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Monday, October 12, 2015

My New Life

I started a new job in January.  How I ever was offered the job is still a mystery in my mind.  I left my interview thinking, “Oh my gosh!  I can’t believe I said that.”  Of course, to be fair, that thought goes through my mind numerous times daily…so I guess the interview was not much different than my actual everyday life.

It was a whirlwind of movement for me.  I applied for the job on Jan. 10.  I interviewed on Jan. 13 and I was offered the job on Jan. 14.  On January 15, I turned 50 years old.  So, yes, at 50 years old, I started a new job. A new phase in my life. And I was scared to death.

My new position was to be an Administrative Assistant for one of the Assistant Principals at Temple High School.  Temple High School is huge…and full of kids.  They were everywhere.  All sorts of kids. Big ones, little ones, happy ones, angry ones, even some really scary ones. Some that want to be heard, some that want to be seen, and some that want to disappear.   Teenagers are fairly daunting when you face them one on one…but when they are in a small army they are, frankly, terrifying. Temple High School felt more like a small college to me… And I was hired to serve these kids and the amazing administrators who “direct” them, along with talented people who teach them.

I realized quickly that I was out of my comfort zone.  And I was not sure I was the right person for the job… Faced with a building (honestly several buildings) full of high school students, I quickly remembered how awkward I felt in high school.  I came face to face with young, insecure teenage Marleea. That girl had absolutely no self confidence. Always felt out of place. And was terrified of new places and faces.  At 50 years old, as I walked into a new high school ready to start a new job… all of my teenage fears and insecurities threatened to choke the breath out of me.

And then, my daughter in law showed up at my desk.  I was sitting and learning about my new job and my responsibilities… and someone walked in the office door, I looked up and saw my beautiful daughter-in-law.  As a teacher at a local elementary school, she had taken her “lunch time” to come see me!! She came bearing colorful sticky notes in a range of sizes.  A face of someone I love, in the middle of a sea of strangers who were now my co-workers and an ocean of frightening teenagers who were now my “kids”.  When I saw her, I knew I could make it through that first day for sure.  And I did.

And I made it through the next, and the next, and the next…until suddenly I realized that I was no longer scared.  I was no longer questioning whether or not I was going to be able to do this job.  I casually fell into a job that I feel like I have searched for all of my life.  It was soon glaringly apparent that the whirlwind was not a fluke…it was a movement in my life orchestrated by God.
I was immediately impressed by the administration that I was assisting, and how much they loved the kids.  I fell in love with the students.  All of them.  For real. Even the ones that make me want to throw dodge balls at them just to get their attention.  Or shake them until their teeth rattle.  Or sit in front of them with tears streaming down my face begging them to make different choices.  When it comes to the kids at Temple High School, I am all in. They are now my babies.  I love their faces.  I love when they knock on my window just to wave at me.  I am blessed every time they come into my office to say “Hi Miss!”  I love taking care of them.
Talking to them while they sit in my office waiting to talk to Mr. Korompai, it is so easy to recognize now that they are all scared.  They are all insecure.  They all don’t feel like they fit in. They are all awkward.  Like puppies sort of…all arms and legs and all over the place on the emotional spectrum.  And they each disguise these feelings in different ways. And I recognize teenage me.  And I wish she could know then what I know now.
All teenagers don’t react well when they are faced with the day to day challenges. They don’t bend to authority.  They can’t make it to class in the 6 minutes given during each changing period. They don’t respond respectfully. They use colorful language. They get loud.  They get angry. And each teacher tries to continue to manage a classroom while dealing with these kids who are fighting against something they don’t recognize or even understand. And when all the tricks of the classroom fail, the teacher sends them to our office. Some we see often. Once they enter our office, they become one of mine. They are a student that needs something.  And I love them.  Completely.  Unconditionally. And I believe in them.  Completely.  Unconditionally. And I make it my goal to make sure that they know it.

