Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom

Homecoming or Home-going?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 30, 2012
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Last Friday, I attended the funeral of a dear woman, a true angel even before she went to heaven. Her son-in-law, an Army chaplain, gave the eulogy. He referred to Dot’s passing as a “home-going” because she was going home to be with the Lord.

Monday morning, I left for a week-long conference with mixed emotions. I enjoy time away but also miss Mark and the kids. As I drove to Richmond, my mind swirled, running through the list of what would be happening in my absence. I have to depend on my invaluable friends and mother-in-law to get the kids where they need to go each day. My return on Friday seemed far away.

When you leave home, do you think of coming back as a homecoming? I used to, but I’m determined to abandon that mindset. Now that I’ve been introduced to home-goings, homecomings seem selfish. A homecoming places the emphasis on whoever’s returning. From now on when I return from somewhere, I want the focus to be on those waiting for me when I get there.

Yesterday, I experienced my home-going, a celebration of seeing Mark, Autumn, Colton, and even the cat and the silly squirrels that hang out on our deck and peek in our windows.


I propose the following challenge. If everyone leaves their home each day with the thought of a home-going in the evening, it would improve the attitude of all people involved.

Think about it. If you return home thinking of how exhausted you are, fretting about the project sitting unfinished on your desk, or wondering if anyone in the family chipped in to complete one of your chores, all of these self-centered thoughts will affect everyone in the house.

Let’s arrive home every day anticipating time with our kids and spouse, concentrating on what their day has been like instead of our own. Are you with me?

Who’s waiting for you at your home-going today?


Is This the Real World?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 27, 2012
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I am at an educational conference this week, serving on a committee approving assessment items for the 8th grade writing SOLs, the Virginia state standardized tests.

When one committee member questioned the validity of a test item, I countered with my belief that the question assessed a valuable writing skill used frequently when critiquing and editing.

His response? “Well, that doesn’t happen in the real world.”

Really? I swallowed my sarcasm. “It does in the real world of writing.”

Never before had I considered the disconnect between writing in the realm of education and writing “in the real world” because both are such integral parts of my life. Do other educators also view the world of writing as a fantasy world?

In science, students learn to conduct experiments even though most won’t end up as scientists working in a lab. In civics, we take them to the Virginia State Capitol to participate in a mock General Assembly session, though few if any will end up in that role as an adult.

Isn’t it our job to teach them what life will be like once they are out of school? Especially in middle school, our purpose is to introduce students to various aspects of life so they can start developing their interests. Have some educators forgotten that? Are they more concerned about pass rates and scoring data from tests than about the individual human beings we teach?

And all this time I thought texting was the reason my students don’t write well.

Those Who Inspire

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 25, 2012
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My blog exists in its toddler stage. It’s been alive for a few months, but I still believe I’m taking baby steps each time I post. Last week, I hit a major milestone, an actual leap instead of a step.

I received my first mention on another blog.

An extremely talented writer, Holly Michael, had an opportunity to promote herself on her award-winning blog, Writing Straight (it’s fantastic…check it out) but instead graciously chose to introduce other blogs. And she named mine! I can’t possibly thank her enough.

It was definitely a momentous occasion. Not only did Holly plaster an all-day smile on my face, she also inspired me to share my gratitude towards other people and blogs. Some inform and teach. Others motivate and embolden. All have touched my life in a beautiful way.

1) Fay Lamb
Fay is the moderator of the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) critique group. She keeps all writers on the right track, shares information efficiently, and offers advice and encouragement to the newbies (like me!) in the bunch.

2) Edie Melson – The Write Conversation
Edie taught the first ACFW online course I participated in and taught me valuable information about online marketing and social networking. One of my goals for this summer is to revisit the course and continue to improve my blog and social networking.

3) Dustin Steller and The Steller Times
Dustin is the most creative person I know personally. The internet makes it easy for people to say they “know” fabulous people, but I’m lucky enough to have Dustin as a cousin. His unique artistic ability and his awesome technological intelligence make him an online force.  Designer, director, photographer…he does it all. And he does it well.

4) Maurilio Amorim
This blog offers leadership advice applicable at home, the office, school, church, or anywhere else you want to make a difference. I even enjoy the advice on men’s fashion.

5) Seth Godin
Seth’s blog was the first in my RSS feed (once I learned what that meant!) He’s one of a kind. Anyone who follows his blog or reads his books knows that. If you’ve never read his work, you need to give it a try.

6) Jeff Goins
Jeff’s challenge (15 Habits of Great Writers) and his book (You Are a Writer) are like having a personal trainer for my writing life. Nothing else has pushed me harder or farther.

