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Hug Your Babies

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 7, 2013
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This morning, Mark left early for work, and Autumn is on a trip for school. When Colton stumbled sleepily from his room, I stood at the kitchen sink rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher. I said good morning over my shoulder to him as he crossed the hallway to the bathroom. In just a moment, he flopped on the couch as I continued my work in the kitchen. We chatted a bit, but then he became engrossed in a television show about sharks.

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As the morning progressed, he poured himself a bowl of cereal. I switched laundry loads and folded the dry clothes. I showered and dressed, and he pulled on a pair of shorts and a shirt. We left the house and drove to pick up two of his friends for some bowling alley action.

While the boys gave up their shoes in exchange for the fancy bowling alley substitutes, I placed my hand on Colton’s head and realized it was the first time I had touched him all day. I fought the urge to wrap him in a hug because he wouldn’t have appreciated it in front of his friends.

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Three weeks ago, a car wreck left a young girl from the county where I teach in the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Kirstin graduated high school in June, but I still remember her in eighth grade. She, as well as her siblings who have passed through my classroom, were always a pleasure to teach. Each is a polite, kind-hearted, and enthusiastic teen. Kirstin’s tragic car accident has pulled the community closer as everyone rallies together to help the family with visits, prayer vigils, gifts, and financial support.

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Last night at the high school football game, I was pleased to see some members of Kirstin’s family. I hugged her older sister and received an update on the next steps planned for Kirstin’s recovery. I’m certain they recite the same information dozens, maybe even a hundred, times a day. The plan is for Kirstin to move to a recovery center in Richmond to continue receiving the best medical care possible.

Today as my hand ruffled Colton’s hair and I controlled my motherly urge, Kirstin’s mom flooded my thoughts. I can’t even comprehend the depth of her desire to wrap her arms around her baby girl and feel the hug reciprocated. I pray the day she feels Kirstin’s arms around her neck comes soon.

Needless to say, as soon as the friends were deposited back at their homes, Colton received a tight embrace from dear ol’ mom. This morning I let chores and busyness cause me to ignore the chance to show my love. I pray I won’t allow that to happen again.

Hug your babies. Tight. Even if it embarrasses them, do it often.

And for those of you who would like to show your support for Kirstin, visit the Prayers for Kirstin Facebook page. Leave a message to let the family know they are all in your prayers.

It’s Worth Every Minute

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On June 19th, I turned west and put my foot on the gas pedal. Ten days later, I returned home having spent over 40 hours behind the wheel of the car, the last 14 of which were spent with the engine light glaring angrily in my eyes and my car sputtering in protest at certain moments.  And it was worth every minute.

Do you have family or friends you rarely see? Sure, in today’s world, we can be in touch with everyone on a daily basis. With email, Facebook, Skype, Instagram, blogs, and a million apps to help us stay connected, there’s no need to miss any news. But is it the same? Have you seen the emotions shining in their eyes? Have you wrapped them in your arms and hugged them tight? I have friends who only live an hour or less from me, but I still only see them a couple times a year. I have family scattered all across the country. The busyness of life fills our calendars and makes it difficult to spend time with our loved ones, but for ten days, I did. And it was worth every minute.

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As an 8th grade teacher, I know boys change a lot after they leave middle school. It had only been two years since I’d seen my nephews, but they have grown into handsome young men from the cute boys they were. My sister, Lauren, lives in Reno and we’re in Virginia, so it’s hard to align our schedules for visits. Colton was in awe of Ian and Tate, wanted to be with them every possible second, and tears poured when they left.

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Living so far from my family makes it difficult (impossible?) to go to family weddings most of the time. God must have taken pity on me for not attending one in decades because my cousin Gabriel married his long-time sweetheart Katie while we were in Missouri. My “little cousin” Gabriel is now a college graduate, an engineer, and a husband. His siblings have all grown up as well. The little kids I remember now have precious kids of their own. What a blessing for me to see each of them and meet the rest of my family.

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I rarely engage in nostalgia, but I couldn’t help searching for – and finding – the home my grandparents lived in when my mom was a child. This contrasted sharply to seeing with my own eyes the “progress” which obliterated my other grandparents’ home. I knew it was gone but seeing it firsthand stung like a slap.

