Top 7 of 2017 (Part 3- Press In!)

In the early spring one of my dearest, “bestest” friends and post-college roommate disclosed inklings that she was considering moving out of our south-central Pennsylvania town that had become the home of our friendship of seven years. I was excited and proud of her courage to pick up her life, take it down south, and pursue a relationship she had always desired.

As the days and months of the spring began to slip away these inklings turned to dreams, these dreams to plans, and plans to reality. Just a few weeks after our school year ended, we were taking our last walk through the cornfields and talking going-away parties and moving trucks. I watched as the apartment on Locust Point that I had never seen bare began to be emptied as she packed her things into boxes. We had shared that precious space for the two-years before I got married; full of watching the Bachelor, decorating for Christmas, late night talks in the hallway, being snowed in the blizzard of 2016 and learning from her cooking as sous chef, a dream come true for two college girls who fantasized about living together.  That sacred home held us as we transitioned into teachers, got through the major challenge of learning to be both friends and roommates, fell in love, and eventually even after moving out, it was the place I learned I was going to be a mother.

Mid-June we planned one last friend date, afternoon tea, before her man came into town to begin the moving process. The morning of the date, I was overly emotional. At first I tried to blame the transition from the school year to the summer, and even tried to blame Cody.  Finally, I realized what it was. My friend, my true and deep friend of seven years was moving and I was grieving, not the grieving from death but the grieving that comes with good, bittersweet change. After confessing my true feelings to her, I explained that I just didn’t know how I was going to do the day.  She replied and said “I know it may be hard for you to see me, but it will be harder if we don’t” to which I responded “Not seeing you is not an option in my book, as hard as it is I’m still going to see you.”

We decided to press in. No matter how hard, we would lean into the pain instead of doing the easy task of pulling out when it got sad and difficult. Pressing into this bittersweet season meant sharing moments of finding boxes behind department stores.  It meant making a slide-show of pictures and songs and crying all the way through it. It meant visits with her boyfriend’s family and joyfully (truly joyfully!) third-wheeling as I was given the opportunity to meet important people in her new life. It meant throwing a good-bye party when I wished there would be no-goodbyes.  It meant packing up rooms and memories into boxes.  It meant sharing a goodbye letter, hugging over and over again in the basement of our old home, and with tears-streaming down my face, turning away from my best friend into the pouring good-bye rain. But pressing into the pain also meant celebrating the joy of having made a true and lasting friend, who made goodbye so hard.

On our last night together on Locust Point we spent a few sacred moments while I read a letter to her. I have since carried the words “press in” and the memories of that night in my heart all summer as we’ve begun to learn the new patterns of being long distance friends. The words of that letter continue to encourage me in this season of pressing in:

“I am not going to pretend that our friendship is not going to change, it is. However, I am glad to experience the grief of watching you move across the country because it means that I let you become so important to me and have such a deep part of my heart and I wouldn’t want it any other way…. I will continue to press into the missing you and the figuring out of this next phase of our friendship…I am here even from miles away, loving you, supporting you, excited for you, and grieving the way our friendship was, and celebrating the new way it will be. I love you so much my very best friend.”

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Top 7 for Summer 2017 (Part 2-Roadtrips) 

Towards the beginning of the summer, Cody and I took almost back-to-back road trips down the PA Turnpike West.  The first stop was an anniversary trip to my dad’s roots: Pittsburgh,PA.  While there, we went to a Pirate’s baseball game (complete with a cotton candy beard, see below), toured the zoo, shopped in the Strip District and took a boat tour of the rivers.  Three of my favorite moments of the short trip were exploring the Fort Pitt Block House and learning about the woman who used to sell candy from the window of the tiny building (my kind of lady!), riding the Incline and walking the beautiful stretch of sidewalk along the ridge of Mount Washington complete with a gorgeous view of the skyline, and simply enjoying moments by the pool with my husband.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second road trip just a few short days later brought us through Pittsburgh again, but this time, after scooping up my dad, we continued on to the small town of Cedarville, Ohio for the wedding of a long time family friend.  The weekend in Ohio also boasts itself as one of my favorite of the summer.  We stayed at a quaint, country inn in the center of down-town Cedarville.  Down-town Cedarville consists of a few shops and a couple of intersecting roads and the atmosphere instantly put me at ease. We rode bicycles (Cody and I riding tandem) the morning before the wedding, got coffee at a local shop, played chess in the window-sill bench of the inn and played mini-golf at a place called “Udders and Putters” at Young’s Dairy Farm (which we visited three times in our short 48-hour visit..you would think it was the only thing to do in the small town.)  During the wedding, I laughed and laughed as I square danced hand-in-hand with Cody, my parents and our family friends.  What was truly delightful was reconnecting so closely with childhood friends, getting to share it as young adults, discussing marriage and jobs and dreams, all the while watching them come to appreciate Cody so much! It was a truly wonderful weekend!

