Change.

I’ve been back from OCS for a month–give or take a few days. And I’ve gotta admit, it’s been a hell of a lot harder than I anticipated. When I first left OCS, I had come to terms with the fact that I was leaving, because I saw it coming weeks in advance. Although I was ready to just be done with the misery of it all, I had not considered all of the changes that would inevitably follow.

The first few days after I got home were spent sleeping and getting re-acclimated to civilian life. I got my nails done, bought a car, and sorted through my belongings. I took the time to process what OCS was like and everything that went into my leaving. After a few days at home, I visited Harmony and some other family members, got hired at a clinic in Dayton, OH and moved back to my college town. In the midst of starting my new job, I spent several days staying with my college roommate, spent a week housesitting for a former employer and then moved into my long-term home. To say the least, life has been a whirlwind of change.

Answers to Prayer: Last time I wrote, I had three specific needs: a car, a job, and home. As He always is, the Lord has been faithful and met each of my needs.

  • The Voyager: After just a few days of being home, I found the perfect car–an ’06 Saturn ION with 63K miles on it. It was in my budget and met every single one of my mandatory requirements (my wish list included it being a stick shift–oh well, cant’ have everything!).
  • The Flexman Clinic: I got a job working for a neuropsychologist who does evaluations for physicians, lawyers, and the government–primarily we do memory screens, disability determinations, and ADD/ADHD testing. Pretty much my job is to complete the initial testing with each client, organize their chart and schedule them with a tester. I love that I get to work with a wide variety of people and use my psych background, while building my experiences for graduate school applications. Major perks: coworkers who are great people and every weekend is 3-days.
  • The Jacobs: When I attended Cedarville, I became really good friends with the Jacobs. Since then, they’ve become like family and they’ve opened up their home to me as a place to call my home. I am incredibly grateful for this family have been immeasurably blessed by them.

OCS: Hindsight

Honestly, the further out from OCS I get, the more pissed off I get with how it all went down. Yesterday was their graduation & commissioning, and it was so hard not to be overwhelmingly jealous. Jealous that they made it and I didn’t; jealous that they’re exactly where I want to be; jealous that they get to have the title of “Marine.” It’s frustrating because I’ll never know if I really would have made it all the way through. It’s also frustrating because I know people who completed the course but have no business being leaders of any kind. I’d give anything to go back and finish what I started, not because I still want to be an officer (which I do), but because I feel like I need to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do it.

Change is a funny thing: It can be so subtle it’s not even noticeable until it’s too late, or it can be so explosive that it feels as though your life blew up.

I went from being a United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate to a psychometrist in a cornfield in less than two weeks. My life completely flipped upside down. Sometimes, I’ll look around and think “what the hell am I doing here?!” this is not how this was supposed to turn out. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am not working toward any goals or pursuing the ‘next big thing.’  To be completely honest, it makes me feel lost—like I’m just wandering with no direction. Yeah, I’m pursuing grad school, but I’m not even sure what schools I want to apply to or even for what programs. Public Health? Clinical Counseling? Nutrition & Wellness? Eeek! Where do I even begin?!

In the midst of the chaos, I’ve learned…

  1. To embrace the place that the Lord has me in this moment. This season is an incredible opportunity to really understand what it looks like to be still and find my rest in the Lord. I pray that I steward this opportunity well.
  2. The Lord’s plan is far greater than anything I could have ever imagined for myself.
  3. God’s faithfulness extends beyond anything I could ever deserve. Never once have my needs gone unmet, my prayers gone unanswered, or my future been forgotten.
  4. The failure of one venture does not change my value or identity. A friend recently reminded me that true success is found in what we do for the Eternal Kingdom. Likewise, my identity and value is found in Christ alone—nothing can change that.

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His Grace Is Sufficient for Me…

Woah…it’s been more than 4 months since I’ve last written on here. It’s been a combination of a couple of things: not having anything good to say, lack of time to produce semi-quality writing, not having the mental capacity to reflect something meaningful, and the list goes on. But, here is my attempt to catch you up on the happenings of the past few months. Maybe it’s vain of me to think that anyone will actually read this, but whatever…half of this is for my benefit. Ready…set…here I go!

His Grace Is Sufficient for Me…

That line about sums the past 4 months in its entirety. This transition has been one of the most mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting things I’ve ever done. I’ve encountered feelings of loneliness, anxiety and frustration to a new depth. I’ve failed and I’ve been disappointed countless times. But through it all, God has been good and God has been faithful. In spite of my weariness, He has proven strong; in spite of my pride, He has proven merciful. I have  felt His presence so closely–even in the moments I questioned and challenged Him.

