Thursday, January 29, 2015

Seeking the Journey

I was headed to another interview with a recruiter yesterday.  Wondering if maybe I would hear something after this one.  Maybe she would have some answers, some guidance, some direction about that perfect job opening.

While I was making the trek from my neck of the woods to downtown Dallas, I was talking to my mom on the phone.  We discussed our similar places in life right now: feeling itchy that something is on the horizon yet not knowing what that is or what lies ahead for us, specifically in regards to employment.

She shared with me that sometimes she finds herself focusing on the end result; looking at all that is happening through the lens of that next event or the goal at the end of the process.  And that spoke to me.  The planner in me struggles when I don't know where I will land, or even feeling uncertain of where I am heading, and what life will look like for me and my family.

I find my heart longing for the destination.

I wrestled with myself again this morning to stop doing stop trolling Facebook... to stop and just be still.  And quiet.  I opened my Bible and continued in the gospels, picking up when John talks with the pharisees, explaining to them that he is not the Messiah but he has seen Him.  The next day as Jesus passes by John and two disciples, they follow Him.  Jesus asks what they want, and they respond by asking Him where He is going.  Jesus does not answer them directly with his destination.  No.  He says, "Come, and you will see."


I'm beginning to feel like Bruce Almighty, driving down the highway with the signs speaking directly to me:

"Walk with Me and all of that other stuff will fall into place."

"Enjoy the journey.  I'm with you."

"I got this, kid.  Let's take a stroll."

God, help my heart not to seek the "what" that lies ahead.  But to find life, peace, strength, and hope in the walk with You.  Oh, that my heart would long for the journey because that means I am walking side-by-side with You; that means you are holding my hand, walking ever so slightly ahead of me, leading me as I follow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Finding Favor?

In one of our recent Catalyst gatherings, JR. was talking about spending time reading the Bible - not as a checklist of something we have to do to stay in good graces with God, but to really get to know Him.  And a great place to do that is with the gospels.

I admit, this is such a struggle for me.  This morning I dropped the boys off at daycare, and I got back home and was all set to start tackling my to-do list for the morning.  I remembered JR.'s words and remembered it's all about relationship.  Spending time with the Creator, with the One who loves me so completely and thoroughly.  I put down the cup I had in my hand and decided the dishwasher could definitely wait.

So, I cracked opened a new version of the Bible I haven't explored much yet called "The Story." It is set up in novel-form, and, for some odd reason, the layout is just so appealing to me.  I found the beginning of the New Testament and began reading.  I was reading about the true light that has come into the world - but that the world didn't recognize its true light - its maker.  Yes, still so very true for us today!

But what struck me most was a phrase the angel Gabriel says to Mary when he's telling her the big news that she would become pregnant with the Son of God:

"Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God."

Hmm... what would this "favor" look like for Mary's life?  Pregnant and unmarried... The center of vicious rumors and gossip... Shouldering the weight of knowing that your precious Son would be sentenced to death.  What God was asking of Mary makes sense that she would be afraid - completely and utterly afraid.  To say it would be extremely difficult to see the good side of God's favor in Mary's situation would be an extreme understatement.

But what did she do next?  When the angel leaves her, Mary's response is to thank God.


She is rejoicing and praising God: "for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is His name."


God, help me to realize - and be okay with knowing - that finding favor with You will not mean life is easy or comfortable.  As we see in the life of Mary - and in Jesus' time on earth - following You will definitely lead to scary situations and crazy-difficult paths.  But You are with us.  May I, like Mary, have a spirit that is thankful for Your favor.  May I have eyes to see Your goodness and Your light in the midst of every situation, grateful - and humbled - when You choose to use me.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kidless and Reflecting

Man, this has been an incredible month.

As I finished up my Master's Program mid-December, I have become reacquainted with the silly, more carefree part of myself.  I know Jonathan and the boys are certainly thankful for that.  I have enjoyed sitting on the floor playing with the boys and evenings filled with relaxation instead of paper-writing.