I started my job terrified of my boss, but I was immediately amazed with the ease and the calmness he has when he deals with discipline.  As I watched him work, and listened to him deal with students…my fear of him was replaced with a deep respect.  And I began to realize that I could work well with him.  And that I could learn a lot from him. And I do.

And I learn something from the kids.  Every day. Recently, one of my aides came in to my office to just say hi.  He asked the aide I have during that particular class period, “Is this your favorite class?” When my aide confirmed that it was indeed his favorite class, my first period aide said, “Mine too.” I told them both that technically being an office aide is not a class.  I said, “I don’t teach you anything.”  And my first period aide replied, “Yes you do!! You teach us life lessons.”  No, buddy, that is what y’all teach me.

I love how they all want to know my name, but still call me “Miss.” My heart is full when they call me Mom; and even more so when I hear them tell their friends that I am their momma.  I love when they come in and call Mr. Korompai “my Dad.”  I love when they tell me I am “Clutch”… I love the kids at Temple High School.

 This last week our kids received their first report cards for the year.  And one of our girls came into my office, handed me her report card and said, “Hey Mom!  I just wanted you to see how great your baby girl is doing!” And guess what? She is my baby girl.

I read so many blogs, articles, and posts by people and about people who are so much more gifted than me…people who have been blessed with a passion for those in our world who are lost and needy. They travel all over the world to minister to those in need.  They teach these people the power in the name of Jesus. They minister to the people who need food or just clean drinking water.  They work with children living in orphanages with no parents, some even work for years to make these children a part of their families. People who minister to families who are refugees…People who haul supplies halfway across the world to minister to the needs of others. The physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others.   And I am in awe of these people. They are all rock stars in my mind.  I pray for them.  I repeat their stories to people.  I give them money. But I have not been called to that ministry.

And yet daily, I look into the precious eyes of children who need hope…I want to give them hope. I want them to know love and security and acceptance.  I want bring them home, into my family… to love. To feed.  To protect. To raise.  I talk to them.  I give them water.  I get hugs from them.  I wipe their tears.  And I listen to them. But what I really want is to show them Jesus.  I want them to know the saving grace that only comes from a relationship with Him.  I want them to know that if I come through in a “clutch” for them, it is only because I am a child of God. I pray every day that these kids see Jesus in me.

A couple of weeks ago the emotional toil and stress of our offices was high.  It was a very hard week. The brokenness of human nature was apparent; and in this broken state, our administrators were forced to bring calm out of the chaos. Teachers were expected to instruct in the midst of these situations. And day after day they came through with shining colors.

Our schools are a mission field.  And daily gifted missionaries go to work in them.  As teachers, administrators, staff, nurses, janitors and food service workers.  They walk in the doors of school buildings and spend time, face to face with the future of this nation.  Sharing our faith is limited by the laws; but showing Jesus is limitless.  Our hands are tied in many ways, however, we have opportunities that are overwhelming every day.  My daily prayer is that I seize every opportunity that God gives me to impact any life that I come in contact with.
I love my job.  I love the change my life took in January when somehow, through a bumbling interview, I was given this opportunity.  I have learned so much from these students and from the amazing people I work with.

During my interview I was asked about my strengths, my weaknesses and an area in my life that I would like to see improvement. All three of them were difficult to answer, and after the interview, I certainly felt I could have done a better job at articulating my thoughts.  But the answer that stands out in my mind was the area where I needed improvement.  My answer:  “In my faith.  I think I can always grow in my walk with Christ.”  Who knew the growth that would be provided through a job at Temple High School, in a tiny office in the L Wing surrounded by all sorts of teenagers?

Monday, January 5, 2015

An Open Letter to 14 year old me...

