perder la vida

Learning to Live Missionally and Mindfully

Count Your Blessings May 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Katie @ 1:47 pm

I remember singing “Count Your Blessings” as a child. It was one of my favorites, probably because it’s really country and sounds like a good old Southern hymn. The song says,

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost

Count your many blessings, name them one by one

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done

Beautiful, right? Sure. When life sucks, I can think about all the good times and about all the awesome things God has given me… like a nice house, a nice car, nice parents, food to eat, a good job. That’s what the song is telling me to do, right? When life sucks, I can count all the things that God has given me and “blessed” me with so I can look forward to more “blessings” once the suffering is over.

I was reading in Daniel this morning about the famous moment when he’s thrown into the lion’s den. Darius, unable to change the law that sent Daniel into the lion’s den, sealed the only exit and called to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” Darius spent the entire night sleepless, distraught and worried about Daniel’s life.

In the Medo-Persian empire, laws were unchangeable. Not even the king could change a law once it was made. But, I thought, Darius was the KING!!! Couldn’t he have made some sort of law that created a loophole so that Daniel’s life might be spared? How could he have so little control? Couldn’t he just make a new law and make this situation right?

Then it hit me: if Darius had “fixed” the situation, then what need would Daniel have for God? How would God have been glorified if Darius had solved the problem himself and spared Daniel’s life? Then Darius would have been praised and given credit and God would have been forgotten. I just love seeing the Lord work on our behalf in ways we don’t understand, in ways we could never imagine, and in ways that we could never work on our own.

We can do nothing on our own (John 15:5). God has certainly given us a brain and taught us how to use it and there are times when He empowers us to work things out for ourselves, though it is He who gives us the power and energy to do so. However, there are those times when we feel like we’re in our own lion’s den. We can do nothing to “fix” the situation – but we serve a God who CAN. We serve a God who loves us with a tremendous love and He is working for our good, on our behalf.

Not every situation is going to work out to be just peachy and dandy and with everything just the way we want it. If it did, we’d be serving a different god – the god of prosperity. Our God works in higher ways – His ways – by weaving together situations in the way that only He can so that He may be glorified. We are so blessed to have Him working for us – though we often only count our blessings as the things God has done for us where the end is appealing.

Old car? Blessed. New car? Blessed. Healthy body? Blessed. Cancer? Blessed. Financial hardship? Blessed. Material abundance? Stressed.🙂 Single? Blessed. Married? Blessed. Awesome job? Blessed. Sucky job? Blessed. Kids? Blessed. No kids? Blessed. Everything always works out for you? Blessed. Everything always seems to go wrong at the last possible minute when you’re already stretched as thin as you can be? Blessed.

The blessing is not merely what God is doing or what He will do for us – it is what God has already done! He sent His son to die on our behalf so that our sin may one day be removed and we may be found perfect and holy in His sight and spend eternity in His heavenly kingdom! Jesus Christ is the ultimate blessing!! We have Jesus and the Holy Spirit with us no matter where we go or what we do.

Having a “blessed life” isn’t about having a life that looks good in earthly terms. A blessed life is one in which Jesus is King and one where He is the treasure. When we relish in the material blessings, we start to worship God’s works instead of God Himself. God wants to bless us so much (Isaiah 30:18), but it is Him we seek – not His “blessings”. If we really believe that Jesus is enough, then we’ll begin to see those material blessings as the icing on the cake because Jesus Christ himself becomes our focus, our prize, our treasure.

I’ll count my blessings:

1. Jesus Christ; my salvation through Him, my relationship with Him, and my service to Him.

Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


 

No Air May 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Katie @ 1:49 pm

I have had that stupid Jordin Sparks song, “No Air” in my head for the past several days. Not because I am lamenting over some unrequited love, but because we literally have no air [conditioning] at my house. Today marks the sixth day we have been without air conditioning, meaning I have slept through five nights without any air conditioning.

