Saturday, October 31, 2015

To build a kingdom

When I was a younger Christian- back in my twenties- I heard and read a lot about "building God's kingdom." I didn't understand what that meant.  For one thing, as an American in the 21st century,  "kingdom" is a fairy-tail word. It makes me think of Arthur or Narnia or something. For another, I thought of"building" as something that needed to be tangible, and, for whatever reason, something that started from scratch.

I've been down and out as a Christian because of these misconceptions that I had. I thought that I needed to go to the "mission field"- wherever that place is. Or, at the very least, I'd need to start up a non-profit or something.

But now that I'm in my thirties, I have a different spin on kingdom building. And this week taught me a good lesson about it...

Teaching has been incredibly stressful this year- I shared that much in my last post. I have five preps, a challenging schedule, and I have some leadership roles that require focused attention and effort. On top of that is the added pressure to perform in such a way that nothing goes ungraded for too long, no assignment goes unposted on our school software system, each parent is informed of each failing grade, and every class in infused with Biblical worldview. You get the picture.

Anyway, this week, an unexpected challenge came my way that crushed me. I actually had to leave school for a while just to process this thing.

That's when I started to see an interesting phenomenon. It happened when I looked at my students. Teenagers are funny, you know? They're pretty self-focused a lot of the time (that's not a judgement, it's part of their brain chemistry at that age) but when they catch sight of an adult in tears, they're kind of stunned.

I remember this happening to me back in high school. Probably the most memorable day of all my years at Fayetteville Academy was the day my English teacher cried as she sat on her stool in front of our class and told us about her son, who had recently been diagnosed with autism. As a student, you think your teacher is an impenetrable force. A person who delights in marking problems wrong and has nothing else to do but sit around grading papers. But the moment you see that teacher start to waver, your reality is spun upside down.

Maybe some students felt that way watching me leave school this week. I didn't share details about my challenge as Mrs. Kizer did, it wouldn't have been the wise thing to do. But they knew I was stressed and what I picked up just from looking at their little faces was- "I hope you are okay. Please be okay."

I wasn't okay. I was in a dark, angry, frustrated, want-to-give-up place. And in the midst of that place, my BSF lesson had me read Ephesians 4. I didn't even want to read it because I knew what was in there... "Be completely humble and gentle... in your anger, do not not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs."

Let me tell you, I am far from being a super-clean Christian, particularly these days. Unwholesome talk flows from my mouth when I get stressed or don't make time to spend with God daily. And I, like many other Christians, am truly weary of choosing to obey Christ while other people just do their own thing. It's hard to stay motivated to work for Jesus when people don't own their end of the mess and still proclaim to be His. I have no strength, and you have to be strong to be a builder. So I asked God for His strength as I drove to work the next day.

And He gave it. The stressful situation completely resolved, and, not only that, was turned into an opportunity to sit together with some colleagues and do that "kingdom building" I was talking about at the beginning of the post. Only, I understand it a little better now. Each day, I have an opportunity to build up other people. I don't have to move to Africa or start a non-profit. Some people do, but it's not a requirement for being a Kingdom builder. I can choose to give focused attention, loving words, and patient understanding to teenagers. I can choose to put work aside and give Andy a hug, or sing Story a song. I can teach a lesson about the brain and I can choose to marvel at God's creativity. I can pause and actually check in with my co-workers. Those are the things that I can build. And this kind of building is hard work.

The end result is pretty cool, though. When you're committed to building, and other people around you are committed to building, too, then those stunned teenage faces can relax. They come to realize that you are going to be okay. And there's a tiny piece of them that is a little more okay because you are okay. And, Lord willing, there will be a time and a place to share how Ephesians 4 and God's Spirit had everything to do with that.

So on I go. Until the next challenge comes. Maybe, the next time I'm feeling the pain that comes with this occupation, I'll ask God to remind me that I'm not just a teacher- I'm a builder.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Four Months with Story Lamm

Story's about two and a half months in this picture. I love this look. So Munchie.