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My mom and Fred always spoil us rotten when we visit. Every day is an adventure. We visited the City Museum, toured the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, went up in the Arch, went to the local pool (actually a waterpark!), and listened to a concert in Faust Park. But most of all, we spent time with family. I only get to see my parents once or twice a year, which is never enough. We also visited with many other aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even though everyone has a different version of the same story (business and busyness, kids’ activities, aches and pains, births and deaths, summer plans), it’s such a joy to share the details. Yes, I can get most of that information online or over the phone, but it doesn’t compare to face time without a device in between.

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I’m back home in Virginia now. My car will be admitted to the hospital tomorrow morning. Autumn goes back to work tonight, and Colton and I are going to run a few errands and relax a bit now that the piles of laundry have diminished. As I reflect on my trip, I am reminded of a few things:

1) Sometimes I’m stronger than I believe.

2) People change, but not that much.

3) 5–Hour Energy really works.

4) God has blessed me with an amazing family, and my greatest regret is living so far from them all.

5) Time spent for love is worth every minute.

Do you have loved ones you haven’t seen for a long time? Who do you need to go visit? I can promise you, however long it takes to get there and whatever obstacles you must overcome, it will be worth the effort!

Mother’s Day

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on May 9, 2013
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Here are some of the many amazing women I’ll be celebrating this weekend…

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My mom is, of course, who will be on my mind and in my heart the most this weekend. I’m looking forward to late June when I will be able to spend some long overdue time with her. Last year, I wrote about what an incredible woman she is (This Sunday, Mum’s the Word), and every word still holds true today.

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These lovely ladies with me (love the hair a few decades ago) are my grands. Grandma Louise, Fred’s mom; Nonnie, mom’s mom; and Grandmother, Daddy’s mom.

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Suzy (on the left) enjoyed a little more than a decade with my Daddy before he died. You can read more about this inspiring lady in my post Why Divorce Can be a Blessing. She’s pictured here with her sister, Kit, and her adopted daughter, Willa Kate.

Suzy and Kit’s mom, Kitty, who passed away last summer, was also a wonderful woman, a true Southern belle. I know  Mother’s Day will be hard for them this year, their first without their mom. I pray they spend Sunday dwelling on their good memories.

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My mother-in-law, Pauline Barrick, is such a blessing. She always takes time to help out when our schedules are chaotic (which is all the time!) by picking up kids, babysitting, running errands, feeding us, etc.

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All of Fred’s girls…Mom and all my sisters – Annie, me, Lucy, Liz, and Lauren.

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Mark’s sister Julie and sister-in-law Karen.

With my mom as the one of seven kids and my dad as one of four, I have been blessed with an abundance of love from many aunts as well who have been influential women in my life.

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My mom with all her sibs including the three sisters – Linda, Sandy, and Deb.

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Uncle Rick with Aunt Pam.

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Uncle David with Aunt Pam.

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Uncle Bobby with Judy, who will be greatly missed this Mother’s Day as she is always.

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Aunt Jackie, Daddy’s sister, loved and missed every day.

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Aunt Sandy, Kevin’s wife, and her beautiful kids.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the strong, inspirational women I know. Thanks for blessing my life the way you do.

A Week of Sadness

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 23, 2013
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This past week has been full of tragedy and sadness for our whole nation and for my community. Of course, everyone is aware of the devastating events in Boston. The explosions at the marathon shocked the world, and everyone mourns the lives lost and the future of a sport which will never be the same.

The Boston disaster hit close to home for the community where I teach. A teacher from the high school ran the marathon, and his wife teaches in the classroom next door to mine. I realize there were people all over the world trying to contact their loved ones, and it was the same for her. Although fear held her in its grip for a while, she soon was able to verify his safety. A collective sigh of relief echoed through the schools in our division as the news spread, and prayers of thanksgiving were sent heavenward.

After the Boston bombing and the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas, I couldn’t help think What else is going to happen? It always happens in threes, right?

I’m not sure if there was a “three” for the rest of the world, but for the county of Mathews where I live, tragedy struck again on Saturday morning when a high school senior was killed in a car accident. It has been almost a year since that class lost another student to suicide. (see Do They Know You Love Them?)

Obviously, this loss of life affected the students deeply. That evening, prom was scheduled, and the absence of their peer hit the students hard. It’s almost impossible to reconcile flowers, fancy up-dos, tuxedoes, and gowns with the death of a friend. How do you dance with that cloud of sadness hanging so low over the dance floor? How do you laugh and enjoy your date knowing your friend will never date again? How do you look forward to graduation knowing there will be a void in the procession where each of those peers should have been walking?

