Ourselves on Blast

My students have a saying for when you tell someone’s business to a group of people- you’ve “put them on blast.”

I’ve wondered recently if people read our blog and get uncomfortable with what we write about. We created la vita vera because we wanted to encourage others to pursue authenticity alongside us. Jon and I have both grown the most from the moments we have been vulnerable, especially with one another. In a world where relationships often seem to be sustained through social media, it can be quite attractive to hide behind our best moments in life, trying to create our ideal image but never really giving people the full picture.

What would happen if we posted our true thoughts, tweeted our empty desires, and captured our ugly moments? If we “#nofilter”-ed the messiness of real life. Maybe then we would all feel a bit more connected and a lot less lonely. I have experienced this recently in my confessions about body image and struggles with being a new mom.

If we were all a lot more transparent about what goes on behind closes doors, sharing the groans of our burdened hearts and confessing the darkness we see within, then maybe we could let go of pride and extend the grace we are freely given to others – some of those in very similar situations. We would also probably realize that we are all a lot more alike than we may believe.

I find myself growing slowly more comfortable with putting myself “on blast” in my aim to encourage others to pursue authenticity.

….

 

I wrote this last year about this time. School began shortly after, and I never posted it. Reading it now is a good reminder and challenge as I am in the midst of posting fun pictures of our travel and cute shots of Jack. These things are good and totally acceptable to post, but I want to strike a healthy balance of presenting our celebrations and our lessons.

-k

 

Photo: Tommy Cafe (One of many photos I took of the lovely cafes in Montreal.)

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Today is not my first day of School.

Today is the first day of school for DCPS students and teachers. But I do not have students this year. I will not eat lunch with coworkers, decorate a classroom, or grade papers at my own desk. I am no longer, at least for this season, a teacher.

In May, after years of prayer (even before I was pregnant), we decided that I would resign from teaching to stay at home with our 1 year old Jack. When the decision had been made, I felt so much relief. There were other excellent opportunities, but this seemed like the most appealing decision. I wanted to be the the one with Jack all day. I wanted to teach him his colors and animal sounds. I especially wanted to be the one to take care of him when he was sick.

However, this was a very difficult decision to reach. One evening while reading about another teacher-mama’s decision to leave, I realized why saying “see you later” to teaching was so challenging. In addition to giving up my own space and a reason to look presentable, I would be giving up a few things I truly cherished about teaching.

1. Watching 8th graders get super into reading A Raisin in the Sun, a group of kids that many people had cast off as not being capable and most likely to fail.

2. Laughing with my students. In all honesty, this did not happen that often. But the times it did were so sweet. I felt like the mom that wants to tell the joke again just so she can relive the moment…because middle schoolers are just really hard to impress.

3. Making an off-the-cuff bulleted Friday agenda and ending with some kind of “educational” game that brings out my inner kid and makes my classroom feel like an extension of home on game night.

4. Being challenged in the way I think, look, and relate to people that are different from me.

5. Seeing my students writing improve. Moving from barely writing a few sentences to supporting their responses with textual evidence.

My students caused me a lot of frustration and tears. But they taught me more about being patient and gracious. They showed me the importance of commitment and responsiveness. Those 5 years of teaching were sanctifying. Life-changing. And I will never forget them.

This morning, while I fed Jack yogurt and blueberries – the same thing he eats every morning, the way my morning will probably start for the next 5-8 years – I reached out to past students, congratulating them on making it to the next grade and reminding them that they make me proud. It was encouraging to hear back. For a few different reasons, it’s not as easy for us to keep up, but I will try.

Today is bittersweet, for sure. But this new season will be just as sanctifying. It has already proven to be as much. I am very thankful and excited to pour into my own little being. Reading, laughing, and playing with him. Journeying alongside him as he explores this big world and learns to love the people in it.

-k

 

What we’re Diggin’

I love when the blogs I follow write a post about what products, books, and shows they are into this season. So, I thought I would post some things Jon and I are into these days.

  1. Like-to Know– You can follow styles on Instagram and then get sent information regarding each piece of clothing in the post. The prices for the items are never outrageous, and it really helps me figure out what key items I want to add to my wardrobe. (This is definitely a me thing, not Jon.)
  2. We are loving all things curry. Here is one of our favorites.
  3. TinyBeans– This fun app lets us post pictures and videos every day. It has been a helpful way to keep the Grands in the loop!
  4. Jon and I have done some major traveling stateside over the past three months: St. Paul, MN, Edisto Island, SC, Raleigh, NC, Georgia, Brekenridge, CO, Lynchburg, VA, U.S Virigin Isalnds, and San Antonio,TX. Skyscanner and Hopper have been really helpful apps to aid in our search for the cheapest fares. Hopper also predicts future ticket prices and allows you to set alerts for different trips.
  5. Wild China- This has been our go-to Netflix documentary after we put Jack down.
  6. Call the Midwife- This has grown to be one of my favorite shows during the afternoon. I am sure going to miss cuddling up and feeding Jack on rainy afternoons and watching Chummy and the gang. These stories have hit so close to home during this new season of Mamahood.
  7. National Parks Adventure– Since watching this Imax with Alex and Cassie in September, a strong sense of adventure has been kindled. We have also downloaded all the songs from the soundtrack which make for the perfect road trip playlist.
  8. Skillshare– I took a free course on how to take RAW images, and it was so helpful. They have courses on just about everything. I want to have a skillshare party soon!

