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I got up early last week so I could finish reading a book. It was a surprisingly good book and after I finished it, I sat and cried from a place deep inside me.
Now, here’s the deal. I didn’t cry because of the book. I wept because I am going to be teaching middle school English/Language Arts at Church of the Holy Spirit this school year. If you know anything about me, you know how much I love to read and write. While reading that book, I realized that I will be able to talk about books and writing all day every day. And that thought brought a cascade of unexpected but very welcome emotions. It almost felt sacred.
Friends....I know that the audio quality for this particular podcast is not the best, but it will have to do.
Life is incredibly surprising, isn’t it? I have a middle school teaching degree that I earned from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. My husband and I got married during college; after we graduated, we moved to St. Louis. Russ worked at McDonnell-Douglas and I taught at Sacred Heart Catholic School in this quaint little area of Florissant known as Old Town; think cobbled streets and interesting houses all tucked in around this huge church and school. Kids that graduate from Sacred Heart grow up and send their kids to Sacred Heart.
I loved teaching there. The kids were marvelous, the parents were incredible. However, once I started having babies, I knew I had to leave because I became totally enamored with my own baby and I couldn’t focus on anything else but him.
Even though I loved teaching, there was never a plan to return to the classroom. That is, until Thursday, July 14, 2022.
I’m going to spend the rest of this post sharing a bit of the back story with you and also let you know what I am doing to alleviate some of the stress from this big change. (Why stress? Well, turns out, going back into the classroom setting after being gone for decades makes the crazy train want to start up and go full bore through every aspect of my life. I am working on strategies to handle those intense emotional swings and I will share those techniques with you because I know you most likely have some form of stress in your life.)
Okay, the backstory (I find this hilarious). For the past year, I’ve been investigating techniques on restaining and/or repainting our “survived eight children and their messes” kitchen table.
Have you ever read the book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?” It starts with this idea that if you find a hungry little mouse in your house, you might want to give him a cookie. (Not me. I’d be the one on the countertop, screaming.) The book goes on, “If you give him a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.” Once he gets a glass of milk, he’ll ask for a straw. After he drinks the milk, he will ask for a napkin. Then he will look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache and lo and behold, he’ll notice that he needs to trim his hair and he’ll ask for nail scissors. So on and so forth.
Well, that is what happened in my house. We noticed the table needed some love. Then Russ told me he wanted our living room to have a lighter feel. As we looked at the deep brown walls, we knew we would have to get new furniture. That made us look at our honey oak built-ins.
We brought in people to help us plan and well, we are now bringing down a WALL and redoing ALL of the oak built-ins. If you give a mouse a cookie…
On Wednesday evening, July 13, 2022, we had our fabulous contractor, Jacob Arnold, and his wife, Hannah, join us for a meeting to discuss the house and give us the rough estimate/bid of doing the remodel. (We love how they think and the ideas they have given to us in the past couple of months.)
After they left our house, Russ and I had a serious discussion about finances and we came to the conclusion that we could do some of the work but not all of the planned renovations.
And that knowledge made me pause. This year is a BIG YEAR for my family. There are grandbabies (that’s plural~ all three sons that were married last year have been BUSY!) and graduations galore. Maybe even a wedding. Our home will be Party Central, unlike any other year! With that many events, I don’t exactly want construction to start and stop every several months. I’d much rather just get ‘er done.
How to bring in some money for this project? That was the question. So I pulled back and pondered. Jesus, how to make this work?
The next morning, July 14, I went to Mass and afterwards, I stopped by the playground where a group of us mothers hang out on Thursdays and get to know each other better, while our kids eat muffins and play on the equipment.
As I was getting ready to go, our new principal, Mr. Brandon Relph, chatted with me for a bit and brought up the possibility of me teaching in the middle school department of our school. I told him no, I did not want to teach math. He said, “It’s English and Language Arts.”
Interestingly, as he spoke, I got really still because I felt something tugging within my spirit. During my intentions for our Divine Mercy Chaplet Novena, I had given Jesus full access to me. I had earnestly told Him, “Use me in whatever way you see this year. I SURRENDER to You.”
As our principal told me about the position, it was like two conversations were going on. I heard his words and I felt “Surrender” happening on another level.
I have a middle school degree. I love that age group. LOVE THEM. I love their humor and their emerging personalities. Although I have not been in a classroom for 25 years, I literally read and write all day long. I love the kids at Holy Spirit. I would love to share with them from the abyss of my love of reading and the written word and help them learn to love reading and writing. PLUS I could talk to them about Jesus, weaving His Incredible Love for them throughout, well, everything.
Finally, drum roll…that opportunity would give me the cash flow to finish the house.
And I can do anything for nine months. I have proven that numerous times. Ha.
I talked it over with Jesus and my husband. Both said yes. Emphatically. Excitedly.
I presented it to my children and all were supportive except one, who rolled around on the kitchen floor and said, “Don’t leave me, Mommy.” She’s 19 and works all day every day. I chuckled and told her to stop being dramatic. She said, “I won’t be able to call you.” I responded, “You never call me now.” I get her heart, though. When my mom went back to teaching I was adulting as a mom in another state and even then, it was hard to lose the open access that I had to my always-at-home mama.
But it’s only for nine months.