About the same time I turned in my last assignments, we packed up and went to Florida to visit Jonathan's family.  That was two weeks slammed full of family, fun, laughs, and incredible memory-making experiences.  We had a lot to celebrate with family. Martha, Jonathan's mom, was cancer-free and also celebrating a milestone Birthday!  So we headed to Disney to celebrate.  We all had so much fun during our day at the Magic Kingdom.  Both boys loved every minute - and we even made it through without a single meltdown.  What?!  

After Disney, we started on the Grandparents' tour: we visited my grandparents and two sets of Jonathan's grandparents - all living in Florida - in two days.  It was so wonderful hugging their necks and spending precious moments together.

We also got to spend some warm moments together with the Lowrys.  What a beautiful place they have - lots of wide open space!  And, man, those kiddos have both grown a foot!  The boys loved seeing the chickens, and Jacob even got to ride a horse; we tried to get Zeke to ride but he wasn't too sure about that big "puppy"... Sweet moments together.

Jacob also got to stay in Florida an extra week.  They made the most of every moment, visiting the zoo, the beach twice, and the Children's Hands-on Museum.

This week the boys both started going to daycare full-time.  This has been a piece of my returning-to-work puzzle that fell into place beautifully and effortlessly.  Jacob has been going to Mother's Day Out with an in-home care provider for two years (since I started my Master's program).  This has been great for him and our family.  It has allowed me to have some quiet moments to work, and has been especially nice to steal some special one-on-one moments with Zekers.  Jacob has loved going to Ms. Jennifer's!  From the moment I met her and walked into her home, I knew I couldn't ask for a more caring and safe learning environment for Jacob.  So, as my Master's program was winding down and returning to work was on the horizon, I was hoping she would have availability to start both boys full-time in January.  At the time I asked she didn't have any vacancies for full-time care.  Wouldn't you know, though, that shortly thereafter, she had an opening - at just the right time - for the boys to start the first week of January.  All of this has certainly eased the sting of missing my boys and feels like confirmation that I'm headed in the right direction.

Monday after dropping the boys off, I sat down with my To-Do List and mapped out a plan of attack.  I wanted to get as much done as possible this week in hopes that I can hit the ground running when I find a job.  It's amazing how much I can tackle when I have free hands and a quiet house.  But, boy, I am ready for 5:00pm when I can squeeze my sweet babies!!

So, here I am, striving to live in the excitement of change.  Not sure what the future will be like; not sure where I will land.  Praying that God would be clear so I can be obedient.  And resting in peace, knowing that the Maker of the Universe who loves us so much, came for us and is with us.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Help my unbelief


I have struggled these past few days with worry.  With feeling like so much is out of my control.  With feeling as though I am not doing enough... not qualified enough... not good enough...

While I am seeing the chapter in my life of full-time stay-at-home mom and grad student come to a close, I am trying to focus on the excitement.  Typically, I do this fairly well.  But not these past few days.

I'm feeling overwhelmed.  And in my head I know I shouldn't worry.  But my heart is troubled.  The what-ifs are moving in.

In times like these, I need to remember.

A few months back, I wrote a message to a dear friend, recounting the many ways that God has provided for my little family.  He has taken such amazing care of us...
and I find it fitting that I should review it for my own heart's sake.

August 5th, 2014
The Sprang Texas Saga:

We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that our move from North Carolina to Texas was a "God leading us" time in our lives. We felt a release from our church in NC and an uncontrollable giddiness at this new opportunity to be a part of something new and different.

There were a few factors that were still in limbo though... the biggest issue for us was our house. We put our house on the market in March and we moved the first weekend in May to Texas.... with it still on the market. Additionally, I had just graduated with my bachelors (after being in school and working part-time for the past 3 years of our marriage). So because we still had a mortgage and utilities in North Carolina and I had yet to find a job, we decided to find the cheapest, one-bedroom apartment we could, knowing it would be short-term. We crammed our 3-bedrooms worth of furniture and "stuff" into our tiny cave, as we called it. At least we had a walk-in closet! HA!

