School Starts in Less than a Month?!

[Author’s Note: When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was be a writer. I still do. But every time before I begin writing, I let out this big sigh. I see the blank paper/Word Doc/blog page and sigh. Oh, how am I going to mess up this blank page today? What do my words even matter, anyway? Who even cares? These are words I’m sure you all have fought with as some point, whether with writing or speaking to children or students. You’ve heard them, they’ve been planted by the Evil One. I say all of this for a few reasons, 1. I am NEVER writing about school or life to say that I’ve figured it out. Instead, I’m writing because I struggle so much with my classroom and life that I’m sure someone else does, too. You ain’t alone, homie. And 2. I’m writing because I see Christ in my classroom on the daily (yes, even in summer… Teachers’ brains do not turn off for a second). We should all strive to be like David, the man after God’s own heart, who saw God working and knew of how He worked in the past and he NEVER ceased to tell of God’s works, of who God was/is/and will always be. Just like the secular anti-terrorist saying, “See something, say something,” we, too, as Christians are continually faced with God’s goodness and His workings: we should see Him everywhere! Yet how often do we speak out and tell of His mighty works? I am as much to blame as the rest, but today is a good day to start, no?]

[Don’t worry, the sermon isn’t over yet.]

Dear teachers and parents and students, school starts soon! It’s so close I can taste it. Walmart has the school supplies out. I already have a list. I’m drooling over planners and pencils and the old bookshelves I have revamped in my classroom. I love school, I really do, but I dread its coming.

I dread the whining and the trouble we will soon face as another semester begins. I dread the ugly. I dread the trials. I dread it. I know it’s coming, and that’s probably why it’s so difficult for me. Anticipation gets me. Every. Single. Time. Anxiety creeps in and before I know it, I’m having nightmares about classroom management and skipping class on accident. But, once I’m in it and I’ve prayed my little heart to peace, I am fine. God is good and He takes care of me and my class, but I’m so anxious to begin this year! There are many trials ahead for my school, my kids, and my department. There is going to be a whole lot of ugly.

Ugly looks like many things. It is attitude, lack of support, frustration, stress, overwhelming priorities… the list goes on. However, for me, ugly most commonly looks like a 15 year old. (Any parent and teacher who has one knows what I’m talking about.) I see 120 uglies a day. I see attitude, rolling eyes, promiscuity and lack of self-respect, lack of discipline, disrespect of authority, apathy… I SEE MYSELF, YOU GUYS. I SEE MYSELF. And it’s ugly.

Phew. Now, I see myself and that’s what drags me down. How can I help them, how can I live the Word, when I myself know that I’m just as ugly? Again, words from the Evil One. But today, with the help of the Spirit, Paul, and Ann Voskamp, I see something else.

I am ugly. And so are you. I deserve a great deal of punishment, and so do you. We are surrounded by ugly. BUT, God. God provided salvation for us through Christ, a beautiful embodiment of God. “For in [Christ] all fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:19-20 ESV. As His children, once we are saved God does not see us in our ugliness (PTL, literally), but now instead He sees Christ. Christ is beautiful! Christ covers over the sin, takes it away, and shows Himself to God on our behalf. WOW. When I read this, I am amped up. I am ready. I start to get cocky. I am this great thing, now that God sees Christ! I am His beloved, now that God sees Christ! Ephesians 2:8-10 reminds me that I am Christ’s workmanship, not a creation of my own design, not innate beauty. If I boast, I boast in Christ! If I am ugly and now made beautiful, it isn’t me… it’s Christ. Brothers and sisters, we will see ugly today. We may even see it right now while we are trying to read this. As teachers, remember that we are ugly. Remember that we are probably just as bad as the kids we’re tired of, of the ugly we are faced with every day. Remember that, and then remember Christ. Remember the grace, the mercy, the blood, the gift of Christ.

My prayer [thanks to Ann Voskamp today; they’re her words not mine], is to “daily love the unlovely into loveliness.” Just as God looks at me through Christ, may I look at others in the same way. God answers prayer, people. He does. Every time I pray for patience, He gives me six million ways to prove my patience. So I know that I am not praying this prayer for an easy life; I know this year will be hard. I know that God will give me plenty of ugly to love into loveliness. Before we even start this year, I pray that we are encouraged by these words. I pray that we see ourselves for who we really are: Children saved by God’s grace. I pray that we see our children through God’s eyes, as though they are covered by Christ. As though they are just as wretched as we are, but so lovely in God’s eyes.

