Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Life Lessons from Uber

I attended the National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference last week in San Francisco. The city is a vibrant mixture of ethnicities. It is the Melting Pot come to life. The best way to see this is to talk to natives. I did just that as I travelled around the city in my down time from conference meetings and sessions. I took Uber eleven times over the course of four days. (What can I say? That city is filled with roller coaster-esque hills). My Uber drivers taught me things about life while getting to my destinations. Thanks Uber!
Each driver came from a different background, had a different story, and a different answer as to what we should see in our short time in San Francisco. Robert was a young African American man with long dreadlocks who was driving that day because it had rained earlier and he typically works construction. He said tourist educate him as to what he should see in his hometown. He had never heard of the Golden Gate Park and its hiking trails before someone asked him to take them there. How often do we ignore those every day things around us? Be a tourist in your own town! Thank you Robert for the reminder. Mohammad was our next driver. He was an older, Middle Eastern gentleman. He asked if we had seen the crooked Lombard Street yet and when we replied no, he changed course slightly, stopped at the bottom and allowed us to take photos before continuing on our way. He didn’t get paid any additional amount from Uber for going out of his way. (Yes. I tipped him for his kindness though). Mohammad didn’t want us to miss an opportunity.  Go out of your way for people! Gassan was Pakistani. He offered a multitude of restaurant suggestions and told us to try the Cow Brains at a particular Pakistani restaurant. (Um… No). His lesson to me was small gestures matter when people are in need. When he picked us up, I laughed and said I was glad he arrived before my phone completely died since my battery was at 1%. He unplugged his phone from the charger and plugged mine in. Small gesture? Absolutely. Did it make me feel better? Absolutely! He also stopped and pointed out that cars disappeared as soon as they turned down the street across from us. Once we had watched a few cars immediately disappear, taillights and all, we crossed the intersection and entered what seemed like a 90 degree hill straight down. He took the time to point out that we were about to experience something amazing so we didn’t miss a moment of it. Take time to let others enjoy the wonder of life. Maximino, James, Hameed, Raed, Saghar, and Alex took us around town too as pool drivers. Each was incredibly friendly, shared their time and vehicles with us, and made me appreciate life in small town South Carolina. Raed was amazed that we owned houses. He drives Uber to help pay his insane rent for a room in San Francisco. What he pays for one room is more than double what I pay for a house. He seemed awe struck when he asked how much our rent was and we replied that we paid much less for a mortgage. Be thankful for what you have. James was a financial advisor. Alex works in software. Saghar drives only on the weekends to help make ends meet, not for extras but to make ends meet. We are blessed and we don’t even realize it.
Thanks Uber and my wonderful drivers for reminding me of the important things in life!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

God Still Holds Back the Water

      In the movie Prince of Egypt, there is an awesome scene where the Red Sea parts for the Israelites to cross safely as they fled from Egypt. The massive walls of water are clearly depicted with sharks and fish swimming high above the people as they walk quickly to safely. I love that image because it shows exactly how powerful and amazing our God is. He can hold back the Sea so His people can cross over on dry land. He didn't let them suddenly discover boats. He didn't throw up a barrier to stop their pursuers. He didn't allow them to swim across. God parted the waters and they crossed on dry land.  What's my point? Simple. God is Powerful Enough. Whatever it is that you are struggling with, God is powerful enough to handle it.

     About a dozen years ago, I worked in Human Resources. I liked my job. I worked hard. There was a variety in what I did. I travelled for work. I earned a nice salary. Nothing I did was dishonorable to God; nothing I did showed His awesomeness either though. My job went to the West Coast. I stayed here. I really prayed about what I was supposed to do next. God called me to teach and so I became a teacher. I tell this story a lot. It's all true. However, it leaves out the part where God held back the water for me to cross on dry land.

