Last week, I wrote about my grandmother's time (for the last sixty years) as the organist for Adrian Christian Church.
This got me to reminiscing.
I have so many memories in the church and one of my favorites is visiting with "the quilting ladies".
For the first 25 years of my life (at least), there was a group of ladies who met every Tuesday to quilt in the basement of our old church that used to sit smack-dab in the middle of town.
Before I was in school and in the summertime after I started school, I can remember going to the church with our grandmother and great-grandmother on quilting day.
I can still hear the chatter of the quilting ladies and picture them sitting around working diligently on their masterpieces.
I can picture so many special women who have gone on to see Jesus before us sitting around those quilts.
When I think about these women, I think of patience...
I think of attention to detail...
I think of friendship.
When I think about these women, I can see in my mind some of my most precious spiritual mentors through my young adult life...
I can hear their laughter as they shared stories of the good ol' days...
I can still smell the food they brought to share a meal together each week.
Looking back, I realize how much I learned just watching these ladies work...week-in and week-out.
The quilting days of Adrian Christian Church have come to an end.
But it just takes a second for me to close my eyes and be transported back to that church basement, back to a simpler time...spending time with some of the most wonderful ladies I was ever privileged to meet.
What a sweet, sweet memory.
This is a big one, folks.
This post will be unlike any post I've ever written.
Yesterday, a student asked me about the situation and I decided it was probably time to let the cat out of the bag.
My colleagues and my family, along with some friends, already know my big news.
However, I feel like posting it on the blog makes it public knowledge and that can only mean one thing...
This is really happening.
After thirteen years as a teacher of one kind or another, I'll be leaving the classroom.
I wanted to be the reason that a student with special needs felt successful in the general education classroom.
When my former students were asked later in life who their favorite teacher was...I wanted to make that list.
I wanted my kiddos to look back on their time with Mrs. Newkirk as their teacher and say, "She played a small part of who I am today."
I'm hopeful that I've been able to make a difference like this in the lives of kids and families over the last thirteen years.
However, the Lord has also given me a passion for people with special needs.
My parents opened up a group home for adults with disabilities when I was in upper-elementary school.
What started out as four adult women with various needs living with us in our home from then until my high school years has now grown to three separate group homes in our small town, where we provide housing and community habilitation services for twelve ladies.
Growing up in the group home led me to pursue a double-major in college...elementary education and special education.
In fact, I started my career in the special education classroom and only transitioned into the general education classroom because of a series of crazy events that I believe the Lord orchestrated to give me general education experience, to allow me to meet and work with some of my very best friends in the world, and to give me an opportunity to touch the lives of many children over the last ten years.
Almost nine years ago, I graduated with my masters degree in Education Administration.
My plan was to continue teaching for several years and then hopefully find an elementary principal's job to finish out my career...but not for a looooooong while.
And then, a few years ago, my principal (a mentor and friend to me) said, "Have you ever thought about going into special education administration?"
Well, I hadn't really considered that and honestly didn't even want to think about going back to school.
(Okay, in the interest of full disclosure...I didn't want to think about PAYING to go back to school.)
However, the administrative team encouraged me to not dismiss the idea immediately, but instead to call and see what classes I would need to fulfill the requirements necessary for a job in special education administration.
So in April of 2016, I called.
And I needed two classes. Two.
I needed one class that was offered only a 45-minute drive away, over three weekends that next summer. Three weekends that were open on our family calendar.
I also needed an internship class that I could do right there in my home district with the Director of Special Services.
And we could pay for them both in cash. No more student loans.
That seemed easy enough. So I signed up, thinking it would be good to have options for my very distant future.
I finished up the class over the summer of 2016 and finished the internship in the spring of 2017.
Fast-forward to this past August...the beginning of this school year.
Our superintendent calls me into his office to tell me that our current Director of Special Services is retiring at the end of the year and he would like me to be ready to present to the school board about the possibility of stepping into that position for the next school year.
WHAT!?! Like NEXT YEAR!?!
His idea was that I could be trained during this school year...to shadow our current director, to prepare to take that role the following August.
Long story short, Mr. Farmhouse and I prayed about it.
