This Where the Nonsense Turns to Makesense

..A large family working to perfect our sweet skills: Loving others, making an impact, parenting on purpose, living simply, and embracing sarcasm.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What's My Role? What's My Job?

I'm at odds on the inside. This time it isn't due to the rude amount of dairy I ate. This time it's my brain and my thoughts and how they intertwine with my heart. What I know verses what I feel. What I see verses my true reality. 

During the week, I spend a solid 35 hours looking into the faces of these tiny little clowns- 28 fifth grade clowns. They are a group of incredible humans, but most of the time I seem to know it more than they. 

I say, "that was awesome. Thank you for walking us through how you did that math problem!" 
They respond, "Uh. Mrs. B. I got it wrong"
I attempt to high-five them and they accuse me of being too enthusiastic. So I offer them a low five and attempt a serious face. I ask, "what do you mean you got it wrong?? Did you learn something just now by working through this problem?"

"Well. Yah. I know how to solve it now," they add with confused faces. 

"Perfect. Well the right answer wasn't '11'; the right answer was figuring how how not to solve this problem so you could get to 11!"

They walk away slowly assessing me while I chuckle and the rest of the class laughs, mostly happy none of them was on the spot just now. 

We laugh so much in my classroom. Sometimes, when I feel the day is taking too long or what we are learning is threatening our understanding, I stop the lesson for a story. I overdo it. I use big hands. I engage them in silly stories and banter to further their sarcasm and wit, but more importantly, I show them what it looks like to interact socially with an adult. 
There are too many "right answers" in these kids' lives. Too much of "do it this way or get out". Sometimes there's a punishment for simply having a different opinion. By the time this crowd is ten, they've learned to lay low and please their people. There's no disagreeing. 

So I am at odds. I walk a fine line as an educator. I'm not the mom, I'm the teacher. But what happens when a student doesn't need a teacher, she needs a mom because her true mother called her a slut earlier that morning. She's ten and an exceptional student, and even if her mother didn't mean it, she said it, and sent her daughter to school to process that with her little ten year old brain. 
I'm at odds because a boy who is handsome and tall and funny with a mound of potential gets kicked out of his house each morning. His step dad wakes him up at 7:30 and tells him to go. School starts at 9:30, and the walk is roughly five minutes. He doesn't open up much about this but it hurts him. He's told me it makes him sad. 
So, my question, dear readers, is where do I stand? If I was their mother, I could hold them and pray with them and say I am sorry. If I was a social worker it would be easy to say these kids are at risk. I would have a plan and a program and support. But I'm not. I'm a teacher. I have to stay neutral. I would never speak against a parent to a child. So what do I say? What do I do? 

For the time, I find myself being the recipient of hugs from students I don't yet even know. Kids in other classes. Kids I've never taught. It seems they aren't looking for a teacher or a new way to solve math; those are irrelevant in their hierarchy of needs. They need love. Of which I will never have enough to give. 

So for now I hug. I hug and I practice handing this weight up to Jesus because I can't win at this. I can't love enough or say the perfect words to change these kids' home life. I'm just one girl. #kathleenkelley

I'll continue living my real authentic life in this place where I've been so clearly sent. I'll attempt to be a peacemaker and a silent set of arms that hug back. Maybe that will be enough. Let that be enough, Jesus, or show me what to do because I know I'm not in this alone

Saturday, November 14, 2015

5.5 almost

We've been over this. I don't sleep. Last night I got a new oil that is said to have powers to keep you asleep once you fall there. It smells like grass. Some foreign grass one might find in Asia. I'm torn between two worlds: the man do I love sleep world and man do I dislike the smell of grass in Asia as I imagine it. But at the end of it all, I put a couple drops on my pillow and got a solid 5.5 hours of sleep. Not even a lot of tossing a turning. 

This could be a fluke. I always sleep better on Fridays. And why wouldn't I? My brain is fried between holding down my position as a teacher and leading the troop I call the Brew Crew. 

On the other hand, Saturday is a big night. Tossing and turning would make sense. I get to emcee Awaken's 4th annual fundraising banquet. It's sold out. My belly is at peace, but my mind is a jumble. I was focused and full of peace. And then terrorists came to Paris. 

