Daughter, Wife, Mother... this is what I do

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2 Whole Years


Sitting at a table of much wiser, more mature women last night while playing Bunco, the topic of anniversaries came up. All around me, 40 years of marriage, 35 years, 43 years, and I sat in my small little voice and said, "2 years tomorrow." While in awe of a lifetime of marriage, I am actually very proud to say that my precious husband and I have been married for 2 years!

2 years ago TODAY I was putting on the most beautiful dress I'll probably ever wear, surrounded by ALL of my friends and family, which will probably not happen again any time soon, with sweaty palms anticipating walking down the aisle on a 78 degree day in December to meet the man who would promise to stay by my side for the rest of our lives. As excited as I was that day, I just had no idea how truly wonderful this thing called marriage really was.




Last year, as we celebrated our 1st year of marriage at a sweet Bed and Breakfast Bandera, we gushed with what we'd learned, how we'd changed, what we'd been shown about ourselves through God's gracious refining in marriage. It was such a refreshing, reflective weekend for us. See, the first year of marriage wasn't so wonderful. It was really, really tough. I suffered from a major identity crisis: that is, finding my identity in what I perceived my new husband thought of me and NOT in who Jesus said that I was because of His work on the cross. I was needy and Tyler lacked grace. He struggled to love me like Christ loves us, which isn't based on any merit or standard. I saw that and dug myself into a hole of shame and fear and the vicious cycle went around and around. Now that I've aired all our dirty laundry, I can confidently say that Jesus has overcome those dark days of self-loathing, fear, and judgement. (Not to say that I'll never struggle with that again, but I'm equipped with faith in who Jesus is for me this time.)

This year, as we sat beside the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, our reflection was much more brief and our appreciation and love for one another much more full. Tyler David, I'm so thankful that God chose you for my husband. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

- My life is full of laughter (at and with) you. And no one makes me laugh quite as hard as you do. Laughing with you is my favorite thing to do.
- Your heart is beautiful. You are fully (most of the time ;) ) aware of Jesus' saving work accomplished for you on the cross and this produces so much humility and gentleness in you. I learn from you daily ( even if my stubborn self refuses to admit it at first.)
- You remind me of the beauty of this saving work in your life with your words. You tell me the Gospel all the time.
- You remind me of the beauty of this saving work in your life with your actions. The grace that you have poured in our home has pointed me continually to the grace that is found in Jesus. Even when I'm being lazy, uptight, naggy, or ridiculous (or all of these simultaneously) you are patient, kind, loving and generous just as Christ is to me.
- You're going to make such a great Papa Bear to our sweet baby Elle.
- You are a kitchen cleaning wizard.
- God's gifted you with so much wisdom, discernment and insight that it can be frustrating. (When I don't feel like having my deep dark sin revealed to me. :) ) But you are such a blessing in this way.
- You always let me put my feet on you, even when you say "DON'T PUT YOUR FEET ON ME!!" :)
- You let me dress you. (And for that we are all grateful.)
- You're handsome. Oh, so handsome.

The list goes on. I won't bore you any longer. But these are the reasons I'm thankful for God's faithfulness in our little 2 years of marriage. Amen and amen.

Happy 2 years to us!
lauren

Sunday, December 12, 2010

History of Redemption

So, I've been needing/wanting to write this down for a while. As I'm taking a break/procrastinating from some other necessary (but not quite as fun) duties, I thought I'd share my thoughts.

A few weeks ago at our church, The Austin Stone, Ronnie Smith shared The History of Redemption with us. (Hear it here.) It is basically a walk throughout the Bible. It's the story of us, a broken people, being chased by a loving God who saves us from hopelessness, brokenness, addiction, vain suffering, and deep depression and adopts us into His family of love, deep joy and extending hope accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ. As I sat, listening to this sweet, sweet story of my own Redemption, I was moved to tears. (Granted, pregnancy hormones are raging and I cry at every church service now... but, I promise this is legitimate.)

In my tears, I realized that God's Word still moves me. I mean, moves me. It stirs my affections, my heart towards a love of Jesus. Nothing else in this world that I've experienced does that in this way. The sad truth is that I know people that God's Spoken Word and story of Love doesn't move. It doesn't produce any joy, any faith, any love in them. This breaks. my. heart. And I will continue to beg the God who holds the whole world in His hands that, one day, He would move them with His Words. But, I am utterly thankful that the truth that God put on flesh, came after me, sacrificed all of Himself that I might walk in His name and know the freedom of His love and acceptance evokes a response out of me. Praise God that He's the One that stirs hearts. Because I know that if it's up to me, I choose empty, vain, selfish things every time. Hallelujah.

