Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Give me more, give me more!

Right now there are two things I want badly: more time with my curly hair, and more time at the Dallas Arboretum.

I got my hair did over Spring Break (it was MUCH overdue) and the lady who did it gave me some gorgeous curls. Now, I've gotten curls before, and I enjoy the way I look with them. But, in a way it never felt natural. And it was also generally a long, tedious process to go through. So, I don't get curls often. Usually I save it for special occasions (or when I feel like paying the extra bucks to get it done). Well, these curls makes me want to have them everyday.
Probably not the best view,
but you get the idea..
Slightly better glimpse.

And she did it all with a flat iron. No curling iron, no roller, no straws... just a flat iron.

I need to learn this skill because, sadly, the curls are beginning to fall. They still look great--they've taken on this sweet waviness--but I'm not sure how much longer they'll last. Plus, I'm trying to dedicate to washing my hair every week (sometimes it stretches quite a bit further than that), so even if they don't fall on their own, they will get washed out this weekend.

And I have no clue how to recreate the look. I need to learn. Because, honestly, I kind of want it to be my permanent "look." That's how much I loved it.

I also fell in love with the Dallas Arboretum this week. The 4th grade went on a field trip today, and that was our destination. We learned about the Texas Pioneers and the types of lives they lived over the years. I took a lot of picture of the kids exploring the teepee, covered wagon, sod house... and they got to play with old-school farming plows, and pick and smell different plants.

After lunch, we took them back out through the park to just walk through the trees and flowers. Right now, the arboretum has these "fairytale castles" set up throughout. And you know how I am about fairytales... :)

I got the kids (or really, just the girls) to read the story synopsis in front of each castle. I thought they wouldn't be into it, but there were two castles I almost forgot to begin reading at, and they were quick to remind me! The stories were the original versions, so it was cute to see how confused they got when, for instance, in "The Little Mermaid," she doesn't get the guy, but "returns" to the sea with a broken heart. (In reality, she dies, but I think they were trying to keep it as light as possible without Disney-fying it.)

It was such a beautiful and peaceful place--even with the tons of people there. And there were cute cafes, and such soft green grass to go barefoot in (I forewent going barefoot, but the kids and my co-teacher went for it!). My co-teacher and I couldn't help but comment on how romantic it all was. Perfect place for a date. Or even just a "play day" for the family, whenever we each eventually have our own.

And when we got on the bus to head back to school, we discovered there was a lot more of the arboretum that we totally didn't even get to see!

Totally going back... and hopefully very soon!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Beauty for Ashes

Ever since Ash Wednesday, I haven't been able to get that Crystal Lewis song out of my head.

My dad happened to be in town that Wednesday and we had a good talk about Lent and what it meant. Growing up Baptist, Lent isn't something that we generally observe as a denomination. However, I do remember our church in Nigeria doing a 40 days of prayer and fasting leading up to Easter. And as I've grown older, I've become close friends with Catholics, Episcopalians, and other denominations that do observe Lent. And as I mentioned in my last blog, I never really got it. In fact, once in in high school I almost wiped off the ash cross on a friend's forehead thinking it was an accidental smug mark.

While my dad and I were talking, the subject of how the Jews mourned through ashes and sackcloth was related to Ash Wednesday. In a sense, by wearing the ash cross on your forehead you're "mourning" your sinful nature and what it cost Christ to save you. It's an act of penance. And my first thought was, "He trades us beauty for those ashes."

Thinking about trading beauty for ashes also made me think of the most recent Serve Sunday my church does. I go to Fellowship White Rock in Dallas, and every 4th Sunday instead of a traditional service, we worship God through service in the community. The most recent one was helping a mom and her son rebuild their lives after they lost everything in an apartment fire.

While I didn't get to help out that much with this Serve Sunday, it perhaps is one of my favorites. I took a brief tour of the apartment the church was cleaning up and furnishing for Juliet and her son and I almost cried. They had lost everything in the fire, and within a week, the church had collected enough money and donated items to give them new beds, couches, toys, books, movies...

... it was Christ's love in action. We gave her beauty for ashes. But I honestly feel it's something that wouldn't have taken place if it weren't for Christ first doing it for us.

One of the church members wrote a reflection on the day, and in it he described Juliet's reaction (emphasis mine):
Even as she witnessed all of us working away, I don’t think she fully understood the extent of what it was we were going to be doing for her and her son.  I also heard her keep apologizing and saying, “I won’t have anything left to do.  You won’t leave me with anything left to clean.”  That scene was such a vivid reflection of how some of us may have been (and might still be) reluctant to let go of our sin and/or the things of this world that provided us with a false sense of security and value, when a life with Christ means the promise of being made whole.  How much newer and more precious are the robes that our Father would envelop us with if we would just let go of the ragged sackcloth we cling on to so dearly?  I wonder how many times we’ve been tempted to ask God to leave us something to do or something to clean when He’s the only one that can renew our hearts and only His sacrifice was sufficient.  How many times have we as clay reached out and told the Potter how we think we should look and what areas in our life are fine the way they are and what areas we need fixed, when only by His hands can we be made perfect?
I think it was the perfect Serve Sunday to take place just before Lent. Because I think that's what Lent is all about... letting God come in and clean house for us. It's a chance for us to let go of our sackcloth and ashes and let Christ replace it with something much more beautiful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Happy Ash Wednesday!

