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?

Faith

Faith! For my daily devotional today I read Mark chapter 5. Each of the stories in today’s readings are about faith.

The possessed man knew that Jesus could heal him. Even the evil spirits in the possessed man knew the power Jesus had. The evil spirits knew that Jesus could banish them and order them out of the man. The possessed man believed in Jesus’s healing power, and was healed.

The woman suffering from hemorrhaging for 12 years knew that simply touching Jesus’s robe could heal her. “She was thinking to herself, ‘If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.'” (Mark 5:28). There were many people pushing and shoving and touching Jesus, but because of her faith, she was healed when she touched his robe. When she touched him, Jesus knew his power had been used to heal her. She believed, and it happened. Faith.

Jesus arrives at the home of his friends whose child had just died. Everyone was grieving, but Jesus told her to get up, and she did. Faith.

faith

Faith. Trusting. Knowing. Believing.

Are we willing to take that leap of faith that God is asking us to take?

Do we have enough faith in our lives?

 

Gratitude

I can’t believe it. I feel so grateful for everything that is in my life. It is only recently that I can even realize the many blessings in my life compared to where I was. I currently have the most amazing supports in my life. I have some amazing local supports of friends who will hold me and love me through everything. I also have friends from throughout different stages of my life who love and support me from a distance.

For much of my life I didn’t feel like I deserved friends like the ones I have now. I didn’t think I should have people who loved me. It’s hard to imagine but I feel like for the first time in my life I am letting myself bloom, letting myself be happy.

I look at what I have in my life now and I know that I couldn’t have had this just a few short years ago. My ex-husband held me back. He didn’t want me to have friends. He was controlling. He was overshadowing. And I let it happen. I thought that was love. I thought that was what I deserved.

When he got mad, I also thought I deserved that.

When he lost his temper, I thought it was my fault.

When he blamed me, I blamed me too.

But there was an angel in my life who helped me to see a light. A brighter future. And a promise of something better. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Since then, I have realized that there is an amazing world out there that I am part of. That I deserve to be part of. That I make better by being part of it.

I always thought I was pretty accelerated at things. I was a good student. I excelled in my studies and I have always been pretty forward moving and goal orientated in my career. But when it comes to life, I guess I am a late bloomer.

I feel like a butterfly who has finally gotten out of my cocoon and out of the dark shadows of my past. I feel like I can finally spread my wings and fly. I feel like I deserve this happiness that I am now feeling.

gratitude

I am so grateful for the blessings in my life.

Each morning I wake up with a smile on my face for the amazing gifts I have in my life. That you to all those people who saw I was worthy before I did and who have helped me to embrace my new found sense of self.

Together

I looked up the antonym for alone the other day and it was together, or accompanied. I have worried and stressed about being alone. I am not currently in a relationship and my ex is already living with someone else and has a new family with them. But last weekend I realized that I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was.

My son had has play, The Wizard of Oz. it was great fun. I went to all three shows (it’s what moms do). On Friday night we had 9 people at the show: me, a good friend from out of state who came all the way to see him, my son and his girlfriend who drove over two hours from college, a friend from work and her husband, a friend from church and her daughter and my pastor. It was such a great, warm feeling to have so many people there.

On Saturday afternoon 11 people were there: me (again), my parents, brother, another brother and sister-in-law, my niece and her husband, another niece, and a friend from work and her son. My son’s social studies teacher also came to see him.

On Saturday night I knew my ex was going with his girlfriend. I asked another friend from work to go with me. My son’s best friend since kindergarten and her mom also came. The whole weekend was great. He had so many people, there for him and I felt the opposite of alone, I felt surrounded. I felt surrounded by love, by friends, by, people and by caring.

And on Saturday night when I saw him with his girlfriend I recognized the look in her eyes. The fear and controlling that comes with spending time with him. I saw the uncertainty in her eyes of being in public with him. He could be so volatile, and unpredictable, and sometimes just down right mean.

And then I thought about how I felt all weekend. I didn’t feel the fear of upsetting him. I didn’t feel the hesitation of him controlling me. I didn’t feel the uneasiness of having my family around and having him be upset about it. And I didn’t feel alone.

surrounded

I realized that without him controlling who I spent time with and him limiting who I could be friends with, I have surrounded myself with a wonderful support system. It took some time to learn to let them in and accept the support and love from my friends, but I now realized that I am not alone.

And I’m happy.

Wizard of Oz

A student that I work with who was raped by her boyfriend almost a year ago came up to me and told me that the anniversary of that horrible event is coming up. And when she told me the date, I realized that on that date I would be sitting through two shows of The Wizard of Oz. And it made me think about the characters and what they are searching for in the play and what we are all searching for in life: a brain, a heart, the nerve and a home.