An Open Letter to 14 year old me
 Disclaimer: First of all, let me state up front, I am not really sure what “An Open Letter” means… I just see this title on blogs periodically: “An Open Letter to My Daughter.” “An Open Letter to My Son”. “An Open Letter to the Girls in My Son’s Life.” “An Open Letter to Johnny Manziel.”  So I am assuming that it is a fancy way of titling your blog, so that everyone knows they can read it even though this is already a blog that everyone can openly read.
Second of all, I will tell you what has inspired me to write an “An Open Letter to 14 Year Old Me”.  I will turn 50 in less than two weeks.  While the number “50” seems sort of daunting, I don’t dread it.  I am comfortable with what being a 50 year old means in my life.  I love my family, being a mother of grown kids, being a mother-in-law, being a grandmother and getting to spend time with our parents and my nieces and nephews.  However, turning a half a century has given me pause to look back over my life and think of the life lessons I have learned.  Some of which I have just come to realize, while others I am still learning. 
Our oldest niece on my side of the family turned 14 in December.  We waited and prayed anxiously for her for many years as my sister struggled with infertility. She is the precious child who gave me the name “MarZ,” and the one who stole my heart at first sight.  She is funny, and beautiful, and talented… and the oldest of three girls- each equally prayed for and as funny, and beautiful, and talented. And thankfully she has been joined in the  “niece/nephew” category by the Cali kids… a boy, a girl, and a girl… all of which we prayed for… and all of which are funny, beautiful and talented. But the oldest one,  she is 14.  FOURTEEN. The age when every girl decides that Britney Spear’s “I’m Not a Girl Not Yet a Woman” was written specifically for them. I remember being 14. (Many, many years before Brit’s song)  I remember thinking like my niece does right now.  But I was so very wrong.  I was a girl.  I was not close to being a woman!  And there are so many lessons I have learned during my life (which is about to hit the half century mark) that I wish I had known as a girl who was rushing to become a woman.  This is just a few of them… and while this open letter is to me as a 14 year old.  I dedicate it to my five nieces and one nephew who are still girls and a boy.  Who still have a long way to go, lots of fun to explore, and many roads to cross before they are women and a man.  I love you each more than you know, Reagan, Preslee, Bella, Haidyn, Zoe and of course Jordan. I hope that you can learn from my lessons!
Aunt MarZ