My culinary response to such a sweet Savior is this:
Squishy-Delishy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

This is my very most favorite cookie of all time. Much like God's Word to my soul, I've never eaten another cookie that's as delicious. (Pahahha! Are you laughing at me like I'm laughing at myself?) When I first stumbled across these gems while doing some blog stalking, I decided then and there, that this would be the cookie my kids begged me to make. I also decided that it would only make appearances during the holidays beginning on the first day of fall. Without further ado, here it is-the best cookie EVER.



Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or corn oil
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper.

2. Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. In a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides as needed. On low speed, mix the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla until blended. Mix the flour mixture to incorporate it. Stir in the chips and nuts by hand.

4. Scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2-inches apart. About 1/4-cup per scoop.

5. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 15 minutes. Let them cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!


Coming soon... pregnant belly pictures. Have I mentioned that Elle's been karate kicking me like crazy? Love this little ninja!!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Drum Roll Please...


Wanted to take a quick moment to announce that we have a sweet baby GIRL on the way! After many tries of getting her to uncross her sweet little legs (Making mama and papa so proud of her prenatal modesty. haha.) we finally got to see that baby was a she! We also got to see her wiggle her little fingers and suck her thumb. (If you look below you can see her putting her little thumb in her mouth. Head is to the left, and her left thumb is on it's way to her little lips.) It was a blast:


Her name is Ellerbe. (It was my maiden name, and we loved it for a little girl's name thanks to Laura K. Gordon for the brilliant suggestion. And to the Engstrom's for their very effective pressuring on my husband to love it as much as we all did.) The nickname possibilities are endless, and I love that it carries on a name that was my identity for so long. I hope she doesn't hate us for all the... "How do you say your name? Where does that come from?" But loves us for our unique and meaningful choice. She's already starting to grow into it as we now refer to her as "Baby Elle" or "Baby B" (as in ellerBE)

Needless to say, I've already made a trip to Target to find SUPER cute baby clothes and can't wait to start the "nesting" process in getting our little home ready for her. I'm not a very frilly, bows and flowers kind of girl, so I'm excited to find some good, stylish neutrals for Ellerbe to lay her presh little head in. I'm sure I'll keep you posted on that process as I get more involved. First on the list:

-Paint a few extra pieces of old furniture we have.
-Find cute little knobs for said furniture.
-Pick out fabrics and patterns that I LOVE for baby B.

Things I may need lots of help with (ahem. Morgan Norris and Laura Gordon, my incredibly crafty friends and Lindsey Sandefur and Katie Ornelas... my wonderfully organized friends.)

-Ways to organize our little space to fit all her things.
-Making curtains.
-Making cute wall hangings.
-Utilizing our closet space.
-What to do about a changing table that we probably don't have room for and probably really need.


Happy Sunday to you all! Hope you got to fall back to sleep this morning when you realized it was an hour earlier than you thought. :)

Lauren and Baby Elle



Friday, October 22, 2010

Correction...

So, this new magical trimester has not been so magical as I was anticipating. I won't go any further, but let's just say I know baby is doing well because I'm... not. Ok, that's a little melodramatic. I'm not awful. But I take back everything I said in my last post about feeling more normal. Lies. All lies.

With Tyler out of town, (that's right, he's in Tacoma, Washington learning about how SOMA does Missional Communities. If you heard Jeff Vanderstelt at VERGE then you'll know this is very exciting and I'm a little sad I'm not with him.) I've been trying to be intentional about seeking out community. You know, being with people? When I'm by myself, I have a tendency to hole myself up like a little hermit. And I LOVE IT! However, I know this isn't good for my soul. And honestly, I've been so blessed by spending time with people. This probably doesn't sound like much of a revolution, but people are great. Jesus is better. He's what makes spending time with people wonderful. That being said, I did take tonight off to watch a good movie and lay on the couch. (My most favorite Friday night past time. You teachers out there know the joy. ) With all this laying on the couch I've had lots of time to tweet, facebook and blog stalk. In the midst of all this, I thought I'd enlighten you as to what a day in the life of a close-to-15-week-preggo looks like in terms of food.

Mostly because I was trying to recount it for myself just to see how I was doing. (And maybe so we can all get a good laugh, or at least some sort of wide-eyed reaction.) So... here we go.

