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A Humbling Experience

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on July 23, 2013
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“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

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Last Monday morning, I woke up before 2:00 a.m. to prepare for a trip to Louisville, Kentucky, on a bus with 40 teens. When we arrived at the campus where we were staying, accommodations left a bit to be desired. The M-Fuge mission camp attendance made it necessary for four people to stay in rooms that normally housed one or two. There were two showers and two bathroom stalls for over 40 girls on our floor of the dorm building. We grew very close during the week, and joined together to moan, groan, and complain.

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However, it didn’t take long to be reminded of our blessings. It was nearly impossible to continue complaining while we served throughout the city at various ministry sites.

Some of the campers served at crisis centers for women and children, while others visited nursing homes. Some went to apartment complexes with residents who were refugees from other countries. Teens from our church and churches around the country played with children, sang songs, made balloon animals, splashed at water parks, and shared Jesus.

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Camp attendees knocked on doors and asked if they could mow lawns and pull weeds. The elderly and infirmed eagerly accepted the offers and exuded an enormous amount of gratitude. With the temperatures in the high 90s, they were unable to tend their own lawns, so the Fuge teens and adults wiped their brows, fought to stay hydrated, and got down to business.

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Part of the week, I served at homeless shelters. The first day we split into two groups to clean and to sand some furniture to be painted. It humbled me greatly when the director from the center explained they had run out of cleaning products so we only had two small buckets and one mop bucket with cleaner. The people working at that center were feeding the residents, rehabilitating those with addictions, training those who needed jobs, and yet their resources were so limited they ran out of basic cleaning products. I envisioned the cabinet under my kitchen sink, the shelves in the laundry room, and the closet in my hallway, all full of cleaning supplies. What an eye-opening experience.

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We also worked at a program called the Lord’s Supper. These wonderful people serve the community by driving trucks of food to housing areas and apartment complexes. They explained that during the summer, children in these areas might not get to eat breakfast or lunch because they weren’t at school where meals are provided, so the Lord’s Supper brought meals to them. Some of our teens made sandwiches and filled bags of cereal for delivery on the trucks, while others served food at the center. It was open for an hour at lunch for anyone who needed to come in to eat, so we donned hair nets and gloves to help out.

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While I was in Louisville, I called home every day to speak to Mark and Colton. We have been experiencing problems with two vehicles lately, and Mark told me one day the cost of the repairs had reached an astonishing level. He said, “We’re going to be broke this month.” The only response I could come up with was, “No, we won’t. I’ve seen broke this week, and we aren’t anywhere near it.”

When we weren’t on site in the city, the Fuge campers spent time worshipping together, in Bible study, and competing in some friendly competitions. All of the youth I went with and the ones I met from other areas dedicated their time to this ministry. Some may not have wanted to go, some may have been reluctant to serve in uncomfortable situations, but I was impressed with their efforts and blessed by spending time with them.

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This is the third year I’ve chaperoned the M-Fuge trip with the youth group. The first two years were life changing and inspiring, but they didn’t come close to my experience this year. I can’t remember anything I’ve ever done that has humbled me to this extent. I pray God will continue to place opportunities in my path to renew the humility I am feeling because it is something I don’t ever want to forget.

Have you done anything humbling lately? Have you stepped outside your box and served others? Look for chances to serve and you will be reminded of all your blessings. It’s an amazing feeling.

Easter, Disney, and Daddy…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on March 27, 2013
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This weekend, we will be attending Easter services at church before running home to throw suitcases in the car and heading to the airport.

We’re going to Disney!

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The trip has been planned since before Christmas, so the anticipation has been both exciting and excruciating. For Mark and the kids, this will be their first visit to the Magic Kingdom. I can’t wait to spend Spring Break with them in such an amazing place.

Of course, I’m certain the amazing place has changed a lot since I’ve been there. When I was ten years old living in Missouri, my dad moved to Florida. For the next eight or so years, my sister and I spent a month every summer with him, and we always went to Disney. In my generous moments, I feel extremely lucky because of this. In my selfish moments, I wonder if it was part of a guilt offering for living so far away.

Was I a fortunate kid to spend that many summers in Florida with a visit to Disney thrown in for good measure? Absolutely. As an adult whose father passed away in 2001, do I wish I could trade those days at Disney for more time with Daddy? Definitely. For many years, I only saw Daddy during the summer visits and when he came to Missouri at Christmastime. It just wasn’t enough. And because of that, I sort of have a bittersweet outlook toward Mickey, Minnie, and all that they represent.

