He can fix everything; do your part, and He’ll make up all the rest (.01% vs. 99.9%)

Recently I had an incident that left me feeling misunderstood, chastised, and utterly stupid. For days it’s been hanging over me, leaving me with zero motivation.

Yesterday morning I feebly prayed, “Dear Lord, sorry I’m so stupid. Please help me function through this day. Amen.”

Then I spent the morning and afternoon doing what I felt least like doing: conferencing online with my high school students on their last major paper. But I acted as their encouraging cheerleader, and halfway through the day I was feeling a little lighter.

That evening I went with my teenage daughter to see “some Christmas lights,” (I didn’t know exactly what we’d be seeing) and was overwhelmed by millions of lights on a one-mile path that meandered through a statue garden about the life of Jesus Christ.
And I felt lighter still.

That night I reluctantly joined a brief online meeting with women in our church, and left it later than expected after laughing about babies and books and having made a new friend.
And I felt lighter still.

Before going to sleep I was skimming one of my books to find forgotten details (I’m finally drafting the prequel series about the Great War and Lek and Lorixania–woot!) when I ran across these words from Perrin in Book 4: “Only the Creator knew him well enough to fix him. It was the Creator who gave him the strength he needed . . . It was the Creator who won that battle and turned the momentum of the war—not him.”

I remembered my pathetic prayer that morning, and realized that God was fixing me.

He had set before me exactly what I needed: reminders of how much I love teaching; time with my daughter in a beautiful place; connections with a new friend.

The incident from earlier which has weighed me down hasn’t been erased, and I still feel stupid (because that’s a common theme in my head, and yes, I know I need to work on it—I have been for fifty years and I feel stupid about that . . . can you see a pattern?).

But I am also a Daughter of the Creator, who loves me and guides me, and if I do my part—especially when I don’t want to—He lifts me beyond my stupidity and lets me continue onward, once again, with hope.

If He’ll do that for a slow-learning goober like me, He’ll surely do that for you, too.

(And no, I don’t have a date for when the first prequel book will come out, it’s all in the drafting stage right now. But so far I’ve got Terryp just about to enter the ruins in the east, General Lek Shin having to trek north with his sergeant Barnos Zenos to quell violence, and Guide Pax arguing with King Querul about who really is the cause of that violence.
The characters are coming alive more each day, and gloriously are starting to tell me their stories, just as Perrin and Mahrree and Shem told me theirs. Only 20,000 words in, and I think it’ll be at least two new books in the future–we’ll see. So fun to be back in their world again, and I can’t wait to get all of their stories right to share with you! Have an amazing Christmas, in spite of everything!)

Merry Christmas Images, Pics, Photos | Xmas Pictures 2019 ...

The semester in which Mahrree Shin suddenly became my mentor

I haven’t been too active on my blog since September, as I’ve mentioned before, because I was offered to teach 10th grade English at a local high school when a teacher suddenly had to leave.

The strange thing is, I’d forgotten that I’d given up on the idea of teaching a couple of years ago. Burned out by grading and freshman college students’ attitudes, (“Wait, college is hard?! No one told me college would be hard!”) I had pursued a small business and my writing.

Then why was I suddenly agreeing to teach high school in a matter of days?!

I still don’t know why, except that, strangely, I really, really wanted to.

The adjustment has been immense—working full-time, learning how to teach high schoolers, reading their novels rapidly to be two days’ ahead of them. I’ve never worked harder in my entire life. I’ve never been so drained and depleted and exhausted.

And, shockingly, I’ve loved it.

Well, most of it.

Because there’s 2nd period.

Everyone at this school of 400 students and teachers knows about my 2nd period. A senior that I have in 4th period stopped by last week to turn in something, glanced at the back row of boys I teach, and exclaimed, “Whoa—you’ve got ALL of the rotten ones!”

Yes, yes I do. Out of 20 students, 17 are boys. One-fourth are retaking the class because last year’s teacher failed them (and yes, I’ve heard all about THAT injustice from them repeatedly). A couple are retaking English 10 for the third time. They’re juniors who are feeling a bit panicked.

As you might imagine they have attitudes. Disrespectful, bitter, bratty, insolent—yep, I’ve got the full gamut. This has always been my biggest nightmare: a classroom where half of the students are the school’s known bullies.

And, for the strangest of reasons, I love each one of them.

No, it’s not a strange reason, really; it’s an absolute gift. The first day I faced them—and I had been warned about them by the assistant head of school, the head of the English department, and their current substitute teacher—I gazed over their scowls and cynicism, and I was filled inexplicably, wholly, with love for them.

