Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Random Acts of Culture

I want to be hit with a random act of culture before I die!  This video made me tear up at my desk today! :) 

I hope you enjoy!
Happy last day of November!  Let our hearts get ready for the coming of Christ!

http://www.creativeminorityreport.com/2010/11/awesome-pop-up-hallelujah-chorus-at.html#comment-form

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Post

BE THANKFUL...

  • that you don't already have everything you desire.  If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
  • when you don't know something, for it gives you the opportunity to learn.
  • for the difficult times.  During those times, you grow!
  • for your limitations.  Because they give you opportunites for improvement.
  • for each new challenge.  Because it will build strength and character.
  • for your mistakes.  They will teach you valuable lessons.
  • when you're tired and weary.  Because it means you've made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.  A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.  Find a way to be thankful for your troubles.

(Oh and P.S. I completely did not make this up...It's one of those email forwards...but I've had it since 2007 and it was in my Thanksgiving files at school...I figured with the kind of year I've had, these words couldn't be more true!  I am so thankful for persevering through challenges, hardships and being given so much grace to see joy in any circumstance!  Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Birthday: The Morning After

This is what I wrote in my very first post about the purpose of having a blog: "It's about looking at the origin of our being...who/what we were actually created for and what characteristics all of us share.  For example, my heart is made up of need for beauty, for truth, justice, love and belonging, etc.  Without these, a part of me feels dried up, empty or unsatisfied.  And so, this blog is going to be experiences, musings, sharings based on where I saw the needs of my heart explode and start asking again."

Now, it's with great humility that I admit that not all of these moments that really made my heart explode are ones that give you the warm fuzzies.  In fact, some experiences are just down right ugly BUT in what I am about to share I started asking/evaluating again that question, "What am I truly made for?"  THIS makes the event "blog-worthy."

Hands down, my birthday should have completely fulfilled me.  I had quality time with friends and family doing things that I LOVE (eating, dancing, singing, etc.).  People made special sacrifices to be with me like being uncomfortable line dancing because they didn't know the steps or leaving their baby with a sitter for the first time.  My sister and other college friends travelled long distances to see my face on my birthday.  And for this, my heart really, really swells with a deep sense of gratitude and knowledge that I could never repay the goodness that was done for me those days.

Then enter the mistake of getting swept up in the party for myself--people are happy to buy me drinks and I'm happy to take them--and before you know it, I have lost the meaning of why I'm with friends and family in the first place and what this means for the big picture of my life.  I got selfish and for those events of a few hours--and the poor witness I was to my friends--I am very ashamed.

I didn't TRULY thank those around me for being with me.  I missed valuable conversation and moments.  I was a mess of a person and had to live with myself the morning after...scandalized that someone (me) who is so involved with the Catholic Church, a teacher, a leader in the community could be such an IDIOT.

But, being Catholic is the coolest thing to be because there are graces offered to us all the time when we choose to accept them.  Although it was really difficult to do because I was still so embarrassed by my behavior, I went to Confession the next night and found God's infinite love and mercy again and a hope to begin again.  I've apologized to certain friends and am really trying to abolish this myth that just because it's your "birthday" you are allowed to do anything you feel like.

The truth is that sometimes doing anything we feel like does not lead to ultimate happiness.  In my experiences, I have found that the times when I am most selfless and simple are the times that I am happiest. The opportunity for simplicity and selflessness was there on my birthday night. (because the presence of alcohol and dancing are not the problem--I am the problem!)

So, I get up and move on because I can't erase my past.  Instead, I seek conversion ever more fully wanting to understand more who is this "Christ" who says that NOTHING will fulfill you except Him.  I was pointed again in my inner longing to something beyond myself and even what my friends can provide for me.  My moral life stems from this love for Christ in the people and situations around me.  So, I need an increase in knowledge that Christ is really here and that He really does save my nothingness.  So, in my love for Him, I do the right thing.  Our greatest falls might in fact be the greatest opportunities for conversion.  I'm already seeing my change of heart in just the past few days.  I'm curious to see where it takes me!

Friday, November 12, 2010

You Know You're a Teacher When...

We hear that being a teacher is not just a job, but a vocation.  This is true in MANY ways, but four things specifically happened yesterday that made me laugh...

I Know I'm A Teacher When...

1.  I can "hold it" for eight hours or more

2. I take my papers to grade into the eyebrow threading place.

3.  I'm making chocolate pudding at eleven o'clock at night for my students' "Fun Friday" activity.

4. Instead of saying that one of my friend's was sick, I said he was "absent."  Haha.

I plan to add more to this list as things naturally occur.  It won't take long.

To any soon-to-be teachers out there, be ready for that classroom of kids to be a HUGE part of your daily life.  And for master teachers, don't be upset with yourself or think you're life is "out of balance" when it does.  You are just a GOOD teacher!

