Jesus Was Troubled…

I find those three words to be some of the most comforting in all of Scripture.

That “troubled” feeling leaves a legacy throughout the Bible. David wrote in the Psalms of feeling troubled (especially Psalm 6). Great kings and even entire nations are described as troubled. Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2), Pharaoh (Genesis 41), and Herod (Matthew 2) were all troubled. Hannah was troubled (1Samuel 1). Jesus Himself was troubled several times (Matthew 26, Mark 14, John 11, 12, 13)… and it’s fascinating to me.

People so often panic when someone expresses a feeling akin to “troubled.” Christians, occasionally and in particular, go so far as to shame each other for feeling troubled because “His yoke is easy and his burden is light,” (Matthew 11) or because of the instruction: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God,” (Phillippians 4). Christians wield those verses to drive home a false doctrine that a true believer shouldn’t be troubled – that faith should erase the heart’s woes and a good believer ought to be happy. While the verses are true, they do not supersede the verses that depict Jesus feeling “troubled.” They are not more relevant or applicable than the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’s tears in response to the death of Lazarus, or His cries to His Father from the cross, and the uplifting words of God cannot be divorced from the painful passages.

I’m tempted to write this entire post as a defense of feeling troubled, because I feel defensive about it. However, I’m going to try to limit the defense to a quick anecdote…

I had a rough week last week. I interviewed for several positions I should have been offered, but wasn’t, and I’m confident it’s my fault. I’m a terrible interviewee. Admittedly, spending a week not getting a job isn’t all that bad, but what I had was a compounded feeling from weeks and weeks and interviews and interviews that also didn’t work out. I woke up that Saturday and my car wouldn’t start. Then my grandmother passed out and had to go to the E.R. (and I thought she might die). At some point during the week, I was involuntarily separated for an undefined amount of time from someone I love and adore.

In short, I felt troubled, and not without reason.

So… a well-intentioned friend texted me with irritation that I hadn’t called her back when she’d called. I sent her a quick response that said, “The ish just keeps hitting the fan. I’ll call you when I regain my footing.”

The response she sent said something like, “You can vent to me. You don’t have to seem happy all the time.”

When I didn’t write back, she called and left me a voicemail, to which I didn’t respond.

The thing about this isn’t that any of that is wrong. It’s more of something I feared about talking to her… something hiding beneath the surface of her claims that I didn’t have to act a certain way. This friend has a great heart, and she wants to be there for me, but she has a response to other’s troubles that communicates the opposite of what her words said: she frets. It stresses her out when I am, or anyone is, troubled. She often cries in sympathy, which can be admirable. The problem comes when we’ve finished talking and she asks if I feel better.

As much as this friend wants to believe she’s a great listener and someone to whom I could turn when I’m troubled, her ultimate goal in the conversation is to fix it, whereas my ultimate desire and goal is to sit in it indefinitely.

Jesus was troubled…

I want to meditate on that. I want to think about what that means – that the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator, Savior, etc… felt troubled by the things He experienced and saw in this world.

I want to sit in it, and my friend wants to drag me out of it… and in my troubled state, I don’t have the energy to try to persuade her to just sit down beside me in it and say nothing. I didn’t want to have to tell her everything I’m writing here: that Jesus Himself felt troubled, so I’m in good company.

In the chronology of Jesus’s life, the passage I’m really thinking of that says He was troubled comes in John 13, just before Jesus told His disciples that one of them was going to betray Him.

If we were created in the image of a God who feels troubled about betrayal, then it’s not an accident that I struggle to understand and cope with betrayal. There’s even hope in a troubled heart because it indicates that I was created for better and more than I experience here. There’s hope because, “…we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…” (Hebrews 4).

Admittedly, I pulled that passage out of context a bit, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the sometimes troubled feeling of my heart is one letter of Jesus’s personal signature over me. It’s the red paint of His name claiming that He painted me and I am like Him. That’s why it’s important that I accept feeling troubled – because, in fighting it, I may be fighting one of my Christ-like reflexes, the reflex that feels troubled when things are broken.

