It’s About The Journey

The jourey may be exhuasting, but eventually you will arrive.

She shifted around over and over and over trying to find the spot of the least pain. You would think with modern technology they would have invented a more comfortable donkey. She shouldn’t complain, at least for the 68.9 miles she was riding, but she was pregnant, and very pregnant at that. Seriously, out of all the times there could have been a census it had to be now? And what was wrong with Joseph, the audacity to be born so far away? She shifted again and the baby gave a strong kick into her bladder. And now another of the already hundreds of restroom breaks! She knew that this baby was divine and all, but the pregnancy was anything but! When she got to heaven she was going to have a little chat with the Almighty about this…

We always assume that Mary was perfect: quiet in her sufferings, sitting poised even though a little hunched over on her donkey, having sweet conversations with her husband…. But we really know nothing of her jouney to Bethlehem other than she went, went into labor, and found no vacancies at any hotel… Why Was there No Room in the Inn?

What we can focus on in the birth of Jesus, is that it was  journey for Mary and Joseph. They had a road to follow, a destination to get to. God had a plan, but it was not easy. In fact,  I can guarantee you it took every ounce of emotional and physical energy that they could muster. God never gives more than you can bear, but Mary and Joseph were pushed way beyond what they thought they could bear.

Last night was Christmas Eve, and Patrick and I made it to bed by midnight. We reminisced over the years of trying to get toys together and eveything wrapped, food prepared, and everything ready for whenever our four excited kids decided to wake up. It was exhausting. We rejoiced in not having to go to bed at two or three or four in the morning. Then I said, “Phew, we survived another one!” Then I started thinking about the journey.

Christmas is not just a labor of love for a week, but for many weeks. There is money to be saved or credit cards to be charged, there are lists of gifts for loved ones, planning meals, throwing Christmas parties, attending parties, participating in the church outreaches, practicing and performing in the Christmas contada, and on and on and on. Our donkeys are uncomfortable, we get stressed and short with the loved ones we are trying to bless. The 68.9 miles seems longer and longer every year.

Such is the season, and we walk it over and over and over because we have an expected outcome. Mary’s journey led her to Jesus, cradled in her arms with the soft glow of the star resting on his little perfect face. Our journey also leads us to Jesus. Mary was crazy tired and sore from her journey, as are we. The parallels go on and on, and are a fun rabbit trail to discover.

Congratulations! You made it to Christmas 2016! Now we look at the birth of Jesus and ponder the gift that he was to the world. We may have family to spend our time with, or solitarily feel alone and abandoned with the “familiness” that everyone else seems to have. But regardless, we have all made this journey. And we will do it again next year, God willing.

The important thing to know about a journey is that there is always an end. Be it Christmas or some other journey God has you on, remember that you will get there eventually. So shift around on your donkey, try not to bite off the head of the people around you, and revel at the expected end that God has given you.

Merry Christmas! Thank you all for joining me in my blogging journey this year!

God, Help Me Calm Elsa Down! (Oh, and Help Her to Want to Learn Her Letters, too!)

God helped me find the key to help my Chinese students.

If want to hear pure prayers of desperation, then be a fly on the wall when teachers cry out to God. I know, because I am a teacher. Believe me, God and I have had a lot of chat.

I have the cutest little four year old, Elsa, with whom I am attempting to teach English as a second language. I work with VIPkids, so teaching English is my wonderful focus. There are many things that students learn, but they really aren’t seeable. Teaching English certainly is because one day you start having small conversations with the child who knew no English when you started teaching them a month ago.

Elsa is a four year old sweetheart. She is very smart, but it is difficult to know because she is usually flitting off screen (teaching online is part of the brilliance of VIPkid”s method). Many times I get her back to the screen with my brilliant kazoo melodies (especially Disney’s “Let it Go”, the song from the story where she chose her English name). Once a tambourine did the trick (my apologies to my daughter Jessica who was trying to sleep one floor below me).

Then there was the introduction to English letter names. When it came down to it, Elsa just didn’t see the point. This started up my pure prayers of desperation (God, help! How do I get her to care about her letters?). I have been walking around for a few days praying over and over and thinking through options.

God gave me the two answers I needed:

  • Show her that my name and her name have 3 our of 4 letters in common (L, S, A).
  • Distract her loss of focus with something quiet and beautiful.

Brilliance. Just pure brilliance. And it worked perfectly! As soon as she quieted down and looked on in amazement at the intersection of our names, I had her. Now letters were important and changed her whole mindset. THANK YOU, GOD!!!!