A host of family and friends prayed about it with us and for us.
We had lots and lots of conversation about it.
I talked for hours about the possibility to my current teaching partner.
I contacted friends of mine who are special education directors for support and answers to my questions.
I presented to the board.
They offered me the job.
And I accepted.
I believe that I will be able to use my leadership skills, my passion for education, and my knowledge and experience working with my students and the adults in our group home with special needs in this new role.
I believe that this is just another place that God can use me to make a difference in the lives of children and families.
There are things about this transition that will not be easy.
With any transition, there will be some sorrow...some difficulty.
But there will also be joy, excitement, reflection, and new ideas.
I am so thankful to be able to stay in my current district. I've grown so much as an educator and met so many people who are near and dear to my heart.
I'm grateful to my principal for pushing me to go back to school,
our superintendent for encouraging me to move forward,
our school board for giving me this opportunity,
our current special education director for training me,
my mentor special education director from my alma mater,
my colleagues (current and former) for believing in me,
the two fourth grade teachers in my building that make up the other half of our team for offering so much encouragement this year,
my teaching partner for all of his support through the years...especially this year,
my family...our parents, grandparents, and siblings,
my dear Mr. Farmhouse and our three sweet girls.
I'm grateful for my students & their parents through all of my teaching years.
For the life lessons that I have learned standing in front of that classroom.
For the opportunities to grow and develop into the educator I am today.
I'm just so very grateful.
Life will be different here in the farmhouse in just a few short months.
For now though, I'm going to enjoy the time I have left this year with my darling third graders...shaping young minds. Laughing with them and cheering with them. Helping them along and making sure to let them know how much they help me along, too.
December 31, 2017 marked the ending of an era in our little town.
My grandma played her final song as the church organist.
She has played the organ at Adrian Christian Church for my whole life.
In fact, the first wedding she played for was for her cousin Ed & his wife, Darlene. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year.
My parents reminded me that when my brother and I were preschool age, we would sometimes go sit at the funeral home on the couch in the piano room while Grandma played for a service.
We must have been pretty good kids, because I cannot imagine having my sweet three-year-old Mattie-girl sitting in the piano room during a funeral!
I can remember Grandma practicing her hymns on the piano in their dining room and the organ that set in their bedroom.
I can remember sitting on the front row on the organ side while Grandma played for the church service every single Sunday for years and years.
Actually...that's still where we sit.
And from now on...she will sit there too.
Surrounded by her children,
by her grandchildren,
and her great-grandchildren.
Surrounded by some of her dearest friends from Sunday school class for the last five decades, or more.
Surrounded by church family...young and not-so-young, new friends and old friends, meeting every week to worship the One who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
If you have any memories to share of Grandma's organ playing years, we would love to compile them for her.
If she played for your wedding, for a funeral of a dear loved one, for your Sunday school class, to accompany you for some sort of special music...please share these stories so we can share them with her.
Something has happened to me since I delivered our third daughter three years ago.
I get a bit emotional.
I cry when I'm happy...
When I'm sad...
When I'm angry...
When I don't sleep enough...
When I sleep too much...
When I see an old man in overalls.
I cry when one of my daughters says something sweet to her sister...
When a student masters a concept he or she has been struggling with...
When a first-year player on one of the girls' sports teams makes a basket in a basketball game or gets the ball over the net in volleyball...
When one of the girls shows understanding of the blessing that their great-grandparents are...
Usually, this consists of a lump in my throat and my eyes filled with tears with just a few escaping down my cheek.
But not always.
Sometimes, my little "choked-up, tear-running-down-my-face" crying turns into a big ol' ugly-cry.
I can specifically remember a day when our second daughter was just under a year old.
She hadn't been sleeping well and I was having "one of those days".
You know what I'm talking about...right, moms?
One of those days where I was barely holding it together through the school day.
I hadn't slept a full night in several weeks, my students were enjoying the last week before spring break as if it were already spring break, and I felt like I was living in a fog with a toddler and an infant.
My teaching partner casually made a comment in the teacher's lounge full of our colleagues giving me a hard time about the fact that I had mentioned taking a nap before I went home after school.
He meant NOTHING by his comment.