These are my thoughts for her…

A Brain

The scarecrow wants a brain. He fears he is only full of fluff and isn’t smart enough. He sings to Dorothy that if he had a brain, “Then perhaps I’ll deserve you, and be even worthy of you.” And isn’t that what brains or smarts are all about? Being respected and admired by others for our ideas. At the end of the play the Wizard gives him a doctor of thinkology degree and be begins spouting facts about isosceles triangles.

But I think the kind of brains or smarts that the scarecrow wants throughout the play is really more about wisdom than book smarts. He made a plan to save his friend. He thought about what would be the best way to free her from the witch’s guards. It wasn’t book smarts that freed her, but rather using his brains to think through a situation.

For me the importance of this kind of smarts throughout your life is essential. Thinking about possible solutions and the outcomes of those solutions helps you to make informed decisions to help your friends and to help yourself.

Having brains is also about recognizing a bad or dangerous situation, which is not always an easy thing, and finding a way to get out of it. The situation my student told me about was extremely difficult for anyone, but even more difficult for someone so young. This was her first significant boyfriend. She trusted him. She loved him. She didn’t really have a frame of reference for a healthy relationship, but she knew that something was wrong with the relationship. She knew that he was controlling and manipulative, but she didn’t know how to get out of the situation. He used her trust and love to manipulate her and get her to do what he wanted, or take what he wanted.

Abusive relationships aren’t about book smarts. Anyone can be fooled. It’s bigger than book smarts. But that’s because when you are in a relationship, your heart is also involved. And that is where the Tin Man comes in.

A Heart

We have read and rehearsed every line to the play over and over again. My favorite line to practice is when the Wizard is saying to the Tin Man that he doesn’t realize how lucky he is to not have a heart, because until a heart is unbreakable its not worth having. Then at the end when Dorothy is saying good-bye to the Tin Man he says that he knows he has a heart because now it’s breaking.

Given the fragile nature of a heart it’s a wonder any of us want one at all. Kind of goes against the brains because if you were smart enough, you would know you don’t really want a heart. And I definitely struggle with having a heart, and caring about others, or having the brains not to trust or love again. But I’m too much of a softie for that. I know I have a heart. Because it’s breaking all over again.

It breaks over again for my students. It is broken because someone took advantage of her trust and love and hurt her. He hurt her so deeply that there are days when she doesn’t want to ever trust or love again. And there are days when she wants that love back so strongly that it hurts for different reasons.

Having a heart is a tricky thing. When you experience love it can make your heart sing and make you smile for no reason. But when your heart breaks, it can crush you just as deeply and make you cry for no reason. And that brings us to the Lion and having the courage to love again.

The Nerve

One of my favorite lines that the cowardly lion has is when he says, “All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. There’s only one thing I want you guys to do.”

The Tin Man and Scarecrow reply, “What’s that?”

The Lion replies, “Talk me out of it!”

To me this is what courage is all about. Being scared of doing something, but doing it anyway. It isn’t easy and doesn’t always make sense, but courage means standing up for what you know is right.

She had the courage to get out. It took her a while to understand what she needed to do, but she did it. She also had the courage to tell others and stand up for herself.

It took nerve, courage to get out.

She showed courage by standing up for herself.

It took love to get out.

She gave her heart over to him. But she knew in her heart she deserved more.

It took brains to get out.

She used her brains in sharing her story, as hard as it was and as much as she fought it. By sharing it and owning it, she took back the power and control he took from her.

But in the end, what I want, what she wants, what Dorothy wants, is a home.

A Home

To me the home that Dorothy is talking about is not the physical home, but the safety and security of being loved and cared for. The feeling of family and belonging. It is the basis for all things we want, a place to fit in and be loved.

Dorothy had it all along. She just didn’t realize it. Sometimes we need to look no farther than our own back yard to realize that we do belong, that we do have the brains to make good decisions for ourselves, that we have the heart to care about others and the courage to open up our heart and do what we have to do for the ones we love.

The wizard tells the Tin Man to remember, “that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” It feels good to know you are loved by others. But it takes courage to open up your heart and let others love you. But it also takes brains to know how to get in the right kind of relationship or get out of the wrong one.

You need to trust yourself and remember, “There’s no place like home.”

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.

Valentine’s Day tears

Sobbing. Bawling, Tearing up. Weeping. Welling up.

There are a lot of different ways to describe crying.

Being in my 40s I kind of through that a simple holiday like Valentine’s Day would no longer have the power to make me cry, but this year it did. Twice.