7) Rachelle Gardner
If you want straightforward information about publishing, editing, and/or writing, this is the place to go. As a literary agent, she knows and shares valuable information, and she even sprinkles in peeks into her family life. Very real.

8) Marji Laine – Faith-Driven Fiction
Marji offers a beautifully written mix of writing advice and spiritual inspiration. I visit her blog often, but especially when I need to feel encouraged.

9) Sharon Hoover – Journal of Missional Living
Sharon provides moving stories from her life of service and useful advice for student ministry. I search her stories frequently when I’m looking for ideas for the youth group at my church.

10) Janet Sketchley –  God With Us: Finding Joy
Janet writes enlightening book reviews and provides candid guidance on Christian living. When I need a new read, I often check her blog for good recommendations.

11) Sybil Bates McCormack – Christian Romance/Pulsating Suspense
Sybil uplifts me with tales of balancing motherhood with writing. It’s wonderful to know I’m not alone when I’m struggling to keep up with it all.

12) Joan Deneve
I don’t believe Joan has a blog or a website to share, but she has become an vital part of my writing. Much of my work has passed through her hands. She critiques honestly but kindly, and she cheers me on when critiques from others aren’t so kind. Joan is working on her first novel, which I know will someday be in print.  She has a beautiful heart for God. One day I hope to meet her in person.

Who inspires you? 

Courageous Enough to Provoke

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 21, 2012
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I don’t like confrontations. I try not to provoke people. But yesterday, I read three different blogs or quotes that pushed me beyond my anxiety.

  1.  15 habits of Great Writers challenge-Day 12: Great writers provoke their readers. Yes, I get it. Writing is art and great art should make us think, motivate us to change something, anger us into action. I shouldn’t fear confrontation from the words I write. I should long for it.
  2. Winston Churchill said, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” I have to make the decision to be courageous even though I may kindle a negative reaction in someone.
  3. From a former student and friend on Facebook: “’Do not be afraid’ is written in the Bible 365 times. That’s a daily reminder from God to live everyday fearless.”

By the third one, I straightened up to pay attention. God probably gets frustrated when He tells me something repeatedly and I refuse to listen. I do when my children ignore me. So, here’s my call to action both for myself and others.

I live in a picturesque, rural county on the Chesapeake Bay, a little slice of heaven on earth. The small town atmosphere is tangible in the gorgeous views, friendly people, family-owned shops and restaurants, and concerned citizens. In a county this size, residents should look out for each other. For the most part, everyone here does.

But an undercurrent of fear permeates this idyllic place. A problem exists which some people try to ignore, while others point and place blame. Some actually try to make a difference. More of us need to be in the last category.

My county has a drug problem. Not only alcohol and marijuana but hardcore drugs like heroin, meth, and amp. And not a certain age or group of people is affected but all walks of life. It’s invading our schools, our businesses, and our homes, even if no one in our families use. And because it is here, in my peaceful county, I bet it’s wherever you are too.

I can easily sit back and say, “The sheriff and deputies are working hard to combat this problem.” They are working diligently. Since the sheriff is my husband, I know the drug problem is a priority and how much time his office spends trying to make a dent in it.

But does that let me off the hook because he’s doing his part? No, not even close. And it doesn’t let anyone else off the hook either.

I have heard people say, “I saw so-an-so the other night. He was stoned out of his mind.”

Or “I walked past (insert name here) in the parking lot Friday. He looked too trashed to drive. Hope he made it home alright.”

Did anybody try to stop these people from destroying their lives? Probably not. Most people don’t want to intrude, feel sorry for the poor soul, or even secretly think As long as it’s not my kid, spouse, or friend, it’s not my problem.

Well, guess again. It is our problem. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” I’ve read that quote often and seen it attributed to many people, but no matter who said it first, it applies to our situation.

Any person, myself included, who sees or even hears about a person who is high, stoned, tanked, wasted, or whatever the kids call it nowadays but does nothing is partly responsible for anything caused by the drug use.

Suicide, broken homes, wasted potential, shattered hearts. What else should we watch happen?

Take a stand, people. Love one another enough to tick someone off. You just might keep them alive.

Are you courageous enough?

As They Fade Away…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 20, 2012
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I received this poem from a family member yesterday. I think it’s important to share. I love you, Nonnie, and many others who are fading away.

Alzheimer’s Prayer
“My guide and prayer for caring for Martha”

Please don’t ask me to remember,
And don’t try to make me understand.
Let me rest and know you are with me,
And kiss my cheek and hold my hand.

I am confused beyond your concept,
Also, I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I really need you,
And to be with me at all costs.

Please don’t lose patience with me,
And don’t scold or curse or cry.
I can’t help the way I am acting,
And can’t be any different though I try.

Please just remember that I need you,
And that the best of me is gone.
Please don’t fail to stand beside me,
And Love me ’til my life is done.