On a normal day, I would have just laughed.
But bless his poor heart...this wasn't a normal day...
I laughed at first and said, "I know..." and then the tears started coming, "...isn't it ridiculous?"
All the other women in the room immediately started trying to make me feel better and my poor teaching partner apologized.
But it wasn't his comment at all. He felt bad that he was the one that tipped the emotions from laughter to tears. But at some point or another, we've all been there.
I think sometimes you just need a good cry.
There is something about it that's cleansing to the soul and spirit.
In fact, that afternoon, after my ugly-cry, I was already laughing about the whole situation.
One morning, shortly after my grandpa had passed away, I walked into Casey's to find all of his coffee-drinking buddies there.
I said my "hellos" and went about my business.
As I walked out the door, an older man I didn't know met me there...in his Key overalls...just like Grandpa's.
And as I walked to my car (and all the way to work), I ugly-cried.
Sometimes, it's just necessary.
So this is your permission.
If you need to ugly-cry...just let it out.
Whether it's because of grief,
or pure joy.
Just let it out.
An ugly-cry every once in a while can be a beautiful thing.
And if you're still a bit unsure of letting the waterworks loose, I'm not just an ugly-crier...I'm a contagious-crier, too.
So if you need an ugly-cry partner...I'm your girl.
January 9th marked our six-month anniversary of our "first night sleeping at the farmhouse".
In some ways, it feels like that was ages ago...and in some ways, it feels like yesterday.
Over the snow days (and ice day and really cold wind-chill day) that we had off of school last week, I really reminisced about our time here at the farmhouse so far.
I started looking through some of my old blog posts and Instagram photos.
One of my most favorite memories for the rest of my life will be from 9:00 at night on the first Saturday night that we slept here.
Our minister and his wife came out and prayed over the farmhouse. You can read about it in my blog post from that day...Bless this Mess.
Since that warm July night,
we have enjoyed family movie nights cuddled in the living room,
mornings on the front porch reading our books,
pick-up games of basketball out to the north of the house,
friends over to BBQ,
softball practice out in the yard,
and for Thanksgiving we hosted our first TWO family dinners out here.
We experienced our first farmhouse Christmas with the girls.
We have painted and decorated,
Added an upstairs bathroom,
Tore down a barn,
Added a chicken coop,
It has been quite the journey and I know we are nowhere near "finished".
I have been using the YouVersion Bible app (by Life.Church) for quite some time now.
For six years, in fact.
However, it was just over the last few months that I have begun making it one of the social media platforms I use to share my Bible study experience with friends and family.
And just in the last three weeks have I become friends with two of the most wonderful little girls you will ever meet...my oldest two daughters.
To be honest, I thought this would be a fun little activity that we could do to spend some time with Jesus and have good conversation about the Bible.
I wasn't prepared for the deep thoughts the girls would share on our shared Bible studies.
After reading her devotional, along with a few scriptures from Hebrews and Romans, my sweet Harlee replied profoundly that faith and trust in God is what makes life worth living.
Wow...what a thought for my barely 11-year-old.
And a wake-up call for her mama.
Since that day, I have taken my Bible study time with her (and her sister) very seriously.
God has used these words to speak to all of us...
To open up conversations on our Bible apps and in person...
To be able to have these teachable conversations through our day-to-day living.
If you are struggling with how to talk to your children, preteens, and teenagers about God's Word and Kingdom Work, I'd strongly recommend meeting your kiddos where they are.
Let's embrace the technology that is so prevalent today and connect with our kids on the matters of God.
Happy Weekend from the farmhouse, friends.
30 books in 2018.
That's my goal.
I love to sit down and read in my spare time, but over the last year or two, I have a new-found love for audiobooks.
The Audible app has made it possible to take my audiobook wherever I go...using whatever device I choose.
And with the hour-and-a-half I spend in the car each day...it works for me.
Jen uses this phrase "living on mission" throughout the text, as she chronicles the story of how she and her husband Brandon made a huge transition in their ministry from "doing church to being the church" as she says.
They left their comfortable positions in church leadership to plant Austin New Church (ANC) in Austin, Texas.
They had no resources.
No real direction.
Just a tug at the heart by the Spirit to go and serve.
