booked it under my real name–I got bumped off the flight because someone else booked at that same exact second. God even worked that out and I got there.

On that  trip God did so much in my heart and it was just an over the top blessing that it was where I met Brennan too. While I was there, God called me out of my “one foot in the church, one foot in the world” lifestyle of hypocrisy I had been living in. He called me into full surrender with Him. There were a lot of implications in that, because my lifestyle hadn’t been sincere, so much had to change. The changes or things I “gave up” though all pale in comparison to all Jesus has done for me and the abundance of blessing in knowing Him. It was on that trip too that I realized my burden for missions.

Brennan and I got to meet because he was our host missionary on the trip. He had been there for 6 months, and was leading us on our outreaches. I noticed him right away for sure, his love for God and for the people there stuck out to me so much. But I never considered that someone like him would be interested in me. Like, I need a really tall ladder to get to his level type thing. I wasn’t single at the time either, but that was something God was calling me out of, because the other person wasn’t interested in knowing God, which was becoming the most important thing to me. 

There was only one other lady on the mission trip, so we got to spend all of our time together. God used her so much in my life, she was so bold, to be honest, she called me out on my sin. And it was so uncomfortable. But I thank God for her. There was a lot to call out, but most notably, she would call me out about my relationship, and show me the scripture about not being unequally yoked. I’d never heard those scriptures before but the Holy Spirit had been ministering to me for months that our relationship was not something pleasing to God. I now saw the truth in God’s word. She would ask me what I was going to do about it. Even crazier, most of the other thirteen people on the trip sat down with me at some point on the week long trip and shared with me about their marriages and how they couldn’t do what they did without the support of their wives, and what a blessing it was to be in a marriage where you both loved the Lord. They shared that with me without even knowing the situation I was in.

Can you believe how amazing God is?  He brought me all the way to El Salvador, made it perfectly clear that I was in sin, but showed me that there was a way out. He also began to put a passion for missions on my heart, taught me about what a marriage could be like, and even introduced me to my husband, all on the same trip. Like BAM, get both feet in. So, it was a really good trip. 

When I got back home from El Salvador, our patient God even gave me an illustration in case I hadn’t heard yet. At church, the first sermon I heard when I got home, our pastor talked about this monkey trap.

He explained that in this trap there was a piece of wood with a hole in it, and behind the hole there was a big piece of fruit. The monkey could get his hand in and out of the hole as long as he wasn’t trying to hold on to the fruit too. Once he grabbed the fruit, he couldn’t get his hand back out. The monkey gets trapped though because he won’t let it go. When we are holding on to sin but trying to serve the Lord too, we won’t ever really be able be free. I knew God was speaking to me, and I was done living how I had been. He helped me to get out of the situation I was in and I began pursuing God with all my heart, not holding on to other things anymore.

Soon after, Brennan came home to the US to renew his visa, and during that time we found ourselves at all of the same church events, and before he went back to El Salvador again we knew that God was calling us to get married. 

Normally when we are together and sharing our story, Brennan shares all the sappy details, I get too shy about it. His favorite part to share is that one day we were doing a Bible study together in the book of Ruth and I told him I would follow him anywhere. My favorite part though, the most important thing to me, was that I was afraid of someone coming in between my relationship with the Lord again. But God made it really clear that this time, this man loved Him more than he loved me, and it wouldnt be like that. 

Anyway, this it seems so long ago now, and it was just the start. I can’t believe it’s really been around eleven years now since we first started dating, and to some that’s a little bit of time and to some it seems a lot. So much has happened in those few years. From moving as an engaged couple to Montana, to getting married and moving three months later to Mexico–pregnant! Almost eight years in Mexico, almost two in New Hampshire, and back to the West Coast and 4 kids later. Life with Jesus is such a blessing and adventure. I know technically this is our marriage love story, but it’s really God’s story. One of the many many many stories He’s writing. I had no idea when I surrendered everything to Jesus the good plans He had ahead, but to have the relationship with Him was all that was really important, all the other other stuff, even our story is just a blessing on top. I think it’s so important right now to remember the good things God’s done, He is so faithful and will continue to be. And there’s so much more good ahead to look forward to in our relationships with Him and seeing the stories He’s writing. 

God writes the best love stories
11 years later

Our Essential Family Schedule

One of my most constant struggles is doing versus being. The classic Christian internal, “Are you Mary or Martha?” question. Even though I know the right answer is to be Mary, my natural tendency always leads me to Martha first and then I have to seriously track back. You’d think I’d notice this about myself and be quicker to surrender but man I fall into this cycle a lot.

It rolled out pretty quick when we first heard that the quarantine was going to begin–you know that I made a schedule for my family right away for how we would handle the day to day. I laughed so hard because someone put out a “whats your Enneagram type during quarantine” video and it showed the type 1 making a schedule. Yep, that’s me. I tried to be realistic in my planning and considerate of what we needed, like time for Bible study, being outside, chores, homework, rest, regular work, play…

It was a good idea, but it did not go as planned. What was really funny too was that my kids were actually trying to enforce it. Like, “Mom, it’s 10, aren’t we supposed to be on our walk?”

The truth was my focus was all over the place, and I was fighting against my own schedule that I had tried to make. I didn’t even want to follow it. I felt so strange and distracted. Trying to navigate this time with my own understanding, I was fighting to make a normal in my own perspective out of what just isn’t normal. I’ve never walked through this before, why should I pretend I have an idea what I’m doing?

I needed to get Martha in the back seat again and just let go and surrender. What really is essential for our family during this time that isn’t normal? I can’t ask myself; I need to ask the One Who is really in control here and recognize that I never was. And finally have some peace because I needed my eyes back on Him.

“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.”

Isaiah 26:3

The same thing that was always essential before is what is essential now. The abiding in Jesus. If that is all we get done today as a family, that’s all we need. I know we can’t force that on other people in our home, but we can control whether we will. It’s so essential that I’m in God’s word and praying right now. I need to let whatever “doing” happens flow from that time with Him, following what He has today, because He knows what really is important. That’s how my schedule needs to be made each day.

It’s essential that I’m loving Him and really loving others too. Only Jesus can really show me how my family needs to be loved right now. With my focus off I don’t feel like I’ve been doing so great at that, but I’m so grateful for His grace and forgiveness and opportunity He gives to try again. We are walking through a time unlike any before, and I don’t want to miss what God has for us in it.

So, here is how I’m trying again…

The schedule is out the window you guys. I’m not talking about being lazy, I know some things still absolutely need to get done, but I’m talking about surrendering. The essentials are first and most important, for me that’s my time with the Lord and doing a short study with our kids and praying together. I’m going to let Him lead, if we end up doing some stuff on my original schedule—awesome, but it’s His idea, not mine. With doing the things that can’t go, like homework, I’m doing it unto Him, like it should be done.

And I’m putting down my phone more. I realized a big reason my focus has been off is because I’m distracted worrying that I’m missing some kind of connection or information I need to have. That information will still be there in an hour, I don’t need to have my phone on me all the time. Everything is on screens right now… church, relationships, school, work, shopping… but it’s more than okay to take a break and just be present in the moment you’re in, to be present with Jesus and with those in your home.

This weekend we get to celebrate that He is alive! While this Easter looks so much different than previous ones, we still have the only thing that was ever truly important about it—our alive Savior. And I want to be present with Him!