Jahreskontrolle of the Week
I knew this week would be full, and I'd already called up my prayer team to cover me, but, whoa, a whole lot extra happened that was unexpected. Since life involves people, a lot of the content of my week overlaps with stories of others which are not appropriate to share on the internet. I try to be as transparent as possible, but I also want to respect the boundaries of others by not laying out their personal information. That said, I'll still try to give you a full picture of my week.
Monday morning, I was sitting at my picnic table and a former student biked up and asked what he should do with his time while waiting for his parents. I said I was about to read my Bible and invited him to join; he immediately sat down and pulled his Bible out of his backpack and said he'd been reading in Jeremiah and Acts. We had an absolutely beautiful conversation about biblical history and how it can inform the way we live today.
I was super grateful for that nugget of goodness and positive interactions with a student before heading into parent night on Tuesday. Some of you may have heard my damaging experience student teaching where I was grilled by angry parents who didn't understand the school's assessment policy and were blaming me for their daughter failing my class (she was not actually failing, but the policy mandated any single "proficiency" assessment under 70% flag the student's grade as an F until they retook the assessment - this girl had two assignments to reassess while all her other work was in the B grade range). I still have to work through a lot of anxiety almost any time I email or meet parents. Parent night always puts me on edge; I worry people are going to judge me without knowing me, and I enter guarded and scared of potential attacks. My friend Christi was one of the first parents in the room, and I immediately brightened up and relaxed. The second class period had my coworkers Eric and Kara and friend Scot who have all been huge supporters of me as a teacher and a human person. Knowing friendly faces were in the room put me at ease as I shared about my class with parents. In the mingling time at the end, three separate parents of seniors sought me out to encourage me. One couple said their two boys both loved my class and talked to them about what they each learned with them; another mom showed me a piece of paper where her daughter had written down the names of her two favourite teachers from last year and told her mom to go find them.
I managed to get some sleep and get to school in time to receive a gut punch hearing tragic news about a friend and coworker who would have to go to the States for an extended time after unexpected death in her family. I also knew I was the only other staff member the school had in the College Board system to cover her classes. In the midst of reeling from that and dealing with other stressors, I was gifted with four separate parents of previous students (two who have a third child in my class currently) speaking affirmations to me of the good that I'm doing in the lives of young people in Kandern. This is a huge, huge deal for me to hear and know based on my unique cocktail of anxiety and experience of slander. Legitimately, if you have nice things to say to me, I need to hear them. Honestly, so does everyone who is kind to you. This is a complete tangent connected to why my picnic table became a place of affirmations, but please, if you read this blog, find five people to intentionally reach out and affirm today. And if you go to church, make one of them your pastor. When I emailed my pastors a prayer request last week, Pastor Derrick was on it with specific words of encouragement related to my current spiritual battle, and I know he and Brandon pray regularly and intentionally for our church members. These men are the real deal, and I'm incredibly grateful to have them as pastors.
Thursday I had my annual checkup - the Jahreskontrolle - at the REHAB hospital in Basel. It was only a small one with a blood pressure check and conversation with the doctor. As the nurse put the blood pressure cuff on, I thought about all that my prayer team was already aware of and everything I had going on in my life that had been amplified by the news the day before. I expected it to be a tad high. I asked the nurse if the numbers were okay, and she said they weren't too bad. The doctor similarly wasn't very concerned - especially after I told him it had been a stressful week at work (understatement of the year). "We always expect the numbers are higher when patients come in because of the environment, and if you have work stress even higher makes sense." He went on to say in his very direct Swiss manner that I would need to monitor it twice a week for the next several months because it was in the first warning level and blood pressure is the silent killer and this should not be dismissed if I had a high stress work environment. We also had a lovely chat about my career and work environment. I like the Swiss. They have a different perspective on careers and work and care a lot about holistic health. I'm still not supposed to work full time so that I can care for my body well, and my doctor affirmed the importance of holding that boundary and knowing my limits physically and emotionally because they are tied together.
Friday was a lot. But I ordered a blood pressure cuff and ended the day laughing late into the night with two good friends and knowing I was loved and cared for and supported.
Saturday morning the blood pressure cuff arrived while I was having my morning coffee and croissant at my picnic table. I opened up the box, read the instructions, and was delighted to find my upper number dropped over 20 points and the lower one nearly 10. I was now squarely at the bottom of the normal range of blood pressure after being at the high end of the first risk level two days before. My numbers were almost exactly what my doctor told me was my ideal blood pressure. I credit this to the combination of an incredible prayer team and supportive coworkers and kind parents and amazing friends.
Plus my children.
I haven't even told you about the joys my children brought me this week. Apart from the Monday encounter, I had a handful of other student interactions that meant the world to me. One senior stopped by at the end of her first day of school to tell me about how much she loved reading the book I recommended to her over the summer. We got excited about discussing the themes of how people are judged and what we do to love others in community well. I had another student who is not returning to BFA send back a book I let him borrow with a sticky note to let me know how to reach him and when his birthday was - and even included "I can hear you laughing as you read this." I was laughing. Another student attending Wheaton this year texted me a picture of two other alumni in the cafeteria after they all moved in this week. A handful of other alumni texted me random encouragements - one of them being a recent nursing school graduate delighted to hear my blood pressure numbers.
However, by far the most special student message this week came from the kid who moved onto Multnomah's campus this Thursday. He texted me a series of photos of move in day (per my request), and he even found Ray Lubeck and Rob Hildebrand on campus per my instructions (he has a couple other professors to find and introduce himself as my student). I honestly can't explain the emotions I felt seeing my former campus in photos from my former student. Unbeknownst to him, the photo Joe took in the prayer chapel is from almost the exact spot I would sit and pray for hours when I was in college. That prayer chapel is where I made some significant life decisions after spending time with the Lord. My time at Multnomah was an incredibly positive experience, and I have so much joy knowing some of the most influential people in my spiritual walk will now get to encourage Joe. Truth be told, as an educator, it brings me inexpressible joy to send a student to learn at the place that taught me so much about my relationship with God and how to read the Bible. As Ray taught me, and I taught Joe, and Ray will teach Joe, the purpose of reading the Bible is to foster loving relationships with God and other people. I'm doing my very best to live that out here in Germany with the training of the God-loving people from Multnomah and investment of countless others in the time since I've left Multnomah.
After this week that has felt like a year with all the highs and lows, I'll move into next week with the goal of maintaining my ideal blood pressure and honouring God in all my lessons and conversations. Please do be praying for me to not forget to care for my body as I care for doing my work well while I have a season of more than normal happening. While we're at it, let's all be praying for everything - teaching extra classes would be a lot easier if I could walk and pee like a normal person.