Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom

I Haven’t Written Anything Lately

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 7, 2013
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I have not posted on my blog for one month. The words haven’t been flowing, or maybe I’m swallowing them along with all the emotions I’m attempting to hide. My emotions have been so raw lately, blood might ooze onto the page with every keystroke. An illness in the family, surgeries, hospitalization, and more surgery to come, and yet my life keeps moving on, day by day, while I don’t write.

My family is far away. The majority of my family members live in Missouri; I’m in Virginia. Being many states away makes it difficult when I know I could help if I lived closer. Helplessness, sadness, and guilt become braided together tightly enough to create a noose, strangling me and making me unproductive.

I have been alternating between bouts of intense prayer, times of fighting the liquid emotions that flow freely at inopportune times, and periods of numbness. Happy moments seem faded, but welcome, like an old pair of tennis shoes that had been drying in the sun.

News from Missouri has become more positive of late. Thank you, God. Hope continues to grow, and my numbness is starting to wane. So for today, a few words flow from my fingertips without too many emotions welling over.

No, I haven’t written anything lately. But prayer is powerful.


Run, Linden, Run!

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 5, 2013
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I am not a runner chick. In fact, I truly despise the act of running. I have a love/hate relationship with my “dreadmill,” and I rarely go beyond a brisk walk when I climb aboard.

I admire runners. I work with and am close to so many people who enjoy the physical and mental benefits of running, but it doesn’t seem to be a part of my genetic makeup.

But I am proficient at one kind of running. Very often, I run, sprint, dash, and rush in the opposite direction of where I’m supposed to be. I’ll be on a mission, moving as fast as I can to reach a goal, when suddenly I realize I shouldn’t be pursuing it.

It happens all the time. You’d think I’d learn my lesson. What causes me to do this?

Sometimes I attempt to reach a goal or accomplish something to please other people. Have you ever done that? Usually in my experience, if my actions do please someone else, they often leave me feeling void of any triumph. Achieving things for others rarely satisfies my own sense of accomplishment. So why do I continue to do it?

Another reason I believe I run from what I’m supposed to be doing is because what God is calling me to do is scary or just plain hard work. I’m not the most self-disciplined person and taking the easy route appeals to my lazy side. But think about it…God’s will is rarely easy.

Was it easy for Noah to build an ark? Not only was it physically taxing, I’m sure the ridicule from others caused him great emotional anxiety as well.

Was it easy for Abraham to follow the command to sacrifice his son?

Was it easy for Mother Teresa to share the love of Jesus with others?

Is it easy for missionaries today to spread the Word of God in hostile countries?

Honestly, I don’t think God has ever asked me to do anything that extreme. So why do I run the other way in a furious attempt to do my own thing? Or to follow the will of others?

The answers elude me.

The one thing I know for certain is when I’m racing toward something with blinders on, God will shake His head, tap me on the shoulder, and make me realize I’ve chosen the easy path. Sometimes He does this with a Bible verse that pops up over and over again. Or it might be a certain song I hear on K-Love. Or maybe it’s just an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Whatever means He uses, I’m sure I don’t always get the hint on the first try, but He keeps sending me clues and reminders until I recognize the need to switch directions.

Thank you, God, for your patience and guidance.

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.

cub scouts in parade

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.


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.

DSC05224     DSC05207

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.

If the World Gives Up on You…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 20, 2012
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The other morning I passed a car on the side of the road. A white slip of fabric fluttered out the window surrendering its ability to move. As I drove by, I noticed the dents, rust, and other bruises mottling the battered body. No wonder it had given up.

Then something else caught my attention. This pile of abandoned metal wore 30-day tags. My initial reaction was Why would someone buy that piece of junk? Did they really think it would run?

As I drove by shaking my head in disbelief, my thoughts suddenly did a 180-degree turn, and I started considering the hope that must have been involved in the purchase.  Someone hoped that car would provide them with the transportation he or she needed. Even though it looked like it was near death, the purchaser believed.

Likewise, even when I feel battered and useless, God has hope that He can use me. That I can still fulfill the purpose He has for my life. He would still purchase me, no matter how I looked. In fact, He did and the cost was His Son. Even if I feel like waving my flag in surrender, He believes I can keep going and chooses me for the job He requires of me.

