Friday, May 27, 2022

"Go and make great things happen!"

When I heard that Mr. Tatman passed away I was sad. Then, I read his obituary and couldn't help but laugh out loud when I read, "Per Stephen’s wishes, there will be no services." I heard him saying that last part of the sentence in my mind as only he would say it (anyone that knew him probably understands what I mean). It makes perfect sense to me why he wouldn't want any services; he was modest, humble, and not usually sentimental (though, the guest book entries definitely show some of his softer side underneath the "tough coach/teacher" exterior). I know he probably wouldn't want anyone eulogizing him, but his impact was far too great not to. I'm sorry, Mr. Tatman. You'll just have to shake your head, and throw down an "F" from heaven in disapproval. I'll "pick that gauntlet up" (as you used to say) and write my best anyways. I am going to "give credit where credit is due"; which is another thing that you always said and emphasized frequently. Yes, I know that "less is more", but Mrs. Cook overrode you in that department because she taught me to write in detail. 

I first knew Mr. Tatman as the Dad of my newfound friend. Kate and I hit it off right away when they moved to Berne. When I would go to her house, I was told (and learned very quickly) to keep the noise level down and NEVER bother him; especially when he was watching the sci-fi channel. He had a presence that was initially intimidating, but that you couldn't help respecting. 

I also learned that he was very smart and incredibly funny. His humor is the kind where you don't always know if it's safe to laugh because he seldom cracked a smile in his delivery of the joke. You second guess yourself and wonder if he was really intending to be funny. A memory of this that stands out is when I was having dinner at their house. I'll never forget sitting around the table as a 4th grader; trying to fill the silence and make small talk with a man who was a mystery and larger than life. He was scary and fascinating to me. I asked him what he taught. Without even really looking at me, he abruptly and quickly rattled off something like "literature....Shakespeare.." I told him I would like his class. Once again, without looking at me, he promptly said, "you wouldn't like my class." I was rattled and couldn't think of anything else to say. I was stunned into silence (and a part of me was also stifling laughter at the way he said it). I also wanted to insist that I really WOULD like his class, but the rest of me was screaming "don't you dare try to argue with this guy!" So, I let it be. Yet, in my mind, I already knew that whether he meant that as a joke or not, I was going to prove him wrong. 

Fast forward to 10th grade English. I always hoped to impress him, but it seemed like it took a lot to really "wow" him; and underclassmen typically didn't do it for him. In fact, I once again made the error of thinking I could make small talk. I had casually asked once, "So, are you looking forward to the Christmas break?" Not looking up, he continued to straighten the pile of papers he was going through and said, "I look forward to nothing. Every day is equal." My sophomoric brain was just as dumbfounded as my 4th grade brain had been. He was simple but so complex at the same time; just like the sentences he taught us to diagram. 

One of my proudest accomplishments of that class is the fact that I got an "A" on my figurative language assignment for "A Tale of Two Cities". He had said that it would be impossible to get a good grade if we waited until the night before to do it (which I did). I had no affection or appreciation for that book at the time; much like he described his disdain for "Canterbury Tales" when he was in grade school. He had explained that he refused to read it and relied on what was actually explained and taught in class so he wouldn't have to read it. I realized that he was telling us the same thing and that all I had to do was pay attention to his lectures and the oral chapter assignments from everyone else. To this day, I still haven't read much beyond the chapter assigned to me ("Knitting") and the opening line of,  "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." The movie, and content of the class, was more than enough to help me get a good grade and I truly enjoyed his class. It didn't hurt that I understood and used figurative language all the time, so the assignment wasn't as hard for me as it likely was for other procrastinators. My love for Shakespeare also grew. We read through "The Tragic History of Julius Caesar" and "Hamlet". To this day, I still love Shakespeare, and I hope to eventually read EVERYTHING he's written.

I hung on every word, story, saying, and funny thing that he said (I think I still have my English and Speech folder stored away somewhere because everything he taught was so valuable to me). I especially felt this way when I took Speech class; which was the result of a last minute modification to my schedule when I abruptly dropped choir (don't ask lol). It seemed to be an unplanned and accidental thing. However, as Mr. Tatman always said, "there are no accidents." 

It was DEFINITELY no accident that I ended up taking Speech. I was meant to take that class and I absolutely LOVED it! It's my favorite class of all time for so many reasons. I relished every piece of advice and criticism that he gave me. He made me want to be my best self; and still does. In fact, the following phrases of his are things that I tell myself, and others, quite often: 

"Always know your mark."

"Know your audience." 

"Everything is done on purpose for a purpose. There are no accidents." 

"Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes permanent. PERFECT practice makes perfect. You practice how you perform and you perform the way you practice." 