Active Shooter Training

It was by far the most practical, yet weird training I ever attended. The school where I worked was lucky enough to be located in Oro Valley (smaller than Tucson, and generally more $). Our location meant that the police department there took care of us, rather than the Tucson Police Department. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with TPD. However, I doubt TPD would have provided us with two School Resource Officers and offered us a free active shooter training.

Throughout the entire training, I honestly kept expecting a mock attack to occur. We were in an auditorium, so I kept glancing behind me toward the entrances. There was no mock attack, but there is an unsettled feeling that comes with this subject matter, whether there are three police officers in the room or not.

After going through the training, we were encouraged to go through the information with our students, and most of us did so with each of our classes about once a year. This worked because we were teaching high school students – younger kids would obviously be a different story. I scheduled the conversation with my classes to correspond with the first lock-down drill of the year, and it was always one of the best conversations we had.

Here’s the conversation in a nut-shell:

First, active shooters are interested in killing as many people as possible and the whole thing will likely be over in less than five minutes. In fact, the shooter’s goals likely include his/her own death. Additionally, active shooters kill indiscriminately; they are not trying to get anyone specific. Obviously, this isn’t exactly what happened in Oregon: the press is reporting that there was a vendetta against organized religion. Still, active shooter is the training I received.

There are three things a person can do in the active shooter scenario… while this is obvious stuff, it sort of frames the conversation.

  1. Run
  2. Hide
  3. Fight

Runners have the highest survival rate.

Hiders have second highest.

Fighters have the lowest survival rate.

Comic Relief: At this point in the conversation, a teenage boy (or two) will inevitably start talking about how badass he is and how he’d take care of all of us.  :-)



This was the part of the conversation where things got serious and real. We thought about my classroom, the closest exits, the closest safe places.

Comic Relief: I always told kids that I personally planned to run to my house, and that they could stick with me (and I’d give them cookies and milk when we arrived), or, if they felt safe running to their own houses, that was possibly an option.

Caveat: Kids nowadays are a little stupid about real life. They often don’t know how to act autonomously and need to be told that no teacher is going to be able to keep track of them and guide them… i.e. “From the point your teacher tells you to run, you need to make decisions and think for yourself.”

Comic Relief: “Are you going to leave us behind, Ms. James?”

“Of course she is… she runs marathons. Ms. James is going to take off and we’ll never see her again.”

“Look at those shoes she’s wearing – there’s no way she’s running through the desert in those.”

“Don’t you run in sandals?”

I would usually just smile and laugh during this part.

Important Point to Make: Don’t stop running until you are 225% safe. Run beyond the point where you believe you’re safe.

Question that always came up: What happens if the shooter chases us?

Answer: In all actuality, if you make it out of the building, you’re probably fairly safe, because an active shooter isn’t going to leave hundreds of people to chase 30. He’s trying to kill as many people as possible…

Final Point to be Made: Running only works if we’re confident the shooter was not along our path to safety.



This is the part that kids totally understand, but, for me, was terrifying.

Students have been doing lock-down drills since they entered school. However, at our training, the officers showed us a really haunting photograph of real students sitting quietly during a real college shooting.I believe it was the Virginia Tech shooting, and the photo looked something like this:

Picture Via Wikipedia

Picture Via Wikipedia

In the photo, the students were doing everything they were supposed to do… which is what makes the photo haunting. Everyone in the photo they showed us ended up dying when the shooter made it through the door.

I point this out because lock-downs are not necessarily effective if there is a shooter on campus. They are effective if there are killer bees, or if the shooter can find easier prey, because he’ll check the door and move on when he finds it’s locked. He knows there are students inside, but he doesn’t want to waste time breaking down a door if there are easier pickings nearby.