The Lord has come through for me in so many ways these last few months. I have been blessed enough to have found an incredible church, where I am becoming fairly involved. I’m still struggling to make solid Christian friends, but I have made some and I treasure them greatly. I have some of the most helpful and encouraging coworkers I could have ever asked for; I have a roommate I enjoy spending time with. The Lord has provided all I need (and some of the things I want); my health has remained in tack (with the exception of a few minor head colds). I’ve realized that it’s only when I forget about His goodness and mercy that I become discontent and anxious.

This song has been my anthem, and I pray that is resonates with you as well: Matt Redman- Never Once

This Teaching Gig…

I’m only slightly surprised to be saying this, but I hate teaching. At least, I hate teaching special education in a public school system. It’s entirely different from anything I was expecting it to be (thanks to my naiveté). I think we can all agree that the education system in America absolutely sucks, but for my students it’s an entirely differently animal.  Our system is set up in such a way that unless the school system has tons of money flowing through it, necessary resources (like teachers) are few and far between. My students are in essence, being set up to fail. The things I do enjoy about teaching, like having meaningful conversations with my students & teaching them practical skills, rarely get to happen because of the information overload being thrown around.

Teaching special education is like doing two full-time jobs for the time and pay of only one. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There is so much legal mumbo jumbo and paperwork for each student that it is simply overwhelming. I’m starting to get the hang of things now, but the first several months were spent on the brink of a breakdown. I would be at school from 6:30-6:30, then work for a couple more hours from home (thankfully, I nixed that). The worst part about it is that no matter how hard I work, no matter how much time I put into it, I’m not an effective teacher. Now, this is where most people say, “Melody, I’m sure you’re a great teacher.” But, trust me, I’m not. There are multiple class periods a day that I’m supposed to teach 2 grade levels, 2 subjects at the same time. Someone, please tell me how the heck that is supposed to work. I can tell you right now: it doesn’t.

Please, don’t even get me started on Teach for America.

I could write another 1000 words on the struggles I’ve faced teaching, but I won’t. Those closest to me know this has been far from easy and I’ll leave it at that. If I knew that the administration would replace me in a timely manner and/or I had something else to do, I would have quit in October. But they won’t, and I don’t. So, I’m left with making the best of a terrible situation and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The way I’ve come to see it, at the end of the day, what really matters is whether or not my students have seen the love and grace of God through me–unfortunately, what too many of them have seen is hardship, sin, and hopelessness.  In spite of everything I dislike about teaching (the management issues, the endless paperwork, etc) I dearly love my students (except maybe my 7th graders…just kidding…mostly). When I view them as people with eternal significance my whole perspective changes. I want them to see Christ’s perfect love that never gives up, never runs out, and never falls short. This quote has become one that drives almost all of my interactions with students:

“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”- Dr. Hiam Ginott

Highlights…
In spite of the moments of affliction, there have been countless moments of joy & happiness. Here’s a couple of the ones that stand out (check out my Instagram account if you want some pictures!):

September: Literally the only good that happened this month: visiting some friends from college in Memphis, TN over the Labor Day weekend…I desperately needed to see some familiar faces!

October: Halfway through the month, I visited my Alma Mater & saw professors, employers, friends and mentors. I’m convinced this visit is the only thing that kept me from having a complete breakdown! It was incredibly refreshing to be poured into, advised and encouraged by some of the most godly people I know.

November: This was a fun month. It began with the wedding of my beautiful cousin, which I was lucky enough to be a part of. I got to spend almost a week with friends and family.  A week later, my dear friend Cassie came to visit. It was during this visit that I realized I actually liked parts of Atlanta (something about playing tour guide, maybe?). Cassie is one of my favorite people in the whole world–her honesty and encouragement is always precisely what I need. The tail end of November (Thanksgiving) was spent at the best place in America: the Fishnet in Duck, NC. Everything about this week was perfect, from the conversations with cousins to drinking coffee on the deck watching dolphins play.

December: Aside from finish the semester and Christmas break, the main highlight of December was spending time in the Smokey Mountains of TN with some friends from college. It was simply fun…no IEPs needed writing, no papers needed to be graded, and no lunches needed to be packed. Christmas break is Christmas break, need I say more?

January: Almost 2 weeks in, and this month has been pretty decent. Harmony was here to ring in the New Year and of course we turnt up. School started off with a cold day (I refuse to call it a snow day), a broken water pipe, and 12-year olds firmly committed to their New Years Resolution of ‘being better at living’.