First though, it was tears of joy.tears of joy

I am the principal of a middle school and one of my sweet 8th grade girls created some Valentine’s Day fortunes for her friends. I saw one on another girl’s plate and it read:

“I’m dieting this Valentine’s Day, so I’m accepting diamonds instead of chocolate”

Very cute, very fun, and very appropriate.

So she asked me if I wanted one. I asked if they were “principal appropriate.” She smiled and said “Mostly.” I guess I could have walked away at that point, but they were cute and she really is a good kid. So I pick out a Valentine’s fortune. As I read it, the girls next to me starts reading it too and we burst out laughing.

The one I picked read:

“Wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day from the bottom of my boobs. I would say my heart but my boobs are bigger.”

We were all cracking up. I’m not sure whose face was redder – hers or mine.

She tells me to pick another one. So I do. And it read:

“I’m only in this relationship for your cute butt.”

I hand it back to her. The entire table is now hysterical. Tears are rolling down my face from laughing so hard. “Those are the only 2 that were bad at all.” She promises me, but I tell her I’m all done with her Valentine’s fortunes.

She frantically finds me another one that says:

“Yay! Valentine’s Day! That means discounted chocolate the day after.” I smile wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes.

While that moment of crying was a good one. My next Valentine’s Day tears were not shed in joy. I woke up at 5:00 in the morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep. That’s not usually a good sign for me. It’s when I start to think too much, and that’s exactly what happened.

I began to think about Valentine’s Day and being part of a couple, which I am not. And I started to get sad, really sad, about being alone.

And I cried. A heart wrenching, sobbing, all out bawling cry.tears

I hate being alone. I am afraid I will never have someone to share my life with, to share myself with. I am afraid I’m a burden to my friends. I’m sad that I feel so damaged that no one will love me again. So I cried.

But one thing is true about both of the cries I had on Valentine’s Day. They were both good for me, good for my soul.

The laugh until you cry cry, was great. It was fun. It made me smile. It made me feel good. And it is important to let yourself laugh and feel good.

The heart wrenching, tears pouring down my face cry, was also great. I spend so much of my time pretending that it doesn’t hurt and that I’m not sad, that it was great to just let it out and cry.

Being alone is hard. Being alone is scary. But being where I am now is better than were I was before. Sometimes it is hard for me to recognize and remember that. Giving myself permission to just cry and be sad is important. Just so long as I don’t get stuck in the sad tears and allow myself the tears of joy too.

Authority

What is authority and how is it given? Is it conferred with a degree? Granted with certification? Is it an advanced degree, or a title, or a position that determines authority?

I have several degrees, more than a couple certifications, and I have been given the title of principal of a middle school. But with what kind of authority do I have to lead my teachers, my students or my school?

I will admit I am a rule follower and for the majority of my life I didn’t really question authority. I did what was asked of me because a person in authority asked me to do it, and I didn’t really question that.

But now I find myself in an interesting position. I am in a position of authority, but there are also others who have authority over me. I am constantly making decisions based on interactions with others who have authority over me that also influence my interactions those whom I have authority over.

I argue that authority isn’t something that should simply be given or granted, but rather it is something that should be earned. Authority isn’t a power or a right, but instead it is earned because of your experience, and more importantly, your actions.

A quote from something we read in church today challenges us to:

Live honestly, act courageously and to speak from our wisdom.

Maybe that is what authority is all about.

If we can live honestly, anticipate honesty from others, and make honest decisions about why we do things then I think we gain the power and confidence to exercise authority over others.

Authority is also about acting courageously and making difficult decisions. People in authority need to be strong enough to make difficult decisions, and honest enough to defend why they made those decisions.

Finally authority comes from speaking from wisdom, our individual, personal wisdom as well as the collective wisdom of those whom we exercise authority over.

I question these traits in the people who have authority over me.

Are they being honest? Are their intentions explicit and straightforward?

Are they acting courageously? Are they willing to make and defend difficult decisions? Are they willing to say no to something that isn’t right? And say yes to something that isn’t easy?

Are they speaking from wisdom, both personal and collective?

And am I doing these things as well?

My teachers should expect honesty in their interactions with me. I try my best to make my intentions honest and straightforward.

I try to act courageously in all things I do. I challenge the status quo when need be. And I push for the difficult things that I think are important.authority

And I spend a great deal of time trying to learn the collective wisdom of my school and speak from that wisdom as my own.

When we listen, care, and respect those whom we have authority over, trust is built, and trust is the foundation for inspiring others to believe in you, and that is when real authority is developed.