Disclaimer: I understand that not everything that I ate today was the best choice for me and my baby. However, when it comes to it not coming back up, this is just how it has to be. So no comments. :)

Breakfast
-Half a whole wheat bagel with a little cream cheese and sliced strawberries
-Attempted cup of yogurt and strawberries. But I bought a new brand of yogurt and it was disgusting. I like Horizons Non-Fat Vanilla much better than whatever that Randall's junk was that I bought. Ate two bites, then poured it down the drain at school.

Snack(s)
-Half of the cake-like blueberry pastry they serve my kids for breakfast. Don't judge, they're delicious.
-Handful of almonds
-String Cheese

Lunch
-Medium Spinach salad with carrots, orange and red bell peppers and cucumbers. Note: I did not eat much of the spinach. It wasn't agreeing with me today. But I did eat all of those good veggies inside. :)
- Lean Cuisine Pepperoni Pizza. (The only Lean Cuisine worth eating. I love them.)
-String Cheese

After Lunch Snack
-Handful of almonds

After school snack/dinner
-Chick-Fil-A Chicken nuggets and fries. I swear I ordered an 8 pack. Somehow I came out with a 12 pack. I may or may not have eaten all of them. Lemonade to drink.

After snack/dinner snack
-2 1/2 pickles. I realized somewhere at about my second pickle that these were probably not such a good idea. But they just tasted so dang good. I stopped.

Late night snack
(I'm a little ashamed of this one.)
-Lean Cuisine Pepperoni Pizza. I was so hungry! And it was just sitting there in my freezer!! Honestly... as I was eating it I didn't really enjoy it. I just get to the point where I've eaten everything that I can think to eat and I just get lazy. In hind sight I should have just sliced up some cucumber or something.

OH! And I drink lots of water throughout the day. That should get me some points, right? I go through 2 large water bottles during the school day and one after school. Plus a glass of water before and during sleep. Baby's thirsty!

Here's one thing that amazes me about my new and heavily improved diet: I do not ever crave sugar. Fruit is usually the only thing that sounds really good that's sweet. The occasional Rocky Road ice cream bite has it's appeal every now and then. So weird. I am usually fending off cookie cravings like crazy. And let's be honest, giving in to them from time to time. Is that supposed to mean something about what I'm having?

Hope you enjoyed recounting my eating today. I feel a little bit disgusted. I think that last pizza just sent me over the edge.

Goodnight.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pregnancy, Prayer and Comfort (food)


Just to preface, I don't think this blog is going to be about any beautiful, convicting revelations of myself or my God. (I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to write ONLY life changing blog posts. I'm an idealist.)

I'm currently in my 14th week of pregnancy. That means I'm (normally) feeling MUCH better. Although, I feel just as, if not more, tired. But I will take tired any day of the week over how I've felt the past month or so. It's all part of the growing a baby game, though AND I have an absolutely incredible, (learning to be) servant-hearted husband who loves his pathetic pregnant wife SUPER well. I've been getting more back rubs than usual, LOTS of Rocky Road ice cream runs, sparkling clean kitchens, and nicely folded laundry. He really is incredible. And the manliest man you'll ever meet. ;)

T- 14 days until we get to find out if sweet baby David is a he or a she! I'm so excited to have a gender to refer to instead of the awkward "... uh, it. I mean baby! I mean he or she..." I was chatting with my friend Lindsey and we have big plans for a gender reveal party. If you have any (cheap) fun ideas, please send them my way!

In other news... I'm currently reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller. I started reading it this summer, but put it down and never got to pick it back up. But some sweet college girls, Katie and myself are reading it together. If you struggle with prayer, (Wanting to, but not being able to. Having great intentions, but seeing them fizzle out...), this book will pierce the deep parts of your heart that are hindering your prayer life. My biggest paradigm shift has been this:

-Prayer (and I would say anything in my life, really) is not about experiencing God. So often, I find myself in search of a feeling of spirituality. I want to feel peace, comfort, love, goosebumps, whatever. But this is not what my life is for. This is not why Jesus came as a man, died a death He didn't deserve, and conquer our worst enemy by being raised from the dead. My prayer life is about knowing God, not experiencing Him. It is a sweet dinner with my dearest family. No agenda, no focus on conversation. It's a relationship.

I'm sure I'll be writing about this more later. But I'm excited to dig in deeper to knowing God as opposed to seeking an experience with Him.

And... here is the real reason for this blog post.

I just pulled out of the oven, one of my favorite dinners of all time. Katie made it for me once, and it's been a coveted comfort food ever since. (That Katie, she's an amazing cook.) It's creamy, with lots of veggies, and delicious biscuits on top. MUCH better than any chicken pot pie I've ever had, but maintains a similar essence. I can't wait to make this when it's colder outside. But, in all reality, it's delicious any time of the year.