Realize, this is NOT my nature. I can be rather nasty and cynical myself, as anyone whose read my books can attest. But not right then, and not since then. I was filled with pure love.

It wasn’t my love, but God’s love for them. I felt at that moment such a profound sense of, These are my children, and they need someone to care for them. This is your task, and here’s how I feel about them.

Staggering. Absolutely staggering.

I never before realized how immensely God loves each of His children–even the rotten ones. So much so that He’ll send anyone He can find to help them.

weekly meme Not too far gone

He’ll use anyone willing. Even me, as inadequate and unprepared as I am.

The head of the department had suggested that what these kids needed most was someone to “mom” them, and since I have nine kids she assumed I knew how to do that.

I didn’t, but God does. And daily He’s tutored me in what to do when someone acts up; when a student etches poorly drawn male anatomy into the desk; when another student wanders the classroom in search of the garbage can to toss his breakfast sandwich into from fifteen feet away (the sandwiches tend to fall apart in flight, just fyi); when a frequent-failure, who is failing yet again, lays down on the floor and announces that he’s no longer writing but is listening, so keep talking and don’t mind him when he starts snoring; when another student, smelling strongly of marijuana that he claims is his parents’, looks at me with his bloodshot eyes and hazy expression and says, “What was the assignment again?”  

And I’ve been tutored as to how to handle the other half of the class which is frustrated with the ding-dongs on the back row and yell, “She told us eight friggin’ [at least, I think he shouted friggin’] times what we’re doing! I counted! Shut up and listen for once!”

And I’ve been channeling Mahrree Shin, when she was teaching the delinquents of Edge. When I first drafted books 3 and 4 and described Mahrree’s experiences with her troubled students, I borrowed examples from friends who taught, and also my limited experience in once teaching English composition to the auto shop students at a local community college. They, too, were insolent and boorish. The college had thought that teaching them a humanities class might instill in them some humanity. That’s material for another post, but I’m happy to report I did have some success with them.

But that was long ago, and these are very different boys. And nearly every day I’ve thought, “What would Mahrree do?”

I’ve been taking her advice, which is also the Creator’s advice:

I never yell, although many of my front half of the class have told me to shout at the back half. “Just let them have it!”

But I never felt that was right; Mahrree never lost her temper. She’d stand in front of the class, smiling sweetly (sanctimoniously?) while waiting for the noise-makers to lose some steam. She’d stare at the worst ones intently until they squirmed and blurted, “What?! What do you want?!”

“To begin class. Are you now ready for me to talk?”

“Yeah, talk already! You’re creeping me out!”

Mahrree would never lose her cool, even when a handful of boys, upon hearing they could throw away their homework, crumpled the pages into balls and started hucking them, a dozen at a time, toward the garbage can. No, Mahrree would critique their terrible shots, exclaim loudly that she’s glad none of them are on the basketball team (while knowing that two of them were) because they couldn’t make a shot to save their lives. Then she’d pick up the balls of paper and chuck them back at the boys, demonstrating how to properly hit a target.

Mahrree wouldn’t insist on absolute silence or obedience, knowing that these boys trapped in her classroom were counting down the minutes until they could break free and run home to their four-wheelers, or their lobster boats, or their shotguns which beckoned them all day long. She’d play games in the class with vocabulary words, knowing that the teachers on either side of her classroom were forgiving of their volume because, “It’s 2nd period,” and even their students know about Mrs. Mercer’s 2nd period.

Mahrree would bring in the occasional treats, feeding them pomegranate seeds when they discussed Persephone and Hades, giving them “bird poop” cereal mix when we discussed Poe’s “The Raven,” and tossing Smarties to the students who won the last round of vocabulary Bingo.

Mahrree would worry about the students’ need to be heard, to be engaged, to feel like their 80 minutes in the classroom wasn’t an exercise in frustration.

Mahrree wouldn’t care about her ego, or her students’ lack of respect, because she knows she’s there for them, not for herself. It’s about the kids; it’s never about her.

Mahrree, by the way, is NOT like me in the least bit.

But she’s been tutoring me; God has been teaching me–daily, hourly, and every minute–how to cope.

And I’ve never learned more about teaching, about myself, and about God’s love for every one of his children—EVERY last one of them.

Mahrree would, however, count down the days until the semester was over. That, we have in common.

Eight days. Eight.

And I suspect that right after I do my Happy Dance on January 12th, I’ll shed a few tears as well, because this mom will have lost a lot of her children who she learned to love.

Because God showed me how much He loves them.

(By the way, Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World? I’ve nearly finished proofing it. It’s coming, friends–it really is!)