MORE OBSERVATIONS
5. You also grade papers at the dentist's office and occasionally miss time with friends to do this.

6. Refer to them as "my kids" on a quite daily basis.

7. I see my students awake more than their parents seem them.

8. My mood affects their mood.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Six Months Since Haiti

What is God asking me to do with my experiences in Haiti?

Six months ago (today, in fact) I was busily packing my bags, making a week's worth of lesson plans for my substitute, and stressing about this trip to a third world country where I had no idea what to expect.  My St. Susanna community, lifelong friends and family had all backed me with more financial support than I ever thought possible.  The students at St. Susanna donated Tshirts to the Haitian children and I even received old backpacks and suitcases to take my stuff in so I could leave it all there!

Despite everyone else's excitement, I remember feeling confused...and a feeling that actually still sticks today.  Why me?  What can someone so limited in life experience (especially world travel) and limited in vision to "save the world" (really, this just doesn't interest me...maybe I'm too selfish...) really do for the Haitian people?

I still don't have an answer for myself, but I can sense that my heart has been opened.  There's a little crack of compassion and personal sense of responsibility for the people of Haiti.  So much so, that I cried when I heard about the cholera outbreak.  Thinking, "Really, God?  Haven't they suffered enough?"

And this crack of compassion that is in my heart HAS to find an answer somewhere...

Will it be another trip to Haiti?  Would it be a longer stay there?  Am I going to be a missionary teacher?  Will I raise funds and send OTHERS to this country?  Will my mark even be made in Haiti, but elsewhere?  Regardless,  I know that my experiences over six months ago in Haiti still get me thinking, "What was all that about?"  These people suffer.  I raised money for them.  I met them.  I shared my experience.  Does it just stop?  That doesn't seem right.

Like I said, I'm not much of a visionary myself OR really ambitious for that matter...so I can hardly see myself writing up grant proposals or talking with the United Nations for some solutions on the Haitians water supply.  Some people's gifts are there.  In fact, a few of my friends from the May mission trip are already doing things similar to this.

My "style" and the way that God gets me is through invitation.  When will He invite me to be part of this third world journey again?  I know it's coming; I just don't know when.  Until then, I live my life right here, right now, as a middle-class suburban teacher as a missionary.  By my understanding of God's love in my life, I'm helping my 4th grade students understand what it means to love others--even their "enemies."  God asks me to live in REAL relationships with my family and friends where we are constantly correcting one another, fighting, but also joyfully giving and loving.  There's hardly anything selfish about my life here in the United States and as long as I'm always focused on the true source of life's happiness, I can't stray from the overall plan for my life.

So, Lord, if you want me back in Haiti, show me.  I'll be here doing my other work that you have so graciously blessed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Those Things That Surprise You

A surprise helps us to remember that we don't create the reality which we live in....

Good or bad, surprises are your wake up call that YOU don't (and can't) control your own life.  I've had so many surprises hit me in the last week, that I thought I'd share a few.  Some are really good and others are bad, but ALL point to the fact that there's a deeper Mystery about life that we just can't comprehend.

For me, I'm saved from being slave to all these surprises (good or bad...because being slave to a good surprise is just as horrific) when I realize that the One who gives them loves me and He's here to walk with me to my greatest possibility of happiness. My hope is that I can help others to that certainty while growing in my own as well.

Top Ten Surprises to Erica's Week (in no particular order)

1. My shower drain clogged AND the shower head sprayed water EVERYWHERE all on the same day.  A Monday, of course.
2. Your brain can actually grow new brain cells. (There's hope for all of us!)
3. A dear friend blogged about my blog in a tremendous affirmation.
4. One of my fourth grade student's homes burned to the ground.  All are safe, but they have nothing.
5. Parent Teacher Conferences are just as awkward for the parent as the teacher and generally, the parents are on your side.
6. A deeper sense of who someone is can be revealed in their Halloween costumes.
7. We had four new (or returning from a long "vacation") people to CL on Tuesday night.
8. Heather was at Caitlin's Halloween Party and I haven't seen her in what felt like years!
9. My sister had some crap handed to her in life and I have to let her live it!
10. A man is stepping up to the plate and risking dating me.  God help us.  Quite literally. (and with THAT comes about 20 more surprises I would never blog about....haha)

Quite a list for one week, eh?  Since it is the Feast of All Saints, I feel like it could be mentioned that saints were nothing spectacular except that they lived the circumstances they were given in extraordinary ways.  There are saints who had jobs, were married, had temptations, sufferings, etc. but they followed God with unwavering faith, despite the SURPRISES. 

Lord, may I truly desire to be a saint...because I think that's the only real thing I have to do--make the commitment to be one!