When I turned my mic on one day I could tell that she was excited and already jumping all over her poor mom. I grabbed my Gazebo music box with a man and woman dancing and put it up to my mic. I just gave her the sound until she quieted and came up to the screen wondering what she was going to see. I turned the camera on and had the man and woman right up close. This moved her close to the screen as well. We talked about how beautiful the music box was and she was in. On to the lesson. (To be honest, this was the lesson I eventually pulled the tambourine out on (I really am sorry, Jesc)). But this was the first lesson with a lot of quiet moments of learning and wonderment, my goal.

Elsa is making me a better teacher and God is providing answers to questions I have no idea how to answer. So as I teach Elsa, I grow in my own wonderment at how wonderful God is.  Who says there isn’t prayer in school…?

 

Why Was there No Room in the Inn?

It now makes perfect sense why there was no room in the inn.

Patrick and I had traveled all day with a baby in the back seat and it was midnight. We were exhausted and in Ann Arbor, Michigan driving around looking for anywhere we could get a room. (Okay, not exactly true, we did find a “Pay by the Hour” place which we turned down.) Jessica was crying, so I decided to join in.

We ended up driving over to Detroit until finally there was a hotel with mercy and a room. We fell exhausted and grateful to find a bed to lie down in. It was the softest bed we had ever been in. It was a little taste of Heaven.

It’s Christmas, so I know the similarities don’t escape you. They didn’t to me, either, as I had complete empathy for the young woman riding a donkey while in labor. (Hard to beat that labor story!)

God always tells us what He is going to do before He does it, and many times the physical realm is very symbolic to a bigger message. Mary and Joseph were giving birth to the Messiah, and this was no exception.

So why wasn’t there one tiny room in the whole town of Bethlehem for the exhausted Joseph and his stoic wife? There was not room for them because the world would not have room for Him either. Jesus will one day make a grand entrance with great pomp, but this time was quiet and peaceful. God made a place for Jesus’ birth.

We are like that, too. The world does not have room for Jesus, and it certainly doesn’t have room for Christians. Jesus told the disciples that if the world rejects them, the world is really rejecting the Jesus shining inside of them.

So where is your heart this Christmas? Don’t be like the Inns. Make room for Jesus and I guarantee you that it will change your life. God will make a spot for you. He will give you a calling. He will make your paths straight.

If you have been putting off a relationship with the Creator and the Savior Jesus, now is the time. It will be the greatest of Christmas presents. Your Inn will have room.imgres.jpg

An Old Teacher Learning New Tricks

I just wrote a very long paragraph to explain to you how long I have been teaching. But I fell asleep when I went back to read it. So I did you and me a big favor by deleting it and just out and out telling you that I have been teaching almost my entire life.

So on to the more interesting part of this blog. I started teaching with VIPkid, a full-immersion English as a second language course for children in China over the internet. They provide the curriculum, and then it is up to me to keep the kids awake through the 25 minute lesson that I give at 5am in the morning my time, which is their 6pm after a long day at school. I am bringing out puppets, songs, props, cheerleader pompoms, a bullseye game, and anything else I can come up with. The sillier the better. I have been doing this for an incredibly fun month, and I am learning things about teaching that I really never thought through or learned before.

  1. Be creative. Many of my students know little to no English at all. I have to learn to communicate in other ways. Some words and concepts they pick up easily, with others being more complicated. The more complicated the more creative I need to be. The more creative, the easier they learn and retain.
  2. Use a singing voice. For anything, really. I have sung directions over and over until I hear the kids singing them while they perform the direction I give them (…circle big A, circle big A…). Or how to spell a word, over and over until they begin to repeat it.
  3. puppets are always a hit, regardless of age. You certainly need more sophisticated puppetry for older students, but it quickly draws in the attention. (I have always said that pastors would get more people paying attention to sermons with puppets.)
  4. Use life pets. Kids eyes really come to life when you show them your dog, or snake (not me, just used to scare the point into you), or stuffed pets (they always like my turtle whose head you can hide in the shell when he gets scared).
  5. Speak loud and soft. With my teenagers I tend to forget this one. Loud is good, especially when they are plugged in, but soft makes them lean in and be more a part of what the conversation is. (Quiet voice: Are you ready to go to the mall? That one is always a winner.)
  6. Exaggerate celebrations over good efforts and achievements. I am all over this with a kazoo, pompoms, tambourine, party blower. When we celebrate these with our older kids, they will respond inside with the same enthusiasm as younger kids.
  7. It’s easier to teach one on one with kids in China than with teenagers in the house. But I need to remember  to respond to them the same way I do to my virtual students.
  8. Drink lots of coffee while you work. This has more to do with waking up at 3am, but it is also needed for the high level of energy expended while I teach.
  9. It’s okay if those around you are irritated or think you are acting stupid. Jessica doesn’t seem to appreciate my new kazoo going off in the room over her head at 6:00am. Wait until she hears my new tambourine!
  10. It’s really less about teaching and more about life. I can teach the children the fundamentals of English, but the life lessons are always far more important.
  11. Establish communication on different levels the kids can hear. I draw with kids who are too shy to speak. I sing new vocabulary to kids who don’t yet know the words. I play show and tell with students who are good at connecting what they learn to what they already know.
  12. Respect the pace of the student.
  13. I haven’t arrived yet as a teacher. There is always more to learn.