~C. F. Davan, Jr.

What Should You Declutter?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 19, 2012

Today is my first official day of summer break. Usually, I have a list of summer projects, many of which never get completed as the eight weeks fly by. This year, I didn’t make a list of projects because I want to focus on my writing rather than worry about decluttering my house.

Wouldn’t you know it, when I opened my inbox this morning, today’s writing challenge is about decluttering. Many aspects of writing could be major summer projects. Here are a few where I need to concentrate:

  • Space – I need an organized space where I can write this summer. The problem is I’ll only be home for about three weeks between now and when I have to return to school. I guess my “space” will be wherever inspiration hits me, whether I’m in a hotel room, at the home of a family member, at the lake, or at mission camp with the youth group. (That last one may be nearly impossible. The teens keep us busy. And exhausted.)
  • Time – Spending time writing while ignoring my kids, the beach, email, and social media can be a struggle. Even research can lead me astray. Click on one interesting (but irrelevant) link, and I’m off on an adventure in cyberspace. A daily schedule will ensure my writing doesn’t take a back seat to all the other exciting summer possibilities.
  • Mind – When I do force “butt in the chair” time and have a specific word count as a goal, sometimes my mind won’t cooperate. Everything distracts me, including piles of laundry, a sympathy card I need to send, my son playing in the yard, a newly discovered writing website, having lunch with a friend, or painting my toenails at ten in the morning just because I can (teacher’s dream). Reining in my thoughts to focus on my writing is a definite priority.
  • My words – Most importantly, my writing needs to be decluttered. I love to edit. Sometimes I do a good job of it. Sometimes not. I can always improve. All of my writing requires attention and this is undeniably my #1 summer project.

What do you need to declutter in your life?

The End is Near

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 13, 2012

The end of the school year draws near. On Friday, my 8th grade students will celebrate with a promotion ceremony. As they walk out the doors of the middle school, their time here will end. This bittersweet time of year stirs my emotions. Of course some students I willingly let go, but the many who have touched my life during the past nine months overshadow them. God blesses me with this opportunity each year, the chance to experience their growth and their gifts.

To them, I offer these few pieces of advice:

Spend some of your time impressing adults, instead of your friends
Yesterday, I asked my students if they would feel comfortable asking any adult in the school to write a letter of recommendation for them. Some would have to answer “no” if they were truly honest about it because they have spent their middle school years trying to gain acceptance with their peers. I want these students to realize that although friends play an important role in life, the adults, mentors, and others who have already experienced success will offer the most assistance.

Your daily life directly impacts your future
Many of my students have trouble seeing the future. Blinders hide the years ahead, and they rarely connect what they do now with anything awaiting them. I want to impress upon them the importance of their daily actions now and how they will affect the days and years ahead.

Dream. On second thought, dream BIG.
As your life progresses, your dreams will fluctuate. Some will fade, some not. That’s okay as long as you have them. But don’t let them remain dreams. Start turning them into reality. This takes hard work, but you can make it happen.

I pray God will lead these students, guiding them on a path of success. Some of them will look to Him, but so many more struggle to discover the direction to follow.

I will miss them and pray God blesses them all.

Why Divorce Can be a Blessing

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 11, 2012

My family tree has a LOT of branches. My mom and dad divorced when I was young, kindergarten age if I remember correctly. A few years later, both my parents remarried. And my dad divorced and remarried a couple more times after that.

Many people would use that type of “broken home” as an excuse in life, and I’m certain I whined and felt sorry for myself sometimes while growing up, but I now know divorce blessed me abundantly.

The reasons? Fred and Suzy.

They, along with their family members – Willa Kate, Grandma and Grandpa, Lucy, Terry, Jim, Annie, Liz, Ron, Carly, Blake, Hannah, Kit, Terry, Papa Bill, Kitty, Tom, and many others past and present – mean so much to me, people who have shown love and support throughout the years, who I would never have met without my parent’s divorces.

Fred is my second dad, my late-night M*A*S*H buddy, the one who cultivated my knowledge of golf, tennis, football, baseball, and any other sport we could find to watch. Fred married a horse-crazy woman with horse-crazy daughters. Soon, he found himself fully entrenched in horse life. He supported our obsession including the vet bills, riding lessons, and show circuits, and even caught the bug himself.

Fred provides me with an amazing example of determination. He doesn’t complain and works diligently no matter how he feels. He has dealt with more than his fair share of health issues, but you wouldn’t know it from his conversation or actions. When I’m struggling with fatigue or aches and pains, I dig deep for the same resolve I’ve seen him demonstrate for many years.