When schools practice lock-downs, they have your child sit in one corner of the classroom with the rest of the class, possibly behind a desk, but all students are almost never well-hidden.

After going through the active shooter training, I changed the way we did lock-downs in my my classroom, and you may consider talking about this with your kids if you have them. Of course, don’t have them start a revolution against their teacher, but maybe just make them aware.

Change #1: we divided into several groups, spread throughout the room.

Change #2: We talked about the most solid objects they could hide behind. The literal conversation went something like, “Is there anything in this room that could stop a bullet?” There are very few items in a classroom that are very solid – the teacher’s desk and file cabinets are about it.

Change #3: We talked about what we could shove in front of the door to barricade it, and I assigned two or three students responsibility for getting the biggest objects in front of the door.

Change #4: We talked about what could be used as a weapon or a distraction. It’s important to remind kids that throwing something high in the air and slowly at the assailant is sometimes as effective as throwing an object hard at his face, because it’s a distraction that may give them a second or two to get away.

Comic Relief: Usually our badass kid will get up and do some physical demonstrations with a stapler or book.

Note: My classroom did not have a window, but our trainers talked to us about windows’ weak points, which is worth noting here. If you are trying to break a particularly sturdy window, do not bash it in the center. Work on the corners.



For this one, the only tip our trainers really gave us was the law of centimeters. Basically, if you get thirty 4th graders to attack one person, that person is going down. Whereas, one 4th grader, or even one beefy man may not win a battle against the same assailant. So… the fighting has to be planned, united strategery. Whoever the boy was who said he’d be the hero will be more effective if everyone else helps him.


Last things to talk about: When the cops show up, their priority is to take down the shooter. Therefore, they may step over your child’s wounded bff, and keep moving. Kids find this shocking.

Also, the cops would prefer your child leave the building and take care of his/her own safety, rather than sitting down next to and/or trying to protect wounded bff. If your child can help bff gimp his way to safety, absolutely help. If, however, there is no chance of getting bff to safety, the cops want your kid to take care of himself.

This is the part where kids want to know if I’d actually leave someone behind.

I tell them that I hope not. I hope I’m the person who would stay and protect my friend, but the police officers’ goal is the safety of a lot of lives rather than individual lives. If student leaves friend behind, he has a greater chance to live, which is what the officers want.

Comic Relief: One kid will usually mention or just deliberately look at a friend and say something cheesy or make a joke that she’d leave that person behind. This is almost never mean-spirited.

Last Tips: Tell kids to make sure their hands are visible to the cops, don’t run up and grab or touch the cops like some people do when they feel like they’re finally saved (they’re going to get shoved to the side), and don’t yell but rather just point in the direction of the shooter if they know it.

There will be first responders whose job is to help the wounded. However, the first guys on the scene are only interested in getting the shooter.



This is what I think of when any shooting occurs and takes over our media. I don’t know how much parents should talk about it with their kids. It did surprise me, however, that tons of my students claimed their parents never talked to them about what to do in emergencies.

Should’ve Just “Liked” It, Shouldn’t I?

Just when I’d told you I was taking a break from blogging, this thing needed to be blogged. *Note: I recognize that I am a fool and did things wrong in this interaction. That’s why it’s funny.


I don’t understand the Facebook.

When I say that, I mean that my understanding of Facebook is probably similar to a 68 yr old person’s understanding of it.

Here’s the story… I opened up the Facebook, and in my notification box, there was a thing telling me that a girl I don’t actually talk to or even follow had invited me to something.

A Facebook-literate person probably would have looked at the invitation and realized that it was really an attempt to get me to “like” a page so that she could ultimately make money. It was a tactic. It was, “I’m using the word invitation to make it seem like I like you and want to hang out with you, when in reality I just want you to click a button for me so that your newsfeed will get other people to click over to this page and possibly buy something. I’m not actually inviting you to do anything that anyone wants to be invited to do…”

In hindsight, of course that’s what this thing was. In the moment, I totally didn’t get it.