I am going to mess that up, I’ll tell you right now. But, if you hold me accountable and I hold you accountable and we are praying for one another and God is on our side… anything is possible (even the run-on sentence that I just wrote, yay grammar…).

T-minus 24 days. With Christ, we can do it.



Viruses and other Illnesses

It’s a Monday.  I woke up today hearing creaks in my body that I’ve never heard before.  My throat is scratchy.  And I can’t seem to cover up the bags under my eyes.  Textbook Monday.  Also, I may be getting sick.

Monday: 1

Mandi: 0

I got to campus early enough to gather my thoughts and emotions before the day started.  I started my computer, opened the ProBoard software, looked over my lesson plans.  I even opened our teacherease program to take attendance.

Monday: 1

Mandi: 1

I have morning duty on Mondays so I spent the muggy remainder of my morning outside with the kiddos.  I was late getting to my door, which was locked, and all of the kids were snarky with me.

Monday: 2

Mandi: 1

And that’s when I sat down at my computer and saw the pop-up screen “internet.exe and active.exe have been closed due to malicious bugs.”  Say what?  I tried to open them again.  Nothing.  The “scanning software” opened but wouldn’t do anything until I paid them a handsome sum.  So that was a no go.  For the first ten minutes of class I had a panic attack.  I got out my laptop and opened the grade book online, took attendance.  All hope of a cohesive lesson was out the window.

Monday: 4

Mandi: 1

This moment, the climax of the teaching day, separates the teachers from the talkers, the educators from the speakers.  In other words, crap just got real.  I pulled out construction paper and markers for plot diagrams, made everyone move their desks, and we plowed through plot and setting.

Monday: 4

Mandi: 2

The kids were about as out of it as I am.  So I know I’ll have to revisit this tomorrow.  However, we did it.  I made it through the first 55 minutes of the day.  I know have coffee.  Here’s to all the teachers, businesspeople, and the general public who are facing #thestrug this morning.  It’s a rough life.


Monday: 4

Mandi: 3

Will Monday defeat Mandi?  Stay tuned.

The End?

In light of the recent tornadoes in Central OK, I’ve been a little adverse to writing about any experience I may be having. My petty end-of-the-first year is so small and SHOULD be eclipsed by the horror of what happened on Sunday and Monday night. How dare I assert my petty-day-to-day when families are mourning the loss of their babies? While families are still displaced? While everything people own is scattered and shredded and mildewing? While people are separated from their pets, their comfort in times of distress (Sorry, I’m a dog person now… think what you will!). However, it is important to know that life keeps going. Pain happens, sucky things happen: but life goes on. But I’ll get to that here in a bit…

First of all, I’d like to thank all of my friends and family who have called me and texted me and donated in some way to this horrible, horrible chain of events. You never know how loved you are until you get a million texts making sure you’re okay! I never knew how hard it was to be in a tornadic situation by yourself. I once took care of a whole dorm (granted, it was over Easter break so there weren’t many there…) and I felt less pressure and concern then than I did taking care of myself. I think it has something to do with being responsible and having something to take your mind of things… but no matter: this weekend was rough. But, I had plenty of support and I am going to call on that support a little further…

I have consistently been offering prayers every waking moment of the last few days, and I urge you to do the same. In brokenness, there is rebirth. But it is a long, long hard road. If you’re reading this from out of state, please check out my Facebook or my twitter for ways you can help. A quick and easy one is to text STORM to 80888 for $10 for the Salvation Army. When the dust settles, I’ll be heading out with Samaritan’s Purse to help rebuild (you can donate to them as well!). I’ve been so impressed with how quickly everyone has come together. I’m honored to be a part of a state that feels like a family. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE has come together to help. I’m sure even the rubberneckers on I-35 who are holding up traffic have donated or shared themselves in this effort. A few of my students lost their homes on Sunday night so besides this horrible chain of events happening in my state (because I now, more than ever, consider myself an OKIE), this hit home. Literally. This came to a place where my heart is. And it destroyed stuff! I was just in Moore and Edmond the other day! I was looking forward to seeing some of my students for the last time this semester on Monday! This hurt me. If it can hurt me emotionally, just imagine what it has done to the thousands who are displaced! Please, please take a moment to pray for comfort and healing and strength, and please PLEASE donate to one of the amazing charities that are working ceaselessly for the people of Moore.