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Autumn cried Saturday morning when she heard the news, trying to wrap her mind around the “why” of it all. While I know she enjoyed the prom, her heart was burdened with the loss of her friend. Looking at the pictures, her smile, hair, and gown were gorgeous, as were all the pictures I’ve viewed of others going to the event, but I know many struggled with the guilt of “going on with life” when someone they cared for was not.

In response to the sadness that is blanketing our county this afternoon as Deanna’s funeral takes place, I again ask as I did last year, do they know you love them? Do your children know? Is there any question in their minds? Do family members know how much you love them? Do your friends realize how special they are to you? Tell them. Right away.

And in memory of Deanna, please always wear your seat belt.

How Do You Show Appreciation?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 13, 2013
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Valentine’s Day is tomorrow (in case you missed the memo). I’ve never been one to get too hung up on gifts for Valentine’s Day. I think it’s wonderful to know I’m loved and appreciated, but it seems slightly forced when I receive a gift on the day when society, card stores, and flower shops say I should. Thankfully, Mark and I usually go out to eat and focus more on giving gifts to the kids.

Everyone likes to be appreciated. It’s nice to get praise from someone you respect or admire, and it’s awesome to hear “thank you” for something you’ve done. It’s the old “atta boy” pick-me-up we all treasure. Appreciation for our loved ones, for other people, for our jobs, or for our world can be shown in a variety of ways.

Appreciation is a small gesture of kindness.

Appreciation is a thank you for simply being you.

Appreciation is doing a task even when “it’s not my job.”

Appreciation is a note of encouragement when facing a tough challenge or everyday stress.

Appreciation is a gift for no reason at all.

Appreciation is a touch on the arm when no words will do.

Appreciation is seeing the sunrise and thinking, “Good job, God!”

Appreciation is taking advantage of an opportunity.

Appreciation is serving with a smile.

However…

Appreciation is NOT receiving a gift that has been requested or demanded.

Seeking Horizontal Approval

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 5, 2013
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Today’s society wallows in sexual innuendo (did you see some of the Super Bowl ads??), so some would read the title of this blog and let their minds wander to the bedroom (or a parked car, or a bathroom stall, wherever). But that’s not what this is about. Sorry, but there’s nothing racy here.

Recently, I’ve heard the terms horizontal and vertical approval used on occasion. I understand the concept of seeking approval either from those around me (horizontal) or from above (vertical), but I didn’t analyze the small aspects of my life in regards to the distinction. Until now.

I know many aspects of my life probably reflect my need for horizontal approval. Not always because I thrive on the approval itself but because sometimes it’s easier than seeking the vertical type. But there’s one area of my life that really needs a change.

What I’m referring to is my “connectedness” to other people. Nowadays, it’s so simple to stay connected. I remember while growing up, sitting on the hard, dining room chair next to the built-in desk between the kitchen and dining room, winding the phone cord around my fingers while I chatted with whoever happened to be on the other end. If I wasn’t near the phone or in the house, I simply wasn’t connected.

That was it. No email, no iPhones, no tablets, no Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat. How did we ever survive?

Sometimes I long to be unconnected again, but I fear I’m addicted to it. Living far from family is a great excuse to be active in online communities and social networks. Texting is a fast, efficient way to keep tabs on Autumn or keep in touch with Mark, friends, and co-workers. Reading blogs and articles increases my knowledge and awareness.

But is it too much? Does it waste valuable time? When I consider my connectedness based on seeking approval, I think so. Here are just a few of my many habits…

When I’m in my classrrom, I check email every time I sit down at my desk.

Rarely a day passes when I don’t read the news feed in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Frequently (very frequently), I send texts just to find out what other people are doing.

I receive over one hundred blogs and articles in my inbox and/or RSS feed every week.

Each of those isn’t bad in and of itself. But when I think in terms of seeking approval, God plays little if any part in those actions. Do I check professional email frequently so I can answer immediately and the recipient might view me as prompt and on-the-ball? When I send a text to see what others are doing, am I overly concerned with their life instead of focusing on mine? Do I check the social networks (and post status updates on them) to feel an inflated sense of belonging?

What might happen if I dedicated a small amount of this time to gain some vertical approval? Could I eliminate a few email checks or Facebook scrolls and instead read a devotion? Say a prayer? Think of a way to help someone? My relationship with God would certainly flourish. My spiritual walk would follow a straighter path. My need to feel approval from others would diminish as I absorbed the approval from the One who matters most.

Awareness is the first step, and now that I acknowledge my problem, it’s an easy fix, right?