Don’t get me wrong. I have great memories of our time at Disney, and I hate that I have these stirrings of antagonism when I think of it, so next week will be about changing those feelings for good. I plan to relive my old visits with Daddy while creating new memories with Mark and the kids.

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I looked through some old pictures trying to find some from my childhood Disney visits, but instead I came across this one of my sister Lauren and me at The Farm. Last year, I blogged about The Farm (What Churns Up Your Memories?), but when I re-read it today, I noticed I didn’t mention the Easter egg hunts. I can’t even begin to explain all the incredible hiding places at The Farm. The yard itself boasted many trees with trunks full of nooks and crannies perfect for concealing eggs, not to mention the many barns and other outbuildings where they could be hidden.

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Of course, we always went to church and knew the reason for the holiday. It’s confusing for kids sometimes when they are taught about Jesus but want the excitement of the bunny and the glorious basket of candy. I see that in Colton now. Although we went to the egg hunt at church last Sunday afternoon and he came home with a full basket, he spent the morning in church where tears in his eyes proved to me that he knows the real story. A video depicted Easter from the perspective of the thief hanging with Christ on Calvary, and by the time it was over, Colton was working hard to swipe away the tears with his sleeve. He was baptized a few weeks ago, and I’ve wondered if he truly understood his profession of faith. Seeing those tears eliminated any doubt in my mind.

This is probably the most rambling blog I’ve ever written, but there are a lot of emotions, thoughts, and ideas muddled in my mind about this weekend and next week. I needed to get them out, even if they tumbled forth in a messy pile. If you’ve read this far, thanks for your perseverance!

Have a happy Easter, everyone. The Lord is Risen. He is King. We are blessed.

The Icing on the Cake

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on March 20, 2013
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I like icing. To be honest, I love icing and maybe even lust for it. I’m one of those people who swipes her finger around the edge of the cake plate to get any sugary swirls left behind. My husband usually scrapes most of the icing from his cake. I reach for it immediately before he can do something unthinkable such as throwing it away. (Should be illegal!) I usually eat the cake first and save the icing. You know, the best for the last.

I rarely buy lunch from the cafeteria. Not necessarily because it’s cafeteria food (and all that implies) but because it’s less expensive to bring lunch from home. Occasionally, if I’m running late in the morning or my leftovers aren’t very tempting, I’ll crash the line in the “café” and grab a tray.

Recently when I did this, they were serving cake. Bonus! I stared at it while I ate the rest of the daily offerings. Once I started eating dessert, being careful to avoid the icing, it dawned on me it was really good cake. Exceptionally good. Each bite a delicious experience. Would the icing be better than this yummy cake? How could it possibly be? But you know what? It was. Even when I was eating a fantastic piece of cake, the best was yet to come.

It reminded me that in my brightest hours, when all my blessings are apparent and I feel overwhelmed with joy and abundance, something better, something beyond my wildest dreams, is still waiting for me. Eternity in Heaven will beat even the very best times on earth. No question about it…it’ll be the icing on the cake!

Reposted from March 2012

A Smile is Worth a Thousand Words

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on March 15, 2013
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Recently, Autumn was asked by her boss if she’s happy at her place of employment. He feels she doesn’t smile enough while there. She responded that it isn’t her personality to have a smile on her face if there isn’t anything to smile about. Appropriately, he reminded her she works in the hospitality industry and needs to look pleasant all the time. I’d like to add, her beautiful smile is worth sharing. (That’s a completely unbiased opinion, of course!)

My poor baby unfortunately gets her stern look honestly. When I’m focused on something or have a multitude of things coursing through my mind, I frequently appear troubled or bothered. I know so many people who naturally smile even when feeling irritated or gloomy. Their mouths simply curve upward, creating an allusion of happiness.

Me? Not even close.

Autumn and I had a conversation about our non-smiling faces and about how she needs to smile at work no matter what is on her mind or how her day is going. I also need to remember that lesson. Even if things are going badly or I’m stressed to my breaking point, God can give me the strength to persevere.

More importantly, I am blessed beyond what I deserve and always have something to smile about.  No matter how dismal things seem, if I start concentrating on all the positives in my life, how can I not smile? Maybe God shaped my face and mouth the way He did so I would occasionally have it pointed out and be reminded to focus on all my blessings.

