Ms. Vera

This past weekend my school was honored at the regional meeting of ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) where accreditation was officially bestowed upon our band of thirty some educators.  School was closed on Friday as the teachers and staff traveled up to Lancaster PA to receive the award.  On this occasion one of my colleagues was kind enough to drive me, sparing me an otherwise lonely commute and offering a safer ride through snow-covered hills in a beastly Hummer truck.

Before leaving the park-n-ride, she punched in the coordinates to our destination and entrusted her journey to Vera, the oh so seductive British voice filtering through a GPS device.  I acted as co-pilot with my own directions, conveniently printed from mapquest.com.  Armed with directional guides, this hour trip was failproof.

That is, until Mapquest confused the numbers on two interweaving roads.  I ditched the paper in disappointment and scanned the road signs.  About ten minutes later – no, Vera says it was 7 minutes 30 seconds  and 5.9 miles later – we came to an intersection with no option but to turn.  Vera said to turn left.  I checked the road signs and questioned the British woman’s logic.  Turning left would mean traveling South, yet geography taught me that Lancaster was North.  I overruled the machine and our Hummer turned right (from the left turn lane, no less)!  Vera’s pride was wounded as she felt the power button’s cruel effect.  And within about an hour’s time, we arrived in Lancaster.

Following the ceremony, me and my friend shopped around for a coveted Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, a gift for her daughter if we could ever find one.  Both outlet centers in Lancaster fell short.  Target had no licensed merchandise.  Our best lead, offered by a store clerk who didn’t know if we should take the road West or East, was a shopping mall.  Thus, driving without Vera and without a Pennsylvania map, I appealed to my Boy Scout instinct in hopes that we might find the mall.

Indeed, we reached our destination.  As soon as the truck set in park, I pumped my fist into the air, cheered, and leaped out of the vehicle in triumph.  We made it!  (and found the only Steelers jersey for sale within a 20-mile radius)

Even if we had entrusted Vera to steer us toward our destination, accomplishing the feat would never have inspired such a reaction in me.  GPS devices do the most good for people when stored in their boxes, sitting on a shelf.  As for me, I’m willing to sacrifice the convenience or security that Vera promises.  I’d much sooner trust an old-fashioned map and some rusted road signs.

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Flu Season

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

– Jeremiah 29:11

I am no philosopher, no theologian, but I think it is safe to say from observation and the frequent recurrence of this theme in literature that the tension between “being” and “becoming” is universal.  That is, one is constantly torn between what he is right now, in his present state of existence, and what he hopes to be someday.

Compared to my hopes and dreams of a year ago, I am nowhere near where I thought I would be.  I am not “becoming” the person I once envisioned; I am not fulfilling the telos that I believed was set before me.  And the past few days are a repeat of that idea.

Given a three-day holiday weekend, I felt dropping my regular duties, resting, and visiting family in western Maryland would be an excellent use of my time. Well, I did set the textbooks and curriculum materials aside.  I did get some extra sleep.  But I never traveled out west. After barely surviving the school day on Friday in an upright position, I came home and went to bed immediately.  Within a few hours, I discovered that I was dehydrated and had inherited the flu.  Fever, chills, headache, dizziness, full-body numbness, vomiting, fatigue, coughing, sinus pressure…I had it all. And now on Tuesday afternoon, I am recovering yet still fighting hard to eliminate this bug.

Flu season is here, and I caught it, and I am grateful.  Believe it or not, this weekend has actually given me many reasons to be thankful.

  • Of all the times a serious illness could hit me, this was perhaps the best of all.  The flu started setting in Thursday night but didn’t reach full strength until Friday afternoon, thereby allowing me to get a day of work in.  This happened on an extended weekend so I didn’t lose any work time in between, and, now on Tuesday an ice storm hit Maryland so schools are closed!  Four day weekend!  Accumulated number of sick days taken: zero.
  • Nothing makes you appreciate your support team more than being dependent on them as you lay comatose in bed.  My mom and dad have been absolutely wonderful, allowing me to sleep but also running out to the store and providing me with about a dozen bottles of vitamin water.  This when they weren’t on sale and we didn’t have a coupon. That says something…
  • Despite sleeping through about 15 hours of each day, I still managed to finish reading not one, not two, but three books which I have been chipping away at for probably half a year now.
  • This soon will pass.  With precise timing, loving support, and an improving state, God is good!

A weekend of battling through the flu and other evils has provided a teachable moment. Admittedly, I am a dreamer.  I often long for something else, something more, something different.  I wish to be someone other than who I am, but my plans are not the same as God’s plans.  Maybe what I envision as being better is not “better” at all.  I must continue to dream, reach high and far towards what I might become, but only within the realization that sometimes the best place for me, at least according to God’s plan, is. here. now.

Holiday

Back to school this week after an enjoyable holiday vacation.  Few things in this world can rival a week and a half with family, college friends, Christmas gifts, cookies, minimal schoolwork, and – don’t think I would forget to mention it – sleeping in every morning!

I have changed in the last few days.  A rapid character transformation would seem unusual given the slow pace of Christmas and my virtually empty schedule. Yet, I’m different.

Before Christmas, you might find someone who would describe himself as tired, lacking motivation, behind in planning, uncreative, saddened, stressed, and lacking a backbone.  Now, after two days back on the job, I feel as if I have regained my energy.  Now, after a little respite, I am two days ahead in my planning with a month of topics laid out.  And I look forward to waking up in the morning, making the dark commute to work.

Perhaps I wasn’t all that tired, lacking motivation, behind in planning, uncreative, saddened, stressed, and weak before.  I think a vacation has caused me to regain more than just energy, but an appreciation for my work. Vacations can do that. While we say we would like to escape, to stay in the moment forever, that line of reasoning is a bunch of rubbish.  In reality, a vacation or a holiday off helps us to rekindle the love we have for what awaits us back home.  And so we arrive in 2011.  It’s nice to be back, Mountain!

Scoop