-k

Wildflowers

A year ago I was preparing to lead a session at the Redemption Hill Church Women’s Conference on body image. It was a fruitful season for me, because I was forced to examine my own heart on the issue and encouraged by the truth I was studying to help me prepare.

12 months, 1 baby, a handful of stretch marks, and 15 extra pregnancy pounds later, I find myself in need of preparing for another session.

I could not fall asleep last night. I just kept thinking about what I looked like, and honestly a bit sad for my husband. Attending a wedding of dear friends this weekend, I laid there thinking of how beautiful I felt on my wedding day. Trying to communicate these burdens to Jon right before bed was extremely difficult. But before falling asleep, he told me he loved me more now than on that day and that I was lovely.

Lovely- adj. exquisitely beautiful

Years ago, I would have been so thankful to be called that by a man I care for so deeply.

However, in my mind, presently, this is how it plays out. Lovely. A lovely, little wildflower growing at the foot of a sexy, exciting, super attractive billboard I might pass on the highway. Yeah. One simple, real, lovely wildflower in the shadow of endless, sexual, real or fake, enticing advertisements.

I have always battled with finding contentment in who I am and what I look like compared to what the world says is better. To be even more transparent, this past week, I have been incredibly convicted of how I see myself. This might be when I am walking down the street, at the gym, among friends, alone in my thoughts or when, sadly, I am pursuing my husband. I imagine myself as the person I want to be. The image on the billboard. The jean advertisement. Maybe even some quick clip of someone I saw in a movie. How can I pursue my husband with genuine love when all I am thinking of is myself? I vowed to my husband in front of God and 170 witnesses to “pursue purity by guarding against temptations that destroy our unity and loyalty to one another.” And I have failed gravely. I am thankful for a gracious husband who continues to love me even when I have such selfish actions to confess to him.

For the believer, we can rest in how He has created us as sons and daughters. A people with purpose. A people made much more attractive by how we love and serve to reflect his image and display his magnificent glory when pursuing holiness than by our physical appearance.  This is something that far endures the short season of a nice figure. As much as it is easier for me to write than believe, this is truth.

I am writing this out to bring to light how I have neglected to examine my own heart when pursuing my husband in intimacy. However, I hope my confessions drive others to think about how what we see, watch, and meditate on affects the way we see ourselves, prioritize our values, and care for others.

-k

Should we Stay or Should we Go?

I had the opportunity two weeks ago to meet many people from Jon’s family I had never met before. Unfortunately, it was because Jon’s Papa passed away after a short battle with cancer. Fortunately, we did not only have to grieve his absence, but rejoice in his reunion with his Lord and Savior. As I shook the hands of aunts, uncles, and cousins and saw others being reunited for the first time in years, I wondered why we were all now just getting together. Wouldn’t have Papa loved for all his family to surround him when he was present?

Back in the spring, my mom asked me what our plans were for leaving DC and returning to the Carolinas— the question we no longer dread because if we did, we would grow weary every week. My mom told me that her hope/expectation that we would return if Dad’s cancer came back with a vengeance next time around. Sure, of course, I want Jack to know his Pappy. I should spend time with Dad, especially when I am reminded that he won’t be here forever.

Why is it that when we really remember and mediate on the truth from James 4—that we are “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”—we desire to be close. We want to forgive. We wished we had spent more time together. I am thankful that we sometimes get those last opportunities to avoid regret.

After this week, I feel pressure, again, to ask myself whether or not I am passing up an opportunity to avoid regret by continuing to live 8 hours away from home. Should I take advantage of the fact that I love being with my family and spend a lifetime in the same state, or do I have a healthy balance of holiday visits, hour-long FaceTime chats, and vacations?

It could be that our years or lifetime in DC are not a selfish life choice. It could be a time to trust that God has me in the right place for the perfect duration, as long as I continually pray for His will to be done and to trust it will work itself out.

If this life isn’t really it. Then living around the corner or across the world shouldn’t matter all that much if we are followers of Jesus. Right?