Sure it is. Now guess how many times I checked email while typing this. 🙂

Expectations Revisited

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 4, 2013
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Reblogged from June 2012 –
I needed the reminder this week. Maybe you do too!

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?

Indignation

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 5, 2012
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Sometimes I become extremely indignant when I hear about a family member, a student, or a friend who has been wronged. I let my own anger flow.

But maybe they don’t need my indignation. Possibly my own resentment toward their situation feeds the fire of their rage.

Instead, maybe they need someone who will help calm their emotions and remind them God is in charge.

Yes, I think that’s the type of person I need to be.

And I Repeat…Change IS Good

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 4, 2012
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Last week, I wrote about changes taking place in my life. And like He does so often, God created a situation to let me know I was slightly off track.

Sunday morning in church, our worship leader challenged us by asking if our lives have changed since we accepted Jesus as our Savior. Then Pastor Tag gave a stirring message about growth in our spiritual life. Growing is an ideal way to change, don’t you think? I kept reflecting back to my post from last week and came to the conclusion I had been somewhat shallow in my thinking.

All of the changes happening in my life right now matter. They really do. Everyday milestones and events that alter our lives make a difference.

But the inner changes, changes which eventually become visible to others, are the most important.

Do you have aspects of your spiritual life you’d like to change? I do, and I have for a long time. A few years ago in January, the KLove radio announcers focused on choosing a word to live by during the upcoming year. I remember selecting “change” as my word. I had a list of things I’d like to change, a list longer than my usual grocery list. Have I succeeded in making those changes? Not even close. There have been some shifts in my actions and thoughts, but not the dramatic changes I planned.

Some of the changes I wrote about last week were sad or painful. Inner change will also be painful, especially if it manifests itself to others and they begin to treat you differently. In the grand scheme of eternity in Heaven, that’s good news, but it can be painful on earth when you are no longer part of the crowd. It’s human nature to want to belong, but sometimes when you change for the Lord, belonging in the world is a sacrifice you have to make.

Do you no longer get invitations to socialize with your colleagues? Good!

Do you feel left out when some friends and acquaintances are all discussing the #1 best-selling novel, but you don’t feel it’s appropriate to read? Great!

If someone tells an off-color joke, do they immediately apologize to you while laughing with everyone else? Fantastic!

All of those situations confirm that people understand you are different, or changed, because of your spiritual life. Sometimes it’s a challenge to accept these situations as positive. But Tag reminded me that love is about commitment, not about emotions. Being left out might make us feel sorry for ourselves, but we must ignore those feelings and instead focus on the commitment in our hearts.

Have you faced situations that demonstrate how you have changed because of your commitment?

Dear Family and Friends,

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 27, 2012
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This is a difficult blog for me to write. When it comes to my faith, I’m not as vocal as I should be. I squirm at the thought of giving my testimony, and I don’t believe I have ever directly asked someone if they believe Jesus is their Savior. (Yes, I realize I need to work on this. A lot.)

Recently some books I’ve read and some experiences have caused me to reassess my spiritual health and think about the spiritual health of you, my loved ones.

And I feel an urgent need to ask some direct questions:

If you were to die today, where would you go?

Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?

Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?

Do you understand your relationship with Jesus is the only path to eternal life?

I’m not asking for answers to these questions. Many of you, I feel confident, will be with me for eternity in Heaven.  Others I’m not quite sure. And some I fear will not be with me unless changes are made in your lives. But I won’t know for sure until I’m no longer of this world because I’m not part of the equation.

The answers aren’t for me. The answers are between you and Jesus. The Bible says on the Day of Judgment many people who feel they’ve lived good Christian lives will face Jesus and He will say He never knew them. We may know who Jesus is, believe in His existence, and do good deeds, but if we don’t have a personal relationship with Him, He won’t know us.

My birthdays seem to be getting closer together. Time flies, and I’m old enough now to wonder how much time is left. This focus on my future – and how fleeting it may be on earth – has caused me to reflect more often and more deeply on my eternal life with Jesus.

Will you be in Heaven with me? I pray you will. That’s my sole purpose for writing this. I realize everyone’s response to this post may not be completely positive, and because of that, I feel ripped open and raw as I prepare to hit the publish button.

Please, examine your life. Think about everyone you love. Decide whether you want to spend eternity with them in Heaven. I want you there. And so does God.

Book recommendations:
Not a fan. by Kyle Idleman
Weird: Because Normal isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt


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