In a miraculous chain of events, the Hatmakers were led down an unbelievable path of faith and questions and an unsure future.
There are pages and pages of amazing teaching that reflect the message of ANC.
"Love your neighbor. Serve your city."
As I listened in the car, I found myself talking out loud in response to so many of the words that Jen shared from her heart.
If you are conflicted over the way we "do church" and ways to "be the church", check out Interrupted.
It will change your perspective.
It will change your life.
P.S. Did I mention that I am going to MEET JEN HATMAKER on February 23rd?
Mr. Farmhouse has been working tirelessly in all of his spare time to get the girls a second bathroom.
We paid a buddy of ours to do the rough-in work and plumbing (thanks, Brent!), but Mr. Farmhouse decided he could finish the rest out himself.
With lots of help from our dads, we have finished the sheetrock, cement board for the tile, and wiring.
Next up is paint,
then putting in the vanity & sink,
finishing the accent wall with barn wood & metal from the barn that is lying beside our house,
the tile work,
and installing the toilet & plumbing fixtures.
The book is basically an introduction to the five love languages and ways to tune into your spouse's love languages to love him or her better.
The profile assessment that you can take to learn about your love language overwhelmingly confirmed that my number one love language is acts of service.
I like to do.
Mr. Farmhouse's languages, however, are quality time and physical touch.
Opposites attract, right?
So over time, I have started to become more intentional with my time spent with Mr. Farmhouse and the girls.
I'm working on "speaking his love language" more, to strengthen our marriage and to be a good example to our children.
One of my lifelong bestie's main love languages is gifting.
She is so thoughtful.
She thinks of gifts months in advance.
She is always on the look-out for a good gift that the people in her life would "just love".
My mom is the same way.
I'm more of a "grab a gift card at Dollar General twelve minutes before the party" kind of girl, myself. (Anyone else?)
However, the farmhouse has been a great opportunity for me to appreciate the thoughtfulness behind those who have the "gift of gift".
What a humbling experience it has been to have our friends and family wrap us up during the (somewhat lengthly) transition we made from our familiar home of eleven years to our dear farmhouse.
God has been teaching me a lot about quality time and the importance of physical touch over the last few years.
He's been teaching me about the importance of sacrificing my comfort and agenda and how to work more on putting other people before myself...mainly my dear husband.
And now...He is teaching me about showing love through giving gifts.
I'm trying hard to look deep into those I love to find out more about the love languages that speak most clearly to them.
I'm a work in progress.
❤️ ? ❤️
It's such a great word.
So fresh. So promising. So full of hope.
Happy New Year, friends.
Here we are. January 1st.
I used to set goals for the new year in several different categories.
I made these big elaborate lists and sometimes I stuck to one or two of my "resolutions".
A few years ago, however, I began trying to really focus in on one word or phrase each new year.
One year it was "balance", another year it was "no".
This year, I've had three words and/or phrases running through my mind over the last few weeks, so I think I'll use them all as my focus for 2018.
Our minister has been preaching for the last several weeks on the transformation that should come from knowing Jesus.
I want to focus this year on being transformed because of Who Jesus is.
I want people to be able to see Him in every aspect of my life.
I want to be transformed.
I read an article this week about the addictive nature of a cell phone for young kids.
I was convicted about the addictive nature of technology for myself.
I know that technology can be a good thing, but I think sometimes satan uses good things to distract us from our purpose.
The purpose of being a good wife.
...of raising Kingdom kids.
...of building deep relationships with people.
...of creating a home environment that is beautiful for our families.
...of taking care of ourselves so we can pour into others.
This year I will set limitations on social media usage and spend more time focusing on face-to-face interaction with those I love.
Do fewer things, better.
I am notorious for working hard to balance too many spinning plates.
I can usually multi-task without much problem.
I say "yes" often to lighten the load for others.
I get a lot accomplished and a lot of times, those accomplishments are just "good enough".
This year, I want to simplify.
To do fewer things and to do them better.
What are your goals for 2018?
Do you set resolutions?
If you could choose one word to take with you this year...what would it be?
Make it a great year, friends!
New Year's Love from the Farmhouse,