Now, you probably think this is going to lead to some sort of cheesy “This has reminded me of how ungrateful I am for the things I have” or “We are such spoiled Americans….” but I hope you know me better than to expect some sort of predictable response. I’ll be flat out honest, I’ve been pissed that we’ve had no air conditioning. On the fourth day, I was just plain irritated and made sure everyone in my house knew how unhappy I was (Philippians 2:14 flew out the window for a few hours).

I have been reminded of how fortunate we are to have air conditioning and I have been reminded of how spoiled I am and how much I rely on modern conveniences over the past week. But, even more than that, I’ve been reminded of the true simplicity of life.

Losing air conditioning is a lot like losing electricity. It gives you the freedom to do things you would normally not do or that you might forget you can do. One of the highlights of the past six days was eating a delicious dinner on the back porch… looking at and talking about the stars, admiring the treeline behind my house and how beautiful it is as the sun sets, and watching three graceful deer graze in the pasture. Of course, we can eat outside anytime we please. But, this time was special. It was relief rather than just for fun.

I also slept with the windows open in my bedroom for the first time since we moved into our house. I didn’t even know we had screens on our windows – that’s how out of touch I am with my own house!! I’ve had the windows open for three days straight and have LOVED sleeping with them open! The morning dew and gentle breeze stirs up the fragrances of spring just enough to wake me up and entice me to get out of bed.

Today is the first day in six days that I have worn my hair down. Because it’s been so hot and humid inside, the last thing I’ve wanted to do is to dry and straighten my hair. Normally this is a big deal for me – not that I’m totally superficial, but…. I like my hair to look straight and neat. Not drying my hair has drastically cut down on the time it takes for me to get ready… giving me more time to read and relax in the morning before heading off for a busy day.

I have joked that I’ve treated the past few days without air conditioning as a sort of at-home mission trip. On the first couple of days, I tried to pretend I was back in Honduras, sleeping just two feet from a rickety ceiling fan and praying my head wouldn’t get chopped off if I needed to get up in the middle of the night. Having “no air” has reminded me of my short time in Gualaco and of how happy I was when we were there. No air conditioning, unreliable water and electricity, sweltering heat, and little sleep didn’t keep me from enjoying myself. Instead, it gave me the freedom to enjoy the cool morning and nighttime air, to play games with my friends under the porch fans, and to thank God for his air conditioning.

“No air” at home has reminded me of those same freedoms. Freedom to live a little more simply and to enjoy what God has given me. Freedom from dependency on man-made appliances. Freedom to celebrate God’s beautiful earth.

But, I won’t lie… I’m thrilled that the air conditioning is supposed to be fixed today. Hopefully the realizations of this experience won’t fade as the air begins to cool my house.🙂

 

My People. March 30, 2010

Filed under: creativity flowing,frustration,jesus,missional living,thinking — Katie @ 12:09 am

The past few weeks have been really hard on my emotions, body, social life, relationships, and all the other things that suffer when you’re stretched too thin. I waste what little truly free time I have because my brain is so fried that I can’t convince myself to be productive. But I also can’t convince myself to not be productive…. or at least I can’t convince myself that it’s okay to sit back and truly relax. The last day I had “free” where I could do whatever I wanted was the day I was sick several weeks ago… and I still did schoolwork and had to deal with the beginning of the end of my car. So, needless to say, I am in need of rest.

Today, I was about to break. Teaching and going to school plus having a life is all starting to get to me. But today some of my sweet students reminded me of my future as a teacher and of how the work I am doing now is all worth it. I try to bring a variety of books with me to 2nd grade for students to read when they have free time. Since testing is going on, the school day was a little more relaxed and there was plenty of time for free reading. My book selection today was a selection of poetry books. Two Langston Hughes books, a Caribbean poetry book, and a fun-read poetry book were the choices.

For about half an hour, I sat with five students… listening to them read beautiful poetry, question its “point,” and having them ask me to read poetry to them. It was the most beautiful moment of my entire time at Southview. I had no idea they’d be so interested in poetry… and interested in poetry that they didn’t necessarily understand. Hearing a struggling reader boldly read “Theme for English B” or the laughter of little boys when I explained the meaning behind “When Sue Wears Red” or the sweet song of a girl singing “Hey!”…. it just made my heart smile.

