Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm too old for this

Today is grad student orientation. Today is the day I get my picture taken for my coveted Ncard ID. Today is the day I woke up with a huge zit on my nose.

I am too old for this.

Seriously, too old.

I got my picture taken for my ID. I don’t think anyone will notice the zit due to the “deer in the headlights” look on my face. As I sat in the orientation room the speaker asked us to look around at all the other graduate students. What I found was that I was the oldest person in the room by at least a decade. If you teach you know there is always one person in the class who constantly asks “what?” I’ll be the one asking “What? Can you repeat that honey? I can’t hear you when you mumble.”

I left orientation with a free laundry bag full of pamphlets and free stuff and more questions than answers. I have a key chain that opens beer bottles. I just need a beer to go with it. I got a book with coupons for tanning sessions, a skateboard, 10% off of piercing and tattoos and a free pregnancy test. I bet I’ll be the only grad student to use her Shopko coupon to pay for her osteoporosis meds. I am going to give the free laundry bag to my undergrad daughter since she brings her laundry home to do it for free anyway.

I stopped at many information booths. Things have changed since I was last in school. You now need a library liaison to help you find what you need. It looks like I will need to sign up for a tutorial to learn library technology. Do they have plain old books anymore? I never had a problem accessing a book. I never needed a password either.

I got a brochure from the health center and am impressed at all the services they offer. I wonder if I can make a trade on services. If I don’t need a pregnancy test can I get a free colonoscopy instead? I got a paper with a map of campus but, I can’t read it because my arms aren’t long enough. I will be the only student on campus who drinks diet coke to stay awake for night classes instead of to wake up for a morning class.

I am too old for this.

What did Sarah and Elizabeth think when they were told they would give birth at ages that were well past mine?

“I am too old for this. I am too old for morning sickness, labor, diapers, and nursing. God had many chances to ask me to do this when I was young. Why did He wait until now?”

God’s timing is always right. It may make no sense to us, but, it is always right. I don’t know why I am doing this at my age but God does. He has a plan for what I will be learning and a plan to help me get through it. I am not giving birth to a prophet but there will be a small piece of ministry for me. This is what God has put on my plate. I am too old for this, but He isn’t.

But I trust in you, O LORD;

I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in Your hands.

Psalm 31: 14-15

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vantage Point or Validity?

I was sitting on our deck in the warm evening air reading the chapter on assessment validity from the textbook I am using to teach this class. For one brief, brief, moment I had a singular flash of understanding of the term construct validity (not to be confused with content validity.) One brief, brief, moment; kind of a senior moment.

As I read through the chapter I underlined everything that made sense.

I underlined two things:

  1. The term scattergram. (Okay, I can’t actually explain this term but I remember it from my Dad’s statistics class because a picture of a scattergram looks like a graph a kindergarten class would make.)
  2. The sentence: “Thus, teachers are left in a quandary about what to use from this chapter.”

An MRI of my brain would be a scattergram right now. Take another look at number 2. Even the author of this textbook admits teachers are confused about how to use this information. Try selling that to 18 undergraduate students who have to pass this class to get their teaching certificates. I’ll bet they’ll hold on to this textbook after the class is done.

I just can’t wait until I get to chapter 5 on reliability!

This past Sunday I had an exquisite “duh” moment. No, really, even better than the look on my face when I read the term “Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient” on page 89. I was standing out on the west lawn of the church in the warm morning sun with about 200 other members of Faith Evangelical Lutheran. We were being carefully lined up and waiting patiently while a member in a cherry-picker was taking a picture for the front of the new directory. Needless to say, it was taking a long time. The conversation was strange as we were lined up and no one was looking at anyone but the crowd broke out in laughter when I made the observation that “we ought to line up in the shape of a cross or something.” Apparently, we were already standing in the shape of a cross. I could hear the laughter travel to all for edges of the cross as the story spread. Let’s just say the picture will show everyone smiling.

I am an ant on the ground who thinks she needs to have the vantage point of the person in the cherry-picker bucket. I think I need to see the whole picture when God is content with me only knowing a small part of the ground on which I stand. I want to understand the whole book on assessment and God wants me to understand only a chapter, or a page, or a phrase at a time. We will get there, but we will do it on His terms not mine.