Top 7 for Summer 2017 (Part 1: Zucchini Bread)

In one short week, the summer of 2017 will come to a close and I will begin teacher inservice for a new school year. To celebrate the season and all the memories of this summer (that I didn’t get to share) I will be writing my top 7 of summer 2017 (in no particular order 🙂 as I countdown the last 7 days.

During the week of July 15- July 22, my family took our annual trip to Long Beach Island along the Jersey shoreline, but I will save those memories for another post.  While I was soaking up the surf and the sun, something special was happening n Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Back at our small cape cod, along the side of our garage grew one tangled mess of a garden (check out former blog post here).  We found out that when your garden spends eight glorious days of freedom, you are bound to have some surprises.  Mine came in the form of seven LARGE zucchini. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, I bounded out to check our garden and plucked these mammoths.  The next day, Sunday, I spent the day slicing, chopping, shredding and spiralizing these ginormous veggies. Cody and I then summoned the precious zucchini bread recipe from his mother and set to work. The result: 9 delicious loaves fresh from the oven.  In case you think zucchini bread is healthy, let me shatter that illusion.  It is equal parts sugar and zucchini.  After devouring half a loaf that evening, we filled our dreams with plans for the rest of our treats.

The next evening was one of my favorites of the summer. My dear husband and I packed up our picnic basket with several of the loaves and did something we believe isn’t done enough anymore: we made random visits to neighbors to deliver our goods and share fellowship together. Our first stop: the elderly widow next door. During our visit, we gleefully pet her pup and shared the news of our impending bundle of joy.  Next stop: our marriage mentors and Cody’s college LOFT team leader.  Our third zucchini bread went to Cody’s Adventure Ed professor. At both homes, we were welcomed and enjoyed long moments of catch up and sharing memories and life updates. After that, we found our next recipient roadside, walking his dog and after quickly turning our car around, delivered the loaf drive-by style. We made our final delivery in the center of town catching our last friends by surprise, but were still welcomed in for moments of chit chat.

At this last stop, our friend reminded me of one of my favorite comedians, Sebastian Maniscalco, who has a short skit on the parody of the doorbell ringing today versus 20 years ago. The video (watch it here for a laugh) describes today’s sentiment about when people come to your door unexpectedly.   But you never know, the next time your doorbell rings, it might be someone bringing you delicious zucchini bread.

I’m so thankful for these memories; 7 large zucchinis, baking loaves with my precious husband, and breaking bread and fellowshipping with neighbors.  Truly goes down in my top seven of summer 2017!

Foundations 

I’ve been remaking my life from the inside out, and I want to invite you into that creative, challenging, life-altering work. It is work of course. It feels, I’d imagine, like adding a basement to a house that’s already been standing for decades. I thought it would be more like adding new shutters, but I’m finding it to be more like lifting up a home and starting to dig, reorienting the very foundation” -Shauna Neiquist “Present Over Perfect”

Four summers ago, I discovered something deeply profound. I woke every morning in a dorm full of girls, tied an apron around my back, greeted hundreds of campers with high fives, served breakfast, wiped tables, took a nap and read a book, served again, peddled up bay view streets, pressed my feet into Long Beach Island sand, returned to serve dinner and took cool evening showers before inhaling deep breaths of friendship during talks at sunset. Repeat everyday for eight weeks.

I learned about building a foundation. I learned my deep need for grounding. I learned that I need a period of time that’s simple, where work is left at work and there is space to be, to love, and to connect.

