Power in Admission

I have shared openly about struggles with anxiety and depression. And I recognize there is always room for improvement in my coping skills.  

If I remember to breathe, it helps.  If I think ahead, I can prepare for problematic situations. Nevertheless, sometimes things just happen.

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Beautiful does not adequately describe either of these places. The vastness and variety in these almost untouched lands are overwhelming.

And yet, even during our wonderful trip, anxiety crept in. We had been exploring Yellowstone all morning and decided to drive to the Tetons. This was the first visit to this area for both of us, an adventure.  

This particular drive brought a little more adventure than I preferred. We were driving along, listening to history and information about the area, when the road suddenly took us right along the edge of Clark Canyon.  

A quick glance out the window, and I began to panic. My body had an instant reaction. My heart sank, began beating rapidly. My stomach felt like it had been turned upside down. I wanted to crawl in a hole. Yes, I endured. But it was not fun.

Those anxious feelings crept back in later that night. I had trouble sleeping. Would tomorrow’s drive be similar? Slow, deep breaths finally helped, and I was able to sleep.

The next morning, we were on the road again. We had a basic plan of places we wanted to see. Our first stop was great! Some incredible, colorful geothermal displays. But soon, I was feeling afraid of the unknowns. Would we have to drive on any roads like the one yesterday? Just the thought and anxiety began to rise.

Finally, I said it aloud. “The thought of a drive like yesterday is making me feel panicky. I’m not sure I can do it.” After saying those words to my husband and allowing a few tears to fall, I felt much better.  

He knows me well. His response was reassuring. Soon we were laughing and ready to face the rest of the day. He even asked a park ranger for advice on the least scary route for our last stop. (Which apparently was not an unusual request.) 😉

Now, I would be lying if I said there were no other moments of panic. However, they did not take over my thoughts. My physical reactions were not as severe, and I was able to enjoy the beauty of the places we visited.

No, I did not want to admit how I felt. But, oh, I am so glad I did. It was an important reminder there is power in admission.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Artist Point Overlook

Dreams

Yellowstone National Park
Midway Geyser Basin Trail

Disappointment
Has the power
To freeze
Each fiber of
Imagination

Once faced
And released
Fears melt away
Leaving behind
A clean slate,
A catalyst
For growth

Taking a step
Back-viewing
The world with
Fresh eyes
Brings a new
Appreciation

Creativity
Awakens
Stirring
Both mind
And soul
Reigniting
Dreams

Danger High Cliff

I snapped this picture on a recent weekend getaway with my husband, Gart. The lodge we visited was built on the edge of a cliff. Views of the valley below were breathtaking. Birds flew all around. It was a perfect spot for some quiet relaxation.

But that sign…I chuckled the first time I walked past. I even witnessed several people coming and going safely from the entrance to the trail. Still, I was hesitant.

After breakfast on our first morning, we ventured toward that sign. We walked the short distance down to the edge of the cliff. It was a narrow trail, but not scary, except for that “edge of the cliff” thing.

When we reached our stopping point, there were several big rocks-
perfect places to sit and rest. Some seats were closer to the edge than others. No surprise, I chose the first available seat. Gart, however, picked one just a few steps further.

The logical part of my brain knew he was in no real danger. But the anxiety, afraid of heights part of me-well, it struggled. We were both seated, taking pictures, enjoying the scenery. Both perfectly safe. Yet, my imagination had him slipping and falling off the edge.

Later in the day, I thought about that hike and the warning sign.
Life kind of feels that way right now. Like there is a danger sign around every corner. It is easy to become fearful and anxious.

At this moment, I am safe and healthy. My family is safe and healthy. But the news reports daily virus increases. There are increased warnings about travel, the importance of masks, and social distancing. Not to mention the impossible questions concerning a return to school.

Like the edge of that cliff, the potential for danger is real. And just like the warning sign at the trailhead, there are potentially life-saving signs offering help through the pandemic. But only if I read and follow the signs.