It's October 25, which means that the three month and four month posts are getting wrapped up into this one four-and-a-half month blurb. Here's a little look at our life since school started.

Summer was this beautiful, fleeting glimpse into another type of life- the type of life where focusing on baby and family is the norm. Where everything was feeding times and diaper changes and taking pictures on my iPhone. Then, school started. And that life slipped away- for better or worse.

Teaching school and taking care of Story is hands-down the hardest thing I've ever tried to do. There are days my heart aches when I drop her off. There are times when I am so angry that I cannot just focus on her anymore. And then there are times when I know- I absolutely know- that my students wrestle the selfishness out of me in a way that nothing else ever could. Some days are good. Some days aren't. But I'm not here to write about school. This is about Story, so here are some highlights from the month of September.

Over Labor Day weekend, we hosted our first get together since having Story. We invited some friends we'd made through Square One, and some neighbors. My brother was in town visiting his friend Patience, so they were here too. Andy smoked a brisket and he deserves gold stars because I told the guests that it would be ready at 1PM, not realizing that would require him to get up at 4AM to start the charcoal. It was amazing... and so is he.

Hanging out with Uncle Grant at the Labor Day cookout. 

Chillaxed with Patience. 

Enjoying some hammock time with Daddy post-cookout.

Life is good.
The next weekend, Story and I headed to North Carolina. Andy had drill, and it had been over a month since I had seen my parents, so we took off on a Thursday night. We hit some weather over Atlanta that almost caused us to miss our connection. Two lessons learned- 1) Prayer is awesome. God worked it out for us to make our connection and I didn't burst into tears from the stress. 2) Schedule at least a two hour layover when flying with a baby- why put God to the test!?

My travel buddy was so good on all her flights.

Visiting Grandaddy at his office

Naptastic 3.0

This girl LOVES to sleep when Grandaddy holds her. 
During our visit home, Story got to meet her friends Annabelle McLean and Simmie and Mary Prescott Kells for the first time! Confession: I am really terrible at remembering to capture these moments in time. I do not have photo evidence of this first visit... I get so caught up in the moment of it that I don't stop to take pics. Sometimes this is a good thing. I like just fully living in the moment, but I wish I had a picture to share. Rosemary took one... but I Facebook stalked and couldn't find it. Anyway, we all decided that the visit was way too short. Both the McLean family and Kells family were about to hit the road for a family vacation before saying good-bye to the summer. So we'll hopefully get to carve out more time (and take more pictures) over Christmas.

Mom had a cookout for some friends and family the Saturday night we were home. Fortunately, Mr. Howard, a good family friend, is not as forgetful with his camera as I.

More nap with Grandaddy! 

Aunt Julia thought Story would be quite at home on Uncle Grant's shoulders.

Me and my girl enjoying the evening.

Sweet Haleys ;) 
Mr. Howard took this one after church on Sunday. Just enough time for a quick photo shoot before rushing off to catch a flight back to Austin!

Air travel is no big deal when you have a thumb. 

The next weekend, Andy's parents came for a visit- their first time meeting Story! I pulled another photo fail and have no pics from the entire weekend. But, we did have a nice visit. Friday, we got to take them out for some Tex-Mex and to the first Hill Country home football game.  Saturday, we went for a walk around Town Lake, drove through UT campus, and enjoyed some steaks on the grill. And there were plenty of Story snuggles throughout. :)

The next week was the busiest of all weeks of the school year- homecoming. My role as student council faculty advisor hasn't changed much, even with an infant. The week was slammed. But this picture, taken in the calm before the "storm" of homecoming game and dance (actually, all went really smoothly this year) might have made it all worth while. 

Story's appearance at the annual homecoming kickoff games and decorating night was a big hit. 

