Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hope in the inbox: The Apple Tree Lesson

It happens almost every year a day or two before school starts. The anxiety builds up, I feel tired and unprepared for the beginning of school and my house is a wreck. I have something that looks like a mini-meltdown and my husband braces himself with an "I am trying to be patient and understanding but I really hope this is over soon" look on his face while I launch into a diatribe against everything I am afraid I won't be able to accomplish. It is fear-based and ridiculous and likely makes Jesus, Buddha, and the Dali Lama want to tell me to "get a grip." I do, eventually, get a grip and I breathe and smile. In the meantime, I vent rather loudly and rapidly  and when I stop to take a breath, my husband says, "Would you like a glass of wine, honey?"  After 5 or 10 minutes, there is some release and I gain some perspective back: I am prepared, (albeit not for everything and not perfectly)  I love my students, my subject matter, and the people I work with every day. All shall be well.

The next morning, I opened up one of the daily devotional readings that arrived in my inbox:

An inward transformation must produce an outward one. It is one thing to hang a few apples on a pecan tree. It is quite another to grow apples on an apple tree. The latter is a more reliable source of apples. Thus the regeneration of the apple tree, which then produces apples of itself and of natural necessity, is the best, indeed the only way to get apples. But those who claim to be apple trees without producing apples are kidding themselves." (Theodore W. Jennings)

This could mean a hundred different things I suppose but what it meant to me that morning was that first of all there is the need to work on the inner life, to draw from the deep well of God's love to regenerate. I can't produce anything good or worthy without that. As a teacher, I want to produce apples or good things that benefit students but I can't do it if I just appear to be doing the right things. So, this year, I want to regenerate often and to work on the inner transformation, changing my heart and soul before changing the outward works.

So, mini-meltdown over, hope and wisdom in the inbox, and the daily work of transformation begins.

God Bless,

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Letting in the Light

Last week, I had the chance to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. It is my "happy place" and I spend my time wandering as many trails as I can squeeze in, breathing deeply, and being awed by the natural beauty. I find myself saying, "thank you" over and over for each flower, tree, and live creature I see.  Nature has a healing quality and having my feet on the ground in the midst of the forest was restorative.

One of my favorite sights on those trails is the tiny groups of flowers or the small evergreen growing, inexplicably, from the rocks. I think of my backyard plants that I plant, water, and weed religiously. Sometimes, even in these ideal conditions, they don't survive. How then, does this new life spring up from nowhere and thrive?

All they need is a crack, some light, a windblown seed, and they begin to grow. Mountain moisture and sunlight sustain them. It is a beautiful thing and although I love the tall beautiful pines and the statuesque aspens, my biggest "wows" are reserved for the little bits of growths in the cracks.

My thoughts turn to the cracks in my own life, the vulnerabilities I try to keep hidden and out of sight and how revealing them honestly is how I am going to grow. I need to let the light in and allow for unexpected life to emerge. Seeds of wisdom will blow in from my wise friends and colleagues and allow for new learning to sprout. 

My students, tethered to my heart, come to mind. For many of them the approaching school days bring both excitement and anxiety. Excited to be back in their school community but knowing that with the academic and social demands of school their weaknesses are always in danger of being exposed. It is important for us, their teachers, to create safe places for them. It is essential that we don't attempt to appear perfect in their sight and that we learn and live as honestly and openly as we can along with them. It may be one of our most important tasks as we begin a new school year

 Leonard Cohen's words from "Anthem"  speak to this:

"Ring the bell that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."

Let's let the light in.