-k

Too Cool

Earlier this month, I took my mentee, Juvontae, out for lunch and a trip to the International Spy Museum. With bellies full on Shake Shack, we worked our way through the museum and Juvontae quite enjoyed the challenge of trying to crack a 4-digit code by crawling through a maze filled with jumbled letters and numbers to pick out the right ones. Like every good museum, at the end of the exhibits you’re dumped into the gift shop – one last ploy for you to drop a few dollars. Now, I certainly remember how it went when I was a kid: I wanted to browse around and pick out the toy I needed most. Sure, I could use my own spending money if I had to, but I was leaving with something. Mom and dad rarely saw it quite the same way. Regardless of whose money was at stake, my running up to them, toy in hand, was more frequently than not met with “you don’t need that” or “put that back, we’re not buying anything today.” And it was true, I didn’t need that, whatever it was. I probably had something like it at home. Or, it was probably a piece of junk.

Well, Juvontae plowed into that gift shop with the same mentality I had as a kid: I need something from here. I warily indulged the browsing around for a while. And then, he found it. A voice-changing toy megaphone that could make you sound like anything from Donald Duck to the Hulk. I immediately channeled my parents: “what do you need that for? You don’t need that. Come on, we gotta go. My parking meter is running out.” I won that argument, but he wasn’t happy about it. The whole way to the car, I got one-word replies, shifty eyes, and a mopey walk…because he couldn’t buy that megaphone with his own money. I asked him why he wanted it so bad, which led to the response: “because it’s cool.” I replied, “Okay, but are you really worse off now because you don’t have that toy?” He confidently retorted, “yes.” Our conversation actually went pretty deep from there, talking about whether cool things make us cool people – the kind of people that other people like to like. By the time I dropped Juvontae off, I was fairly satisfied, because we had been able to have a really meaningful conversation about how our stuff doesn’t really give us status, or “coolness” – our value is not in things here, but in things above.

Debriefing with Kristy at home about the outing, I said that while I didn’t really get the chance to talk about a few Bible verses with Juvontae over lunch (which I had intended to do), we ended on a really good note and a deep conversation. Kristy probed a bit: “why didn’t you bring up the Bible at lunch?” I replied, “I just couldn’t find the right moment to bring up the topic. Juvontae was talkative about other things the whole time. It was pretty crowded and I kinda felt rushed.”

Hmm…there it is. As it turns out, Juvontae and I had a similar problem that day. Whereas Juvontae was worried about getting that cool toy he wanted (and when he didn’t get it, he felt like he wasn’t cool), I wasn’t willing to be seen as awkward, or boring, or old-fashioned, or uncool in the eyes of a fourth grader for injecting the Bible into our conversation. My excuses were exactly that. Excuses. I was too cool to direct our conversation to the gospel. It wasn’t about lack of opportunity; it was entirely about my pride. The natural brokenness of setting my heart on worthless things as a child translates into the same as an adult…even if the object has changed.

A dose of humility for this prideful heart. It was good for me. The gospel is worth the cost of my coolness.

J.

A Season in Snapshots

August: To celebrate 1 year of marriage, Jon and I packed up “Sir Lancelot” our rental Lancer and hit the open roads of Cali. Here is a picture of our route and a few other favorites.

Screen shot 2016-02-15 at 6.35.32 PM.png

 

 

September: I almost want to laugh following that up with this video. In late September, we learned about a new adventure we were about to set out on.

Appreciate the freeze frame for a second. 🙂

 

October: And this was the response.

We also had our first ultrasound and heard the heartbeat. I also had the opportunity to speak at Redemption Hill’s Women’s Conference.

November: One of Jon’s best friends from college and his sweet wife came to visit. We took advantage of free museums for Bank of America customers on the first weekend of the month and explored the Newseum. This month was also filled with nightmare, anxiety, and twitter updates on terrorism. The dangers in the world didn’t seem as far away as they often do. My false sense of security was challenged.

December: After some pretty difficult moments at school, I had an awesome conversation with 5 of my 8th grade boys. Following a TedTalk about Education. Most of my boys don’t have fathers in their lives that truly love them. It was an opportunity to share with them that there is perfect Father that loves them and His love his steadfast. I have more to say on this topic, but this sweet moment was very encouraging.

January: On the 4th, we found out that we would be welcoming Jackson Paul McCay into this world in just a few months. It was such an exciting moment. I thought for sure Grace Elizabeth would come first, but my motherly instinct is still getting acclimated.

Jackson2

February: Jon went on an awesome work trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. I went on a less adventurous but just as enjoyable trip to Columbia to be with my family. I couldn’t venture to the Caribbean out fear of the Zika virus. I had some good ole sister bonding time and southern food.

USVI

 

And now you’re all caught up!

-k