Do you ever feel abandoned on the side of the road if you can’t provide what other people expect or need? Sometimes it’s impossible to accomplish everything, and the rejection or dismissal hurts when it’s not done successfully. But that’s what happens when we focus on the world instead of on God. If we concentrate on doing God’s will, the world’s needs will also be met.

Because God doesn’t care if the world has left me stranded at the curb. It doesn’t matter how dented and rusted I look to the world; He still has hope for my future.

Liquid Emotions are Genetic

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 12, 2012
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Do you have liquid emotions? I most certainly do. Overwhelming sadness? I cry. Mad and indignant? The tears flow. Frustrated beyond belief? The dam opens. Laughing hysterically? Yep, even then.

There’s absolutely nothing I can do to prevent the tears. They have caused me embarrassment, frustration, and even horror, but still they flow. I’m not sure why I’m made this way, but I do know I inherited this trait honestly from my mom. During my childhood, I can recall seeing her crying in response to television commercials. I thought she was a mess, but now I’m a mess too.

Years ago, I watched Steel Magnolias and was able to relate to the comment made my Dolly Parton’s character. Truvy said, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” Well, I’m not sure it’s my favorite, but it is probably one of my most frequent.

Currently, I’m reading Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin with my students. This is the fourth year I’ve read it in class after reading it once for pleasure and once to make sure it was appropriate for my students. Altogether, I’ve probably read it at least a dozen times. It’s one of my all-time favorite novels, and I recommend it highly. One of the characters, Uncle Willee, cries freely. His emotions are definitely liquid, and for one abused little boy, Unc’s tears are the first time he’s ever seen a grown man cry. That boy has trouble accepting Unc’s tears as a positive thing when his own make him feel like a weakling.

Yesterday, Colton stayed with friends while I went ice skating with the high school students from the youth group. At one point, he misbehaved by being unkind to his friend, and he cried when reprimanded. To some people this seems absurd, but to those of us with liquid emotions, it is very familiar.

At the dinner table as he and I discussed what had happened and what his consequences would be, his eyes flooded again. When I asked why he was crying, his chin quivered. “Because I hurt my friend.”

Cynics would say he’s merely upset because of the consequences. I would also be skeptical except I’ve seen the same young boy tear up and try to hide his emotions many times. When watching a movie that touches his heart, usually because an animal gets badly hurt or is treated cruelly, he just can’t help himself.

I’m sure it’s difficult for him to reconcile his tears with his need to feel like a “man”. I want him to be brave and strong, but I also admire his kind-hearted response to life. I’m not sure how to foster one of those traits without compromising the other.

What I am certain of, whether good or bad, is he gets his liquid emotions from me.

Negativity Will Get You Nowhere.

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 7, 2012
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As I posted yesterday, I truly believe that God is in control and He can use anyone to further His kingdom.

I have stayed out of political conversations for the most part over the last year. Students frequently ask who I’m voting for, but I’ve learned it’s not a smart move to reveal my choice. That being said, I feel the need this morning to share my feelings about one aspect of the election.

I’ve been stunned and saddened by the negativity during the campaign. Not that negativity is anything new in politics. I remember in 1972 being on the playground at elementary school and hearing a boy yell, “Nixon, Nixon is our man. Throw McGovern in the trash can.” Such eloquence certainly trickled down from an adult to this vocal second grader, and he felt the need to share with the rest of us. I don’t remember his name, but I can still see the ruthless triumph in his eyes and the wicked smile on his face.

With that in mind, I felt the need to discuss the election results with Colton this morning. Not only so he would be up-to-date with what’s going on, but so he would be prepared for any of his third-grade peers who felt the need to be mouthy in support of their (ummm…their parents’) own camp or with antagonism toward their opposition.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to send kids off to school without having to prepare them for adversity?

Nothing has changed since my playground days. Now my peers are a little older than second grade, but many still spew hate to try to get their point across. Instead of on the swing set, it’s now carried out on Facebook, Twitter, and any other avenue at their disposal.

The interesting thing to me is how many Christians are involved in this ugliness. Have we forgotten WWJD? What would Jesus do in this situation? I’m positive he would not be spouting revenge and hate.

The United States has fewer Christians now than ever before. If someone who claims to be Christian truly wants more people to vote Christian values, wouldn’t it make sense to leave the negativity to the politicians and focus on spreading Christian love? Serving others and growing His kingdom seems to me to be the logical strategy for creating change in our world.