Now I live many states away from Fred and my mom, so our visits are infrequent. When we’re together, Fred still offers advice, encouragement, and support, both for me and for my kids. He loves me, worries about me, and has never treated me as “Kit’s daughter”. I’m his daughter, now and always.

When my dad was alive, he and Suzy always reminded me of a cute high-school couple sharing new love. Tragically, my dad died before they had many years together. I swore to myself when Daddy died, Suzy would remain an important part of my life. Suzy and her family welcome us yearly for an amazing week-long vacation, and although the location is glorious, it’s the people who make it incredible.

Suzy’s faith provides such an inspiring example. She lives her life to serve. I have learned so much from her over the years about how to live a life for Christ, and I hope one day to exude the same peace and contentment that shines from her eyes and is evident in her words and actions.

Some might say my family tree looks distorted, strangely grafted, or like it belongs in a haunted forest. But I wouldn’t trade it for precious treasure. Don’t misunderstand. I know the painful heartbreak and severed relationships caused by divorce devastate many lives. But I choose to turn my back on those emotions and focus on the “bonus love” God has given me through these remarkable people.

My Timing is Sometimes Off

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 7, 2012

I’ve been planning to blog about my dad the week before Father’s Day, but this morning something happened to make me realize my timing isn’t always right.

My dad was a reader, a lifelong learner, and passionate about his pursuits. Whether he was working on an invention, scuba diving, or hunting deer, he diligently studied and experimented, continually improving himself in the endeavor. Many of my memories of him resemble the picture above, quiet and solitary with a book in his hands in the living room, while the rest of the family gathered around Grandmother’s kitchen at the farm.

This morning as I left for work, my 8-year-old son sat in the dining room eating his Cheerios, one elbow propped on the table as he pored over a book about planets. I kissed him goodbye, listened to him explain a fact about Mars, returned to the kitchen, and glanced back at him to say, “Have a good day.” The sight of him, looking so much like my dad, caused my words to snag in my throat. A “Daddy moment” hit me, one of those occasions when my emotions swell and tears crowd my eyes. I left quickly, trying to compose myself during my drive.

As I reflected on what had happened, I realized I didn’t need to wait until Father’s Day to say, “I love you, Daddy. I miss you every day.”

Why Expectations are the Enemy

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 6, 2012

Expectations are a part of everyone’s daily life. I expect my children to mind their manners and my students to follow the rules. My family expects me to buy groceries. My boss expects me to show up for work. Life’s roads have fewer potholes when everyone does what’s expected of them each day.

But sometimes expectations ruin a situation. They can be the enemy of happiness and wrench all enjoyment out of an experience.

We’ve been reviewing for end-of-year tests in my classroom. I have a box of candy, toys, and other incentives to reward the students when they do well on a practice test or win a review game. After receiving incentives for a while, the students began to expect them. They’d walk into class and say, “Do we get candy today?” Talk about deflating my balloon. I love giving the kids goodies to keep them focused and motivated, but when they ask for them? Very frustrating.

If something you like to do turns into a duty or expected responsibility, you might not like it as much. I love to bake and cook. I make cakes, cookies, breads, and especially decorated cupcakes. I also enjoy making appetizers and complete meals when I have time. One year my principal hired me to cater our end-of-year staff party. What a shock to find all my pleasure stripped away when great cooking became an expectation. My nerves and anxiety ruined the experience. I discovered a cherished hobby shouldn’t always become a job.

Have you ever planned to take a gift or a meal to someone who is sick or just moved into the neighborhood? I usually I take food because it gives me an excuse to bake, of course. But few things annoy me more than a well-intentioned but controlling person telling me what to do. One time I received an email from a fellow church member who had “scheduled” me to take a meal to someone in our congregation. Had I planned to take that person a meal? Yes. Did I plan to do it on the day I was “scheduled” to do so? It just so happened that yes, I had planned it for that day. Was I happy about being told to do it? No, not in the least.

I readily admit this is my own rebellion against someone else controlling my decisions (that topic requires a whole blog series by itself), but all the joy of preparing a meal as a gift vanishes if someone else tells me to do it. It’s like requiring a mean-spirited toddler to say, “I’m sorry.” When he does so, it lacks sincerity. If I’m forced into kindness, it loses its authenticity.

I think the main reason expectations are the enemy is because they cause us to feel resentment toward others. If you expect to have fun and laugh with someone, that anticipation adds joy to the relationship. But if one person in the relationship expects something such as a phone call at a certain time every day – and gets annoyed if it doesn’t happen – the expectation depletes the relationship. If I can learn to eliminate many of the expectations I place on people and avoid the irritation they cause, life would be more enjoyable.  If I try to live up to God’s will, not that of someone else, disappointment will diminish as I experience the blessings of life every day.

Do you expect too much from someone? Do you resent expectations other people place on you?

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