I clicked on the invitation that took me to a page called something like “Wrap it and Frap it.”

I did not understand what I was looking at, but after reading and looking at the pictures of women’s bellies – the consistency of cottage cheese labeled BEFORE… and all Baywatch AFTER – I realized the invitation had something to do with some sort of health miracle wrap that people put around their fat waists… and coffee. I researched the wraps on WebMD, and they basically claim to make you lose weight, but are a waste of money. WebMD says that they may make people look thinner for a day or two, but it’s all water weight, and there are no documented and noteworthy health benefits in any of the wraps people buy and sell.

I went back to the invitation, which, at this point, I thought was to some sort of party where the girl who invited me would try to sell me a wrap, or possibly everyone in attendance would buy and wear the wraps at the party, and then we would drink coffee. With all of the crazy Botox parties nowadays, I genuinely thought I was being asked to hang out with a bunch of ladies I didn’t know, having the water sucked out of my body, talking about how great I’d look and feel when we were done, and paying money to do so.

I found this insulting on about 18 different levels, so I wrote a comment on the page that went something like, “I can’t tell if you think I’m fat, think I think I’m fat, think all women are fat, or what… regardless, I’m going to keep running marathons when I want to lose weight and would like not to be included in things like this in the future.”

This comment, which I didn’t think was all that offensive, and was purely just my rsvp to the invitation, evidently was really offensive. I never think what I’m saying is offensive until others explain it to me. Okay, I knew it was a little offensive, but I thought I was doing a public service by letting this girl know that trying to sell your friends anything that will make them look skinnier is the equivalent of calling them fat. It’s the same as buying them bathroom scales for their birthdays.

In addition to my self-aggrandizing view of my offensive comment, I assumed that this girl knew she would get a few really negative responses to this product, because, well… it’s the kind of thing people like to make fun of. Just last week, a friend made fun of a corset thing celebrities use to try to look thinner. I thought the “Wrap it and Frap it” girl knew that selling anything inherently elicits negative responses.

In hindsight, I realize that this girl has zero work experience and almost no life experience outside of the home and church. She really didn’t know trying to sell things to people sometimes bothers them, and she really didn’t know that people past a certain life stage have submitted to the truth that they will either eat, lay around on the couch, and be fat, OR they will give up foods and couch time enough to lose some pounds. At any given time, complete joy can be achieved through either strategy depending on other life factors. However, people generally stop believing in quick-fixes to the fat problem when they reach… well, about the age this girl is currently at.

It took a few back-and-forths before this interaction turned into a full-out shit-storm, but, of course, it did turn into one.

The girl just kept being all, “Hey – buy the products I’m selling! They’re great! They aren’t about fat; they’re about health. They tighten and tone the skin! Stop being a mean person! Why (attempted rhetorical question)…?”

And I kept being all, “Stop trying to sell to me. My answer to your rhetorical question is actually that I hate these wraps because I think they perpetuate unrealistic standards of hottness and they have no health benefits. Please just don’t include me in the future.”

Also, I kept thinking, but did not write: “Are you really under the impression that tighter and toned skin are related to health in any way that’s more than skin-deep?” (Aren’t I clever?) and “If my skin is tighter, will I live longer? Will I have a lower risk of getting Cancer? Will my tight skin improve my cardiovascular health and decrease my marathon time?” I promise I didn’t get sarcastic like that.

Then, the girl was all, “I’m sorry you have such a negative opinion of me and this company.”

Then, like a teenager about to go into her room and slam the door, she rapid-fired three or four angry comments.

Lastly, she ended with sarcasm and de-friended me.