In tragic times like this, much like Camus would advocate, and YOU KNOW Christ would, we must move forward. We must keep going. If we breathe: WE LIVE. We go on. We rebuild. We recover. We stand together. Yes, we weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. But we rejoice with those who rejoice! Everyone who survived has a reason to rejoice! It doesn’t seem like it, and I sure as heck know that the parents of the Plaza Towers kids feel like there is not hope. But did you see that sunset just hours after the tornado? Did you see all of the first-responders and how quickly, methodically, and passionately they did their jobs? Did you see how many people rose up INSTANTLY to help? There were so many heroes. So many stories of reunion. It is needless to say that this situation is horrible, it is devastating, it seems unnecessary… But there is hope. And because of that hope… I am going to finish this blog out with a few reflections on my first year as a teacher.

It would be arbitrary to compare my first year to a tornado… It would also be ill-timed… But I’ll be honest: I had a bad year. I went through my post-grade identity-crisis VERY soon after graduating and thus spent most of the summer and ALL of my first semester sulking. I will also be honest in that: I had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting myself into when I walked into the classroom on August 10. I was a naive, inept little baby. And it showed. I spent a lot of times crying and hating my job. I didn’t even like my students, really. But God really got ahold of me over break and I stepped into this semester with a confidence in my God-given abilities that I’ve never had before.

I can say now that I am a teacher. I can say now that I don’t really know anything in the grand scheme of things, but I am learning new things every day. I love each and every one of my students, especially the bad ones. My job isn’t a job, it’s my ministry. It’s my calling. I may not be the world’s best teacher, or the smartest, or the most liked, and certainly not the most hated… but by-golly… I love my job. It’s been a really, really, REALLY tough year but I made it out the other side. In approximately 30 hours, I’ll be on summer-time. I’m so unbelievably ready to leave and enjoy the summer and have adventure. But, I can say without a doubt in my mind: I’m excited to come back next year. AFTER AN APPROPRIATE AND LENGTH BREAK, of course…

Please keep Oklahoma in your prayers! It’s a long hard road ahead… but there’s hope. We have to know there’s hope.



Homecoming (warning: sappy college reminiscence)

I drive a Bison Mobile. Let’s be honest: it’s golden yellow with two giant OBU stickers and will soon have a comemorative OBU license plate on the back. It’s a sort of VERY happy coincidence. One I wouldn’t change for the world.

For the last four years I’ve been all about OBU. My nickname Sophomore year was Miss OBU. Who’s got spirit? Me. All up in hur.

When graduation came I was nearly in a panic. Yes, I didn’t have a job and that contributed to it… But after 3 years of being Miss OBU, doing EVERYTHING there was to do on campus, I was a little at loose ends. I loved residential life and living life with people (as we termed it…). I loved the gold flowers in the brick flower patches. I loved the creepy statue of Dr. Scales that greeted me on my way to class. The musty smell of Shawnee’s Basement (AKA an English major’s home). The smell of WMU when you walk into the front door, like girl’s perfume, laundry, and home. The crooked, decaying sidewalks from WUA to the GC. The holy beep of your ID card before and after Chapel. The odor of crappy, burnt coffee in Java City. The Submarine in the library and its academic prose.

But I can never know it the same again. The Submarine in the lib isn’t the same without a Civ Cram with my study group (we nearly got kicked out every time we were in there). I’m certainly not going to go to Java City on purpose, but it sufficed during long nights and early mornings.

It took a trip to Hawaii, a long summer at home, and an all-consuming ministry/job at school to bring me out of my SAD (school acquired depression). My very good friend, and Farkle-Family sister, is coming into town today. We may not go to all of the homecoming festivities at OBU, but I think I can finally face the campus without the tinge of jealousy I feel when I see freshmen walking out of WMU. Without that passion I feel when I see Raley Chapel watching over all its little Bison. Without the memories of late nights past haunting me when I see Taylor Residence Center.

It’s taken me a long time — at least it feels like a long time — to remember the feeling I’ve always had before. That feeling I’d get when I parked near the North 40 or next to Montgomery Hall. It’s that calming, sweet feeling of going home. OBU will always feel like home.

God Bless OBU. MK