Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Full Year of Change, Love, Loss, & Becoming Our Best

It has been over a year and a half since I last blogged and although I do not care for excuses, I know life often happens when making plans.

The past year was filled with deep dark valleys, towering ethereal mountains, and dusty plateaus where only the wind blows. It has been a year full of change, enduring love, the pain of loss, and the determination of becoming our best.

I was able to retain and increase my position at the middle school to a full time 8th grade Social Studies teacher, despite the wringer of public education cuts. Through tireless prayer from my friends and family, I was able to have this blessing and dream job, and allow Kenny to scale back his hours at work so he could return to school in hopes of earning a degree. Praise the Lord! We are so blessed!

Last summer (around this time), however, I experienced one of the greatest losses our family has ever experienced: the unexpected loss of a very dear and close uncle. We all continue to mourn for our loss and grieve, missing him daily, but it is amazing to me how his life continues to touch people. He is still a living testament of generosity, compassion, Living (because, man, did he Live), and of Christ's love. Although, we miss him very much, I know he is with us, and every once in awhile, I could almost feel his encouraging words and love, and I am reminded why we Live.

As quickly as the summer came and we experienced our dark valley, we also experienced those towering peaks, as we celebrated Kenny's 30th in Las Vegas, and we celebrated our One Year Anniversary on a little weekend get-away in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.
4th of July in Las Vegas.
One Year Anniversary
Paper Anniversary
Up by Mary Hill Winery
Multnomah Falls
The 2013-2014 school year began with gratitude in my full time position as an 8th grade Social Studies teacher, but still as a relatively new teacher, I, as well as the most experienced teacher, felt the pressure and stress. I am sure everyone has heard of the changes in public education in Oregon as well as the Nation, so it must come to no surprise when the you hear the terms: Common Core, proficiency grading, on-demand writing assessments, and PLCs. On top of all of this, our 8th graders this year needed so much love and attention, and all though my heart more than wanted to mother and nurture them, I was often left emotionally drained and wounded. Oh, and for some reason, I decided to ensure I was invaluable to the school and took on the ever-time consuming task of After School Activities Coordinator.
Before & After
In reflection of the pressures, stress, and anxiety of the school year, I was forced to realize what was the most important thing in my pedagogy: the relationships I formed with students and (hopefully) the impact I had on their character (and HOPEFULLY a passion in learning from history and becoming active citizens to change our future world into a place of acceptance).

In the midst of the school year, we dealt with the transition of Kenny attending school and working part-time. There were some real budgetary adjustments we had to make and it was at times stressful, but the Lord continued to provide. My family, due to my uncle's passing, felt wounded and often disjointed, but we also came together and finding bonds we never had before. My closest group of friends also dealt with life altering events and losses, which I feel have only brought us closer together and we are finding the 'glue' that keeps us together is the simplest and sweetest of ingredients.
The Ingredients
As the school marks an end, it also marks a new beginning. Kenny and I (nearly two years ago, August) made a commitment to love it each other through sickness and in health. After what seemed like a dry, desert plateau for miles without end, we are finally in a position where we want to work to better ourselves: to bring out the best in each other. We felt almost disconnected at times, as two ships passing in the night, and now we are rendezvousing in a place where we both feel we should be. We want to live healthy and feel good. We eventually want to start a family and we want to be our very best when we are blessed with the said family. We do not know what the future holds. As I said before, life often happens when you are making plans, but we have both made a commitment to one another to better ourselves, our relationship, our spirituality, our careers, and our health. We are making baby steps, but I know we are heading in the right direction. We are attending Crossfit together, we are scaling back on the processed/chemical laden foods and buying more fresh/clean foods, we are taking more time to connect with one another, we are growing in faith, and we are both attending classes to better our careers.

I do not know what the next year has in store for us, but I am excited to see what happens as we continue to grow together. We will most definitely have more deep valleys, dry plateaus, and high mountain peaks, but we know we are in this together.
Love, the Strands.

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