     In a Hallmark movie, I would have received a full scholarship or won the lottery or met a wonderful benefactor that paid for me to go to school to become certified. Nope. In real life, I lost my house, moved in with my grandmother, and slept on the floor of her small home for the first six months of my teaching career. When I was finally able to pay for Taylor and I a home of our own, we went without cable television, internet, and even heat for one winter. Life was hard. I never once doubted that teaching is what I was supposed to do though and we survived. How is this God holding back the water? I went to school for 15 months with absolutely no income. I did not have a penny at times. Church members would hand me gas money as we were leaving church. My grandmother housed us and fed us. I had a jug of loose change that I carried around in the car to pay for gas and it never ran out of money. God didn't give me an easy route, but He did allow me to cross over. Taylor and my grandmother became extremely close. He wouldn't have had that relationship otherwise. I devoted myself fully to my career because I knew this was my calling from God.  I love teaching because I am called to teach. God held back the water so I could do it.

     Today, the sermon centered on Joshua 3:1-5. Joshua says three things that I think we need to remember. First, Joshua tells the people to wait until they see the ark of the covenant to leave their homes and follow it. He said to WAIT. I have student loan debt from my Masters and my Doctorate. It worries me because it is a second mortgage every month. I wanted to be a better teacher, but I also wanted to be a better paid teacher. That's hard to say. It's true though. God has not miraculously erased my debt. Today, sitting in the pew, I realized that I had not waited until I saw God's plan. I made my own plan. I am bobbing in the sea of debt because I did not WAIT. The second thing, Joshua says is to put some distance between yourself and the ark so you can see which way to go. The ark is Holy. If I am so close that I cannot see the signs of which way I am to go, I will miss the direction I am supposed to travel. I like to think I know what is best.  I sit on this board and that committee. I apply for this class and that class. God didn't call me to be all those things. He called me to teach. God knows what His plan for my life is. I need to trust Him. I need to stop trying to catch up with the ark and show it where to go. God needs to lead me. Otherwise, I am looking for the life raft when God's plan is to part the water. I need to hand it all over to Him.

     Finally, (and I LOVE this), verse 5 says "And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." Sanctify yourself. We all want the waters to part. We all want to be part of something amazing. Joshua clearly states that we have to do our part first. We need to spend time in prayer, in reflection, in God's Holy Word. We need to take ourselves out of the picture and put the focus firmly on God. I am called to teach. My classroom is my mission field. I need to stop worrying about what my test scores are going to be. I need to stop worrying about accolades that never come my way. I need to stop seeking the approval of others. I need to sanctify myself so that God can be seen in me. God didn't call me to teach to raise standardized test scores. I am to do so much more. I need to sanctify myself and watch God do wonders among me. He will part the waters if I do my part. I cannot wait.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why I Don't Want to Teach US History Anymore...Even Though I LOVE It...

When I was about seven years old, I fell in love with history. I wouldn't become a history teacher for another 25 years, but I fell in love young with the stories of this great country of ours. Specifically, I discovered Abigail Adams that summer. I read every book our library had on her. There was no internet then, so I read and read and read. Here was this spunky, intelligent woman who spoke her mind, loved her husband dearly, defended her child against bear attacks while sewing her own clothes. I wanted to BE HER! The fascination continues. My first Kindle purchase was a compilation of letters between Abigail and her beloved John. I love that she is his equal. She reminds him to "remember the ladies" while he is drafting the foundation of our great country. He responds by calling her "saucy". They are still the couple I want to be.
     Of course, if you know me, you know that I also fell in love with Theodore Roosevelt long before he was the president Robin Williams brought to life in movies. He also loved deeply. The cowboy image he is known for came about only after his wife died in childbirth. He fled to the west to become a rancher. He needed that much space to mourn. He was awful at farming. People mocked him. He became an icon. Teddy Roosevelt took every single life experience he had and used it in the next chapter to make the world a better place. Plus, he rode a moose...I Want to BE HIM too...
     I understand that history is a story and that it happens every single day. I want to be a part of the stories past too. I look at the famous photograph by Dorthea Lange of the Migrant Mother desperate in the migrant camp surrounded by her young children and I want to help her. I want to sit down with her, rock the baby in her arms, and tell her it gets better. I want to work beside Rosie the Riveter making planes during WWII. I would love to be a flapper hanging out in a speakeasy scandalize nag the world by showing a little ankle. Let's go save the Lindbergh baby and Sacco & Vanzetti while we're at it! I want to broker peace between Hamilton and Burr before Hamilton dies in that fateful duel. I even want to go tell Monica Lewinski that it's a bad idea to date her married boss and while we are at it, let's tell Gary Hart to not go for a ride on the Monkey Business. History is real to me! I LOVE IT!
     However, I don't want to teach my beloved subject anymore. Yes, I read books about it for fun. Yes, I love the stories behind those dusty old documents. I get why the History Channel is a success and why every single miniseries they offer is a blockbuster... I even know where the term blockbuster comes from... I don't want to teach this subject anymore though. You see, US History in my state has a end-of-course exam that counts 20% of the student's final average for the year. The state failure rate hovers around 50% for the 8th year. Teachers have complained and the prevailing thought is that the teachers haven't figured out how to teach it yet. Try something different and you will get a different result. Don't complain unless you are doing different things. I have taught it slowly and in depth. Students fail. I have taught it quickly and with tons of review. Students fail. I hVe given notes, done graphic organizers, shown video clips, had students research, done sketching activities, had them dress up as historical figures... Students fail. Teachers become frustrated and hand it over to new teachers hoping there is some new method that will unlock this test. I simply cannot continue to pour my heart into teaching this subject year after year only to have students perform poorly without feeling that I have failed them. I don't want to do this anymore.  I LOVE HISTORY..... I LOVE MY STUDENTS MORE....

