So, what’s next?

Africa

The best teacher I’ve ever had once said to me, “Sarah Barbre, you are too much of a mother to only be a mother.”

I didn’t get it at age 18 when I was already dreaming of filling a house with a mother’s love. I don’t always get it when I’m fluffing the wedding gowns of my best friends, knowing I am nowhere near such a beautiful milestone and the babies that follow. But as I look back on the last three years of my life, I think he was right. I think he is right.

God knew that the richness of classrooms full of eyes hungry for love and truth was too sweet for my heart not to know. That providing a safe place for kids–a place about which one child wrote “Thank you for letting me come in here after school sometimes. I know I don’t say much, but it’s just that this is the only place in my life I have peace.” –would make my Martha heart much more like Mary’s. He knew that mentoring young girls would challenge me to reach, to listen, to call on His name for guidance. God knew that I needed to create a home I treasured with souls who may not have belonged to me but will always be a part of me before I shared time and space with a family of my own.

Then, after a few years in the classroom and understanding the beauty and importance of my single life stage more and more, He made me move by giving me the most incredible opportunity–a true answer to my heart cry for orphans around the world. God knew that watching His mercy, poured out freely by the hands of Aunties and Uncles and volunteers in Kenya, change children from the inside out would demolish my inaccurate understanding of the depth and power of His love. Where there were once abandoned, often nameless kids, He showed me vibrant children who have a place to belong and a God to look to. He made me a mother’s arms and a mother’s bedtime prayers–a mother’s cheering voice and biggest fan to these precious kids who by circumstance alone were shown they were dispensable. God not only showed me what redemption looked like in the lives of others but reminded me that the same redemption story is mine, and I understood for the first time while tears streamed down my face.

So, what’s next? I’ve dodged the question about 4534234234234234 times as I have entered my first season of my whole life in which I have no game plan. No heart tug. No dream. No answer. But my former teacher’s words have stuck with me. Through months of closed doors and not-this-times and a whole lot of Grey’s Anatomy sad episodes, He didn’t forget about me, though. He has forged me. Made me think. Made me appreciate and consider and re-consider and remember. And He has put a new song in my heart.

I am so happy to announce that I have accepted a new job. In August, I will be working at a children’s home in Houston called Boys and Girls Country as something called a “Teaching Parent.” My role is to live life with the kids, stepping in as a parent in every way to take care of these kids who are without theirs. It is my true heart beat to make sure that children know they are seen and that they are cherished, and to be selected for a job like this right in my backyard is something I could not be more excited for.

In a world where it’s easy to give ignorant opinions and write hateful words about the madness around us, I choose to be someone who tucks in a little one who can’t be with her parents at night. I choose to be the baker of the bake sale cookies for kids who aren’t my own. I choose the joy of little footsteps and pep rally band performances. I choose to be too much of a mother to only be a mother. I choose to make this world a sweeter place, and I am thankful to know and believe in my heart that you will too.

I couldn’t be more thankful for my friends and family who have supported me through months of feeling directionless and who continue to support me in this new endeavor. I welcome your prayers, and I welcome you to check out this incredible place!

 

https://www.boysandgirlscountry.org/

 

 

Blessings

Without warning, all of the electricity went out. There were no screams. There was no panic. There was only awe-inspiring beauty as the seven of us from all around the world shifted our gaze from the dwindling fire we were … Continue reading

Our Valley

Molly and I arrived to Naomi’s Village one week ago today. The breathtaking view of this Kenyan place is overwhelming as the trees and flowers and growing plants that fill the valley of the land lead up to mountains as … Continue reading

Two Years

What is it like to teach 2,160 classroom lessons? It is like sighing God’s all-knowing, “why don’t you trust that I am going to tell you how to do this, what comes next, and when to pack up to leave” … Continue reading

Go

“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” -Mary Oliver The travels I have ventured on over the past two months have answered questions I never knew my soul was desperate to know. For me, a lover of surprises big and … Continue reading

One Year

562313_4771417493238_1416602516_n

This week marks the end of my first year of teaching and 365 days of missing my beautiful mother. As I pulled into the school parking lot Monday morning, I thought, “this is a lot of things…way too many emotions,” but I have since realized just how beautifully woven these moments truly are by my perfect God.

“Class, I want to take a minute to say how thankful–chairs on all fours–I am to have each of you as one of my students. I remember–STOP hitting him–the first day of school when this room was filled with nervous eyes, but I have–You three: cut it out!–watched you all grow into–Boys, do you hear me talking right now? Please wait.–bold and beautiful individuals with more passion and drive than I could have ever dreamed. You have–no, you cannot go get water right now.–the opportunity to change this world, and I am not talking about when you grow up some day. Every day, you can choose to do–please stop talking–something small to help brighten a day. You can share your story. You can stand up for someone, or be a friend when it is difficult to do. You can choose to not retaliate when things happen to you that are unfair. You can–oh my word. Get off of the table.–you know what, y’all have a great summer. I love you dearly.”