We were in Texas about a week after the move and then were headed to Florida for a few weeks to stay with Jonathan's folks, taking advantage of a little vacation time to recharge. During that week in Texas, I had a few interviews for music teaching positions lined up and felt really good about one interview in particular. As we were heading to the airport, I got a call from the principal of a school 5 minutes away from our apartment - I got the job!!! I was so excited and so thankful for God's provision! While I wouldn't start the job until August (and get my first check until September), something was on the horizon! It seemed almost that this job found me.

The house was STILL on the market...

August finally arrived and I went through all of the teacher orientations, decorated my classroom, met the other music teacher at the school (we hit it off IMMEDIATELY!), and began making preparations for the students to come. One week went by with the kiddos, and I was loving it! But I was also struggling with lesson planning. See, I did my student-teaching with a high school choir which was very different than an elementary classroom. Additionally, I had over 30 students in each class period for 45 minutes, sometimes 3 times a week. To spare calculation, that is a lot of kiddos for one person to handle and a lot of activities to keep them engaged. I had many, many behavior issues with students. Some were extreme. After the 2nd week, I became less excited and more overwhelmed. Was I doing this right? After the 3rd week, my confidence was really shaken and I was really struggling. As each week went by, I became more and more overwhelmed. I felt this was my calling but was feeling so completely overwhelmed and unqualified. I began having panic attacks, both at school and at home. After six weeks, I decided I needed to resign and give my 2 weeks. The next morning I had a panic attack so badly at school that the principal told me to go ahead and pack up my room as quickly as possible and be done. Interestingly, during these six week, I became friends with another teacher who struggled with teaching in this same way. We really connected and she told me about her husband and father-in-law that owned a small business selling commercial playground equipment. They were actually looking for someone to begin a full-time office position. I had my last day teaching on a Tuesday and started working for her family the following Monday. Wow. God's provision!! Again, it seemed that this job found me.

Our house was STILL on the market...

I worked for the playground company for about a year and they were the kindest, best folks to work for. My boss took the 4 of us employees out to lunch once a week and also didn't make us clock out during the lunch hour - so I worked 35 hours but was paid for 40. They were gold and I grew very close to them. I didn't earn nearly what I would've teaching but God was providing, we were happy, and I was healing. Things with Catalyst were really booming, too, and that was a huge source of relief!

18 months after we listed our house... IT SOLD!!!! We ended up taking an offer $15,000 less than our list price. Yuck. But we were free from double living expenses!! Around that same time, we were literally getting kicked out of our apartment... because it was going to be demolished. A huge tollway was coming through and landing right on top of us. Another long story short, they ended up paying us $8,000 to move out of our apartment! With a great realtor-friend's help, we found a home in Rowlett for a killer, steal-of-a-deal.

Around that same time, a friend of ours was a band director for Dallas ISD. He was telling me about an all-girls, public high school that was needing a choir director. This school was small and was a magnet school, only selecting motivated students with academic promise. Immediately, my heart started leaning towards this position. Long story short, after 3 interviews, I got the position and was stoked!! Again, it seemed that this job found me!

About 6 weeks into teaching I began to struggle again... my students were engaged and motivated. Lesson-planning was much more comfortable and was much easier for me since I'd had experience in this area during my student-teaching. But, still, I was struggling with depression. At this same time, Dallas ISD was having serious financial issues and was actually allowing teachers to voluntarily resign and receive a $1,000 "reward"! Eek! I began to question... should I do it? Maybe I'm just not cut out for this?! I was beginning to have panic episodes again. At the urging of Jonathan and some close friends, I began seeing a counselor. During that time in counseling, I worked through some issues... my fear of failure. My fear of not knowing how to succeed. I needed to stick with it, for my own sake. With the support of my husband, my counselor, close friends, and some little miracle pills (aka Zoloft), I persevered. These two years of teaching held some of the most wonderful moments in my working history. We were also free from our double living expenses and I was now earning more. So, in the two years I taught, we were able to mostly live off of Jonathan's paycheck and use mine to pay off my student loans, refinance our house, pay cash for a used mini-van (because we were having a baby soon!), and re-stock our emergency savings. Thank you, Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace! 

