Tonight at church we were asked what our lens is. How do we see the world? What is important to us? How are we living that? How do we want to live that? The sharing was done in a big group format with at least 100 people present. Not everybody shared, of course, and for me, that is a difficult forum to share in, although I have done it before. I did appreciate the question, though, and part of me did want to share. As I thought about what I might share, I realized that I do need to share, and this is the forum for me, at least for the moment.
It’s funny, because I teach a personal development class to pre-teens, and this is one of the topics we discuss: Paradigms. What are your beliefs? What is your point of view? What is your perspective? While I give examples from my life to them as I teach it, I haven’t seriously turned the question on myself and reflected upon it during a time when I don’t have a class of forty pre-teens.
What is important to me? What is my lens? There are several obvious answers that first came to mind, but I feel like the obvious answers fall under a less immediately obvious umbrella.
My lens is: Do hard things and inspire and encourage others to do hard things.
Why is this my lens? Because the theme of my life has been just that. The obvious answers to the lens question were teaching and fostering, which you could basically simplify into one answer: children. But in order to become a teacher and a foster mom, in order to remain in those roles, I’ve had to do hard things, things that I haven’t always wanted to do. For heaven’s sakes, I work for two of the most complained about systems in the United States: the public school system and the foster care system. If that’s not doing hard things, I don’t know what is!
So, why children? I didn’t have the easiest childhood. It’s not because I didn’t have two loving parents or because I had any kind of abuse or anything like that. Things were just always hard for me. I had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder for 20 years of my life, which affected me socially, academically, and emotionally. The challenges that I faced caused me to constantly have to do things that were hard. I’m not talking about hard things like singing the national anthem in front of a stadium full of people or running for class president or running a marathon, which I did do later in life at the age of 30. I’m talking about hard things like answering a question when the teacher called on me in class or trying out for the high school basketball team or going to a school dance or even going outside to play at recess. I couldn’t shy away from doing hard things. If I did, it would mean never leaving the comfort of my home.
My difficult childhood is the chief reason I became a teacher. I had so many teachers who were angels here on earth for me. Mrs. Kuykendall, Mrs. Raymond, Mrs. Niednagel, Mrs. Rodal, Mrs. Jones. Many of them saw tears and comforted an often scared and emotional little girl or pre-teen or teenager. They made me feel loved and like I wasn’t crazy and like everything would be okay. They inspired me to want to be that for someone else.
Fostering was born of a desire to be a parent, a maternal instinct that I’ve had for years, a love of babies that rivals that of most people I know. It became about the most selfless act I have ever attempted and about learning to become a little more like Jesus. It became about loving a baby so much that you feel like they are your own and then giving them up to their parents or family members or adoptive parents and trusting that God has a plan for them, a plan to prosper them and not to harm them, a plan to give them hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
So, my lenses are inspiring and encouraging people to do hard things, doing hard things myself, and taking care of children in the public school and foster care systems…always with God as my guide, loving, obeying, and serving him.