I want the big picture view of my life, too. When people ask me what I plan to do with my degree, I get nervous when I can’t give them an answer. I am pretty sure I will be paying off loans but other than that who knows? I want to know what classes I need to take and what my dissertation topic will be and what hoops I will have to jump through to get this finished and God wants me to focus on construct validity.

God has the plan for our lives. God sees the big picture. We are merely splinters of wood on the body of the cross that killed His Son. And He loves us no matter what.

I’m headed back to my assignment on construct validity. Tonight I will say a prayer that I will be content to be where I am and completing what God sets before me, one small piece at a time. I guess you could say God has blessed me with contentment validity.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways My ways,

declares the LORD.

Isaiah 55:8

Friday, August 15, 2008

Teach Me to Trust

We are eating celebratory brownies for supper tonight. (Celebratory brownies are just like normal brownies only they have sprinkles on top and are eaten to celebrate a significant event.) Joel passed Driver’s Education. He went to class, completed the driving sessions, and watched all the videos, passed the driving test and the written test. All that is left to do between now and next June is to practice driving. Oh, and learn to keep both hands on the steering wheel. Apparently, we are now to use the 8 and 4 positions instead of the 10 and 2 spots so as to prevent us from poking out an eye should our airbags deploy.

You learn something new every time you have a child go through Driver’s Education.

I was just thinking about how neat and complete Driver’s Education is. You sign up, pay up and show up and everything happens as it should. In two weeks you are a driver just waiting for your 16th birthday. I am going to be teaching a class, on-line, for a school many miles away. This class starts on Monday the 18th, about two weeks after I was asked to teach it, and about 10 days after I received the textbook in the mail. There is nothing nice and neat or even complete about this class. It is a subject matter with which I am not very familiar, but interestingly enough have very strong opinions about. Oh, and my opinions do not match those of the author of the textbook judging from all the excited red words I have put in the margins of the book as I am reading.

I agreed to take on this class because the person asking me really needed someone (anyone!) to teach it, and I know it will be a good review for me before I take a similar class for my program. Right now, though, my stress level is sky high and my trust level is . . . wait a minute . . .no, I can’t see my trust level from where I am standing. Okay, forget trying to rewrite the syllabus or get through the chapter on formative assessment, or write the quiz for the first three chapters. Forget trying to understand how I am supposed to evaluate student evaluations of tests to which I don’t have access. Forget trying to set up the grade book on the computer classroom or brainstorm discussion threads for the discussion board. Forget figuring out the assessment tool to write assessments for a class on assessments! I have other lesson planning to do. I need to have a teacher conference with MY teacher.

God, teach me to trust!

Perhaps this is His lesson plan:

Objective: student will be able to trust in Me for all things
Method: the hard way
1. Throw her into teaching a class that she knows she is not ready to teach.
2. Give her textbook and computer access at the last minute.
3. Allow problems with designing the class for which she cannot obtain earthly assistance.
4. Help her teach the class.
5. Help the students to learn in spite of her lack of preparation, expertise and shaky teaching practices.


As her Heavenly Father I know everything about her faith but I will be looking for her to come to Me in prayer.

Time need to reach objective:

Her lifetime

Remediation and reteaching are indicated.

In my daily Bible reading I am in the book of Esther. Things looked impossibly bleak for the children of Israel in Xerxes’ kingdom, but God carried out His plan and His children were saved. Each time I read through the Old Testament I marvel at the lack of trust of those Israelites. They had so many huge miracles written in their history books and handed down from generation to generation, yet they so easily threw away their trust. But, I know that their story is my story, too.

God, teach me to trust!

May Your unfailing love rest upon us,
even has we put our hope in You.
Psalm 33:22

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Traveling Shoes

Our house was grand central station the other morning at 4:30 am. Paul was loading up Joel to take him to his pick-up spot for detasseling and I was venturing to Omaha to drop off Anne at the airport. Half way to Omaha a thick fog settled in. As Anne took care of the condensation that had gathered on our windshield she thanked me for driving her in. Secretly, I was a bit pleased to know that this capable independent young adult still needed me, a little bit.