Sweet 11/12 year old children. While some days, they drove me absolutely insane with their incessant questioning and interruptions, I looked at them all together for the last time today with love filled eyes wishing I could express in words how treasured they will always be in my my heart. There is not a doubt in my mind that God gave me these specific 139 to bring my color back after losing my mom–someone so precious to me. To make me double over in laughter when so much of my heart was sad. To challenge my patience, intellect, drive, and will when I wasn’t interested in initiating refinement in my life. To make me realize what is actually important in life, which often turned out to be the small greetings and smiles we exchanged in my doorway that helped us all know we were seen and cared for. God gave me these 139 to remind me not only what it means to pour out love but to receive it in the most pure, sincere way. They saved me in the hardest season of my life because each day, my kids were a picture to me of God’s never tiring pursuit of my affection. Sometimes they taught me from God’s perspective how crazy it is that I doubt His ways are better than mine or that I don’t trust He knows what He’s doing. Sometimes their genuine kindness, innocent and pure brought tears to my eyes, reminding me of the simplicity yet depth of childlike faith and what it means to have intentions that are far from jaded. Sometimes I had to pull a tear-filled soul out into the hallway and listen through the sobs, softly reminding her that she IS worth more than she feels. That her heart is the only one whose beats the way hers does because it is the only one designed for the purpose that hers is designed for. That while her life is unfair in big ways that she still gets to choose how she’ll react. That these things, big and small, are part of her story–unique and beautiful, while broken, and that her story will move mountains for someone one day who just needs to be understood in a similar situation. Sometimes, I cried later realizing those words were for my broken heart more than hers. Always, the love poured out in my classroom from kids and staff alike made me press in harder to the truth of His boundless love–learning to believe more fully that just as I see and treasure and know my kids, He knows and loves me, but far more than I could ever imagine.

Kids are great/terrible because they don’t think before they do stuff. Today, it was great. Their hugs and tears and goodbyes were real, and it is a special thing to be able to return that kind of embrace–a real, “you mean the world to me and I am different because of you for the better” kind of hug and goodbye. I think we sometimes forget how desperate children are for those moments. It’s interesting because they can be stand-offish with their own parents and relatives and totally awkward around strange adults, but spending time every day with kids as a teacher gives a chance for all walls to come down. Trust me, they regularly act a fool–but it’s because that comfort has finally been reached. How incredible is our opportunity as teachers.

I spent this afternoon and evening eating dinner with women more incredible than I could have ever dreamed would be waiting for me at my first job–women who have walked through the ugly and glorious and absolutely hilarious day to day moments of this year with me, gently guiding me through every online documentation system, hard parent conversation, and tough day at work. These women are all heroes in my life who have lifted my head and reminded me that I’m not the worst–who God has provided as listening ears with trustworthy advice when He knew I would ache not being able to share so many “firsts” with my mom.

At 11pm one year ago Tuesday, I watched a cancer that destroyed so much more than flesh–die. When my mom breathed her last breath, though, I watched her spirit set free. The cancer dead, her spirit free. No string of words could capture the intricate complexity of emotions that resulted in pools of tears from everyone in the room, but I will always remember the incomprehensible peace that hovered in that place. I saw with my own eyes the way that peace trumped death as the bold grip of God’s hand led my mother through what must be a terrifying valley to a place she wouldn’t trade a second on this earth for. And we sent her in with joy, even as our hearts ached deeply. Run and don’t ever look back. You’re almost home, Mom. We will always love you.

It is amazing how that peace has followed me throughout my life, in celebrations and heartbreaks alike. I’m in awe of the people God has placed in my life, like my school staff and students, who remind me to run, remembering the love that I have received in the past and heaping more love and grace on, especially in the days when I’m tempted to look back for the wrong reasons. It is in moments like these that I see my mother’s love. Her wisdom. Her care. Her grace.

To my teachers and students and faithful friends and wonderful family, I am so grateful for the strength you have been for me through the absolute hardest year of my life. For your grace and mercy–compassion and understanding. Thank you for pushing me and letting little things slide and helping me even though I hate asking for help. You are and always will be dear to my heart. Let us never forget that our God sees us, hears us, and stays so very near to us, rain or shine. Let us never forget to notice His beautiful patterns and plans and placements that heal us in our most broken places.