Thankfully as a teacher, I am blessed with a schedule that allows for summers, a built-in chance at grounding. At our end-of-the-year faculty meeting, my principal told us that as you get older each and every summer seems to go by faster and faster, and what’s important is that we find the things that refresh our souls and enable us to go forward into a new school year. As deeply flawed as my school is at times, I keep hearing my principal’s words all summer. I heard them as I let waves wash over me a few weeks ago on LBI and I hear them as I sit on my porch in the mornings reading The Shack and Present Over Perfect.  I learned that summer four years ago, that every year I need a period of time to heal, to restore the passion in my life, a break from the beautiful whirlwind that loving 25 seven and eight year olds can bring.

Do I adjust easily to this slow pace? Absolutely not. Honestly, I often bring a large to-do list into the summer. All the things I couldn’t accomplish during the school year somehow get spilled into my days meant for rest. Learning to slow for me is much like demo day with the Chip and Joanna Gaines. Breaking down all the production that drives my life is painful. It takes me weeks to adjust to summer rhythms.

It’s August now and I’m starting to get those panicky feelings again, the “I didn’t get done everything I wanted to do before the new school year” feelings. And when I get panicky, I start to cram. Cram in this project, or that lesson plan, or planning too many nights out with friends instead of remembering that this season is about slowing, about grounding.

Back in January I picked the word “foundation” for 2017 and it’s only now in my times of quiet that I am realizing what that means. Only by participating in demo day can I begin to rebuild what I want my life to truly be built on. As I wind up my summer, I want to remember the things that I love. To spend my time rebuilding my foundation and dreaming about the new renovations. For me, this has looked like the daily reminder to base my identity on Christ’s love, not on what I can get done each day. May all that I do be done in His power, not that spinning frenzy fueled by the knot in my stomach that I am not enough. The foundation changes the way everything is done. Housework becomes an act of love. Lesson plans for my new school year are invigorated with passion for serving my students. I put the pencil down on my grad school work remembering to stop and check in with my husband about his day.

Each summer I vow somehow to bring a bit of this pace into my school year, bring in this grounding. Maybe in some small way I can this year. If anything, I can be thankful for summer seasons of this soul healing, this grounding and praise God for creating a foundation of unconditional love for my life.

“This crucial journey, then, for me, has been from dependence on external expectations, down into my own self, deeper still into God’s view of me, his love for me that doesn’t change, that will not change, that defines and grounds everything”-Shauna Niequist

My Vegetable Garden

I started seeds.  I put them outside. They got sun scorch.

I started new seeds.  I bumped my phone charger. It literally broke off the stem of the only survivor.

I tried pea seeds.  I planted the pea seedlings in my garden.  A bunny chewed the top off every pea plant.

I started SUNFLOWER seeds. They grew! I planted them in the narrow space between the garage and raised beds, anticipating them to grow tall and lean. 

I walked the rows of the garden center just caddy corner from our home.  I put the seedlings of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini in my cart.  Hey! The zucchini look like my sunflowers….

I wove chicken wire along the edges of my garden to prevent the bunnies from eating my new plants. I watched the sunflowers turned zucchini get so big they pushed the wire aside.

I planted my plants from the garden center.  Two feet apart for these itty bitty plants?!? I think not!


Yep, that’s it.  That tangled mess of vines and plants. That huge bush that takes up one entire half of the plot of dirt, yeah those are tomato plants. Cucumber tendrils wrapped around pepper plants.  Zucchini protruding straight into and over the fencing. Yep, that’s my garden.

It’s true this is my learning year, my first year owning a home and first time planting my very own vegetable garden.  I have learned a lot about what to do better next year as well as a lot about what NOT to do…

  • Plant zucchini and pumpkins from seeds, not tomatoes or peppers…buy those from the garden center (unless you can get them from Cody’s students again)
  • If you do plant tomatoes and peppers from seeds, do NOT put them in direct sunlight at the first glimmer of springtime, they will be scorched.
  • Cucumbers are a vine.
  • Bunnies LOVE pea plants.
  • Use chicken wire to protect vegetable from said bunnies
  • do NOT put the zucchini close to the chicken wire, DO put cucumbers near it so they can wrap their little tendril arms around the fencing and not your pepper plants.
  • Buy less plants (or increase the size of the garden) and FOLLOW the recommended spacing…it’s there for a reason.

It’s hard for me not to kick myself when I look at my garden.  Every time I go to my car I see it and it bugs me! When Cody comes with me, I make a comment.  “Can you believe my garden? It looks terrible! Can you help me fix it? It’s so ugly!” I’m an amateur when it comes to gardening and I’ve had to remind myself over and over that I’m just learning.