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ten Years Later... It's Time...

A little over ten years ago, I changed careers. I used to work in corporate America and then, I became a teacher.  I can say that so simply these days. At the time, it involved many sleepless nights, tears, prayers, and going without what I thought the necessities in life were. I didn't doubt that I was doing the right thing.  I knew I was following God's plan for my life; it was simply way more uncomfortable than I wanted it to be.

When Taylor and I were forced to move from our dream home, I begged at the altar. I didn't want to leave the horses in the field on one side and cattle across the street.  I wanted Taylor to continue to sleep in the room Cricket and I had hand-stenciled late at night and play in the sports-themed room. I wanted to answer God's call on my terms. Some of you are smiling.  You know it doesn't work that way. God doesn't bargain with you. He does, however, provide everything you need.  We moved in with my gradnmother and she adored Taylor. He has so many memories that he would not have had if God had let us stay in that house we loved so much.God knows what He is doing.

At this time, I knew that God was calling me to Africa. I annswered "yes".  I told Taylor we were going to Africa,and he was all in.  I have an amazing child.  I had already uprooted his entire life and now, I am saying we are going far away from everything and do whatever, and he says fine.  For months, when my phone was powering up, it said "YES! GOD! YES!" I accepted but it wasn't the time. 

Now is the time!! The Mount, a church in Clemson SC, is taking a mission trip to Africa. I am going as part of that group. I know you can't see me, but I am smiling when I type this. I was going to include pcitures from the slideshow shown at the initial meeting held last week until I realized that there was no slideshow.  Those images are simply in my head.  They're brilliantly clear images of the school we are visiting, of the ministry that we will host. There are babies to be held and sang lullabyes. I can see a little girl with this radiant smile despite the faded dress is she is wearing. I can see them because now is the time. I am called to Africa. The only answer is YES.

The trip will cost around $4,000. Ah, you say, this is where you ask us for money. It's not. See, my God has called me to Africa.  He will provide the funding and yes, it may be from you - that is between you and God. If He lays it on your heart to help me with funding, He will provide the money He asks you to give and bless you for doing so.  I simply want you to pray.  I am not asking you to toss in a "remember Tracy as she plans for Africa" throwaway line in your nightly prayers.  I want you to truly pray that God will open up the path He will have us walk on this trip, that He will go before and prepare the hearts that will accept Him while we are there, that He will be glorified in everything we do over there. Pray... because now is the time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Stop Spending and See...

I had the best lunch today after church.  Savory roast over rice with green beans and cornbread muffins. I even had enough leftover for lunch one day this week. The best part? It didn't cost me anything. I had everything on hand already.