In retrospect, I wonder if it would have been easier just to click, “Like” and move on to a video of the unlikely friendship between an elephant and a dog…

The Default Settings

I’m one of those people who never changes the default settings that come on my phone, computer, car, wristwatch… anything (with the exception of privacy settings, which I always change). I think that personality quirk is the reason I feel more unsettled than I think I should feel lately. Everything continues to change, which could be a blessing if I could get past the angst of it.

Default #1 The Job

Believe it or not, the actual changing of jobs isn’t particularly stressful for me. I’m not worried about the new job… I’m worried that I haven’t yet found the right job; it feels like it’s taking forever, but I’m enthusiastic about starting, and I’m not worried because I’m an excellent employee.

However, the income and expenses defaults are inherently linked to the job default, and those indirect changes are stressing me out. For the first time in my life, I’ve had to consider getting more than one job to make ends meet. Also, I have not been buying wine. Or Starbucks.

Because I don’t like having internet access, cable, Netflix, or much in the way of entertainment at home, I’ve never had to worry about my Starbucks budget. I’ve also always bought the books I want, Panda Express and Eegee’s, lotion… it’s funny the things that I now see as luxuries that I used to see as necessities.

Default #2 The Friends

There are really two things that happened – both outside of my control – that significantly changed the friend landscape. The Hilsts moved and the Monday Night Dinner Crowd revealed their true thoughts and feelings.

It used to be that I saw the Hilsts at least once a week, if not way more than that. Therefore, it’s been a weird realization for me that I can no longer text Ashly and expect that she’ll let me come over or that she’ll come to my place. They were my friends who made themselves most accessible to me, and I feel the loss of that nearly every day – when I want to order pizza and watch tv with someone… when I’m driving past the various places they’ve lived… when I’m getting ready to leave church, and I realize that I will not be going to Pasco’s with Ashly. :-(

It also used to be that I would attend Monday Night Dinners. Recently, my attendance dwindled, but I intended to start going again when life slowed down a bit. Then the ish hit the fan, and I had a tangible example of my fear that they didn’t actually like me all that much.

To fill the Hilst and MND voids, I’ve got two new ish group things that I’m pretty excited about right now. One of them is Dungeons and Dragons. It’s impossible to explain how much fun D & D really is and how much fun the people who play it really are. I wish we played more often.

The other newish thing I’ve taken up is secret wine tasting society. We meet once a month and do a themed wine tasting. It’s delightful. But don’t tell anyone I told you – it’s exclusive. And secret.

Default #3 Activities

So many of my activities and volunteer ish in my life centered around my job. I helped start that parent-teacher coalition and worked on their website. I campaigned for a school board member. I got elected to the leadership team of the education association. I created a dodge ball team. I sat on the NHS faculty council. I sponsored clubs. I taught extra classes. I coached softball way back when. I’ve done other things, but the vast majority of my activities have been incredibly work-centric for the past several years.

So… this is my favorite default I get to reset, because I get to start up a coffee bar at church. Sure, this is an attempt to return to a long-ago church default, but it’s still different from what I’ve been doing in recent years. Also, a week from today, I’m doing volunteer orientation for a no-kill animal shelter. And, in February, I’m going to try to get into the training for Victim’s Services.

All of that is really cool.

As a default, I’ve stopped blogging. I will hopefully get my ish together soon so Still Growing doesn’t dissolve into nothingness. Consider this update to be a place-holder until I can find a routine that incorporates writing.


Characters Who Read

Note: This is a book review I wrote on Goodreads that I thought I’d like to share here. It’s for the ever-popular YA novel and, more recent ish, film The Perks of Being a Wallflower :-)


When I was young, I LOVED Sara Crewe.

She’s the protagonist in A Little Princess.

Mostly, what I loved about her was that she was different from her peers, kind, and imaginative.

Sara Crewe, was a character who shaped my character.

Then, there was Dorothy Jane on a little-known TV show called The Torkelsons.

And Anne with an ‘e’.