So I started the process of getting back into the realm of education. Everything that is part of teaching, the students, parents, curriculum, standards, grammar, novels and writing, was just fine and I was doing just fine….until I walked into the massive, bare classroom.
It was overwhelming. I have nothing to fill that space. I have no rugs. No bean bag chairs. No big pillows. No couches. No comfy chairs. No cute little side tables. Nada.
And that’s when I asked myself, “What have you gotten yourself into?” School starts in mere weeks.
I went home and went on a long bike ride and I reminded myself, “If God brought you to this, He’ll bring you through it.” So I spent some time just praising Him and giving Him free reign within me.
I spent time in The Word. “Rejoice in the Lord always! I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, with prayer and petition, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 4: 4-7
That means I rejoice in Him, knowing He is near. He is pretty big; I can just emotionally hand things over to Him.
Along with that, I started to breathe deeply. Literally. When we have fear of the unknown, all creativity stops and the body goes into “fight or flight” mode, where the sympathetic nervous system dumps cortisol and we can literally be rigid with panic. (Lori when she looked into the bare classroom.) Breathing deeply activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of the “rest and relax” response.
The trigger for this magic little response is, again, found in our BREATHING. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, when you take a deep breath, you stimulate the vagus nerve, the “very special part of your nervous system that helps you calm your mind and turn on a cascade of healing.” This nerve runs from the brain “through your chest cavity into all your organs, like an octopus stretching out its tentacles to every cell in your body.” Everything is connected to this powerful nerve. (Page 176, The Blood Sugar Solution, Dr. Mark Hyman.)
Stimulating the vagus nerve calms us by producing hormones that reduce cortisol and boost brain function and such.
Don’t you love that?
Okay, that’s great, Lori felt calm but I still had/have a TON to do. How to deal?
The first thing I did was clear my life of the “unimportant busy.” I made a list of all the things that I had on my plate. And I got rid of three smallish but still time-consuming commitments.
Next, I highlighted the important tasks. Well, as you probably have experienced, when you have a lot to do, just thinking about the tasks can be overwhelming. Just making the list can make us want to just check into the nearest insane asylum. What I found works: I start taking actionable steps towards DOING.
ACTION alleviates STRESS.
So, I looked at the list and I breathed. In. Out. And then I started working on the list.
I started networking with fabulous English teachers. I let parents know of my need for rugs, comfy chairs, big pillows, etc.
Instead of letting my mind go into orbit about all of the small, unknown things related to teaching, I focused on the known and what I can offer the students, families and school community. As an experienced (old) mom, I know the power of relational attachment. We all need to be nurtured. We do that in a community where there is a stable sense of identity in family and in Christ. Well, The Church of the Holy Spirit in Goddard, Kansas, is a gem of a place. Our families are strong and committed.
Oh my. This family photo (taken on Mother's Day) does not include one of my kids.
Bridget was working that day. Here is another one with ALL OF THEM:
The point I want to make:
We have strong families. Not perfect (obviously), but strong.
The importance of joy and attachment is something that is shown and experienced. It’s not something you “teach.” What I mean by that, because I want to be clear: all kids (your kids, my kids, their kids) need to be valued. When children, created with great detail by an amazing God, are seen and loved for who they are, they feel safe. They open up. They give. I’ve seen it happen over and over again through the years in my home and in my work with The Parenting Dare.
When we feel seen and appreciated, all sorts of wondrous experiences can happen. That is the foundational aspect of LIFE! Loving our children, truly seeing them and valuing them is the most important part of our journey. It’s the gift we can give as moms, mentors and educators! (This is a life-long process. I don't think anyone starts off doing this very well. But we can keep growing in how we love and value our kids.)
No matter what mountain is in front of you, know that if you rely on your own strength, you will be stressed and feel stretched beyond your capacity (and that will spill over into all of your most precious relationships). However, if He has truly brought you to a new experience, then He will truly bring you through it.
All the rest? Small things and they will work out.
Please take a moment and pray for all those in new situations where they feel themselves out of their comfort zone and ill-equipped. May the peace of God surround all of us in that situation, and may we allow Him unfettered access into our hearts, minds and lives.
Life is incredibly gorgeous, isn’t it? Glad you are in it!
P.S. I am going to keep giving retreats! Why? Well, I was at a wedding this weekend and a young man, sitting next to his fiancé, smiled at me like a crazy person and said, “Thank you for giving marriage retreats.” I stopped and chatted with them. His fiancé reminded me how she had asked for the slides after the retreat and she told me that they went through them together, enabling them to talk about marriage in a deeper way. He kept grinning and nodding and saying THANK YOU.
I also gave a marriage retreat on Monday, July 25, 2022, and every woman there said, "I wish I would have known this stuff when I was newly married." I agree. I could have saved a lot of heartache if I would have known how to handle ME in my marriage! But now that I know better, I want to help other women (as well as myself because I keep learning) to have a stronger marriage.
THAT is why I will keep giving retreats. I love motherhood and marriage! With that being said, I’m not sure how many retreats I will be doing in the next year, but I do have one on the schedule for Friday, August 19, 2022, at Inspirit Kombucha Taproom (which is a fantastic little venue!). That retreat is open to all engaged or married women. If you’ve been wondering what these retreats are about, it might be time to find out!
I'm Lori Doerneman
Wife. Mom. Catholic.
Idealist with 8 kids,
keeping it real.
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