P.S. (It makes your whole house smell like I imagine Paula Deen's kitchen might smell.)


*I did things a little differently. I just use boneless chicken breasts. It saves me some work. I also use a pre made biscuit mix to cut corners on time. It's a time intensive dish, for sure, but VERY worth it.

  • Cook Time:

    45 min

  • Level:

    Intermediate

  • Yield:

    8 servings


Ingredients

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots (4 carrots), blanched for 2 minutes
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

For the biscuits:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and parsley. Mix well. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter.

Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

Note: To make in advance, refrigerate the chicken stew and biscuits separately. Bake the stew for 25 minutes, then place the biscuits on top, and bake for another 30 minutes, until done.

My next blogpost will contain something a little healthier. My sweet vegan friend, Cristina gave me several recipes that I'll be trying out this week while the hubby is in Washington.


Until then, have a great week!


Lauren

Monday, October 4, 2010

Look what we saw today...







That's right. That's a baby. That's a David baby that is currently growing in my unsuspecting belly. Here are some questions you might be wondering:

Was this planned?
Pah! Is what I say to this. If you knew my husband... you would know that this was not planned! (Although, in the months before we found out we were, in fact, with child, he did admit to wanting a baby...) However unplanned, we are very very VERY excited! Tyler just giggled throughout the entire sonogram. :) Seeing that little nugget move around today, hearing the sweetest little heart beat and realizing that God has given us life to nurture, love and teach was humbling and absolutely awe inspiring. And frankly, a bit surreal, if not for all the nausea and the eating, I might not believe that sonogram or the 5 pregnancy tests that I took.

How far along are you?
I am 12 weeks. That means in two weeks I am finito with my first trimester. (Not all trimesters are created equal. This one is 13 weeks and not twelve like the sweet little suffix suggests.) I'm very ready to be done with this trimester. It hasn't been awful, but I want energy and an appetite back. Baby David will be entering the world on April 17, 2011. (ish.)

Are you finding out what you're having?
ABSOLUTELY! I made our 16 wk. appointment today and I am already counting down the days until we get to figure out if baby will be bambina or bambino. I'll reveal the names we've been tossing around then. Some people really like to keep all these things to themselves, but 1) we're just not that private in many respects and 2) I can't keep a secret to save my life, especially when I'm excited about it! (Unless you have revealed something in confidence to me at some point in my life, in which I have kept it under lock and key. Except for maybe when I was in middle school. Please forgive me.)

How are you feeling?
Physically: Mostly tired. Mostly like I'm going to vomit in the p.m. hours. Sometimes I'm STARVING, then my sweet husband makes me a sandwich and I just cannot even eat it. Sometimes I can't decide if I'm full or still hungry. Strange things. But, looking at the big picture, I've been really blessed. Many women feel much worse than I have felt. I've only stayed home sick once from work to recover from a particularly sickly night. But other than that, I've been able to get my job done, if not above and beyond, at least I know my kids are learning.

Emotionally: Oh gosh, this changes by the hour. I will say... as of late (especially today, I suppose) I've been much more excited about the prospect of having a sweet little love bug to gush all kinds of affection towards. Today, sitting in the waiting room, I realized for the first time that there will soon be a little one in my life that says "mama!" excitedly when he/she sees me. But it's not uncommon for me to feel nervous, stressed, anxious, terrified at any given point in time. Here's where the next part comes in:

Spiritually: How sweet the Father's love for us. As this life changing discovery was made, I kept finding myself saying, "God, this was mean. Why would you do this." (Yes, I know. Not a typical reaction to the news of a tiny bundle of joy. I'm just being honest.) And over and over again as I searched the Scripture looking for comfort, and thought on the Gospel of Jesus I was reminded that His reply is always, "Because I love you so much more than you can comprehend. I am perfect and all I do is perfect. This life in you is my design for your good. I want you to trust me." (OK, not what it says in the Bible verbatim. I paraphrased.) Granted, I forget this hourly, but it is so sweet for me to turn in my anxious thoughts and think on how much LOVE I see in the death and resurrection of God's Son. If God has given me LIFE and everything that He has, how could I ever distrust His timing in giving us a baby? This breathes life into my weary soul.

All that to say, those three categories are smushed into one in my crazy life. Each feeds into the other, sometimes positively, bringing me constantly to the throne of Grace, sometimes negatively sending me into a spiral of self dependance, anxiety, self doubt, etc.

Ok, this post is long enough. Later, I will post a few tidbits I've learned about pregnancy thus far. It's been a crazy ride.