Now my heart is unsettled which always gets me thinking which always wakes me up. What a web. 

It's so easy for me to stay unattached to traumatic situations. It's safe to say I fall somewhere in the spectrum of having an attachment disorder. There's been no clinical diagnosis, but I've been through enough training to help kids through it, and I know the hand I was dealt. Knowing this about myself, it's easy to understand when I don't engage the same way others do. But it's not acceptable. I don't accept it. 

If we strive to be the remnant of hope here on earth by pointing to Christ then we are to strive to hurt over the things that hurt Him. This is so counterintuitive. Place ourselves in harm's way? Lay our heart out where the pain is? Open our fists and sit by with palms wide open?this goes against my grain. I've mastered a life of keeping people just where I want them. 
I can love Jesus and care for people and keep all my emotions in order without ever being vulnerable. Until I come to realize that's not truth. That's a coping mechanism. It's a fleece thrown over my eyes that has slowly been thinning. The opaque takes on the sheer. 
Every morning I pray that my eyes would be open to see the people around me. And suddenly I'm understanding that this isn't his way. Instead, he's attempting to do that thing- that bit where he prunes and shakes and lovingly squeezes- where he pours a concentrated dose of love right down into my grinch of a heart and makes it swell to three times its usual size. That way he has about making me soften at the edges and dare to trust his kindness. That way he has of convincing us that we can wrap our hearts around the hurt in Paris and know we will walk out the other side still in tact. Maybe even a little bit stronger. 
I don't know how he does it. But I know it's his grace. The minutes I move from "everything is a trigger threatening my calm" to "I am willing to care about what you care about". I want to trust in his kindness enough to jump on the back of compassion and ride it like the pony I should have owned. 
I have practical steps to get better at this. Awaken is a an anti trafficking organization for local guys and girls here in Reno. I am mostly the writer and social media girl for the organization, but I've also connected with some of the girls we work with. Rather than keep them at arm's length and attempt to force sympathy, I think of their stories. I picture what their heart felt like at each section. How their moms and dads felt during that time. How others looked at them and knew they were hurting but maybe didn't know why or how or what they were really doing. 
So often at my work as a teacher, I come across a kid who seems loud and rebellious and in your face. Yesterday one such girl was giving her teacher an especially hard time. This girl is a button pusher. She has more than mastered the talent of I hurt you before you hurt me. She yells and teases and swears like a pro. She instigates and stirs up girl drama. So I put myself in her shoes. 

For a few minutes I stopped and asked, "what's really going on here?" And then I really watched her. She has no friends. When I ask her about family and what she did last night or how she gets along with her mom, she changes the subject smoothly but immediately. She's never answered. So I put myself in her shoes. 

And my heart aches. It squeezes and hurts and aches and wakes me up in the middle of the night to pray for these girls: the ones already working the streets and the ones at risk. 

And then, at 3:30 in the morning, this is when I start to realize that God doesn't want me to open my eyes. I see plenty. He wants me to open my heart. And he knows I'm not at all up for this challenge. Not at all. I will never have compassion enough for others. Part because I've been damaged and don't trust yet and part because love is a fruit only the Holy Spirit can perfect in me. My only job is to let him. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The All Time Angst

You know those nights when your dinner was good but not enough substance to carry to morning? When you eat too early or too light or dang it you're just hungry. 

I'm having one of these minutes. I ate. I even ate at a normal dinner hour: 6:30. But when you eat at a football banquet they give you an unabashed stink eye if you even look like you're going to ask about wheat free, allergy friendly menu items. There isn't an allergy friendly section. There isn't even a menu. Take your styrofoam plate with those little hilly dividers, grab your dinner roll, handle your plastic ware, and just pick those croutons out of your heavily dressed Caesar salad yourself. 
Fine. But may I please sneak a bite of that cheesecake? Oh. You saw that, did you? You noticed me sneak a cheesecake bite when I was standing in line for dinner? Huh. Interesting. What's that you say? The dessert line wasn't quite open yet? Hmm. Well. In that case, I took two pieces of cheesecake when your back was turned. 
I'm still hungry. I think I'll try some ice cream. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Just The Two of Us (and no more)

The Man and I snuck out for five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact paired with an hour of talking freely. We didn't speak code even once for fear little ears might hear and hold us to whatever they picked up in their eavesdropping. Heaven bless them, but if one of my kids doesn't grow up to be a spy for the government, I may not have helped them discover their true calling. I've never met a crew that can gather Intel and decode our stuttered sentences and anagrams in the way my children can. 