I wish that when I walked outside,  I saw a much more neat and orderly garden. Who am I kidding?  I strive to run my life by the neat and orderly! It’s no surprise that I’m having a hard time extending grace to myself for my tangled mess of vines, vegetables and weeds because I have a hard time extending grace as I navigate the snarled and overgrown areas of my own life.  My mother once told me “everything tends toward chaos” and she is right. Laundry. Cleaning. Cooking. More cleaning. Weeds. Lawn. Paperwork. The car windshield that’s been cracked for months. Burnt out lightbulbs. All tending toward chaos.

In the summer-time I like to play catch up with all of the things that have become overgrown or are untended in my life. This summer, it’s prepping for the upcoming school year, getting a baby room together, scrapbooking the ticket stubs, wedding programs, and pictures from the year before, etc.  Now that it’s July, and I know August and Back-To-School ads are just around the corner, anxiety has snuck its creeping coils around my heart convincing me that there just isn’t enough time and I’m not going to get it all blooming in manageable array before the year begins. Tonight, as I finished creating cute garden markers (that I’ll probably have to save for next year, because let’s be honest they’ll get lost in my patch), it dawned on me, my jumbled and disordered garden still produces fruit! I can still produce fruit!

I am currently reading The Shack, by William P. Young. Sarayu, the character for the Holy Spirit, maintains a garden that from the human perspective looks unkempt and disorganized.  Mack, the main character, in all his humanness says to Sarayu, “It’s a mess” and to his surprise she responds, “Thank you!” without a hint of sarcasm. In the end, Mack comes to understand that this garden is his life, just as my garden has been a gentle reminder of my own life.  Even when my life’s garden is at it’s messiest, most tangled, seedy, and disordered, I can step aside from my scraping and weeding and raking and let the Gardener work out the details.  I am free to live loved, rest assured that I will grow because of what he has planted in me, blossoming in the knowledge that I can produce fruit even in the chaos.


 

My Sunshine Class

One month ago, I said goodbye to my third group of second graders.  This bunch stole my a large piece of my heart this year, with their big personalities, silliness, excitement for learning, and love for both me, their teacher, and their fellow classmates.

Each year as I say goodbye to each little one that has been a part of my room for the year, I like to share a letter affirming them of my love, have them watch a video of their memories and put a thumb print on our classroom “tree” to match the thumbprints they have left on my heart.

Below you will find a letter for my “Sunshine Class” and the tree complete with the prints of three years worth of students in my classes and in my heart:

IMG_4062My dear Sunshine class,

Congratulations second graders, YOU DID IT! You made it from the first day climbing all the way up to the top floor for your classroom for the very first time. In the 180 days that followed your reading skills grew, many of you improving 30-40 words a minute and most of you in your love of reading! You learned main idea and cause and effect, compare and contrast and so much more. You learned to have willpower from Frog and Toad and learned lessons from the Superkids. You wrote fractured fairytales, how-tos, personal stories and animal research papers! In math, you learned to add and subtract three digit numbers, how to tell time, measure and count money! You learned the parts of a plant and how to care for the earth from the Lorax. And just as importantly, you learned how to be kind, how to work with a group, how to work hard and show effort, you learned how to belly-breathe and use self talk, and you learned how to love learning.  

So I want to say thank you;

Thank you for being a part of my class this year.

 Thank you for saying “have an excellent lunch” or “have a great lunch” everyday back to me and meaning it.

Thank you for being kind to one another. 

Thank you for learning how to work as a team and communicate respectfully.

Thank you for hugging a crying friend or helping someone with work at recess. 

Thank you for your excitement for learning and for putting lots of effort into being the best you can be. 

Thank you for laughing with me and at me when I make a joke and dropped something or almost tripped and fell.

Thank you for making me laugh by calling me “Meassick” or telling me I look pregnant both when I wasn’t and when I actually was.

Thank you for blowing me away with your minds, like when one of you said yesterday that I’m  like the sun and ideas are like the rain and that you are like the grass that grows from both.** (See below!)

Thank you for listening to me and learning from me, that’s one of the greatest gifts for a teacher. 

Thank you for telling me I’m the best teacher on my best days and on my worst days! 

Thank you for being you! Each and everyone of you, you marvelous you.