Thanks for reading! :)
Lauren and Baby D

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Light and Refreshing"

I've been wanting to share my meals on my blog because I love reading about other families' meals so much. Here is my first attempt:

"Light and Refreshing": That's what my husband's request was for dinner. I racked my brain, looked in 3 different cook books and on 2 different websites. I found plenty of "Light" meals, but nothing sounded "Refreshing" to me. We'd had fish 3 times last week, and a salad just wasn't hitting the spot in my imagination. Then, I remembered how wonderful Fajita Chicken Soup is! I haven't made it in over a year and it sounded absolutely delicious. I dug out my old recipe (from allrecipes.com) and headed to the grocery store.

Ok, so it's not very "Refreshing," but it is "Light." It's basically LOTS of seasoned veggies and chicken in chicken broth. And come on, who doesn't LOVE fajitas? It's filling and delicious. Probably more ideal for the wintery season... but delicious is delicious no matter the weather, right? The bonus is that it makes ALOT... so if you're cooking for 2 you'll have lots of left overs for lunch, which is quite possibly my favorite thing EVER. Here's the recipe:

(Sorry there's no picture... I'll work on that for next time.)

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 (1.27 ounce) packet fajita seasoning
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 poblano pepper, cut into thin strips
1 large onion, cut into thin strips
1 (14.5 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can seasoned black beans
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 dash hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Directions

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Place chicken in the hot oil; cook, stirring only occasionally, until brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle fajita seasoning over the browned chicken and stir well to coat. Add the red and green bell pepper, poblano pepper, and onion to the seasoned chicken. Stir and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Pour the fire roasted tomatoes, black beans, and chicken broth into the pot with the chicken and vegetables. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season the soup with hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste before serving.

* I like to add corn for a little sweetness :)

Enjoy!

Back to School (2010)

New crayons. New, clean journals and notebooks. New backpacks. New friends. New year.

Honestly, I've put this off for a little while. (Oops!) So, really, it doesn't feel like "back to school" anymore. We're actually in the swing of things. However, here are a few highlights from my very second First Day as a teacher.

1. Feeling almost fully prepared. I can't even describe the bliss of this feeling. Yes, I worked hard to get there. But it wasn't nearly as stressful.

2. I didn't have nearly as many nightmares this time around. (Although, I did have a few. The kind where kids don't listen and you feel like you have ZERO control. Idolize control much?)

3. The actual first day felt purposeful and controlled. I knew what I was doing, why I was doing it. It helped set up my year and set the tone for my kids. I knew what I expected of them and let them know what they could expect from me. (Last year... I had no idea about either of those things. It makes such a big difference!)

4. I quite possibly could have the SWEETEST, MOST CREATIVE and FUN group of third graders in the whole wide world. They are a breath of fresh air and are making this year wonderful. Yes, there have been a few trying moments over the past 2 weeks, but I'm VERY VERY thankful for them. Probably a combo of it being my 2nd year and their personalities, but I definitely come home skipping. My sweet husband has no idea what to do with me, coming home from work with energy (well... some days...)

Take heart, first year teachers. I know some days you aren't the teacher you want to be. I know that you question your choice of career, but if there's any passion in you for what you're doing... keep doing it. I promise it gets better.

Here's to a fabulous new year with lots of new things, surprises and new joys :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Time Blues








I'm really not "blue" that the sun is setting on summer. I'm excited about the year to come... but summer was just so dang wonderful, it's going to be hard not to miss it just a little bit. Here are some of my summer highlights:

-Getting to be on the lake with my family for 3 days. I LOVE being on the water. Boating, skiing, swimming, I love it all. And this is what my family has always done together, so it was really nice to reunite and enjoy time together. My mom and I got brave, climbed up a waterfall in an attempt to rope-swing off. I can proudly say that I chickened out and climbed back down and my brave mama did not. She reached out on the ledge of the waterfall, grabbed that rope and swung/jumped down like a champ. I <3>


- Mexico with Tyler's family. It was restful, fun, beautiful and rejuvinating. I laid on the beach, played a little bit of (slightly lame, but still fun) volleyball and spent time with people that I love a lot. Bliss.




- Staycation 2010 with my sweet husband, Tyler. We stocked up on Groupons (if you know nothing of this, do yourself a favor and check it out, ESPECIALLY if you live in a place with really wonderful restaurants that you want to try but can't afford to do very often: groupons.com) We ate at great Austin-y restaurants, got massages, spent time together and even went to see the Summer Zilker Park Musical, Annie. (Someone needs to pat Tyler on the back for doing that with me. I don't think he hated it, but it probably wasn't at the top of his list of things he wanted to do :) What a sweet man he is.)