Thank you, God, for using your unique creations (me and Autumn) to remind me of all you provide. May my smile shine to help spread Your love and help brighten the lives of others.

Got Gratitude?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 29, 2013
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Our puppy, Rico, hasn’t been content lately when we’ve left him home alone. Like many children these days, he’s bored. To overcome his boredom, he has turned to vandalism. Some items he shreds and leaves for us to clean up. Others he actually eats.

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So far he has consumed or ripped up newspapers, magazines, books, a pair of prescription reading glasses, a plastic toy fan, the television remote, the handle of a hairbrush, two plants, and most recently a game of wooden blocks. He ignores the ten or more chew bones and doggie toys on the floor. They obviously aren’t as enticing as anything he can reach on the tables and countertops.

When we arrived home from church Sunday, the wooden blocks were splintered across the living room carpet. Rico managed to pop the top of the tin container and proceeded to gnash a few of the game pieces into oblivion. Mark declared that as the last straw.

Rico's new crib.

Rico’s new crib.

Off to Walmart we went to purchase another crate. Yes, we had a crate when Rico first became a part of the family, but he quickly outgrew it. By that time he was a well-behaved pup, so we didn’t replace it with a larger abode. All was well until Christmas vacation.

For two weeks, Rico enjoyed our presence almost every day. If we left the house, it was rarely for the whole day, only for a short time. We played, petted, scratched, walked, jumped, retrieved, and cuddled. Spoiled puppy, you ask? Definitely, but we all love him so much, and he is constantly bringing us a toy, leaning against one of us, or crawling in our laps.

A group hug.

A group hug.

Unfortunately, those two weeks taught Rico what it’s like to be smothered with love; therefore, when we returned to school, it also taught him what it’s like to be lonely and bored. I have spent the last few weeks trying to make him feel as loved while I am home in the mornings and evenings as when we were home all day. I even frequently leave the bathroom during blow drying to throw his ball down the hallway. He retrieves it while I blow dry for another minute, he returns, and I flip the switch off so I can do it all over again. Dry, toss, repeat. So far, it hasn’t helped. He’s still demolishing new things every time he’s left alone. It’s so frustrating, especially because he was so well-behaved before the holidays.

A friendly snowball fight.

A friendly snowball fight.

I can’t help thinking he’s acting a little unreasonably. Isn’t he grateful for all the attention he gets while we’re home? We all try to overwhelm him with love, but he just expects more.

I suppose I can’t get too high on my horse about this because I rarely give enough thanks for all I have. My blessings are so far beyond what I deserve. And I think that’s true for most people I’ve encountered. Very few I’ve met are genuinely grateful for everything in their lives. And just like Rico, the more we get, the more we think we need. We get bored and discontent with our present surroundings and expect others to fulfill our wants.

IMG_0138But it’s an amazing life. Sometimes it might take misfortune to make the good seem sweet, but life always seems willing to offer that as a reminder. And once you inhale life’s sweetness, there are so many ways to express gratitude – by what you do, say, create, feel. The list is endless. So don’t ignore all the toys scattered around you on the carpet. Don’t be bored when forced to create your own joy. Embrace all the blessings in life and be thankful!

Christmas Traditions

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 24, 2012
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Tonight we’ll go to Christmas Eve service at church then come home to open one gift before we get the plate of cookies and carrots ready for Santa’s arrival. It’s a tradition in our family that the kids get to choose one gift to open the night before Christmas.

This tradition started in 1998 when our area suffered a devastating ice storm during the holidays and thousands were without power. We were camped out in our living room where the propane fireplace fought off the cold that had invaded the rest of the house. Mark’s camping stove warmed up cans of soup and other provisions for our meals.

Autumn was 22 months old then. It was difficult to keep her occupied while trapped in one room of the house, so we allowed her to open a present. There were already quite a few to choose from that had been arriving in the recent mail deliveries from my family in other states.

I’m not sure at this point, 14 years later, why we continued every year to open a present the night before Christmas, but it has become customary in our family.

Every year there are new experiences. This year Colton played Linus in “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and did an incredible job reciting the Christmas story. Autumn portrayed Mary in the Living Nativity. I went shopping with 30 teens from the youth group. Every day there is another exciting event to help celebrate the season. Maybe one or all will also become traditions that we enjoy every year.