But the moment when I had to hold it together so I wouldn’t bust out in tears of thankfulness and adoration was when my little bitty ball of fire read “My People” with the passion and enthusiasm of a great orator. As she read, the uncomplicated words felt like a blanket around my worn-out soul… reminding me of the simplicity of the world and of the beauty of such magical moments.

“My People”

The night is beautiful,

So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,

So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.

Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

– Langston Hughes

 

Back from the ‘boro March 18, 2010

Filed under: frustration,jesus,missional living,spirtual matters — Katie @ 2:28 pm

It’s Spring Break. WORD.

Originally, I had no Spring Break plans other than to sleep, relax, and catch up on schoolwork. Then I decided that was ridiculous. So after a brief chat with my mom, I thought that a trip to Greensboro (NC) would be a great idea. It WAS a great idea! It wasn’t a very long trip… but long enough to get away from Tuscaloosa, catch up with some great friends, and fall a little bit more in love with North Carolina.

What I realized about Greensboro during this trip is that it’s just a really big small town. As Greensboro has grown, it has built itself around existing buildings and homes. I’m sure many structures have been demolished over time to make way for growth, but many more remain. The downtown area is also not overwhelming… nowhere near the madness of Atlanta or Boston. Okay, I know those cities are much, much larger than Greensboro… but… that’s what I think of when I think of driving downtown! Anyway, I could go on and on about all the things I love about Greensboro.

But, what I loved most about this trip was our visit to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum (could they have chosen a longer name?). According to Alisa, Greensboro is where the civil rights movement began.🙂 The museum is actually located in the old Woolworth’s department store building, which is where four young men from NC A&T protested the injustice of the continued practice of segregation. They began their protest on February 1, 1960. Within a week, students from other universities in the south began holding their own sit-ins. Within three months, the sit-in movement had swept the racially tense south and helped bring racial segregation to an end.

Since I am from the south and have experienced modern racism, I am fascinated by anything and everything to do with the civil rights movement. But, this museum moved me in an unexpected way.

The first exhibit featured a KKK robe and hood. I did not expect to see that… at all. It was in a dimly lit case and, at first, I didn’t notice it. I walked closer to the case to read an information board on an adjacent wall. Then, I realized I was standing right next to this disgusting artifact. Once I realized what it was, I almost broke down in tears right then and there! There is a part of me that is so ashamed of the people who came before me. None of my family was involved with the KKK… in fact, my great-grandfather (a rich landowner, farmer, and employer) set an example in our community for helping African-Americans. But, I still cringe whenever I see anything related to that awful organization. I wondered how I really would have felt about blacks during the 50’s and 60’s. Would I have been a friend? Would I have helped fight for civil rights? Or would I have fallen into the trap of ignorance like so many southern whites?

I could go on and on about the things I saw in the museum and how I feel and how I am constantly taking for granted the freedoms and civil liberties that we have now. Just being able to stand in the same room with people of all races is a major achievement. But, what I haven’t stopped thinking about since the visit is not about race at all. I started thinking about human trafficking and the fact that there are more people enslaved today in 2010 than there were before the American emancipation. I don’t think about it much because it’s not as prominent in the U.S. But, countries across the world are harboring and trading human beings for sex and labor. India alone has 40 million bonded slaves (the Dalits/Untouchables) working to pay off the debts of their ancestors.

I wonder what I can do… I wonder if I can do anything. I wonder why our attention has been on Iraq for so long when there are so many more people hurting across the world? I wonder why we are stuck on one civil rights movement (Though powerful! And important!) when our global brothers and sisters in our current day and time have no civil rights and no liberties are are being treated like animals. I wonder if things will ever change. To me, the problem seems so big that there may not be a solution. But I hope that as we become more aware of the realities of this world,  people will begin to take a stand the way those four young men took a stand for racial equality in a time of division and hatred. And maybe… just maybe… one day I will walk through the halls of a museum dedicated to the disenthrallment of slaves everywhere.