Hubby: hey babe, want to go to the thing and get a D just ::opens eyes wide and winks twice:: 
Some child of mine: You guys are leaving!! To get drinks?! Just the two of you!!

Me: hey babe, there's a special thing and I was thinking of getting a ::points to ceiling:: for 5. 
Some child of mine: you're getting Sam a new hat for Christmas. 
Me: son of crap!! How do they do it!?

They are spies or wizards- I haven't decided. But the point is, we had time alone speaking freely like humans and not robots. It was glorious. 

Our conversation weaved from updates to goings on. We talked of funny stories and remembered our babies who are now college bound. We relayed the mocking we've done lately and got misty over the feelings on the horizon when our oldest leaves for college. 

We partook in the trivia cards strewn about the bar table and got caught up in each other's eyes a time or two. We sat close, so we touched the whole time. We remembered who we are- I am his and he is mine and no one else gets to fit in between us. We've left a pocket for Jesus, but nobody and nothing else is welcomed here. Not in this space. 

In this space, I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. The end. There's no grey space here. There's no compromise. We were attached 22 years ago this January. Then we married almost 20 years ago. I've been his longer than I haven't in this life. What an overwhelming blessing. What an unexpected gift. 

Thank you, Mike Brewer, for always being my man. You are loved, sir. 

Friday, October 09, 2015


There's a word that gets thrown around pretty regularly, right? 

I hope so. I hope I have time to watch tv tonight. Hopefully, I'm not late for work. I hope he doesn't eat any of you! (Land Before Time reference for everyone born in the 80s). 

HOPE. We throw it in like a pseudo-synonym for crossing our fingers. But lately the weight of the word has been sinking deep in me. 

I work at a day job where I stare into faces devoid of hope. And it isn't just my students in their too small jeans and unkempt hair- traces of an old bruise that I can never be sure came from typical kid blunders or a parent's heavily thrown backhand. 
It isn't only the dads with altered smiles due to the meth that took their teeth. Or the mothers who roll in wearing overly low tank tops, fuzzy jammie pants, house shoes, and what appears to be a countenance of confidence but really comes across as fear in the way they won't hold eye contact. And it isn't even the other teachers who confess their frustrations in a way that makes you know the only hoping they do is hope the school day ends without any major screw ups or another blow of devastating news. Really, it's all of it. It's everyone. It's no one. Hope is hard to find. 

Sometimes I feel like the life I lead is small. I'm Kathleen Kelly- I feel like a lone reed leading a valuable but small life. I'm caught up in paperwork and planning, reading data and high stakes testing. It's easy for me to forget that's not why I'm there. CRTs are never someone's ministry. My ministry is HOPE. I have it. I point to it. I wallow in it, so Jesus can leave traces of it everywhere I go. 

When I took this job as a teacher, I thought I knew what I was getting into. We never know. Why do we always think we know? Sometimes I even catch myself saying, "I finally understand what God is doing!" Even in my mind I'm cracking up at that ridiculousness. 

I thought I would teach kids things like math and reading strategies. How to master an outline like a boss. Maybe even how to navigate a relationship with a peer. Instead, God knew what he was doing. Because HE knows the plans he has for me. HE knows. So instead of teaching writing and reading and science, this month alone (9 days into October) I have done what feels like everything except teach letters and numbers. 

This month I prayed for a woman who was trying to decide whether or not she should abort her baby. She's well into her second trimester, but the doctors think the baby will be deformed. No arms. "There's no HOPE."

I also held an 11 year old boy while he sobbed on the playground because his mom is going to jail. He's the oldest of many children. He's without HOPE. 

I spent time at the broken home of a student and watched as mom, dad, and stepmom tried hard to be civil and push their hurts and insecurities down deep. Their HOPE is small. 

I prayed for a co-worker who is at the end of her choices before chemo and radiation are her only HOPE. 