These pieces of advice have served me well in life. It's not just good advice for stage or athletic performance. This applies to EVERYTHING! You need to know what you're doing and who you're doing it for! Know your audience and hit your mark on and off the stage. Be intentional, purposeful, and fruitful. If you want your words/art to be understood, you have to understand the ones you're communicating your message to! This includes everyday interactions with people; and especially in your most meaningful relationships. If you don't communicate in a way, and at a level your listener can understand, they will NOT receive and perceive the message you're communicating in the way that you intend. Always make every effort to be clear in what you're saying. 

There is so much more I could say. I have so many fond memories of every funny moment and nugget of wisdom I mined from him. However, I know I have gone on long enough and I'll end with one last thing; the thing that marked me for life. It happened when I was gathering signatures for my Senior Memories book. His signature/advice was one that I absolutely had to have. I had no idea what he thought of me; or if he took me seriously whenever I told him how much he had impacted me (I think that was one of the few times I made him smile/laugh lol). However, I made one last daring attempt to approach "the reaper" (as he often called himself). I asked him if I could take a photo of him for my book, and the following picture is what I got lol. Secondly, I asked him if he would sign it....and he actually did! 

I've always been grateful for these words and have heard them in my head (and in his voice) over and over again throughout the years. It's impacted me so strongly! First of all, it's because he addressed me by my first name (he always called everyone by their last name). Secondly, his encouragement and affirmation inspired and fueled me to want to make him proud and to live up to my God-given potential and destiny. I told him I was going to dedicate my first book to him and the rest of my English teachers. He laughed and said I didn't have to do that. Again, I wasn't sure if this was because of his modesty or if he really didn't believe that he had impacted me that much and didn't want any credit (especially if he thought I was a poor result of all his hard work as a teacher). My doubts faded away for the most part, because I'd like to think that his words reflected something he saw in me. After all, he never said anything he didn't mean. He was always sincere. Maybe that's why he started out by telling me to believe in myself after calling me by name. He knew I needed to be reminded to have confidence in how God designed and gifted me. He then affirmed my worth and value as a person; saying that I was important and that what I brought to the world meant something. Then, he sealed it with the commission of "go make great things happen!" He even said it out loud because I sheepishly asked what the last part said. I had initially thought maybe it said "God" because the "&" looked like a "d" to me, so that's why I dared to ask. It still would have made sense if there had been a coma after "God" or an "s" after "make."  "God, make great things happen!" "God makes great things happen!" The first is a prayer, the next is an answer and declaration to that prayer. I say "yes" and "amen" to both!!

I truly hope my life thus far has been a fulfillment of the prophetic words that Mr. Tatman spoke over me. I've grown in my identity in Christ and have been doing my best to live on purpose with a purpose; for that audience of "one" that is Christ Jesus. I know my mark, and I get up each day hoping to hit it. When I miss the mark, He covers me with grace and forgives me; showing me a better way to practice my faith so that my imperfect practice doesn't become permanent. I continue to grow, transform, and ask questions; because none of us are "aces" (as he used to say when no one dared to ask a question). We should never stop learning and growing; taking in as much information as we can before trying to discern or toss anything aside. "You can't afford to discriminate," he would say. It's true. As the Bible says, we must be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Being a good audience is just as important as communicating to one. Communication is a "two way street."

Grace and peace to you, my friends! May we all live out our greatest commission which comes from Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). If we are going to "go out into all the world" and "make great things happen" for His name, we have to be a good disciple before we can make more! May we all be good students, disciples, and sowers so that we can reap a harvest of good things (Galatians 6:9, James 3:18); just like "the reaper" is reaping in heaven right now for all he's sown (he's getting his own A+ from the ultimate teacher). Remember that Jesus has chosen you (John 15:16). You are NO ACCIDENT (Job 10:11, Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5)! He has redeemed you and called you by name: You are His (Isaiah 43:1-2)! He is proud of you! You're His masterpiece and He has commissioned you to do good works and not bury your talents in the sand (Ephesians 2:10, Matthew 25:14-30). "Go and make great things happen" for the Kingdom! God bless you!

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Releasing Worry & Trusting God: Whatevers!

In my previous two posts, I've talked about releasing worry and trusting God. The first post was centered on faith; remembering "manna moments" from the Bible, and from every day life, which help us stand firm. Knowing who God is, what His Word says, and reflecting on His faithfulness is the foundation for maintaining and building even more faith to anchor us (especially in the hard times). Though, even with faith, there are still intense emotions that we experience in the midst of it. Faith doesn't mean we can't feel. Powerful emotions often rise up. When they do, we can lean into them in a healthy way to learn from and process those emotions. As we do so, we release them to God and find His comfort and healing.

In my life, I've worked to overcome my "all or nothing" mentality and strive for balance. I've realized that sometimes I stand so firm on faith that I try to stifle and suppress all emotions. Other times, I spend too much time leaning into my emotions that I get stuck in them and spiral out of control into a very depressed state. Both extremes battle brokenness from a different angle. Neither extreme is good for us, and it can be challenging to find that healthy balance. 