That was deep.🙂

 

Tales from Second Grade March 13, 2010

Filed under: 1 — Katie @ 1:54 am

The fun never stops at Southview Elementary! The kids are constantly doing and saying things that simply crack me up. I know that all kids say things that are funny and cute, but these kids really have something going for them. Maybe it’s just because of the seriousness of their questions and comments… or maybe it’s just the way they say things. Yeah, I think that’s it. These kids have some attitude. Generally, I hate the attitude. But, when they say some of the things they say… the attitude’s where it’s at.

Moments from the past couple of weeks:

– Their surprised faces when I came to class on a Friday instead of a Monday or Tuesday (I had to make up a missed day)

– During lunch, one kid (we’ll call him T.I.) was asking about my son. Well, of course, I don’t have a son. So, then he said “Ms. Lewis, you got grandkids?”

Me: Do I look old enough to have grandkids?

T.I. & surrounding crew: YES!

– Tuesday, I read a short story that didn’t have pictures during reading. The story started off by saying that a little girl had a “chocolate Labrador puppy.” Like a brilliant teacher, I said “Class, does ‘chocolate’ mean that the dog was actually made out of chocolate?’” Of course, seeing that they are all African-American and quite familiar with slang, they yelled “No!! That’s just what color he is!” Yeah, I felt like an IDIOT!

– I got asked if I was pregnant today.

– It seems that I have a new tattoo every week… some days the one on my wrist is a cross. Other days it is an “A,” an “Alabama A,” a star, or chopsticks. No one’s said chopsticks, but that’s what I think it looks like sometimes.

Those are cute and funny stories… yes, I know.But the BEST comment that has been said this entire year goes as follows:

Scene: Hallway, end of day.

Set-up: All the second-graders are lined up ready to go home for the day. I have my marker out, threatening to change behavior “numbers” in their take-home folders if the kids misbehave. I have already given “the look” and some fierce-toned comments to misbehaving students. I get on to a couple more students… and then some kid comes and runs up at me and I stop him with my arm and he hangs on my arm…. Then I sternly tell him to go get back in line. Then, a kid in my class says this…

Statement: Ms. Lewis, you tough! You like a football player! Why yes, yes I am. Tough. Like a football player.

 

For all the things that don’t go wrong… March 11, 2010

Filed under: 1 — Katie @ 3:37 am

I admit that I am the first person to shake my fist at the sky when something goes wrong and give a big Rachele Whorley, “REALLY!? REALLY, GOD!?” when things aren’t going my way.

Just recently, when my car died a few weeks ago (in the middle of the street… while I had a 100.5 fever…), I just sat there and thought Seriously, God? Today? while I looked towards the heavens.

Sometimes, I take pride in this. I take pride in the fact that I am very honest with God. I have never been afraid to ask “Why?”. When I hear people say “Oh, that Sandra… when her house burned down and she and her family barely escaped, she never asked, ‘Why?’, she just kept going and did what she had to do.”

Well… I’m sorry. I’m not that person. I have asked “Why?” more than once. When my dad died, you can bet that I was asking some major “Why’s”. When I was sick and homebound for three weeks during Christmas 2008, I guarantee I threw up some “Why’s”. For some reason, I have always felt like this was a good thing. My feelings, good or bad, are presented to God in a raw (but probably inappropriate at times) manner and I clearly state my case before him.

But… what I often fail to do is thank God for all the things that don’t go wrong. During worship on Sunday, I just stood in amazement that the vast majority of the sound equipment was working. Have you ever been ready to play for a worship service only to have your sound equipment go out? Yeah, that’s a major stressor.

Then I thought about how many times (91 days worth of time over the past 5 years, to be more exact) I’ve been in my car and not wrecked. Then I thought about how I am not homeless even though my income last year was… well… let’s just say well below the poverty line. Then I thought about how I am not dying from some disease. Then I thought about all the times I did not realize I didn’t have my debit card after loading $100 worth of groceries onto the conveyor belt. Then I thought about all the times my dog did not get hit by a car while he gallivanted on the street unleashed. I thought about all the times my mom has not yelled at me.

