Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Make new friends...

Way back when I was a brownie, we learned a song that goes like this....

"make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold."

As I sit here and reflect on the events of birthday week, that song kept popping into my head. Old and new friends alike helped to make my 29th birthday one of the best ever! Starting last Wednesday with girl's dinner and lots of vino at Brix, continuing on Friday (my actual b-day) with hugs and well wishes from students in all grade levels, an early morning birthday Bonanza (complete with two really awesome tickets to see BON JOVI!!!!!) b-day lunch from panera and a cookie cake, over 75 facebook bday posts, snacks and Howling with the Kaiser girls on Friday night [plenty of dancing on the stage for me ;-) ], then creme brulee french toast brunch on Sunday after church, a two hour phone call with my best friend Beth who lives in Maine, all the way to today when I came home to find a package from Beth with all things nostalgic circa 2000-2004.

Friends near and far, thanks for making my birthday so awesome. I am sooo blessed to have you in my life. I really don't know what I'd do without you!

Monday, May 2, 2011


     Today, Leslie (my teaching partner and right hand woman) and I were working with a group of 5th graders who didn't pass reading TAKS. We were doing a lesson on character analysis and we were talking about how the characters change from the beginning of the story to the end of the story, which got me thinking about the broader implications of character analysis beyond fictional stories.
     As human beings, we generally have a hard time with change. Even if the change is desired or bring about more favorable circumstances, it still can be hard to deal with or take some getting used to. I am no exception to this rule. I think that I adapt pretty well to change, but that doesn't mean I always like it.
    For me, the most difficult changes to accept are the changes in relationships of all kinds, or the changes in people that then necessitate a change in the relationship. I think these changes are the most difficult to deal with because they are often the most unexpected. You're going about life, minding your business and then "WHAM" you get broadsided by a change that leaves you completely dumbfounded, wondering how you got there.
    As someone who has worked hard to not let her past dictate who she will become in the future, I can certainly appreciate that growth can bring about change! Thank goodness I am not the girl I was in High School! I have worked very hard to battle against destructive patterns and habits that are not healthy- physically or emotionally.  
     But I wonder- can a person change so drastically that you don't even recognize them? (I'm not talking about physical changes like dying your hair or losing 200 lbs) Or is the perceived change not really a change at all, but a reflection of a person's true character that you overlooked? Do we see what we want to see when it comes to other people and then are left feeling adrift when the rose colored glasses come off?
    6 months ago, I walked away from a 4 year romantic relationship. I still know it was the right decision, but as I go over the pieces and try to figure out what went wrong, I keep coming back to this idea of change. In the beginning of our relationship this guy was the ultimate pursuer/wooer. For the first 10 months, we lived 1,500 miles apart. He had the much more flexible work schedule, so he flew out to see me every 3 weeks. We would have these incredible weekends hanging out with each other or my friends and family. We would go to church together and despite his previous misgivings about religion and church, he would participate in the service and we would have some deep conversations about spirituality. Before I moved to Houston to be with him, He did a whole bunch of research on school districts that I should apply to and even visited several Lutheran churches and found one downtown that we could attend together. When I moved down here, there was definitely an adjustment period of learning to live in close proximity, but we both still tried really hard to make the relationship work. I changed my eating habits to accommodate more whole grains and vegetables (two of his favorite things); I even started cooking with flax seed! He slowly changed his work habits to work less/come home at a reasonable hour. Things were going pretty well, or so I thought. Then he stopped coming to church with me, he stopped wooing and pursuing me.  He stopped doing things that we had always enjoyed doing together. I tried to get him to acknowledge these changes and explain them, but he couldn't (verbal communication was not his strong suit- at least not in relationship matters). So then I stopped trying too because every time I put in an effort to change things (to make them better) he would not respond, acknowledge or reciprocate. The point of this story is not to assign him all the blame because I know there are mistakes that we both made and I certainly had my fair share of wrong turns. Yes, there were some red flags about the relationship that were always there that I ignored/chose not to see, but in general, I am completely dumbfounded when I think about the person that I met back in October 2006 and the utterly different person who I broke up with in November 2010.
I don't think I will ever get answers for the root cause of the 180 degree change in behavior or even some of the symptoms of it, which I guess confirms that we weren't meant to be, but it doesn't make the change any easier to swallow.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What are you worth?

Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about worth/value. How does something get assigned value? Who gets to decide value? I know that our perceived value or worth of something is based upon the laws of supply and demand. For example, if something is in high demand but low supply, the object's worth/value increases. The greater the imbalance between supply and demand, the higher the perceived value. Things can also have a high value based on our emotional attachment to them. Even things with a small monetary value can be our greatest treasures because of the emotions we attach to them. In fact, some of the things that have the highest value to me are letters, pictures and mementos. These things have little if any monetary value, but besides my dog, they are the things I would grab first if my house was on fire because of the relationships, emotions and feelings they represent.
But what about people? How do we place a value on a person? Why do we value some people more than others?  In this book called Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (a book I HIGHLY recommend btw), there is this one section where the author talks about his own realization of how the world thinks of people in economic terms... he talks about how human beings use terms such as "investing in relationships, relationships that can be bankrupt" etc. He then goes on to talk about how human beings generally place a higher value on those people/those relationships where we feel we are getting something in return. He talks about how the commandment to love others as we love ourselves is repeated so often in the Bible because we learn our worth/unworth from other people.
This concept of worth is something that I have struggled with all of my life. Growing up, I had several experiences where I learned that I was not worth very much. While I now know that those hurtful words were said out of frustration and anger and not necessarily the truth, it is those hurtful words that stick with me more than anything- The old adage that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is the furthest thing from the truth, at least in my experience! Despite all the evidence to the contrary, and all the other examples I have of people validating and honoring me- those examples of people seeing my worth, I still have internalized the idea that somehow I'm not worth very much. Why is it that the negative reviews are the ones we hold on to, even when the positive ones out number the bad 100 to 1?
 I think that is partly why I am an extreme people pleaser. I go out of my way to prove my worth/value to others by doing things for them or offering to help or whatever they need. I am the "yes" girl because I don't want anyone to think that I am without value.  Of course, I think that my people pleasing tendencies are also just a part of who I am, but  I think part of that is certainly tied to feeling valuable/wanted/needed.
Having grown up in the church, with several relatives who are Lutheran pastors, I know very well all the verses like Ephesians 2:8-10 " For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  I see my own sinful nature and I recognize that the above verses must be true in regards to my salvation- if it were up to my own works, nothing could measure up and I wouldn't even have a hope of salvation.  But I have a really hard time applying these verses to my personal relationship with God. I have a hard time understanding why He would value me. Again- I know all the scripture by heart about how God made us and knows us intimately and therefore values us, but the believing part is more difficult. This is one reason why I find it difficult to pray for myself. When I pray for others, I have no difficulty praying with boldness and specificity. I fully believe that God will grant the things that I ask- in fact so many times I have seen this to be true. But I have a really hard time praying for myself.  In His mercy, He has been revealing these false beliefs to me, through a Bible study about the life of King David, the Lord has been showing to me that He wants me to cry out to Him, to ask things of Him, and to seek Him first, and then he will grant the desires of my heart. I still haven't prayed with boldness and specificity for the deepest desire of my heart, but I'm learning to start with the little things, in hopes that as I learn this discipline that I might be able to trust everything to Him- in the mean time. I'm grateful that He is patient and that I have awesome friends who are willing to pray for me when I can't pray for myself.