I don't know about you, but I sometimes reach the point where I completely burnout and breakdown. I feel completely broken and non-functional; and I struggle to snap out of it. Then, I feel guilty for falling into a dark depressing hole of self-pity; which just piles up on top of everything else that I feel bad about. I tell myself to get a grip, but I've already blown past all the "checkpoints" that I've previously set up for myself. I'm no longer interested in praying, talking to a friend, or encouraging/willing myself to function or think/do positive things. I feel numb, apathetic, and dangerously close to the edge. I've reached "whatever" mode; where I'm like, "It's whatever. I don't care anymore." 

This is why I'm so thankful for the Holy Spirit. I seriously have no idea how I would ever see the light at the end of the tunnel if I didn't have the Holy Spirit to give my whiny depressed flesh a pep talk. When I reach "whatever mode", that's when I start hearing this in my mind: 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. - Philippians 4:6-8

Do you see that? THOSE are the right kind of "whatevers". If I'm going to be in "whatever" mode, that's the good kind of "whatever" to dwell on. However, when I'm just too deep in that hole, I sometimes stay stuck longer than I should and neglect that first part of praying and giving thanks (which is very crucial!). Instead of being transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2), I end up being like the paralytic John 5:1-15. Jesus is asking me, "Do you WANT to get well?" and all I have are excuses. That self-pity trap. It's awful! Yet, He STILL has mercy on me and tells me to get up and walk! Get UP and WALK! Sometimes, that's all I can do for a while. I get up and walk; taking one step in front of the other even if I don't feel like it. Then, He meets me in my every day walk and shakes things up! **PSST! Be sure to watch this episode of "The Chosen" where they bring this story to life. I cry every time for so many reasons!**

I had been trying to run through my list of "whatevers"; thinking on my "happy thoughts" and "manna moments" so I could start seeing the light again. I wasn't making as much effort as I could have, but I was still getting up and walking. I went to Sunday morning service and that's where Jesus gave me a boost of "whatever". It started when my son, Casey, commented on the coat that I was wearing. It was a coat that belonged to my grandmother and had her initials embroidered on it. He said it must have been a prized possession and that it was nice that I was honoring her. He made it sound a lot grander than what it was. I honestly don't know how much she valued the jacket, but it does have a lot of special meaning to me for many different reasons. So, when he said that, it felt like a warm ray of sunshine. His love and compassion is like a hug from Jesus Himself. Grandma always loved me that way too. When His love shines through people in that "whatever is pure" way, it lets a lot of light in. It brightens you up. And things only got brighter from there! We happened to sing "How Great Thou Art" and that both broke me and lifted me in the best way! I started writing it all out in my journal during worship. He downloaded so much into my heart; including several other songs that I added to my HeartSpeak playlist for this new month. I closed my eyes and I could remember my Grandma. I could see and hear her singing that hymn in church as I stood beside her. I thought about the legacy of faith in my family and how Casey is speaking Christ's love as she did; and he's speaking it because I taught him the language (the language I've learned through what's been passed down in my family). 
As broken and messed up as my life has been, I started thinking about all these gleams of life and light shining through. The mosaic of a stained glass window is beautiful, and when the light shines on the many pieces, it's even more glorious! In that moment, God was showing me that this is my story. No matter how bad or broken my past or present seems, He makes the broken things beautiful. Two verses came to mind. First, Colossians 1:17 which says that in Him, all things hold together. Then, John 1:5 which says "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." I felt held together; even with all my broken pieces. I felt illuminated and that I could finally turn my eyes towards the light and see. I didn't want to sit in the darkness and look away anymore. I wanted to be "well." I wanted to allow His light to shine in my darkness and swallow me up instead. The darkness can never overcome light. Light always overcomes darkness. 

Over the past couple days at church and prayer meeting, I've been inviting His light to keep shinning on me and in me. I've been going through my "whatevers"; my pre-made list of "happy thoughts" and memories that keep me anchored to truth and reminds me of all the warm sunshine that has (and continues) to light up my life. I will think about "such things". I will be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I will get up and walk because I WANT to be well. I'll be like King David in 2 Samuel 12:20. I'll grieve, but then I'll get up and move on. Like him, I'll take a shower, get dressed, and go worship the Lord. I'll even encourage myself, as he did in 1 Samuel 30:6, when I feel distressed. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). "Whatever" may come, I know that I can "whatever" myself for good or for bad, but it's the good "whatevers" that I want taking up space in my mind. I will think on such things; and such things will renew my mind, build my faith, and give me life!
Grace and peace to you, my friends! I encourage you to make your own list of "whatevers". What things/memories are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? What lights you up and always makes you smile? Make a list of them and put it in your pocket for a rainy day when you need sunshine. Get creative and make a memory board, collage, scrapbook, slideshow, etc. Showcase your "whatevers" so that you can access that burst of light and joy when you need it. Cherish the moments where God's love touched your heart through the hug, smile, or act of kindness from another. Think on such things. God bless you!