All young girls who are different, kind, and imaginative…

I’ve finally read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it occurred to me that my different, kind, and imaginative characters are changing. They aren’t what they used to be… Charlie is different, kind, and imaginative, but in a messier way than my fictional role models were. Sara, Dorothy Jane, and Anne all faced moral dilemmas, and chose to be “good kids.” Charlie’s drug abuse and physical violence against a bully were almost non-events… insignificant in a story of depression and moral depravity.

And yet, he’s the role-model our different, kind, and imaginative kids turn to. He epitomizes what it means to be outside of the “teenage wasteland” because he is self-aware, thoughtful, intelligent… and I wonder if our attempts to see the world more completely, with depth and empathy, have caused us to over-complicate morality. Charlie is a “good person” who does naughty things. He even does them sometimes with a “good heart,” which pisses me off. Although morality is certainly complex, I’m disappointed that my students are offered such an anti-hero role model.

Where is the Sara Crewe, who, starving and exhausted, offered her last piece of bread to a stranger who needed it?

While I understand that the world has changed, and current YA literature reflects the times, I also wish we had a few true heroes, who struggle, but ultimately stand up for what is right – who would struggle with decisions that Charlie hardly even notices, because he’s too busy getting high and kicking ass.

I want more than The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the kids, with whom I spend most of my life. I want better than Charlie. :-(

Spam? … Or Poetry?

*So… I was reading some of the spam in my spam folder, and I realized that one piece shined above all of the others.

And must be turned into a poem.

Therefore, I deleted, rearranged, punctuated, and came up with this… I think you’ll find life more meaningful after reading it.


it appears such as the only strategy

to break cost-free from your cruel chains.

Fate is always to take a bet.

With 1 ticket,

a single gold-filled lottery ticket,

you will go from down in your luck

to winning.

You can,

beyond shadow of doubt,

live the life you intended,

your options no more restricted by the magnitude of the bank account.

Breakfast around the finest meals.

Journey most extraordinary.



I understand you might be asking yourself why.

The explanation is easy.

You need to evaluate.



Holding Hands in the Wreckage

* Here’s a throw-back post that originally went up Nov. 24, 2010. I felt like it ended up defining me as a writer and a person in many ways. Enjoy.


I’ve been thinking about endings a lot lately.  I’ve been thinking about the ending to my manuscript, the end of Harry Potter’s story, and the endings in my own life (most of which aren’t even visible on the horizon because I’m younger than I think I am).  I’ve had a bunch of conversations recently – with some people who are idealistic and others who are disillusioned – and in these conversations, I bounce back and forth between fluffy optimism and tortured cynicism.  I’m the devil’s advocate.  If the person I’m talking to is being all double rainbow all the way across the sky, I’m snow melted inside your boots and all over your favorite socks.  If I’m talking to someone who can’t conceive a world in which Bambi’s mom lives, I’m world peace (and harsher punishments for parole violators)… not because I’m trying to disagree with everyone, but because life, I think, is the impossible melding of hope and realism.

Earlier this week, I was reading the Invincible Summer blog by Hannah Moskowitz, and she wrote something that really hit on this balance and on what readers and humanity desire out of stories and life.

“No evil winning. Your characters don’t have to be making out in the sunset, but they have to at least be holding hands in the wreckage.”

When I come to the end of a journey in life or a story, I want a hopeful ending.  I don’t need it to be all warm & fuzzy and perfect.  I don’t need Harry to come out of it unscathed, nor would I suspend my disbelief if Rowling had written it that way.  The truth is that life is hard.  The world is a messed-up place where people die, hearts are broken, and tears are frequently justified.  However, I also can’t stomach hopelessness.  Voldemort can’t win.

In life and in stories, I have to hope towards the future.  I have to hope that good things happen when we don’t deserve them and that there’s a good God spreading out breath-taking goodness for us because He is good.  I have to believe for my characters and for myself.  I look forward to holding hands in the wreckage, and I pray that all of my readers can trust in a God who makes that happen for us.