Dear 14 year old Marleea,
I am you, at 50 years old (almost).   I have lived 36 years since the time you turned 14.  And while that is such a long time… a life time really; it happened in the blink of an eye. And there are lessons I have learned that I wish you knew at 14.
First of all- I want you to know that your mom is the coolest.  And the best. For.Real.  I know that you think most of your friends think she is awesome, but you have such a hard time believing in her confidence in you.   Believe her when she tells you that you are beautiful.  Take her words to heart when she tells you that you are special.
 And on top of that? Your dad is amazing. He is fun.  And he will laugh with you forever.  Plus, if you need anything- he is the rock.  Rest in the knowledge and the confidence that your mom and your dad love you unconditionally.  Even when you disappoint them.  Even when you hurt them.  Even when you treat them horribly (which you do)- they love you.  They forgive you.  They are there for you. 
Being popular or in the “cool kid” group isn’t really worth it.  You have 5 more years of school.  And while it seems like your whole life right now, it isn’t.  Being nice to everyone.  Being who God made you.  Those are way more important than trying to be part of a group that will cease to exist once you walk across the graduation stage.  But some of the people who you did not hang out with, but that you were nice to, those people may end up being some of your best friends later in life. And so very often the friends you have in the popular group make you feel bad about yourself, and yet when you do grow up, you realize that often you were just oversensitive, or they were the ones that needed positive encouragement.  And the only way they could feel positive about themselves is breaking others around them down. It is such a clear picture to me now.
Which leads me to this next point: Don’t surround yourself with friends who make you feel unimportant.  Or like you need to change something about yourself.  Or like you just don’t add up to them.  Find new friends.  Girls you can laugh at yourself with.  Girls that will laugh at themselves with you.
Don’t let a boy give you self worth.  That is dangerous on so many levels.  First of all, it gives him too much power over you.  And you are both too young to handle that sort of power. Dangerous lines will be crossed if you allow a boy to have this much power over you… Notice I said, “will be crossed…” not “could be crossed.” Don’t place your trust and heart in the hands of someone else.  Not yet.  Not now.  Give it a few years.  Hard? Yes.  But worth it?  I think it would save you a ton of heart ache.
Your faith in Christ does set you apart.  It does make you different.  But it does not make you weird, or strange.  It is what should sustain you.  It is what you should use as a plumb line to make all of your decisions.  Christ is in your heart.  He is the great counselor.  Don’t stuff your faith away to bring back out when you are an “adult”.  Keep it as the focus of your life.  This will save you from many mistakes and heartaches.  He will never steer you wrong.  And if you place your confidence in Christ and the acceptance He has given you, you don’t have to worry about the acceptance of the cool kids or a boy.  No better source of confidence can be found than that found in a walk with Jesus Christ.
Not being coordinated, a good dancer, a cheerleader, or an athlete is not the end of the world.  Being a “P.E. Nerd” does not ruin your life.  In fact, you will learn to laugh at it later.  It gives you character.  And stories.  And new friends.
Most of the people who are athletes in high school are really no different than you.  They have a gift, and they are using it- on the basketball court, football field, baseball field, track or as a cheerleader. Just because you do not excel in these areas does not mean that you are “less than” the athletes.  If you will explore your talents:  cooking, being creative, loving people… your strengths will carry you for the rest of your life.  You might not be able to make a layup, but as a sophomore in Home Economics, you will be the only one that can make perfect gravy.  And let me tell you that is a talent that will follow you forever. Years down the road your sons and son-in-law will request that you make cheese gravy for them every time they come to your house. So don’t be ashamed of those talents and wish your life away wanting to be the girl who can dance, cheer and play basketball (or any other sport for that matter).  Learn to laugh at your weaknesses and shine in your strengths.
Your sister and your brother are your best friends.  They will be there for you from now on.  Even when you do find that “perfect” husband, and have those “amazing” kids… they will be the ones who are there for you to stand in and fill in the gaps.  They will be the ones to pick you up and give you a firm talking to.  They will be the ones to love your through it…all of it. Cultivate those relationships now.  Enjoy the fact that you can spend time with them all of the time, even when they are annoying.  One day soon, you will not get to see them every day.  You won’t get to talk to them whenever you want to …one day your heart will break when you have to hug them good bye.  And it will ache because you want to see them so badly.
There will be a time when your Daddy walks into your room after midnight and jerks the lime green phone out of the wall because you have been caught breaking the rules:  1. Calling a boy.  2. Lying .  (“I am talking to Crystal.”) 3. Breaking the 10 p.m. phone curfew.  When that happens, you are going to be so mad at your daddy!  You are going to only see the injustice.  How unfair it is!  You are going to think that you are the only girl who can’t call boys.  The only girl who can’t talk on the phone until all hours of the night.  You will think your parents are strict and unreasonable. But you can not be further from the truth. Your mom and dad are the best. They are doing everything in their power to protect you… and when you are raising your own kids, you are going to wish and wonder how to have those same rules, because technology has surpassed parenting boundaries.  It is wonderful.  It sucks. Mostly it sucks.  You will have to deal with the changes… but you will be thankful for the boundaries that your mom and dad held firm for you.
Look for a man that completes you.  Not one that competes with you.  Look for one that tells you that he loves you so much more than you love him.  One that treats you with respect. A man who appreciates your talents and is proud to be your man.  Look for a man who realizes that with you, he has more than he deserves.  Don’t settle.  Don’t accept a man that always tries to make you feel how lucky you are to be with him.  Ditch those boys immediately.  Eventually you will find the perfect man.  The one who tells you how much more he loves  you than you could ever love him… the one that you want to make happy, and the one that wants to make all of your dreams come true. (Don’t worry, it does happen)
Most important: your faith and your family… they will all lead you towards making good decisions.  Choices that don’t cause you to feel you have to be dishonest.  Trust them above everything.  And remember, you are a girl. You aren’t a woman.  And you have the rest of your life to be a woman. Enjoy being a girl.
Soon to be,

50 Year Old You