The day after Christmas is another one in the Barrick house. We have a pajama day. Our Christmas Day is usually fairly hectic. As soon as we open gifts at home, we head to Mark’s brother’s house for breakfast. By noon we’ll be at his mom’s house to spend the rest of the day with everyone, opening more gifts and eating a blessedly generous meal. By the end of the day, we’re content and thankful, but we’re also ready for some time at our own house, so the next day we stay in our pajamas, watch new movies, and have a pizza carpet picnic at lunchtime.

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Traditions are wonderful threads that hold families together. The only fear is we get so wrapped up in the traditions that we forget the real reason for the season. I pray everyone who reads this is blessed by their time with families and friends. Enjoy your traditions but remember to tell Jesus “Happy Birthday” sometime during the day.

Merry Christmas!

What traditions do you share in your family? I’d love to hear about them in a comment.

It’s My Party

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 12, 2012
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I’m hosting a good ol’ fashioned pity party, and I’m the guest of honor.

On Saturday, Colton had play practice in the morning, his Cub Scout troop walked in the Christmas parade and collected canned goods for the local food bank in the afternoon, and Autumn attended the Holly Ball at school that evening. On Sunday, Colton played Linus in “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” at church.

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My calendar is brimming with activity. Not only are the weekends packed with holiday plays, parties, and other events, almost every evening there’s something planned. Yesterday, Mark called me at work and said, “Get out your calendar. We need to see when we can go shopping together.” We actually found one evening when both of us are free. And thankfully, it’s before Christmas Eve.

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The busyness has reached insane proportions, and I love all the activity. Right now I need it because I find myself celebrating my melancholy whenever I’m still. I haven’t read a book in over a week, I’m not writing like usual, I’m unenthused in my classroom, and I don’t want to clean (not that it’s ever a complete joy), cook, bake, or grade papers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not moping around all the time. Certain moments coax me from my sullen fog. When I focus on the reason for this blessed season, my heart swells. When I watch Colton play Linus in the Christmas play at church, my smile cuts my face in two while sentimental tears overflow. When Autumn dresses up for the Holly Ball dance at school, I couldn’t be more proud of what a beautiful, young lady she’s become.

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But in the quiet moments, my mind immediately thinks of Christmas day without my mom and Fred. This will be the first Christmas in quite a few years I haven’t been with them. I know they are also feeling sad. They can’t make it from St. Louis to Virginia, and we aren’t able to go there. It just won’t work this year.

Usually, I accept disappointment without wallowing in it, but I’m having a hard time right now. I think God knows that because frequently when I’m starting to drift into my sour mood, He’ll put someone in my path to make me smile.

A student who asks how my day is going. A puppy that crawls into my lap on the couch. A smile from a stranger. A post on Facebook that forces me to realize I’m too blessed to be depressed.

No, it won’t be a Christmas like the ones from recent years, but it will still be a celebration of one of the greatest days in history, that of Jesus’ birth.

So if you see me with a frown on my face or a faraway look in my eyes, don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve been doing enough of that for myself. Instead, ask me what my kids want for Christmas or how big the puppy has grown or what events are planned for the youth group at church. Those things will snap me out of my mood and help me to enjoy this glorious holiday season.

And thank you, God, for all the reminders.

Something’s Wrong With This Picture

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 2, 2012
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Do you ever take a step back and wonder about a situation in your life?

I have today off school because of a yearly festival in the county where I teach. Autumn and Colton have Monday and Tuesday off school for a teacher workday and Election Day.

Sometimes I think there’s something wrong with this picture.

I am not the poster child for how to become a teacher. After graduating from college ten years after I graduated from high school, I spent nine years in one career before deciding I wanted to teach.

At that time I was 38, pregnant with our second child, and figured if I could give birth at that age, I could change careers as well.

I had an English degree, but not one in education. Because I had been out of school for so many years, I decided to take the Praxis exam to see what it was like. I knew I’d fail but thought it would give me a good idea of what I was facing for my new goal. So at eight months pregnant, I waddled into the testing center and took the exam.

I passed. I could hardly believe it.

That led me to make another decision. Did I really need to have my education credits to begin teaching? I knew some teachers were hired on provisional licenses. I might as well try, right?

I only applied in the county where I live, Mathews, and the next county over, Middlesex. Middlesex hired me, and I’ve always been so grateful for their confidence in me. Over the next couple of years, I taught, took classes to get my permanent license, and have never regretted my decision to change careers.

