There is a time

A time for everything

There is a time for everything. It even says so in the bible. At a recent prayer service, a friend of mine used the passage from Ecclesiastes 3 (NRSV)

Everything Has Its Time

3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

This is a beautiful passage and probably one that is worthy of 14 different blogs, but the one that struck me at the time was “a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together.” For me it also connected to “a time to break down, and a time to build up.”

In my life, it was always a time for gathering stones and building big giant stone walls, fortresses even, around my heart, around my inner-most feelings and around my dreams. If I didn’t let anyone in, then I couldn’t get hurt. Or so I believed. But when no one is allowed in, the fortress becomes very cold and lonely.

There have been times in my life where it was really important to build up the fortress. There were people whom I thought I could let in – like a brother, and husbands – but once inside were there to damage and destroy from within. And so I became scared. I gathered more and more rocks, and built my fortress more and more secure. And buried myself further and further inside.

But slowly I have learned that while there was a time for gathering stones and a time for building up my fortress, there is also a time to break down and throw away stones. There is a time to open up and let others in. There is a time to share the sorrows and the scary times, but also to share the joys and the celebrations because you can only really share both the tears and the joys if you let others in.

Through all of the stone gathering and building, the cornerstone that has been my strength and my constant has been my faith in God.

timeIt was that faith that led me to an amazing church family, an incredible set of friends, and a strength in myself that has helped me to tear down my walls and begin to celebrate me.

There is a time for everything in your life. What time is it for you now?

My dad

phd planIn looking at this cartoon about Ph.D. plan vs. Ph.D. reality, I can probably label each one of those bumps along the road. One might be when I started my new job. One might be my divorce. Another one might be for the medical challenges I faced. But that last one, that big one toward the end, I know exactly what that one is. That one is from last fall, when my dad got sick.

Just before school started I took the day off to go with my parents to see my dad’s orthopedic surgeon. He was supposed to have shoulder replacement surgery, but when they did the MRI, they found something suspicious. The appointment was to determine if he could have surgery or if he had cancer.

He had cancer.

The roller coaster began. It was doctors’ appointments, biopsies, and tests, tests and more tests. I sat with my dad as he staunchly told the nurse he had a DNR. I waited for him as he struggled to breath walking down the hallway, but too proud and stubborn to accept a ride in a wheelchair. I smiled and joked with him trying to help him keep his dignity as I undressed him because he couldn’t do it himself. I listened to what the doctor said. I asked questions. I tried to help my parents understand. i tried to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Then one Friday morning when I was at work, my mom called. Dad had fallen down in the bathroom and they were rushing him to the hospital. I left work. Raced home. Packed a bag. And went to him. I stayed with him in the hospital. They were trying to determine the primary source of the cancer. They were trying to determine how to treat it. They were trying to determine if they could treat it.

They couldn’t.

The next month was crazy. He went from the hospital to a nursing home where we struggled as a family to decide the best course of action, or inaction.

All the while, I brought my laptop and worked on my dissertation. I spent hours at night at the hospital or the nursing home sitting with my dad and typing away. He knew that I was close to finishing my dissertation and he was so proud of me. He had done all of his course work for his Ph.D. but never did the dissertation. I was the first in my family to finish.

At first I worked hard because I thought I could finish it while he was still alive and he could see me graduate. But then I knew he wasn’t going to make it until the spring and I was doubly determined to finish it for him.

Writing was kind of a companion for me late at night. I like to think that while the beeping of the machines he was on kept me company, the clicking of the keys while I typed kept him company. He knew I was there.

At the end of October, just about two months after we found out he had cancer, we brought him home to say good-bye. As he was so fond of saying in the last weeks of his life, he wanted to die surrounded by his loving family, and he did.

I was there with him. We had all been there with him at the end. His loving wife. All six of his children and their spouses. All thirteen of his grandchildren and their significant others, and both of his great grandsons.

But his reach went far beyond his family.

He was a coach. He coached baseball and basketball right up until the month before he got sick. He coached hundreds of kids over the 40+ years he coached. But he didn’t just influence the kids he coached; he changed everyone he came in contact with. Opposing coaches and opposing teams came to his wake to tell us how he impacted their lives through the strength of his character. His entire baseball team, in their uniforms came to the funeral to stand proud for him.

Everyone was special and important to him. He always took the time to talk to anyone he met. As a kid, it drove me crazy that he talked to anyone and everyone, but now it makes me proud to realize the impact he had on people’s lives because he took the time to talk to them. I try to be more like him each day.

I miss him everyday. We all do. I will miss him even more tomorrow, when I walk across the stage and get hooded as the first doctor in my family and he isn’t there to hold me in his arms and tell me he’s proud of me. But he will be there with me in spirit. He will be there in the tears I cry, the shouts of joy, and the sense of pride and accomplishment.

I love you dad. This moment is dedicated to you.

Rest for my weary soul

Each morning I read a daily reading bible called The Message remix 2.0 Pause A Daily Reading Bible by Eugene Person. This morning in my devotional I began reading Joshua 19-21. This part of Joshua is about which tribe gets which piece of land. It’s boring. As I started I sighed and asked God to show me why this was important for me to read.