We truly did an amazing thing; making a beautiful team in this classroom this year. I will never forget sitting on my stool, just watching you all learning and working together, simply  amazed at how wonderful you are and getting to enjoy just being your teacher. Pretty soon you will all be third graders but in your last minutes as second graders I want you to know each one of you has had a piece of my heart this year. As I said in my awards yesterday, each one of you is uniquely precious to me. You will always have the things you learned in this classroom and you will always have my love and support!

With love, your teacher,

Mrs. Meassick 

I began calling this group my sunshine class, in those last few weeks that led up to the end of the year, as I reflected on the joy and light they had brought to me over 2016-2017.  On our last full day, after cleaning desks and lysol-ing every last inch of our classroom, we wrote letters to the future second graders that would come to share the sacred space that we had graced together this year.  I encouraged the students to draw pictures of the memories they had shared in the margins of the letters, and one of my analytical- mathematician-type boys called me over to share his.  In the spaces on the sides of his paper he had drawn pictures of grass, rain and sunshine.  He said, “Mrs. Meassick, we, your students, are the grass, and ideas, they are the rain.  And you, Mrs. Meassick, you are the sun that helps us to grow.”  I could not stop my heart from melting in that moment.  Thank you dear one for not only being the sun in my life, but allowing me to shine into yours.
Letter

(Note: He labeled the grass, “yous,” guess I didn’t quite teach him everything he needs to know about grammar 😉

7.3.17

It has been one year since my best day, 7/3/16, the day I stood up to marry the love of my life. As I sit here penning this first blog post in ages, I am overcome with emotions, at the magnitude of this year..

13882077_10157206884220597_554005098950607668_nA year ago as I walked the aisle, to change from Goetz to Meassick, Miss to Mrs. and to become Cody’s bride, our guests read a message that came from my heart in those days leading up to the ceremony. Cody referenced my writing, as it echoed both of our views about what we were about to do. As I sit here a year later, I would like to share that message again with you:

Dear Family and Friends,
We just wanted to take a moment to personally express our feelings and hopes as we enter this new journey of marriage. If you know us well you know we “complement” each other. Any couple that’s been around for a while knows that complementing sometimes is not such a pretty action. It is a hard business and we have caught small glimpses of that alright. It’s hard work. But we do truly complement one another. Cody is a strong, charasmatic, leader, passionate about his ambitions and competent in his areas of expertise. Sarah is relational and creative, expressing leadership through empathy. We will learn so much from the other.

We never want it to be spoken that we are perfect for one another, because in all honesty we are not. Many of you know that, I, Sarah, am passionate about finding the beauty in broken things. And it is my deepest desire that true beauty comes from the union of two broken souls painting the beautiful picture of Christ’s unconditional love for his broken people. This is something we can only hope for today and trust that God will bring to fruition. We are so thankful that you have joined us today to support the broken becoming beautiful, of two becoming one. It is our hope and desire that from this day forward you, our friends and family, look at us as one. Love us as one. And when we do that hard work of “complementing,” you fight for us as one, no longer just Cody and no longer just Sarah but as one. Thank you for sharing in the start of this amazing journey and celebrating with us today!

It was not a year of “wedded bliss” as I once heard the first year referred to by another couple, but quite the opposite, a year of “complementing” in the best and hardest ways. We fought and continue to fight over the chores and work of being first time homeowners. I experienced the “lovely” side-effects that come with birth control: mood swings, yeast infections, UTIs.  Cody had the pleasure of coming along side hormone-zilla in our first months. I was terrified at who I was becoming as a wife for many long months in the winter.

But just as I wrote one year ago, these broken moments have been made beautiful by the ways Cody has chosen to love me unconditionally through this year. In the last months and weeks, I have felt a change in my heart, because when I roll over every morning, instead of feeling unsettled, I feel deeply loved. Even in one year, I can see the ways that I have learned from Cody: a good rester, a steady presence, and a strong soul. And I can see the things Cody has learned from me: empathy, emotion, relationship and affirmation.

We have enjoyed laughing together, developing a mission and a passion for mentoring and serving others, setting up a Christmas tree and making a paint strip calendar, and soon welcoming a new little one into our family as we begin parenting together. While we have so much more “complementing” to do, I can say that the love I have for Cody on 7.3.17, an ordinary summer day, is even stronger than the love I felt on 7.3.16, our wedding day.