-Reading lots of books. I feel like that's ALL I did this summer, and it was truly glorious. Among the books I got to enjoy this summer are:
House Rules by Jodi Piccoult: A young boy with Asperger's is accused of a murder. Jodi Piccoult's writing is fascinating and so in depth and she lets you in to each character's mind. So good!
The Pact by Jodi Piccoult: An attempted suicide pact between a teenage couple goes awry and the blame is placed on the boyfriend involved. One of Jodi's earlier novels. I was completely entrenched in the story line and it left me depressed for a few days. I wouldn't recommend it simply because it was so dark. But that doesn't mean it wasn't stinkin' awesome.
Vanishing Acts by Jodi Piccoult: I know, I probably seem a little obsessed. And maybe I am... but I just know that I love her writing and she's my go-to when I need a good book. In this case, I had been traveling from Mexico all day, was about to get in the car for a 9-hour drive to Mississippi for Lake Vacay with my fam and needed an Audio book to get me through. It was a good choice and kept me intrigued. However, I found that I don't really enjoy audiobooks as deeply as I do real books. Maybe it's the fact that my attention is so divided?? Either way, it was good.
Sarah's Key by Tatianna deRosnay: A very shocking and sad story about the French roundup of Jews as ordered by Germany during the Holocaust. Read it!!
The Help by Kathryn Stockett: Another eye opening novel. This one centers around African American maids in the 1960's and their relationships with their bosses and their children. A hopeful and redemptive ending. It was probably my favorite I read all summer.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Mcguire:
I REALLY enjoyed this book. The political nature of the book surprised me (having seen the musical... FYI-it's really nothing like it) but I deeply enjoyed it and fell in love with Elphie and her plight to be accepted and known even in her crazy days. It actually made me appreciate the musical even more, despite how different they are.

What was YOUR favorite part about summer 2010?

And here we are. August 10th. I'm headed back up to my classroom for only the 2nd time this summer to get ready for some sweet kiddos. I can't wait to post everything that will be happening within the next year. Hopefully I'll stay on top of my blogging game :)

Enter Classroom Insanity and Joy!
Lauren

Monday, July 12, 2010

God, the Builder and the Architect

At church yesterday, Ronnie challenged my waning faith in my God and King. He reminded me that there was something greater to hope in and look for. He spoke to the dissatisfaction (or maybe against my satisfaction) with what is found in the present, immediate gratification. He stirred the part of my soul that God has won and reminded me that loving Him above all others was my only hope, my only promise, my only goal.

It was incredible because it shined light on some very dark places in my heart that are stiff-arming God because of my selfishness, my idolization of independence.

Hear it here: http://www.austinstone.org/resources/sermons/

It's the one titled "Desiring the Heavenly City"

So, today I'm ruminating on such truth. On the sorrow that I am comfortable here. My hopes, my desires, my goals are not the promises of God. I don't practically believe that He is enough for me and loves me more than all my shiny idols of comfort, security and independence ever will. Here is a song that I'm singing and praying today, because I know that the only thing that's going to change my heart is a God who has moved Heaven and Hell to have me. It is in this that I can rejoice.

No Abiding City by Sandra McCracken

Oh, sweet home of love and peace
Where pilgrims tire and troubled rest
Into the hope of Zion lean
Where in Jesus’ arms we will fall at last

Addictions empty promises
This broken world cannot satisfy
A sweeter song redemptions bliss
Is sealed for us in paradise

Oh, lift up your head
For the day is near
And we have no abiding city here

Sprit heal our neighborhood
Until your kingdom work is done
Teach us what is just and good
As we look for the city which is yet to come

Oh, lift up your head
For the day is near
And we have no abiding city here

A city filled with gold and light
God the builder and the architect
When our faith is turned to sight
Oh, I cannot imagine it

Oh, lift up your head
For the day is near
And we have no abiding city here

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Indifference


Sneak peak into my struggle with indifference:


I've been keenly aware of my lack of passion these days. I choose to inundate myself with simple, immediate pleasures: working out, watching more tv than I know that I should, reading delicious novels that consume my heart and my thoughts, eating REALLY good food, pleasures of this nature. I know what you're thinking, "Those are GREAT things!" And I agree! They are beautiful, wonderful, God-given things that are made to turn our attention and affection to a BRILLIANT Creator! However, I spin these wondrous joys to sedate me. To keep me content and comfortable. I'm a classic over-indulger and I've learned the hard way that too much of a good thing ALWAYS lulls me into indifference. In my indifference, what I know to be true shifts a bit. Today, I found myself believing that God was indifferent towards me. As I read some previous entries in my REAP (Read Examine Apply Pray) journal, God revealed that I've struggled with this belief for a while. Here's what I read, and what I learned (or re-learned) about the character of a great King:

Psalm 3:3-5 "But You, O Lord are a shield about me, My glory and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke for the Lord sustains me."