Answered

Answered

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” -C.S. Lewis When you are terrified to drive in simple rain, there is no adequate … Continue reading

Lodged

Image

 

The rain to the wind said, 

‘You push and I’ll pelt.’

They so smote the garden bed 

That the flowers actually knelt,

And lay lodged–though not dead.

I know how the flowers felt.

-Robert Frost

 

“Hey Barbre, maybe you should take a day off.”

 

After the 4th time that cautious “not-that-you-need-to-but-really-you-need-to” suggestion was whispered my way, I caught a glimpse of my tired, red eyed reflection and melted into my swivel chair with a deep, sad sigh. I looked around my perfectly themed classroom, remembering the hours I spent excitedly arranging the flowers and bows and chevron decorations, hand painting the humongous “You are My Sunshine” banner, and choosing my signature room plug-in scent. I thought about the very first day of school when my rules and procedures presentation turned into a heart felt motivational speech filled with my love for each and every person in the room. While I will always love that naive, beautifully hopeful August 2013 version of myself in a “bless her heart” kind of way, I couldn’t help but desperately wonder, “what happened to me?” 

Teaching is an interesting craft–an art form, if you will. 

You have to have each minute of the day meticulously planned with seamless transitions from engaging activity to engaging activity. 

Must Be: Obsessively organized, an excessive planner, in full control

It is essential that you are willing to change all plans at the drop of a hat in case of unforeseen circumstances like a technology break down, school wide pep rally, fire drill, or lack of student engagement.

Must Be: Flexible, willing to go with the flow  

You, of course, have order, provide direction, and expect excellence.

Must Be: Neat, in charge, ready to correct mistakes

You must also be able to allow students to self-direct their learning.

Must Be: Willing to allow noise/mess, release control, allow mistake making

You’re responsible for inspiring students to develop a passion for learning and for limiting the scope of learning to master a set of mandated standards.

Must Be: Inspiring and stifling 

You are responsible for correcting inappropriate behavior. 

Must Be: Rigid, intolerant 

You are expected to make exceptions for certain circumstances and give grace and mercy.

Must Be: Sympathetic, flexible, understanding 

In recap, a teacher is: An excessive planner who is happy to throw out hours of preparation to go with the flow. An organized, neat professional. A taker of full control in guiding excellence and managing classrooms who is comfortable where loud noise levels of mistake makers who have taken the prized control make messes. A person who is both inspiring and stifling. Rigid and flexible. The yes and no. A stop and go. 

That sounds like me! Oh wait. 

The pressure of becoming such a creature made me fall in love with the poem by Robert Frost at the beginning of this entry entitled “Lodged.” – A flower’s (dramatic) story about the wind and rain plotting an attack against her. 

Somewhere between the expectations and standards, the paperwork and the grading, the meetings and the emails, the interruptions and the incessant questioning, the tedious details and the careless behavior of 11 year old kids, I too became overwhelmed with the pelting of my rain and the whipping of its wind, convinced this weather was out to kill. Weighed down, I stopped looking into little eyes full of wonder and fear and reckless abandon that sat before me each day. Eyes of guilt and hurt, some of hope. Eyes of trust, anxious for approval. Instead, I counted tops of heads to document attendance, gazed at papers on desk tops as I walked through the room, and pointed to feet in chairs to correct posture. “No time for investing!” I subconsciously declared. And that, my friends, is when the rain hurt the most–when the sheer amount of weight sent me to my knees. 

The funny thing is that rain doesn’t kill flowers; it makes them grow. It refines them, washing away their imperfections, getting rid of what is not deeply rooted. It is fuel, fulfilling their deepest thirsts, reminding them of their dependence on this faithful source. My God is the very same to me, and He faithfully pours out on us. He reminds me to be a connector instead of a dictator. To smile and laugh with my kids instead of only focusing on their achievement scores. To be gracious when they have to go to the bathroom but lost their last passes. To be patient in repeating directions. To be fair in discipline. To forgive myself for not getting everything laminated on brightly colored paper or when I try my best but fail at a lesson. To love well and to always let people know that they are seen and they are cherished.

I pray that today we would stop fighting our life source, stop rejecting his forging. Most of all, I pray we would never be too “busy” to see His people with compassionate love and grace that never run dry. May we lay lodged–firmly fixed, embedded, in the stages and seasons and places we are in until we have learned what He has for us to learn and do what he has for us to do. May we be honest and sorry and true when we fall short, resting in His power that is bigger than our shortcomings. May we be humbled when loved ones tell us to take a day off : ). Most of all, may our persecutions and hardships come from spreading His glory at all costs as in the beautiful testimony below instead of from our own selfish desires for comfort and happiness in this world. 

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body… we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10; 14-18