My word of the year for 2023 was supposed to be "simplify".
I had decided late in 2022 that as part of my new year's goals, I was going to try to take a step back from everything that didn't matter and be very intentional about what we allowed in our home, what I allowed on my calendar, and habits I wanted to build.
I announced this over on my Instagram page back on January 2nd.
On January 9th, I received some news that did NOT feel like simplifying.
For five months, I would fill my current role of Director of Special Services and also fill the role of Interim Superintendent.
I must admit that as I was navigating through the dual-role, there were some moments that felt very frustrating and complicated.
There were days that I didn't feel as if I were making progress in either job.
There were even days that I cried on my way home from work because I was feeling very overwhelmed.
However, there was also laughter.
There were opportunities for me to learn about myself, set goals, and connect with colleagues that I did not usually cross paths with.
And as crazy as it sounds, over the last five months, God has truly taught me through this experience to simplify.
Yes, I typed that correctly.
Even with the addition of these new responsibilities and expectations in my job. Even with longer hours and more tasks to complete. Even with more decisions and more personal interactions and more...and more...and more...
Habits are so very important.
I've blogged several times about habits. My morning routine incorporates several habit loops and I am thankful I had this established when my life got really busy in February. When things get stressful and overwhelming, the automaticity of our habits can keep our lives feeling more stable than not. A well-established morning routine, along with an organized task management system at work, really helped me to keep my sanity as I navigated life with two jobs.
We must prioritize.
Yes, we need to prioritize certain activities over others. To grow spiritually, we MUST be in our Bibles. To get closer to God, we MUST pray. To get healthy, we MUST make good food choices and move our bodies. But these types of priorities are not what I'm talking about here.
I'm going to be very transparent for a moment. This semester was hard. There were some moments at work where our leadership team had to make very difficult decisions, deal with unexpected conflict, and say hard things. There were some struggles within the school organization and some struggles with families.
People have big opinions about the public school system and while we are making every single decision based on the information we have (and often can't share with the public), it still hurts when people put their thoughts out there on social media without knowing the full story -- which unfortunately stirs up discourse and division. I had to learn to prioritize what I could control and what I could not control. Other people's opinions, words, and actions fell into the latter category, so I had to let them go.
I also had to take a step back in my personal life. I had to decide what I was going to give my energy to and what I was not able to give my energy to at the time. With a daughter in high school, one in junior high, and one in elementary -- the parenting game is challenging at times. There were some moments over the last five months where I had to recognize that while I would love to help everyone (I am an Enneagram 2, after all -- "the helper"), I had to take a step back from some situations and focus on my own family.
There are seasons in life where we can be on the front lines of standing in the gap for others, helping them to reflect on their own situations and make changes, and growing together through mutual accountability.
And there are seasons of solidarity in life. Seasons where the whole goal is to pray for others and keep our little families moving in the right direction...closer to Jesus and closer to each other. I've had to accept the fact that this season is where I am right now.
Finally, God is so good.
Throughout this season of having some extra duties at work, chasing three busy girls, and trying to sustain healthy relationships, I have seen the hand of God at work every day.
My family, friends, and colleagues have picked up the slack where I have been lacking. They have prayed for me and served alongside me tirelessly and for that I am so grateful.
Because my morning routine habit is so automatic at this point, my Bible time has continued through all the craziness. God has revealed so much and offered me so much peace through this practice and I am thankful He had prepared me ahead-of-time by challenging me with my habit-building.
Looking back, I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to serve in this double-capacity over the last five months. And I am so grateful to hand it over to someone else on Monday.
Thanking God & simplifying here on this rainy Saturday morning here at the farmhouse,
And just like that...the last school year of my teaching career is over.
You might remember a few months ago when I announced my new position as the director of special services in my current district.
At the time that I agreed to this position, back in late August of last year, it seemed like a lifetime away.
It seemed like there was so much more time left in my classroom. I mean, nine months is a LONG time, right?
And yet, here we are...the last day of school.
I'd be lying if I said I was over-joyed as I left the school parking lot today.
Yes, I'm excited for my new journey, but I feel like every time a season in our lives comes to an end, there is some grieving that must take place.
I have known that public education was the career choice for me ever since I can remember.
There was never a time in my life that I thought of any other career choice.
I can remember being preschool age and "playing school" with my dolls and stuffed animals in my bedroom. (I always tried to recruit my little brother, but it wasn't quite as enjoyable for him.)
My new role is exciting and refreshing and something I am looking forward to.
But in reality, there are things I am losing.
Things I'm giving up.
Things I am having to let go of.
Building relationships with the same 20-30 kids day-in and day-out.
Being able to make an impact in the daily lives of the students in my classroom.
Creating lessons that are engaging and interesting for my kiddos.
Spending time with some of my dearest friends all day, every day...my hallway colleagues.
Yes, I know I'll still be making a difference.
I know I'll still be able to connect with children.
I know I'll still have an impact.
I know I'll be in the same building I've been in for the last eleven years.
But this afternoon, my students of nine months walked out of my room.
I waved goodbye to my students and headed straight to the cafeteria to set up for the celebration we have at the end of every year.
When the staff get-together was finished, I headed back to my room.
I walked down a mostly empty hallway to my mostly empty classroom.
And it was then that I had a few tears.
Okay, I had a lot of tears.
Even tonight, as I sit here typing this, I have a tear rolling down my cheek.
There are a lot of things to look forward to..
There's a lot to be excited about.
But there are also a lot of things to be sad about...and that's okay.
I think that sometimes we feel like there's something wrong with grief.
Like we shouldn't feel sad when we are moving into something that seems bigger and better. Why would I be sad about this opportunity? Why would I have a hard time moving into a position that seems so perfect for me?
Well...because it's normal.
It's completely natural to grieve the seasons of our lives.
Change is necessary and important...but change can also be difficult and painful.
So as I sit here tonight on the farmhouse front porch, watching the fireflies blinking away in the field across the road...I will just have a good cry. You might remember that I believe ugly-crying is a vitally important part of life.
I will cry for the thirteen years I spent in a classroom.
I will cry for the dear friends and colleagues...my teaching BFFs.
I will cry for lesson planning and connecting with "that one kid" and lightbulb moments for struggling learners.
I will cry for read-aloud chapter books, scented chart markers, and my favorite bright pink fake leather rolling office chair that I bought on clearance for $15 a few years ago.
I will cry for my teaching partner who has become like an older brother to me over the last ten years. I will cry for the comfort and the security and the partnership that will change drastically in the near future.
I will cry and I will smile.
I will look back fondly on the experiences and lessons and memories that have become so important to me inside the walls of my classroom.
I will clean out that classroom over the next few weeks and I will move (some of) my belongings down the hallway to my new office.
I can't promise that there won't be more tears.
And there's nothing wrong with that.
Cherish the seasons, friends. Each of our seasons is filled with important lessons and precious memories.
But grieve the seasons if you have to.
Tears from the farmhouse tonight...and hope for tomorrow.