This is Summer: Season Four {Preview}



The weeks that have passed, these days that pass in the blink of an eye, have been filled with teaching and planning, managing and- sometimes- excelling. 

I’ve been consumed by, totally drawn into, the lives and hearts of 13 little ones; they fill my days, and planning for them, thinking about them, fills my nights. 

And in ten days, when the school year ends and my stars graduate from kindergarten, I will so miss them. 

But beyond that, in the days and weeks that follow, I know what comes next. 

It’s summer. 

Summer with its beach afternoons, belongings spread on damp towels, sisters running, playing, splashing with friends just barely made. 

Summer is Barnes and Noble, library days, and reading books, planning to read books, listing and noting and saving books because I’ve so many to read, and so many that I come back to, over and over, flipping through pen-marked passages to find just what I want to read. 

Summer is Michigan trips and unplanned afternoons with friends, walking the Lakefill as the moon shines over the crystal lake and playing glow in the dark ultimate frisbee at midnight. 

Summer is a break and a stretch, an entirely different arena, and now, as the wind blows rain through the chilled trees outside, I’m so eager for sun, for warmth, and for all those summer days. 

~Natalia 

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All the Other Things

Oh I look forward to the days

when class prep

and job applications

and grading

are not the things that keep me from writing,

from living,

from dreaming

in this space.

Of course, there will always be things

that come between me and here.

But the applying and the stressing

and the planning and the prepping

are things that I’ll be just fine

taking a break from;

things I might not even miss.

But I do them now.

Amongst weekend visits with dears from long ago,

and teeny baby house guests

and events and fun,

beach times and lakeside runs.

And all the other things

that happen before

I put finger to key,

and begin to type these very words.

~Natalia

Life Right Now {#66}

GRADpic

I graduated yesterday

from Moody Bible Institute

and the years leading up to yesterday

were so very deep and rich

and hard and sweet

and the weeks leading up to yesterday

were some of the best

and just right now

I’m having a hard time

thinking, believing,

that all of those wonderful, awful, complex years

are over now.

~Natalia

Dear Kindergarten

Do you know that your voices stay with me long after we’ve parted ways each afternoon? I hear them in my head after I wave goodbye at 3:30, after I leave you under the patient oversight of the aftercare teachers. I hear your voices- distinctly, unquestionably you- as I live my evening hours; eating, working, cleaning. Through it all, I can hear you. You stay with me throughout the day, really.

I prepare for you, each day. That’s kind of a given in the teacher realm; planning lessons, organizing worksheets and activities, inventing ways to reteach a concept again, to help you understand more, grasp deeper. I prepare for how you might not quite master it the first time, or how it takes you longer to write, or how you get frustrated when I erase your wrong answers too quickly. I think about all those things and a hundred other things every morning.

I think about what you need, too. I know your mom just had a baby and you’re feeling a little displaced. I know you’re feeling clingy and your five-year-old words just can’t tell me that. So when you stand up during math, lean your head on my shoulder while I teach, I let you stay there. I know you had a busy weekend between parents, I know you didn’t get nearly enough sleep and Monday morning beforecare was a hard shock to your little system. So when you fall asleep right there on the floor during phonics, I let you stay there, I let you sleep. And when you wake up two hours later, rubbing brown eyes groggily, I greet you gently, with a smile, because no one likes to shouted at when they’ve just barely woken up.

I know you’re frustrated that you don’t understand, I know you’re upset with yourself for making wrong choices, for not following directions. I know that she hurt your feelings, that he bosses you around, that he won’t let you look at his Pokemon book. I know, I know. And it hurts me, too.

I wonder sometimes what you think about me, if you know how I feel about you, how I love you. When there are just one too many calls of “teacher! teacher! teacher!” and my tone is exasperated, fed up, I wonder. When you come tattling to me for the eighth time on the same kid, and I sigh and tell you I don’t care what he said and can you just play somewhere else for a little while. I wonder then if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m caring for each of you as well as I could. I wonder when you still throw a tantrum, even though I used a sticker chart, spoke gently, clearly stated the expectations beforehand. I wonder when the math pages come back half right, hard evidence of confusion on concepts I thought I taught well.

I wonder if I’m enough for you.

But really, I know I’m not. I know I never will be enough for you. Teaching you, discipling you, molding you is an unbelievable responsibility, especially when I spend more waking hours with you during the week than your own parents. I carry that weight, heavy on my heart and my mind, but I’m not the only one. I am part of a team, a family, of teachers and administrators, PE coach, art and music teacher; we all work for you, we all care for you, pray for you, love you.