The spiritual “Traveling Shoes” was playing on the CD I was listening to on the way back to Lincoln:

Death came knocking on my front door
Singing come on sister ain’t you ready to go?
So I stooped down, buckled up my shoes
And I moved on down by the Jordan stream
And then I shout Hallelujah done done my duty
Got on my traveling shoes

Death has been a recurring theme in my life, lately. I have been to three funerals since Easter and another is pending. I attended one funeral for someone younger than me and another for a good friend from high school. Some deaths make us sigh not only in grief, but relief. Some deaths are expected and we know that loved one had his traveling shoes. Some deaths are inconceivable. My own loss, from the previous funeral, is nothing compared to that of the father and his eleven year old daughter who stood greeting people at the door. We know these loved ones had traveling shoes ready because they were children of God; yet, the wearing of those shoes came too early.

“Traveling Shoes” is a Spiritual and these beautiful songs, though simple in lyrics, are always steeped in meaning. The song is about being ready when it’s your time to die. In secular terms we would say you have your “affairs in order.” In spiritual terms we know our traveling shoes were issued to us at our baptism, when our heavenly Father called us by name and claimed us as our own.

“Traveling Shoes”, being a Spiritual was most likely about slavery. The transition in this song is about moving from captivity to freedom. In a literal sense that often meant death, but death also meant freedom. The slave was ready and willing to risk his life to throw off his chains. The chains we wear are the result of our own sin; the shackles that bind us do not scar our wrists and ankles but rather scar our heart and damage our relationship with God and others. Our freedom is not won through the arduous travel involved in an escape. Our freedom was won for us on the cross through the redeeming love of our Savior.

Let’s consider another meaning for “Traveling Shoes.” Many times in our lives, God comes knocking on our front door asking if we are ready and willing to travel. I have watched good friends sell all their possessions in order to put on their traveling shoes to do missionary work in Africa. Recently they retired and promptly turned right around and put a double knot into the laces of their traveling shoes. They will stay in their adopted country because there is more work for them to accomplish. I recently communicated with a friend and mentor who has given up her retirement to travel to another school to offer expertise and assistance. She willingly buckled up her shoes when God asked. God had me put on my traveling shoes when He asked me to transition from being a teacher to being a student. Now I pray He does not allow me to drag my feet.

I recently read a book on the topic of leadership written by a former Jesuit priest who traveled to the world of finance. (Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney) One of the foundations of spiritual exercises of the Jesuits is to foster a spirit of indifference. In essence this means having no earthly attachments and always standing ready to move on to the next thing to which God calls us. Death is not an end; it is a transition. We are called to many transitions in the journey of our faith. Sometimes we are asked to make sacrifices and sometimes we are asked to accept changes. A spirit of indifference does not mean that we are apathetic about the work we are currently doing. It means that we understand that work is God’s work, not our own. It means that we recognize we are His tools and are blessed to be at His disposal.

A spirit of indifference means when God comes knocking at our door we don’t convince ourselves we can’t go because we are so needed where we are, or because of some false sense of humility that causes us to believe we cannot do what He asks us to do. A spirit of indifference means we have our traveling shoes close by and that when we are called we stoop down to buckle them on and move on down by the Jordan stream, ready to go.

A few years ago I had a talk with God and informed Him that I would be quite happy to spend the rest of my working years teaching kindergarten at Faith. Well, who wouldn’t be? Faith has an awesome staff, a beautiful building and kindergarten allows you to spend time with five year olds and play with blocks and paint. Sounds like the perfect fit of shoes, to me. However, now, God has handed me some traveling shoes. These shoes are not yet broken in and have the potential to leave blisters. These shoes are new and the wearing of them is a bit scary, to me. I find myself wanting to remind God that I have flat feet; did He give me shoes that will adequately support my arches? I don’t want to endure any kind of pain or suffering, you know.

My new traveling shoes are going to take me to Selma Alabama through the virtual world of a computer classroom. I will be teaching an undergraduate course on measurements. This is not my area of expertise and therefore this pair of shoes is not a good fit. Yet, God is knocking on my front door. I am stooping down to buckle up my traveling shoes. I know that God is with me and He will give me people who can fill in the blank spaces so I can teach these students. If these traveling shoes give me a blister; He will give me a band-aid.

Abraham and Moses did great things when they answered God’s call and put on their traveling shoes. Joseph had no choice but to travel when he was sold into slavery and God provided him with shoes fit for a pharaoh. He knows what shoes he asks us to wear and He travels with us every step of the way.

A man’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?
Proverbs 20:21