(to give you some context:)The Psalmist here is fearing for his life. HIs enemies have increased and are rising up around him, but he holds fast to his hope and dependance on the Lord.

God is not indifferent about anything. Regardless of our lack of attention, affection or sacrifice for Him, He is not indifferent towards us. An indifferent God does not "set Himself as a shield around me", doesn't "lift my head." An indifferent God does not answer to my whining. An indifferent Creator and King does not remain faithful when I am utterly, wretchedly fleeting and faithless. He is the most caring, most attentive Being in existence. There's purpose in all He does. Meaning in every stitch of fabric in His Creation.

I struggle with indifference and wasting my life away on frivolity... but my Savior and King won't. He's chosen to love, care, fight for and against this in me through becoming a Man, a Man that did NOT fall pray to these things, but suffered the death that I deserve for willingly giving myself over to these things and not acknowledging His beauty in it all. (Even though I KNOW that He's SO MUCH BETTER!)

Thankfully, God promises to finish the work He's started in me (Phil. 1:6) and does so by showing me how ugly my heart is, but juxtaposes my vulgarity with His beauty. He's the One who's faithful. I run from Him often... but He, for reasons I don't fully understand, chooses to run harder still so that I might point to how great He is.


Happy Saturday!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A New Heaven and A New Earth








These pictures, this oil spill is not new. We've been hearing about it for days and days and days. It's not an earthquake, it hasn't killed hundreds of thousands of people in seconds. However, when I hear about it, look at pictures of it, my heart sinks enough in my chest to make me think. At first, I feel guilty for feeling such hurt over something that is not QUITE so devastating as the earthquake in Haiti a few months ago. (Even though, I know that this catastrophe has unending consequences for the people of the gulf region.) But as I was looking at pictures of these birds (and I LOATHE birds) DRENCHED in oil, God reminded me that the filth, the mire, the sense of death that comes from seeing images like that are not new because He has not restored them to newness. So... I wait, I hope in a Savior and a King that will come again to restore His creation to its original state. Because He has revealed this great hope to me through the restoration of my own wicked (yes, very wicked. i'll tell you about it sometime) soul by the death and resurrection of the King of Kings, I hope in the same restoration for the world. Because deep inside of me, I'm groaning for perfection. I'm guessing you probably are too...

Revelation 21:1-4
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reflection...


Here we are. May 27, 2010. I'm finishing up my first year as a teacher.

Today there was reason for me to stop and contemplate this year. I'll get into that reason later... but first, the celebrations! Some very wise professors taught me early on in my teaching career that I must begin any effective teaching with successes, either with myself or my students. They constantly reminded me to celebrate what was done well... then use that as a springboard to improve what was lacking. Here are some things I'm celebrating today:

-I successfully made it through my first negative parent interaction. (With the help of a very supportive Principal and a Team Leader that prayed for me as I was sobbing after the initial conversation. Praise God for both of them.)

-I navigated all the paper work and the red tape and the TST's, RTI's, DIBEL's, TAKS, AMI, ARI, SSI, ABC's and 123's. I may not have always done it correctly the first time, but somehow I got everything in that I needed to get in... I think?

-I communicated love to students through joy and discipline. I think that my students would say that they feel loved... I hope?

-I taught students to use Solution Squares to solve problems that arise with friends. Regardless of whether they use them correctly at this point, they know them and hopefully as they mature they will grow in their understanding of what it means to be a "Peacemaker."

-Students were successful in my classroom. I can confidently say that every single one of my students have learned how to be scientists in the world around them.

My growth areas as a teacher are endless... Time management, classroom structure, parent-teacher communication, instructional clarity, differentiation, small group instruction.... you name it, I probably need to grow in that area. But here's where I'm struggling today...

Classroom Community
-Probably THE single most important thing to me as a teacher is to create a learning community that is respectful, safe and caring in every aspect. I began the year with high hopes and plans for what I would do to create such an environment.

(Sidenote: If you know me then you know that I'm a big dreamer. I choose to look first at the big picture. I paint broad brush strokes over my life and aim high. However, I fail to see the steps that it takes to make this dream a reality. I don't necessarily choose NOT to see the details... I just can't. Itdoesn't come as naturally to me.)