As far as teaching in a different school division than where my kids attend school, I have always enjoyed being able to be a parent in one and a teacher in the other. It could cause conflicts to be both. I certainly know a lot of teachers who successfully wear both hats in the same school division, but I’ve liked having them split.

It’s only on occasions like today and next week when I question it. With Mark’s job and now with Autumn driving and working, the logistics of where Colton will go each day after school causes some extra stress and even some begging at times. But I have wonderful family and friends who are always willing to help. And I have administration at my school who understands sometimes family comes first.

Today, I wish my kids were home with me, but I have the chance to go to Colton’s fall party at his school, which I rarely get to do. I didn’t tell him I was going to show up, so I hope he’ll be surprised.

There are always blessings in any situation. I simply have to be willing to look.

Is Your Grass Green?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 21, 2012
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I can’t wait to get to the high school. The ultimate “grass is always greener” scenario for my middle school students.

Yes, being in 8th grade can be tough. The kids are old enough to think they know it all but too young to be allowed the freedoms they think they deserve.

Usually I ask them what will be different there once they get there. I get a variety of answers. They’ll have more freedom. They won’t have dumb rules to follow. They won’t have to deal with drama. They’ll be happy.

If only it was that simple. Instead of accepting the current circumstances, taking advantage of the opportunities in their present life, the kids think moving to a different school will eliminate conflict and issues.

But do they realize their peers will be moving with them? Their study habits will tag along? And their attitudes – usually their worst enemies – are part of the high school package?

Do you know adults who have the same misconceptions?

If I could only get a new job.

If I could marry someone special.

If I could divorce my spouse.

If I could live in a bigger house.

If I had more friends.

If I drove a fancier car.

If my children weren’t little devils.

“If” is such a prison. It can suck you into the depths of delusion. It will shift your focus from what you have to everything you lack. And that sort of vision can warp your whole outlook and foster envy and discontent.

Achieving a level of success or accumulating “things” will not solve problems. They merely create their own set of problems, and if you don’t know how to deal with problems in one situation, you won’t in another.

Consider your present surroundings. Examine your life. Is it worth some gratitude? Take a moment today to count your blessings. I promise life will be much sweeter when you do.

Have You Ever Felt Abandoned?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 18, 2012
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Our new puppy is the sweetest little thing, but he can sure make me feel guilty. When we put him in the crate at bedtime or when we leave for school and work in the morning, he yelps and howls like we’re abandoning him forever. If someone walks out of the door, even if there are still other family members inside, he sits at the door and whines with sadness.

Have you ever felt this way before? Abandoned and alone? Or even abandoned when you’re still surrounded by others? So many experiences in life can cause those feelings – death, divorce, illness, conflict, gossip, job loss. It’s easy to dwell on those feelings and forget about everything else life offers, just like the puppy forgets there are other people in the room and a floor strewn with toys and chew bones.

Many of my students understand what it’s like to feel rejected. It breaks my heart when I overhear conversations about walking to the corner gas station to buy dinner because no one is home or seeing them come to school in filthy clothes because no one does the laundry. So many of these young adults struggle to become confident, responsible individuals, but they don’t have good role models to follow.

I’m sure it’s difficult to look at their environments and pick out any blessings. Being abandoned by those who should be taking care of them makes it hard to see a bright future. Of course the neglect invades their education. The feelings of hopelessness make it difficult to believe school can make a difference. That’s one of the greatest challenges the education system faces – teaching a student to believe and have hope in the future.

Last week at work, an email announced a leader in our district is leaving in December for an assignment in another school division. Ouch. The sense of abandonment immediately twisted my gut. My initial reaction doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s the way it happened.

Logically, I understand and even applaud his decision because I know it will benefit his family, and it’s refreshing for a man so dedicated to work to make choices based on the needs of his wife and children. Yes, that’s my logical viewpoint, but emotionally, I feel deserted. He has been a blessing to our district, and his announcement seemed to dim the future. I’m certain someone will replace him who is capable and will also lead our schools well, but it’s difficult to let go of something that has proven so positive. I’m extremely sorry to see him go.

Sometimes life gets so grim, it’s easy to just want to give up. Have you ever convinced yourself that God abandoned you or someone else? When times get tough, sometimes we cry out to God because He doesn’t seem to be present, but if you believe in Him, you know He is there.

Sometimes, like the puppy, we’re just too focused on those who abandon us to see the One who is remains right by our side at all times.

How do you refocus on the positive when you feel abandoned? Please share your story in a comment.


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