Cannot tell you how good it was to start the homecoming dress-up days off with some help from my international teaching crew. We all dressed alike for "Matching Monday"- taking our cue from Robin's school uniform in Moscow. 

When the homecoming queen is the type of young lady who stops you randomly during homecoming week and asks, "Mrs. Wermel, how are you doing? Can I pray for you?" it's a pretty big win for everybody. I love all four of these amazing kids. They're a blessing every day. 
In the midst of all of these happenings, Story had some milestones. One day I picked up Story from Elizabeth's and she asked me if she had been rolling over at home. I admitted that I hadn't seen it yet, but that very afternoon, as soon as I laid her down on her activity gym mat, she flipped herself from back to tummy. So she got this sticker and picture.

She also turned three months just before Andy's parents visit. We got these fun tu-tu pics, but didn't have time for a blog. Also, here are a few sweet, random moments from around that three month mark.

After homecoming, we had a couple of weeks to catch our breath. But work has continued to be challenging and the unrelenting heat and drought made things tough, too. Andy has been my constant comforter and encourager. I cherish our evenings and weekends at home together.

Relaxing in the backyard in the evenings is pretty norm. 

First Broncos game! 

Old dog and new baby = pure joy

Andy brought me these flowers and sweets just to cheer me up on a really tough day. 


Baby legs are the BEST. 

As September gave way to October, we had more visits with family and friends to look forward to. Aunt Lacy came to Austin for a few days. Again, photo fail. But we loved her company. She spent the night and somehow managed to do lots of laundry and take care of baby Story the next day- lots of practice, I guess. It was such a treat to have her here mid-week.

I also got to spend a day at home with Story on Columbus Day. I'd been wanting to take her four month pictures, and also wanted to get some poses of her in her beautiful smocked pumpkin dress. The four month pics were a win. But the pumpkin pics... well... that was more of a challenge than I expected it to be.

At four months, Story is super obsessed with her hands.

We went to our four month doctor's appointment the next day. Story weighed 13 pounds, 2 ounces. She's perfectly healthy, doesn't need a helmet (yay!) and she's been sleeping through the night since two months (thank you LORD!)

Waiting for Dr. Dudley
The next weekend, we went up to the Dallas area and visited our cousins- the Rogers and Winder families. We made our way over to the Texas State Fair on Saturday, and also got to have brunch with Ashton and Collin before heading back to Austin on Sunday.

Granddaddy keeps saying that Story needs a cheeseburger. When at the State Fair... j/k no solids for at least another month and a half. 

The Texas Star is the tallest ferris wheel at any state fair.

And because it is the tallest ferris wheel, it was kind of scary to good old, scared of heights Meredith. 

Story meets Big Tex. 

Daddy's side of this line. 
This past week was my 33rd birthday. We went out to dinner, and I had to put Story in this bow. Because when it's your birthday, you want something with a bow on it. ;)

 The best birthday present I could have asked for was a visit from my Mom. She came in on Tuesday night, and stayed through today. She stayed home with Story Wednesday thru Friday. Having her here brought a restfulness that I haven't experienced since the summer. It was great to have slower mornings, since we didn't have to rush Story out the door. And it was wonderful to get up, have a cup of coffee or tea and talk about BSF and holiday plans for this year. She also brought back the rain. The dry earth is refreshed, and so am I.

So life is busy, beautiful and really challenging. Story is an amazing baby. Right now, she loves trying out her voice. She's grasping at toys and loves putting things in her mouth. She is a great sleeper and has such a sweet spirit.

I really struggle with balancing home and work. It's the most heart-rending thing I've ever been through. I cannot do what my job requires in just eight hours a day, but I don't want to be behind a screen while I'm home with Story. It seems impossible. Please pray for our family- that God will give me supernatural ability to work efficiently at work, so that I won't fall behind, and that I will be able to disconnect from work when I'm at home and give my full focus to Story and Andy.

Thanks for checking in on us, and I hope it won't be such a long time between posts next time.