This Is Me

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This is me.

I’m in the barn on the farm where I grew up, holding the first lamb to be born there in seven years. She’s one of the realizations of a tightly held dream: to be a farmer and shepherd when I grow up.

Ten minutes after this picture was taken, I nearly fell, my knees giving out, suddenly becoming desperate to lie down.

That was nothing new, though. That sort of thing had been happening for several weeks because of weird health issues. Those challenges have continued, but we’re getting closer to an answer. Continue reading “This Is Me”

Comforting the Downcast

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
~Psalm 13

I have been drawn back to this psalm again and again over the last few months. It gives me words when I am emptied of them, when I need to cry out but don’t know what to say. It was tough to rise from bed this morning. Since the stay in the hospital, things have become worse. I’ve fallen or collapsed more often, possibly even damaging my tailbone when I hit the floor twice within a few minutes. I am in pain and still have trouble walking. It’s hard to eat, and sometimes, I’ve forced myself to do so. Pain in my stomach and head make it hard to work. Continue reading “Comforting the Downcast”

A Fall

Last night, I watched myself fall in the mirror.

I had tried to stand next to the sink to brush my teeth, but something came over me. I wasn’t really lightheaded, and I didn’t black out–I just ceased to be a participant in my ability to physically function. I became merely an observer. Continue reading “A Fall”

Writing on Weakness and a Hospital Stay

It’s been hard to write lately.

When I poise my fingers over the keyboard, I squint, trying to focus on individual letters. Instead, words swim in front of me. Sometimes, my hands weaken, and I can barely move my fingers. My typing speed is slower than usual.

Sitting upright, bookcases drift right and left, and the kitchen table jolts backwards and forwards. I feel nauseous.

I try standing, but sometimes, I need help to rise from the couch. Walking means lilting to one side, crashing into door frames, stumbling, losing sense of reality, and nearly pitching headfirst into the side of the car.

I briefly tried medication, but it sent me into a mental spin, and I couldn’t make it past the first hymn last Sunday morning. We left the assembly and drove home.

I’ve barely driven for the last month and a half, relinquishing the steering wheel after dizziness advanced so suddenly during one trip to town that I couldn’t see the road. I pushed myself to drive through the woods to a safe pull-off overlooking the West Union Covered Bridge and sat in the shade for 45 minutes, nervously scrolling through Twitter to take my mind off of what had just happened.

After a month of this, double vision set in. Mysterious leg pain I’d previously attributed to wearing old work boots crept in again. I was convinced to go to the emergency room.

There, a bomb dropped: “We’re looking at M.S.” Continue reading “Writing on Weakness and a Hospital Stay”

Comic Relief in the Greatest Story Ever Told

Comic Relief in the Greatest Story Ever Told

Every story has an arc.

The arc begins with an introduction of the story’s characters, place, and time. As it curves upward, we discover hopes and desires and challenges to those hopes and desires. A conflict is created. The conflict rises to a climax, and then the story falls to a resolution.

Along the way are literary elements such as hyperbole, imagery, theme, and comic relief.

These are found in The Greatest Story Ever Told, the climax and resolution of which we remember every Easter.  Continue reading “Comic Relief in the Greatest Story Ever Told”

The Accents Disappear When You Sing

“I didn’t want to be here….Now we need to sing….Sing because you’re upset. Sing because you’re angry. Sing because you’re here and worshiping God. Sing because you’re happy. Sing because you’re here. Sing.”

The exhortations given by the man about to guide us through our singing at the church in Auckland started unexpectedly, continued in empathy for others who felt the same, then ended with encouragement to sing anyway. It was an inspiring way to begin the first church service I attended in New Zealand. I was keen to observe the similarities and differences between here and the States.

This also was the first time when I felt I was truly experiencing New Zealand life and voices.  Continue reading “The Accents Disappear When You Sing”

“The Greatest of These is Love”: Reflections on the 2016 Indiana FFA State Convention and Teaching Agriculture

Last year, thoughts on the 86th Indiana FFA State Convention ricocheted violently through my head for two days before I forced myself to sit down at 10:30 at night, write reflections on the convention and press “Publish.” I was sharing too much of myself, being too vulnerable. I didn’t want to put it all out there.