Looking Ahead…

It is an understatement to say that I was ready for 2013 to be over. It wasn’t that 2013 was the hardest year of my life (although it was probably up there), but that it was just such a year of uncertainty and transition. I experienced the softening of a heart that only the Lord can do; I became a member of the “real world;” I moved to a new city, began a new job, and made new friends. If you had told me at the beginning of the year everything I would experience & learn in the 12 months to come, I probably would have laughed. Nonetheless, I am grateful for both the heartache and the laughter that came.

For 2014, I didn’t make any resolutions. Instead, I decided to pray a 3 simple prayers over my life, and the lives of those I love. My first prayer is that I fall head over heels in love with the Word of God. I have found great comfort in knowing that although life all around me may change, the Word of the Lord never does. “The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”- Isaiah 40:8. My second prayer is that the Lord would use me in incredible ways–for His glory. I have no idea what that will look like or how He’ll use me, but I desperately want to be a conduit for lives and hearts to be changed. I want my words, actions, and relationships to have an immeasurable, eternal impact. Finally, my prayer is that no matter what 2014 has in store for me, I will endure it with grace. This was my prayer for 2013 as well, and it was one that the Lord answered in every way. I pray that no matter what comes, my faith will never waver and my pursuit of Christ will never falter.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Oh, God, be my everything, be my delight
Be, Jesus, my glory My soul’s satisfied

This is hard.

Here’s the funny thing about blogging, or really just writing in general: once I finally sit down and start, I LOVE doing it.

Sweet, sweet time off

Immediately after Institute, I had a really fun little break/vacation. Literally within an hour after Institute ended, I was headed to the BEACH! I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to embark on a 5 hour drive. The excitement wasn’t so much for the sand between my toes, the smell of the saltwater or even the sleeping in that was sure to happen, but for the people I knew I would be spending the next few days with. I got spend the rest of the week with the Jacobs, a family that I became close to in my time at Cedarville. Those days were so fun and relaxing…it’s incredibly encouraging to know that you have people cheering for you & supporting you in each phase of life. I love this family 🙂

I also got to spend some time at home, which was surprisingly refreshing, granted I was only there for about 2 days and a couple of hours. I got to spend some time at my happy place: Cousins Camp. This also meant that I got to see my friend Carissa and her parents, who I haven’t seen in years. It was great to just be home and catch up with the people that watched me grow up.

On July 7, my mom, sisters and I headed down to Atlanta bright and early. I was so grateful for all of their help with loading & unloading the U-Haul and helping me unpack & put together furniture. They stayed down here for 2 days and we did some touristy things like visit the Coca-Cola museum & the Centennial  Olympic Park…it was pretty fun! But eventually they had to leave, and I began the daunting task of unpacking and getting myself settled into the apartment.

So, for the past 2 1/2 weeks, I’ve been organizing and getting ready for the beginning of school. I never ever get tired of reading about Special Ed resources, vocab & literacy tools, IEPs, or planning curriculum.

Embracing this new life

Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to actually write is that I haven’t had that many good things to say, and I never want to use this blog to complain & whine. But hell, this moving and transition thing is hard!!

It’s hard to see my friends living their lives without me being a part of them, and not knowing when I’ll see some of them again…

It’s hard to find a solid church that preaches Biblical truths that aren’t watered down to simply motivational speeches…

It’s hard to constantly feel like there is just an overwhelming amount weight on my shoulders when I look at the urban education situation just in Atlanta…

It’s hard to find good friends who challenge, encourage, and push me closer to Christ…

It’s hard to learn the layout of a new city and find the best mechanics, grocery stores, doctors, etc…

It’s hard to be several hours from family, close friends, and everything safe, familiar and comfortable…

Shout out to my BFFs for listening to me  vent & cry countless times over the past several months and always providing me with constant encouragement & support. 

Effing Traffic

I always whined about growing up in the country, and going to school in a cornfield, wishing that I lived in an exciting, fun city. It’s definitely not all it’s cracked up to be. City traffic is a bitch (pardon my French). No matter what time of day, getting anywhere takes an astronomical amount of time…doesn’t anyone down here have a job!? Sometimes I’ll get on the highway, and as soon as I see the traffic I just want to (1) curl up in a ball and die or (2) rear end the person in front of me, just so I have something to do.

No matter what, at the end of the day, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And that’s what matters. 

“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when  you found it…” – Wilfred Peterson