And around us, beneath and above, encircling and encompassing everything we do, Christ guides and Christ gives. He provides and He encourages and He pours out. And what I have is nothing compared to Him, and what I give is a drop in the ocean of love and grace that He is. But He’s working through me and He’s working above and beyond me, and every morning, every afternoon, every evening with you, my precious kinders, that is enough.

I love you.

~Miss Shull (aka Teacher)

A Boat with a View

I have a picture of the exact scene. The shot slightly blurry, the Chicago skyline is highlighted against the backdrop of dark night sky. The faint lightening- some call it light pollution- of so many buildings stretching so high into the sky can be seen behind the black towers. Small, seeming oddly insignificant, the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel sits at the foot of the long line of buildings, the invisible waves of Lake Michigan lapping at its base.

I have the picture, but it’s the moment, the hours, behind the picture that I’d rather keep frozen, snapped on a camera roll of scenes and laughter, preparation and one hundred snippets of conversation.

Behind that picture, we’re three, then four, packed on wicker outdoor furniture. We’re on the top deck, the highest of two open-air areas, ornate all-weather furniture, heavily cushioned, strewn across both decks. Lower still, two indoor decks are lined with tables, their white table clothes long-since cleared of our buffet dishes, non-alcoholic bar drinks. There are two dance floors, one live band, and those two indoor decks are alive with the beat of the music, the hum and pitch of conversation, singing, laughing; voices rolling over and across one another, clashing and rising, and then falling to a hum once more.

Up on the top deck, the noise is different. The music can still be heard, but now it’s muted, vague through the textured steel below our feet. Instead, it’s the wind that we hear most up here. Whipping, blowing. It carries our voices the wrong way, words drifting away, immediately begging to be repeated. The conversations themselves are different up here, too. The chill and the blowing wind seem to bring about extremes; for some, it invokes yelling, loud exclamations punctuating the night air. Around us, small groups of people jump, spin, yell into the darkness, their voices disseminating quickly over the rolling waves.

For others, though, the vast openness of the lake and the cloud-filled sky incites a sense of closeness, of intimacy there in the wide open. Pairs, small pockets of threes, fours, scatter across the deck. Leaning against the waist-high railing, tucked into the canvas crevices of the couches. Their voices carry in the wind, but they are softened, morphed by the blowing breeze, and the sound that reaches us is unintelligible, gently undecipherable.

And we’re there on the couch, in the middle of the deck. The city before us, distant, seems tame from afar, but the glowing lights, the clean-cut skyline, hide millions of lives, stories, chaotic crossings of heart and souls. We’re four on the couch, isolated from the noise, from the city, from the world around us. I’m in the middle, shielded on both sides from the night chill. Two girls side by side, we’ve a suit coat tucked over our legs, generously offered by the guys sitting beside.

Tucked together, cushions over laps, shoulders curled together to guard against the wind, we sink into each other, exchanging words in conversations that we began months, years ago, and have picked up once more. I’ve not seen her in four months, after spending time together nearly every day for three years. She teaches and I teach and we learned how to teach side by side, practiced on one another, and now we’re arm to arm in the warmth of a couch on Lake Michigan, and the quiet conversation dips serious. She talks about her months teaching in New York, and she is honest and she is humble and I feel my heart taking in her words, her story, and I drink in her honesty, gulping down the assurance that this teaching and this learning and this following the Lord is something we all do, we all need grace in.

On the other side of me, the guys talk quietly, tossing words back and forth casually, kindly; their friendship stretches even longer than mine and hers, and they’re comfortable together.

And then someone, maybe one of the guys, stands, suggests a return below deck, to warmth and music and all the color-lit action of a cruise on Lake Michigan. And we go, standing huddled by our table, snacking on leftover desserts, sipping down pink lemonade that’s gone just a little bit flat.

And soon, when the boat docks and we all step off, we take an hour to wander through Navy Pier. We stop to take pictures, stop to chat, stop to rest heel-clad feet. And later still, after a too-long Uber ride back to school, we sit in the lounge in our sweats, suits discarded, fancy curled hair long since fallen down in the wind, and we play SPOONS with plastic silverware from the kitchen, and we’re laughing and calling out, right there at 1am.

And there are games and studying, laughing and snacking all around us in that late night campus lounge, but we’re in the middle of it all, relishing the last hours of a wonderful night on the lake, on a boat with a view.

~Natalia