I watched a little girl attempt to navigate the trauma of learning people in her extended family were murdered. She missed school for the funeral. She said she's fine. She doesn't need to talk to anyone. And it's true that her face is straight and she seems unscathed by it all, but when we ask mom about it, she begins to list the trauma this little girl has already walked through. It's heavy enough to make my eyes get misty and forget for a second where my HOPE comes from. 

And then I realize want to lead a small life! If I don't, then I leave no room for HOPE. there's no space for God to say, "I got this".
 I don't know how any of these stories end. I don't know if that woman chose to terminate her pregnancy- a little girl who I call Hope when I pray for her. A little girl I would scoop up myself and let her use my arms to hug us both until our hearts burst if God would just say the word. 

 I don't know if my co-worker will live. I will never see that little girls family reconciled with a life cut short. I don't know how to help any of them. Not on my own. 

But I can share my HOPE. I can give it away. I can recognize that I was created for such a time as this. I can be a lone reed standing tall and burning brightly, pointing the way toward HOPE. 

I hope so. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Buck the System of Complacency

Scandal of Grace. Have you heard that song? Have you felt that you are wrapped up in a scandal where you are more often than not on the receiving end of God's grace? Not earned. Not deserving. Not worthy. 

I'm there. Every second, I am there. And I meet people out on that edge, so I feel better about my junk because it's sometimes a little shinier than the guy next to me. But really, it's still junk. 

Even now as I type these words, do I believe it? Do I think I am undeserving? When I'm handed trust and opportunity, is there a place at the back of my brain that whispers, "you did this. You earned this. Well done"? 

Not enough. 
And yes. 

But I'm a work in progress. I've stood up in the boat, and I am hunched forward, hands gripping the walls- the wood refusing to yield under pressure. My eyes a deadlock on Jesus, and though he is a ways off, I know he is walking on the water, and I know what I'm to do. My eyes a deadlock on Jesus. He's not letting go. I'm not letting go. 
My leg is over the side…

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

It Riles People

Ever been accused of riling things up?

I have.

Try choosing a ministry other people aren't on board with. Try pointing out heavy truths of slavery and oppression taking place on the streets of your town. Try moving to a state or a city or a neighborhood that people don't quite understand. Try selling all of your stuff and giving it away. Try walking to a church in your neighborhood and calling those in the pews your "people" whether or not that church has the coolest VBS and worship program. Try leaving your church to spend your Sundays in a different way. It riles people.

Everyone wants an explanation. Suddenly people are huddling in close to you wanting the inside skinny on why you're really leaving. Simply stating that God is doing something with you isn't enough. Don't even try it. Well, try it. And good luck with it. It riles people.

Suddenly, everyone feels they are closer to you than he or she ever truly was. You can't quite remember becoming close enough with them for this conversation. They don't say it, but they mean, "I know you aren't around gossiping, but obviously you will tell ME."They are riled.

You find yourself at a birthday party and people want to hash it out. They are riled. People pull you out of service and need to know if something happened. And to that we should always be able to say, "Yes."

Yes. God is at work here. Prepare to be riled if you aren't in cahoots with his plan.
And be ready to be a lone reed if you are.

Every day and every minute you are trying to stand before God and hone in on his still small voice. You want nothing more than to lock eyes with The One Who Calls You. You find your grasp is a white knuckled fist upon his robes. And you are low and humble and crying more days than not.

In the end, do you know what you will discover? You need to know that when people get riled up it is much more their issue and much less your problem. You aren't riling anyone, actually. What is happening is the Holy Spirit is about you, and rather than meet that with support, their fear jumps up. And then rather than meet their fear with grace, we sometimes find that we are afraid of that very thing they are talking about. And if we aren't careful we begin to reverse the work God is doing in us. We are no longer out on the waves, eye to eye with Jesus and his deep grace. We are swimming back to shore, walking up to our chair, and pulling a towel over our face to block out what we left and what we are now missing. It's a sham.

That fear? It's a sham. God says, "Grace abounds in deepest waters. Join me. Look in my eyes and feel my heartbeat in time with yours. This is when your doubt subsides and you are strong in me. This is how you know me. Most importantly, this is how other will know me- when they watch you." It riles me.