I have a tendency to stock up on canned goods when I see a good sale.  I know that I will use the vegetables eventually so I buy several cans.  I do the same with muffin mix, meat, soup, pasta, you name it... I do not like to pass up good sales. However, then I don't use them. I am tired when I get off work so I run through a drive through.  Friends ask me to go to dinner and I happily accept. I noticed I had a freezer full of food the other day when I was trying to wedge the ice cream I had bought on sale in the other week and I decided that I was not going to buy another thing until I had used what I already had. I am going to do No Spend November!

Lets don't get crazy with this idea.  I must pay my bills, buy gas to go to work, and pay tithes. Other than that though, I am trying to not spend money. It is really hard... I am using the things in my freezer and cabinets that have sat there staring out at me for weeks.  Salmon is good for me afterall.. Frozen pizza not so much but hey.. it has already been purchased... I am cooking more and home cooked meals just taste better somehow. I am saving money too which is awesome since I plan to head to Japan for Christmas.

I have realized that I am really spoiled. Like so many things in life, God blesses us with what we need and yet, we set it aside to take what we view as the easier route. We have left so many great and wonderful things to sit and wait while we spend our time, talents, and yes... money on inferior things. What do you have right now that you are not using? Why aren't you using it? If it is because it is easier not to, stop. Take advantage of what you already have. You don't need anything else.

Join me in No Spend November!! See how God blesses us when we use what He has already provided.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sometimes You Just Have to Spit the Cookie Out...

I observe Lent every year.  I'm not Catholic and I know that my salvation rests in God's grace alone, but Lent gives me the opportunity to focus on the sacrifice that made my salvation possible. I spend time praying and thinking and praying some more about what I should give up or take up. I've given up bread which was difficult.  I've given up reading for pleasure which I thought might be the one I could not complete.  I've taken up blogging and walking.  The daily focus required by Lent allows me to grow as a Christian every year but this year's answer to what to give up still made me hesitate, it made me want to beg for another option, it made me realize God had a message to share with me. I gave up chocolate for Lent.

I love chocolate.  This is not an overstatement.  The aroma of it makes me smile automatically. The smooth texture of it is luxurious. The taste of it in its many incarnations is delightful.. I could do a riff on the many forms of chocolate that would make Bubba  jealous that he only got to speak about shrimp but I will restrain myself to simply say...  I LOVE CHOCOLATE.... How will I survive 40 days without my staple? The answer to that is easy, I told myself.  Every time I want chocolate, I will focus on the greater picture of Jesus' sacrifice. However, God is a master teacher.  He told me to give up chocolate understanding it would be hard, but also knowing I would be surrounded by it.  He didn't want me to simply focus on the sacrifice; He planned on using Lent for a 40 day object lesson.

Every single one of us is a sinner. We were born sinners; we will die sinners. The only hope for us is God's grace. We ask God to forgive us and beg to be covered by the blood of the Lamb.  He does this willingly because He loves us.  However, then we go about our daily lives doing whatever. We say we cannot help it and God will forgive us anyway. Sin is a choice though. Every time we sin, every single time, we side with the devil. We choose to sin. What does this have to do with chocolate? Simple, in my 40 day object lesson, the Master teacher is illustrating this choice.

When we accept Christ as our savior, we know that there are certain big things that we are walking away from. Because everyone feels convicted about different things, I will stick with the 10 commandments, tithing, growing as a believer, and witnessing. I think these are the basics. In my Lent lesson, these are represented by the obvious things.  No Hershey's kisses, no Valentine's Day candy, no chocolate cake, no Oreos, etc. I am giving up chocolate for 40 days so obviously I understand that I cannot go grab a handful of M&Ms.  This is basic commitment. However, sin is everywhere and it is unbelievably easy to slip up.

I had to work registration this past week.  The faculty met with each student and a paretn to discuss class choices for the next school year.  Because we would be working through dinner, the administration provided sub sandwiches and cookies for us.  A co-worker was eating cookies and I asked if I could have one.  They were soft warm chocolate chip cookies.  Was I thinking about Lent?  Nope. I was sitting there laughing with co-workers, waiting on parents.  In other words, I was going about my daily business. I took a bite and it was delicious.  Almost instantaneously, another co-worker declined a cookie saying he had given up sweets for Lent.  Jolted, I spit the bite of cookie out and sputtered "me too!" I had almost broken my promise because I wasn't paying attention. Lesson two... God knows we are going to mess up but we have to keep our focus on Him.