But I did.

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The state officers performing opening ceremonies on stage in Elliott Hall of Music during the 87th Indiana FFA State Convention.

This year, I started forming this post in my head during convention and knew there was no choice: I had to write it when I returned home. No longer did the vulnerability of revealing so much of myself make me tremble. As an agriculture teacher, I had become used to being vulnerable. I had learned early on I needed to let my guard down, needed to let people in, if this teaching thing was going to be any success at all.

But, when I first began, I did not want to. I did not want them to know me. Not the me who squealed in excitement over ice cream flavors, not the me who tripped and fell over pebbles, not the me who jumped when snuck up on, not the me who loved hobbits and X-wing fighters and The TARDIS. I was going to be calm and confident, always knowing the answers to my students’ questions, always replying to arguments with wit and good humor, never letting my flaws show and most of all, never letting them see that the last four years had been rough and that my confidence was shot because of it. I didn’t know how to smile anymore. Letting anyone in, especially 90 complete strangers, was the last thing I wanted to do.

But it was the first thing I needed to do.

I didn’t.

So for the first month and a half of school, Miss Brown was a character far away from who Elise was. It stressed me out, and I would come home absolutely drained.

Worst of all, I hated myself because of it. Continue reading ““The Greatest of These is Love”: Reflections on the 2016 Indiana FFA State Convention and Teaching Agriculture”

From Substitute Teacher to Full-Fledged Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor

From Substitute Teacher to Full-Fledged Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor

Shooting Star by Juskteez Vu
Shooting Star by Juskteez Vu

On our way home from the district FFA kick-off last night, I saw a shooting star.

I leaned back in my bus seat and smiled. Shooting stars, to me, have always meant hope, home, life, God is listening. Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved looking up at the sky, especially after the chores were done on the coldest winter nights, and spying the showers of shooting stars streaking across the black bowl above.

And last night’s was a long one, burning bright for several seconds before fading out, far away. Continue reading “From Substitute Teacher to Full-Fledged Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor”

The Gift

The Gift

How do I love God? How do I prove my love for God? By doing beautifully the work I was given to do, by doing simply that which God has entrusted to me, in whatever form it may take.

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Photo taken by my grandfather.

I started baling hay when I was ten. My first job was dragging bales toward the back of the wagon. Then someone decided I was better off in the driver’s seat of our Massey Ferguson 1100. So I learned how to inch the tractor forward through the hay field next to a school classmate’s house with the New Holland square baler and wooden hay wagon attached. Turns were tricky, but I got through them with my dad’s help. “Take it wide!” he’d yell from the wagon, hands framing his mouth. “Swing it.”

So I did, and even though there were trees on the edge of that field, I went on through without much commotion. I soon took pride in my ability to let out the clutch gently without making the crew of cousins and other high schoolers stumble. Continue reading “The Gift”

Love, Lead and “Go All Out”: Reflections on the 2015 Indiana FFA State Convention

Love, Lead and “Go All Out”: Reflections on the 2015 Indiana FFA State Convention

The name of this blog is “Roots Run Deep,” yet I spend much time in the avoidance of penning the things that strike me deep. I don’t write about the Purdue University “All-American” Marching Band outside of my occasional note about recent performances. I don’t write about what ten years in 4-H meant to me. And most of all, I don’t write about the National FFA Organization, other than surface postings of the FFA Creed and congratulations to the new state officers. It’s tough for me to write about what it means to be an FFA alum, an ag communicator, a Purdue Boilermaker, a writer, a Christian. So I don’t.

The first time the 2006-2007 Indiana FFA State Officer Team took the stage.
The first time the 2006-2007 Indiana FFA State Officer Team took the stage.

But last week, I cried more than I have since my team’s state FFA convention or even in my last few days at Purdue.

And the National FFA Organization — more specifically, the Indiana FFA Association — was the reason why. Continue reading “Love, Lead and “Go All Out”: Reflections on the 2015 Indiana FFA State Convention”