I really am a much better teacher now that I am teaching VIPkids. I think teaching teenagers for so long that I have tuned out their complaints. Now I need to tune back in to what they are saying and find ways to help them through.

I haven’t finished homeschooling my youngest child. That means I need to up my game and be a better teacher for her. I know I can do it…

Coffee Break; Cream, no Sugar

It has come to my attention that I have not been blogging very much as of late, so I thought I would catch you up on the Life and Times of Lisa Meister. So grab your favorite mug and let me pour you a fresh and hot cup of coffee. I will take mine with cream, no sugar.

Well, technically I have cream and sugar because I have the French vanilla kind that is crazy good with a crazy amount of sugar. But I feel better just saying no sugar. I figure that I am a hypocoffeedriac, meaning that if I believe that there isn’t sugar in the cream, there won’t be.

I have already blogged about my wonderful new job in
A Fun New Job and This Time I Get Paid. What is amazing is that I live in Indiana, USA but teach in China. I am teaching Chinese children, ages 4 – 12 English. There are so many wonderful children out there that are a lot of fun to work with. I really thought that China was mostly a third world country, but these children look to be from homes very much like ours.

But I digress. That rabbit trail started with my job, so I will get back to it. I am slowly building my student base and am starting to figure out what I am doing. My kids are very smart and by the end of a 25 minute lesson, I can already notice a jump in what they can understand. I work from 5 – 9 am each morning, with prep the night before. I have puppets, cheerleading pom-poms, birthday hats and blow toys, crazy hats, and a tamborine. Aargh, I digress again.

Okay, on to a new area. I am still homeschooling my youngest. It works great because we don’t start homeschooling until 10am. She does almost everything on her own now (a trait the homeschooling community highly prizes), with me there to discuss ideas, help with math, or to try to help with science.

I am also a blogger, a great love in my life. But as you can see, I don’t have a lot of time for it right now. As teaching gets easier I will have more time again.

My oldest daughter is graduating from College next week! That’s a “Yeah!” and a “Yikes!”. My 5 pound bundle of joy is now 23. Yes, the years vanished in a smoky “poof”, but I know I gleaned all the time with her I could because I educated her at home.

I have also started writing a new book, and am trying to find big chunks of time (well, not really, more like small chunks of time) to write. I have my topic, my research, my voice and am well on my way into chapter one.

Christmas is upon us, so I am taking time to think through all that Jesus has done for me and marvel at his loving decision to come to earth as a man. This year I have been thinking through all the prophecies in the Old Testament about his coming. I’ll have to blog some about that at a later date.

There is always church, God time, teen drama, husband, and health issues that I deal with on a daily basis; heavy on the teen drama. I think that is about it.

So that about catches you up on me. I would love it if you would leave a quick reply as to how you are doing. I have missed all of my blogging friends.

My Last Straw Was Many Bales Ago

I woke up one morning with a situation I knew was too rough for me. I had been going through it for a while, and the last straw happened many hay bales ago.I was panicked and nothing was changing. It was time for a little chat with God.

It went something like this,”God, the Bible says you will not give me more than I can bear… well, this is it, so it’s time to blast out the enemy and get me out of this.” I slowly opened my eyes to peek, and I was in the same place as I was before.

There is, apparently, a divide between my definitions and God’s. I realized that with all my hay management. I wish He had written the Bible in my vernacular; it would have cut down on the confusion and made my blog more successful. I will continue the dialogue with God on all this, but it all comes down to this:

  • Ultimately, God is the one on the throne
  • He believes in my way more than I do
  • Just because He listens to me does not mean we are in agreement
  • I had betters study the Greek/Hebrew definitions
  • Get a bigger barn

There is not much I can do to help my circumstances, but there is a lot I can do to help others. When they are beyond their breaking point, I need to be their prayer warrior. I can encourage them, help them with their needs during their process, and be the light to a world stuck in the “more than I can handle” arena.

If you are in a situation where you are panicking and beyond your point of bearing, remember this: “our light and momentary struggles are nothing to be compared to the glory of God”. Now that is a bunch of words God and I can agree on.