Or is that what you say when Lent begins? I'm not sure... as I've never really observed Lent. Last year was my first "go" at it, and all I did was participate in this Lenten devotional. This year, I'm not fasting, but I am giving up secular music. I had kind of stopped listening to secular radio for a while, but fell off the wagon over Christmas (I love me all types of Christmas tunes!). Plus... the Christian radio stations in Dallas DRIVE ME INSANE!

But at the same time, I feel like my focus is being drawn away from Christ when I'm listening to Rhianna sing about sex and stuff like that. I used to wake up singing hymns, or I'd burst out into a worship song as I washed dishes. Now I'm singing, "What's my Name?" Not liking that at all.

Not that I think anything is wrong with secular music. And it's not like I plan to never listen to any of it again. But at least for the next 40 days that's the plan because I want to be drawn back to Christ in a new way, and I felt giving up secular radio will help me in that process.

So... what is the deal with Ash Wednesday anyway? It's taken my 25 years, but I think I finally understand. It's not about self-denial. No chocolate, no soda, no Facebook, or for me, no secular radio. It's about the denial of self. Now you're probably wondering, how are those two different? But they are...

My pastor, Gabe Gilliam, does a much better job at explaining this, but I'll take a shot at it. Basically self-denial is simply denying yourself of something you generally do/consume. Denial of self is about about change, saying 'no' to yourself in order to glorify God more. One is simply an act, the other is a change of the heart.

I never observed Lent in the past because as far as I could see, everyone I knew who observed it was simply practicing self-denial. I didn't get how giving up something as minuscule as chocolate or soda altered the trajectory of their spiritual walk. And if I'm going to participate in some religious observance, whatever it may be, it needs to be for the glory of God and not for my own glory. It needs to move me closer to Him, and not just an act I participate in as a habit.

I began to get that last year. And I hope I continue to practice denial of self over self-denial each Lent. Starting with this year.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Miss Ishola's Day Off

Today my kids were taking their Writing TAKS test, and since I'm only the lowly student teacher I got to have the day off. I guess I could have gone and observed in the 5th grade class, or maybe helped out in the library. But since I've been sick over the last week, and just stressed and exhausted in general, my mentor teacher thought it'd be good for me to have a personal day.

And did I need a personal day.

For one, two weeks ago my mentor teacher went to a professional development workshop and was gone for the day. So, our 4th grade class had a substitute... who did nothing. I mean, I basically had a good handle of the class. I was teaching the spelling and grammar, and then guided them in their centers and stuff. And so I guess she didn't really need to do anything. But this sub was on her phone a lot, and kept running off to the bathroom, and then would walk up to me WHILE I WAS TEACHING and start holding conversations with me and stuff. It was like, "okay, so not only are you not really doing what you're getting paid for (and I'm doing it all and NOT getting paid), but you're hindering/disrupting the process." It was kind of a stressful day because I was suddenly the full-fledge teacher for the day and I wasn't sure if I was ready for it. Granted I've subbed in the past, and I tutor and stuff, but for some reason this felt different. And it also began to point out to me that some of the kids don't truly see me as an authority figure in the class...

... which brings me to the second reason I needed a personal day: Three times last week, the kids nearly made me cry. In front of them. There's a few who were just really disrespectful and have always been. Like they'd not look at me when I was speaking, would ignore my directions and instructions. I mean, the day when the sub was there, I stopped and went, "Excuse me, I'm talking." And I had a girl respond, "So am I." That's the kind of disrespect I was dealing with. And well, this week it just seemed like it was at its all-time worst. These kids were very vocal about the fact that they didn't think very much of me as their teacher. So as I taught, I'd get kids sighing loudly, saying "BORING!" or just having full-blown conversations as I tried to teach.

My frustration level just kept building because I felt like I was constantly talking over them, my lesson was taking longer than it should have, and ultimately no knowledge was being imparted. And for those who know me, when I get frustrated I tend to cry. Something I had to work really hard at not doing. I just felt like they hated me and I couldn't figure out why. My mentor teacher, as well as her mentor, assured me that I shouldn't take it personally. But it was hard not to.

It didn't help that I was sick all of last week--and so my eyes were watery and burning, my nose was stuffed, and I sounded like a teenage boy going through puberty. Or that all the news about education budget cuts in Texas were finally thrust into my face and I had to acknowledge that this "Plan B" may fail, too. Especially since going for my MFA, my "Plan A" (or really Plan A.2, since Plan A was having and keeping my job at the magazine), wasn't looking so bright either after I got five "We regret to inform you..." letters.

Overall, it's been a hard two weeks. And I was emotionally drained. I wouldn't say I'm back to 100 percent, but this personal day helped. So while I think the TAKS test is pretty dumb, I'm thankful for it giving me the day off!

Miss Ishola needed her day off.
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