I hate to admit this, but very few of the high hopes and plans I had for creating my dream learning community actually came to fruition. I struggled to figure out where to fit in all the big and wonderful things I wanted to do inside of TEKS and departmentalization. There was a moment late in September that I just cried, because I was not the teacher I wanted to be. At this painful reality, I stopped and reassessed. I began to fit in projects and read alouds and literature units that helped serve my dream classroom community. Nothing close to what I was cooking up as a not-yet teacher last summer, but it gave me glimmers of hope that my dream was possible. So I continued to fight for that community all year. I'm sure I didn't do EVERYTHING that I could have... but that's why I get to do it again next year :)

All this to say, today I was faced with the ugly truth my classroom is still not a cohesive respectful community. Here's the sitch: There's a very sweet, smart, kind, strange girl in my class. Strange is all my kids see. There's germs and cooties and things that will surely scar this sweet girl's precious heart. Yes, she's loud and maybe a little obnoxious. Yes, she's clumsy and awkward. Yes, she thinks everyone's out to get her, but haven't they been since Kindergarten now? Who can blame her? But, with 4 days to go, I'm still struggling to help her feel accepted and safe in my classroom. I'm struggling to let her know that she's worth being loved by her peers. I'm struggling to let her know that she is a valuable part of our community. So, all my talking, book reading, book discussing, respect contract signing, compliment circle having, modeling has not worked. It hurts my heart and makes me feel kind of helpless to teach them anything of value if they cannot learn this. I'm worn out from talking with her about losing her temper over things that I'm SURE have been building up and building up. I'm out of ideas and out of time.

All I can do is pray for my students. Because really, anything of value that I have is wrapped up in Jesus anyway.

So there's my struggle, there's where I want to grow. Maybe something miraculous will happen over the summer to me and to my soon-to-be 4th graders.
Hope,
Lauren

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Jane Eyre


With a bum ankle, I've not done much more than read this weekend. It's been a wonderful thing. I finished one of my first Literary Classics: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. While it took about 60 pages to get into and get used to the British writing, I quickly fell in love with Jane. I want to be her friend. I want to sit with her and hear her take on my world. I can't relate to her because I'm not always bursting at the seams with my thoughts and I'm MUCH more of a people pleaser, but that's precisely why I love her so much.

It's a slow build, but I couldn't put it down once I got into it. I highly recommend it for a sweet summer read.

Rather than write an entire book review, here are a few paragraphs that I enjoyed, either in circumstance, message, or writing.

*Note: I'm not giving anything away here.

"'Don't talk to me about her, John: I told you not to go near her; she is not worthy of notice; I do not choose that either you or your sisters should associate with her.'

Here, leaning over the banister, I cried out suddenly, and without at all deliberating on my words, --

'They are not fit to associate with me.' " Pg. 15


"The only marked event of the afternoon was, that... the girl... was dismissed in disgrace, by Miss Scatcherd...and sent to stand in the middle of the large school-room. The punishment seemed to me in a high degree ignominious, especially for so great a girl...I expected she would show signs of great distress and shame; but to my surprise she neither wept nor blushed: composed, though grave, she stood, the central mark of all eyes. 'How can she bear it so quietly--so firmly?' I asked of myself. 'Were I in her place, it seems to me I should wish the earth to open and swallow me up. She looks as if she were thinking of something beyond her punishment--beyond her situation: of something not round nor before her. I have heard of day-dreams--is she in a day-dream now? Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they do not see it--her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is looking at what she can remember, I believe; not at what is really present. I wonder what sort of a girl she is--whether good or naughty.' Pg. 30

"' Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine you, and not a strait wasitcoat--your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me: if you flew at me as wildly as that woman did this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond as it would be restrictive. I should not shrink from you with disgust as I did from her: in your quiet moments you should have no watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring tenderness, though you gave me no smile in return; and never weary of gazing into your eyes, though they had no longer a ray of recognition for me...'"Pg. 181

"'Does she like me?' he asked.
'Certainly; better than she likes any one else. She talks of you continually: there is no subject she enjoys so much, or touches upon so often.'
'It is very pleasant to hear this,' he said-- 'very: go on for another quarter of an hour.' And he actually took out his watch and laid it upon the table to measure the time." Pg. 224

"'...you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent of God of this earth just now. He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower--breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me. I, in my stiff-necked rebellion, almost cursed the dispensation: instead of bending to the decree, I defied it. Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. His chastisements are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for ever. You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance, as a child does its weakness? Of late... only of late--I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.'" Pg. 269-270

Such a good book. Read, enjoy and let me know what you think. :)