This is so elementary… I know that I should be more thankful. And usually, I am thankful that certain things happen. But every now and then, I think I need to stop and thank God for all the things that haven’t gone wrong in my day….

Like today…

I did not hydroplane on Hwy 69. (P.S. “Water on bridge” means “RIVER OF RAINWATER ON THE BRIDGE”)

I was not totally late to math

It did not rain while I walked from class to class

I did not fall and bust my butt while walking on slippery sidewalks

My bank account did not bounce today (or hopefully any day this week)

I did not have to eat a $6 1/2 sandwich from the Shelby P.O.D.

The Graves snack machine was not out of Spicy Chipotle flavored Sun Chips

Okay, some of those are pretty silly… but, hey, those little things made my day a pretty decent one.🙂

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  “16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 

Katie Lewis, breaker of racial barriers. March 2, 2010

Filed under: fun times,general information,mindful living — Katie @ 1:29 am

Today marked the start of my fourth week in my second grade placement. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure I liked my placement at first. These kids are TOUGH. They have little attitudes and talk back and are NEVER doing anything wrong (it’s always someone else’s fault). But, I really have grown to love them. There are so many sweet moments throughout the day that remind me what I’m doing what I’m doing. Three or four of them came up and gave me these really big hugs today and, even though part of me is thinking “Get off of me… I am your teacher,” an even bigger part of me is savoring these sweet little moments and thankful that I have an opportunity to touch their lives in some small way.

In addition to my new-found sentimentality, there has also been a slew of hilarious moments. Last week at lunch, I talked to a few of my students about our favorite musicians. Since Michael Jackson’s death, young children everywhere have put him on some pedestal. They all said they like Michael Jackson – I think I impressed them when I said “Billie Jean” is my favorite MJ song. We talked about Beyonce, Alicia Keyes, Lil Wayne, Tupac… you know, the stars.🙂 Today I talked to some kid about the Lakers/Nuggets game. ME. Katie Lewis. Talked about basketball.

Anyway…. so all of this has a point. Today at lunch, some of the kids and I were talking more about music and life. And then someone brought up skin color. I mentioned that some of my kids first assumed I was Chinese (because of my dark hair??), but other than that, no one has noticed that I’m the only white person in the room. The only reason this surprises me is because I’ve heard of the kindergarteners and 1st graders at this school flat-out tell their teachers that they didn’t have to listen to white people. So, I’ve been surprised not to have any problems out of my second graders regarding the color of my skin.

But today… man, today. They just about made me fall out of my chair. The kids were going around the table talking about how they were “brown” and then one of them looked at me and said, “Miss Lewis…. are you black or white?” I about died!! They had to ASK! I looked at them and said, “Now, what do you think?” Their response: “You’re white. Or maybe you’re just light-skinned.” WOW.

I guess the combination of my love for Tupac and my sass, they have been confused about my skin color. This has been one of the most surprising and also touching realizations of the semester. I am not one to necessarily care about skin color, but I have been concerned about how minorities react to a white teacher. I want to teach in low-income, racially diverse schools and…. well, I’m a well-to-do white girl. I have wondered, Will they respect me? Can I connect with them? Will they just see me as some white girl?

What I have learned over the past few weeks is that my skin color truly doesn’t matter. If I can connect with these kids and try to find common interests and try to be friendly (without being their friend – meaning, I maintain authority), then they could care less what color my skin is. I could be purple for all they care. If I don’t make a big deal of it, then they don’t make a big deal of it.

Maybe I should have known this all along, but… I really didn’t. I really expected forming relationships and gaining respect from these kids would be much more difficult. Part of me thinks that I was just given a good class with a good personality, but I wonder if what I’ve been doing (trying to connect with them) has actually helped. Either way, these kids have taught me so much already… and I’m so thankful for those 20 precious faces!🙂

 

 
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