Writing my journal reflection after one part of the reading struck me: “And God fave them rest on all side, as he had solemnly vowed to their ancestors.” (Joshua 21:44). I started thinking about how the Israelites were given rest after years of slavery, after years of wandering in the wilderness, after years of battling for their land. They were given land. They were given a home. They were given rest.

Then I thought about my new home. I’ve often compared it to my own promised land. A place God led me to. No more fear. No more ridicule. No more abuse. Just rest. A place of my own. A place where I have safety and security. A place I have rest.

Thank you God for fulfilling your promise to me and giving me a home where I can find rest. Rest for my weary soul.

Starfish

There is a poem about a man walking down the beach throwing individual starfish back into the ocean. A stranger happens upon him and asks him what he’s doing. He says that the starfish will die if left in the sun to dry out so he’s throwing them back. The stranger looks around at the thousands of starfish on the beach and asks what difference it makes, there are too many to save them all. The man picks up a starfish and throws it back in and says, “I made a difference to that one.”

starfish

As a middle school principal I sometimes feel like I’m surrounded by starfish.

Sometimes it is my teachers, who come into my office, shut the door and share with me something that is happening in their life. Whether it’s a divorce, a death in the family, the illness of a family member or themselves, I hold each of these teachers as they share their lives with me. And I try to make a difference to them.

Sometimes it is parents who come to me and tell me the family issues that they are dealing with. The stories of their life that make it a challenge for their child to focus in school. I try to listen to them and help them with their challenges, even if those challenges are the school itself. I try to make a difference with them.

And sometimes it is the students who share their personal struggles. Sometimes they are in tears because of a bad grade in math, and sometimes it is because of the horror they face when they go home. But whatever it is, I try to give them perspective, time, a shoulder to lean on, and in the end I try to make a difference.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming the number of “starfish” out there. I try my best to save each one. But sometimes you can’t save them all.

I have a high school student who has recently made some very poor choices. She did things that she will have to live with the consequences of for the rest of her life. So of course I am trying to figure out why I couldn’t make a difference to her? What could I have done to help her from making those bad decisions? Why didn’t she feel like she could reach out to me, or someone else, to help her? What did I miss?

I know I can’t always save them all. But I will continue to try.

Broken

It started when I was 10-years-old. I don’t know exactly when it stopped. I guess when he moved out of the house, or when I moved out of the house. Even though I don’t see on a regular basis anymore, I still battle the after effects everyday.

It happened slowly over time. At first it was just a hug or a kiss or a caress that all just felt like too much. It was a hand up my shirt or down my pants. Nothing that was easily identifiable, just uncomfortable.

He took advantage of my trusting nature. He took advantage of my rule following nature. He took advantage of the trust my parents put in him. He took advantage of the situation in which they left him in charge. He took advantage of me.

He destroyed my confidence. He told me I was worthless.

He destroyed my sense of self. He told me no one would ever love me.

He destroyed my trust. He told me no one would ever believe me.

He left me broken.

I have fought for years to try to rewrite the message that plays in my head: I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not worthy of love. Some days are better than others in believing it.

But… In my brokenness I have found healing.

In my brokenness I have found strength.

In my brokenness I have found hope.

Through that brokenness, I have used my own pain and experiences to help others. I have been able to help others know that while abuse shouldn’t define who you are, it will always be a part of you.

Through my brokenness I have comforted others and let them know that I understand, and I survived.

Through my brokenness I have been able (I hope) to help a little girl rebuild and redefine herself after a horrible event happened to her.

I think that as hard as it has been, and continues to be, if I can help one other person know that they are not alone, then my brokenness can be used for good.

Tools

Each of us has our own set of tools, our own proverbial toolbox. Throughout out lives we are faced with challenges, opportunities, and experiences, that help shape who we are and provide us with “tools” for our toolbox.

What we do with those tools can help us connect or separate us from others.

Some people use their experiences to separate themselves from others, sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively.

They might use them to make themselves seem more elitist or powerful than they really are. The experiences they had and the opportunities they were given make them somehow better than the average person. That trip abroad, or vacation they took puts them in a class by themselves.

But others use their challenges as ways to differentiate themselves out negatively. More of a “poor me” attitude. No one else could have possibly experienced the same types of trauma that they have. Maybe they had an abusive or absent parent. Maybe it was an illness they or their spouse had that sets them apart. They use their experiences to push others away.

In that case, the experiences become tools of destruction. Each experience is used as a way of separating from others and destroying, rather than building, relationships.

I try to see my experiences in a different way. I try to see each tool in my toolbox as a way for me to connect with others. I try to use my positive experiences, as well as my negative experiences as a way to connect, support and empathize with others.

When I sit down with one of my faculty members, a student, or a parent, I try to use those tools to share an experience and build a relationship with them.

Having a toolbox with tons of “tools” or experiences in it is only beneficial when those tools are used in a constructive way.

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