The last time the U.S. had a surge in church attendance was after the attacks on September 11th.  Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you turn to God and cry out for help.

I certainly don’t know the future or what God has planned, but a lot of people think our country is going to be destroyed in the next four years.

I’m not sure, but maybe it’s just going to hit rock bottom.

The Results Are In…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 6, 2012
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Not really…it’s going to be a long evening of anticipation, waiting for the final results to be tallied. No matter who wins this election, there will be many people convinced our country is facing the worst four years ever. I feel a blanket of uncertainty settling over me.

The news announced some people in Virginia are waiting in line for 5 hours to exercise their right to vote (I’m feeling very blessed about my 25 minutes). Good for them. Everyone should do their duty, no matter the length of the line or the state of the weather. I truly believe apathy eliminates an individual’s right to complain.

At this point, I have no idea what the outcome will be, but in these two things I am confident:

1) God is in control.
2) He can use anyone to further His kingdom.

As my good friend Bobbi posted, “Duty is ours; results are God’s.” John Quincy Adams.

I’m praying His will, not mine, be done today.

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.

Sandy is Visiting

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 29, 2012
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Living on waterfront property, at least for a couple of days!

Thank you, God, for keeping us safe in the storm.

Sandy rages offshore and has reached our coastal area with possessive hands. If the weather forecasts are correct, she will continue to overstay her welcome through tomorrow as she inches her way northward.

Her winds have stripped the trees of their autumn beauty. When this is over, many will stand with bare branches, beckoning winter to join us. Her rain floods yards, roads, and homes, and it will swell its own puddles for many more hours. The newscasters are now using the phrase “by Wednesday” when discussing the end, raising hopes that school might be closed again tomorrow.

And while Sandy assaults the outside of the house, the kids and I have stayed warm and dry inside.

Mark left for work yesterday morning. He came home for about an hour or so in the afternoon and appeared again in the middle of the night to capture a few hours of sleep. This morning, he shook himself awake, hopped in the shower, and headed out again.

On Saturday, as soon as it was announced school was cancelled for today, Chick-fil-a scheduled Autumn to work a 10 hour shift. If people don’t have electricity, CFA could potentially be swamped. Even if I didn’t have power, I don’t think I’d go there during a storm if I had food in the house (which everyone should…they’ve been predicting this for over a week), but apparently a lot of people will flock there.

As soon as Autumn received her schedule, my mommy worry gauge skyrocketed. Whether she goes to work or not is a decision I left up to Daddy Sheriff. Our main concern is a relatively new driver dealing with wind gusts and hydroplaning. It was decided I’ll do the drive and drop. I won’t have to worry about her being on her own, and I’ll get to have CFA for lunch. Bonus!

Other than that journey out, I don’t plan to go anywhere. Colton and I will be home reading, watching movies, planning lessons, and baking (as long as the power stays on). Quite possibly not just for today but for tomorrow as well. I admit I wouldn’t be a very good stay-at-home mom, but I am very blessed to have this break from our normal hectic routine.

Thank you, God, for keeping us safe in the storm.

How Many Times Do I Have to Say…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 20, 2012
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As you may know, we have a new puppy in our house. Over the month or so we’ve had Rico, he’s grown into a much bigger puppy. His newfound ability to drag himself up onto the furniture delights him, and he can demolish a large rawhide in a day or so. Sweet natured with droopy questioning eyes, he has stolen our hearts. We adore him, but…

He has to be told “no”. A lot.

He doesn’t always come when we call.

He steals socks from the laundry pile.

He still has an occasional accident in the house.

He bites when he gets excited and wants to play.

I told my mom on the phone that I’m sure he’s like any other youngster. He’ll need to be reminded approximately 8,000 times before he understands the rules. I’m guessing we’ve made it to number 2,136. So very close…

How many moms and dads have said the phrase, “How many times do I have to tell you to (fill in the blank)?”  It seems to easily slide through my lips both at home with the kids and at school with my students. Why can’t they listen so I don’t have to keep repeating myself?

As usual, when I start wondering why others don’t act the way I want, God taps me on the shoulder and says, “Do you think you’re better than them?

No, I don’t. Kids and puppies aren’t the only ones who need to hear how to act over and over again. God frequently has to remind me to be patient, unselfish, and understanding. And even when I listen, it sure is easy to slide back in the opposite direction.

Thankfully, God is patient with me and gently reminds me again. And again.

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