Challenging Times

Planning like
Never before
Worried about safety
Worried about health
For our students
And ourselves
So much at stake
Far beyond academics
Far beyond testing
The emotional health
Of our children
Of our families
Of all of us
So many needs
To be met
Too many needs
To be met
By only a few
But we are not a few
We are many
We are educators
Waiting patiently
For difficult answers
To impossible questions
And no matter what
Others may say
We will shine-Our
Students will shine
With kindness, passion
And innovation as we
Face our fears during
These challenging times

Out of Reach

Some days the
Weight of worry
Presses me down
And I am left crawling
Among the shadows
Hands and knees
Scraping the ground
Head low, feeling
Afraid and alone
Standing up
On my own
Is impossible-Yet,
A flicker of hope
Reminds me that
I am not alone
Like a child reaching
For their parent
I glance up as
His hands reach down
Lifting me out
Of the shadows
Gently placing me
Among the light
Of the stars
A time to rest
Preparation for
The day when
I will once again
Be found crawling
Among the shadows-
This is the journey
To be traveled with
One lasting truth-
Wherever the road leads
I will never be
Out of reach

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James 1:17 NIV

Word of the Year

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed many stories of friends choosing a word for the upcoming year. This is not something I have done before. I do like the idea of creating a point of focus. One word that would represent a challenge-something to work on or maybe a word of encouragement.

Each time I read about someone choosing their word, one word would come to mind. It was always the same word. But I avoided actually voicing that this would be my word. 

Instead, I named all of the reasons that this should not be my word. It is not a word I use to describe myself. Though not logical, I let my mind negatively wander.  

Simply thinking about the word would make me feel like crying. What if choosing this particular word meant the coming year would bring difficult challenges? Yes, I realize that is silly. Just being honest.

This morning I gave in, deciding this would indeed be my word for the year. Strong.

I would much prefer content, joyful or peaceful. Probably because I consider myself sentimental and emotional. And that may be the exact reason why I need to choose this word.   

My husband reminds me that I am strong. And I know it is ok to think of myself as strong. We all face challenges in this life. It is good to remember how I have faced challenges in the past. But most importantly, it is good to remember where my strength truly comes from.

“Be strong and courageous…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

So, here is my word for the year 2020. STRONG! I embrace it and hope that by focusing on it, I will begin to see myself as the strong woman that I am.

Choosing Hope

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

This verse popped up on my notifications last week. I read and re-read it several times. The recent stories of mass shootings and violence in the news forced me to stop and consider its meaning.

I have always tried not to live my life based on what might happen. That mindset leads to fear and worry, which then increases my anxiety. Not an easy task, but a goal.

I learned a long time ago; I cannot keep my husband and children safe. They are not with me 24/7, nor should they be. Experience has shown that even when they are with me, bad things still happen.

I used to worry about them because of high school violence. Gart was a high school principal, my kids were attending high school at various times. High profile mass shootings in high schools were unbelievably common.

Then my list of places to worry about grew longer. The same horrific events happened at the elementary school level. Stories of precious little children killed, their teachers attempting to protect them were heartbreaking.

I am an elementary school teacher. As such, I witnessed the ushering in of intruder on campus drills. I had difficult conversations with young students who should not be worried about someone entering their school to harm them.

And now? The worry invades not only my school but also the church, shopping malls, concerts, clubs. No place is off-limits. Despite this fact, we cannot remain locked up in our homes and avoid contact with others.

What is the answer? I’m not sure. Gun control and mental health top the list of conversations and news sound bites. Lawmakers bicker back and forth but offer no real solutions. Watching the news brings feelings of desperation.

Yet, I must choose hope. Hope must lead to action. Action must lead to loving my neighbor, no matter where they are from or how they look. And that is only the beginning.

“For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

That may seem like a simplified answer for such a terrible problem. But sometimes change begins with one step toward someone else. Suddenly, we are not walking alone. And if we continue walking together, hopefully, others will join.

As this school year starts, my children will be in new places. My two oldest are embarking on teaching careers at different high schools, my future daughter-n-law also teaches at a high school, and my youngest begins college.

Of course, I pray for them and want them to be safe. But even more than that, I want them to live each day to its fullest. Not being afraid of what might happen, but working to be part of the solution.

So, my goal for this year? Not to let worry and fear overtake me. That will require prayer, trusting God, and looking for the good in each day. I will look for it in the faces of my students. They deserve a future filled with hope and love, not fear.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11