I was shaken that less than a week into Lent, I had almost failed. I take this sacrifice seriously.  God is amazing.  He revealed the lesson plan to me.  I'm supposed to think about my response to sin throughout this process. It's not about chocolate at all.  Chocolate is just the vehicle He is going to use to demonstate the lesson. This is why I was able to withstand gobbling up any of the miniature candy bars that were in bowls all the way down the conference table at the board meeting I attended yesterday. Four different flavors - all of which I enjoy - were right in front of me for the taking as were homemade chocolate chip cookies and chocolate doughnuts. I almost laughed at the excess of it.  The sad reality is that there is a buffet of sin available for us to participate in every single day. We have to trust in the Lord to give us the strength to say no to it.

I cannot wait to see what chocolate lesson God uses to teach me tomorrow.... and I really cannot wait until Easter when I plan to eat M&Ms and Hersheys kisses and Dove chocolates and a solid chocolate Easter bunny and a huge slice of chocolate cake.... MMMMM.... Did I mention I love chocolate?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's Been the Point From the Start.

As a history teacher, I want students to realize that there is one theme that connects all of history - Conflicts create crises which lead to change. If students can understand that one principle, they can pretty much look at any history situation and analyze the cause-effect relationship between the events. It's THE point; the one thing students must get to truly understand history. I find it funny that I totally grasp that history has one central theme and yet, I missed the fact that the great teacher (our Heavenly Father) has only one main point too.  Every sin must be covered by blood, perfect blood.

Please don't stop reading because I mentioned God. Stick with me. This may be the most important thing I have ever tried to write.  I am so excited about it, I want to shout! God told us from the beginning that there had to be blood shed. From the very beginning.  From Genesis, the very first book!

I always discounted the Old Testament. I always thought... "Well, yeah, it says that, but that's the Old Testament". Then, thankfully, Jesus came and saved us. The New testament is what I have to focus on.  I based my faith in Christ alone because without Him, I am guilty of sin and the wages of sin are death. That part of my belief hasn't changed! Jesus Christ is still the one and only way that you can be saved.  What has changed is my view of the Old Testament. God isn't simply telling us our history.  He isn't simply saying here's how rough it used to be,  here are your great forefathers (and mothers) of faith.  He is telling us that sin must always be covered by blood.  Every single sin. I am blown away by this right now.

You don't have to be a great Bible scholar to know the story of the beginning.  God made the world. He spoke it into existence (and trust me, that was the Big Bang). The Garden of Eden was perfection.  There was every need supplied and met.  Adam walked with God in the evenings.  He walked with Him.  How incredibly cool is that! And then, ... Mankind screwed it up.  Eve believed the serpeant, Adam followed suit.  This is the first sin. Think about it.  Life was perfect and the first time, someone asks why can't you have absolutely everything?  We sin...  (You can't see me, but I am shaking my head because wow.. that one just hit home too...)  Back to the story of original sin... Adam & Eve sin.  They hide from God. (yep.. we still do this.). Then, God asked them what they had done.  They confessed. God punished them and future generations for their sin. Then, in Genesis 3:21. it says "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them." Did you catch it? I never had until this weekend. I knew God clothed them in skins.  I guess I always thought that was about sturdier clothing.  God providing better for us even when we thought we had it handled with flimsy fig leaves. But it's not!  God shed blood to cover the sin.  WOW!!!! Sin #1... Sacrifice #1 to cover the sin so we may be forgiven.

Cain and Abel... Exodus from Egypt...All the stories.  Every single story points to the one and only point! Our sins require a sacrifice of perfect blood.  God, our Heavenly Father, loved us enough to give His one and only son as that sacrifice for us and all we have to do to be covered is totally and honestly accept that TRUTH.  It's the only point and He makes it over and over and over from the BEGINNING because it is that important!!!

God is an awesome teacher! He tells us over and over because some of us it takes a little while to grasp it all. I just ordered The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread from Amazon. I feel like this is where I am supposed to focus right now. I'd love it if some of you joined me!!