When I got pregnant we decided I would stay home with the baby. We were used to living off of one income for the most part and I could teach piano lessons to help supplement. We did everything "right"... But... after having Jacob we used nearly all of our savings for hospital bills. Bad idea. Live and learn - and get on a payment plan! Ever since then, we have never had much more than $1,000 of unaccounted for savings in the bank for any length of time. However, we have had NUMEROUS occasions when we were in need (i.e. car repairs, dental issues, washing machine stops working, etc.) and we have always had the means to take care of the situation. Not more than. But always enough.
There is a light on the horizon for us. We have had a very tight four years financially. Never before have we felt quite this strapped. I will be graduating in December and looking to re-enter the workforce. I will do my part to look for a job... but I have an uncanny feeling that a job will find me. That God's provision will continue for our family. While it has not been easy or fun, I am truly thankful for our story. Without these situations, we would not have experienced God in this way. And I count it as a blessing!

God, thank you, once again, for Your great faithfulness.  You see us.  You love us.  You take care of us.  Please lead and guide.  Please be clear and I will be obedient.  Please help me to rest.

LORD, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


I am increasingly plagued with senioritis as each day passes.  This is the last week of my current class  on International Accounting; I have found this class interesting on one or two brief occasions.  Apart from those collective five minutes, it's been one big snoozefest.  I have one last class on Internal Controls and I will be D.O.N.E. with my program mid-December.  SWEET!!!

So, in typical fashion, my mind is looking ahead.  As I've previously discussed, I have tinkered with the idea of getting back in the classroom.  While looking on Rockwall ISD's employment opportunities (looking for open High School business teaching positions), I saw they had a staff accountant position available.  I was stoked!!  In my best judgement, this would be ideal for me and my family.  I would still be serving teachers, administrators, and ultimately the students, AND I would get to use my newfound set of skills.  It would provide many of the additional days off that teachers enjoy and would allow me to leave the office before 5:00pm daily.  It paid well, and I seemed to meet the minimum qualifications.  You better bet that I knocked out that application, resume, and letter of intent as fast as my little fingers could fill them out.

And then all that was left to do was wait...

So, I waited...

And I stopped by to introduce myself but was too late to speak with anyone for the day.

I waited...

And waited...

And stopped by again and found out I couldn't "drop in" on the office making the decisions.  Boo.  So I called and left a voicemail.

And waited...

And then I got an email back.  But it was one of those emails that tells you from the very first line that it isn't the news that you wanted to hear.  "Dear Ms. Sprang... thank you... BUT..."

It would be a lie for me to say I am not disappointed.  Or that the tapes in my head aren't cued and ready to start playing the "you weren't qualified"...  "you were too late" ... "someone out there is better than you"... mantras that have played like broken records in not-so-long-ago times.

I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine.  And while we were talking - before I found anything out regarding the status of my application - she told me that if this isn't the job for me (as perfect as it seemed), then something out there, even better-suited for me and my family, would come along.

Waiting is hard.  It requires trust.  And patience.  

So, God, help me today.  Help me in this time of waiting.  My humanly desires want to go on the job-hunt...want to search for all the answers...want to make something happen.  And my wounded ego wants to each a bowl full of creamy pasta and chase it with a big ole slice of chocolate cake with ice cream to ease the sting of disappointment.  But I know that I'll only end up being more disappointed in myself.

Help me as I wait.
Let me find You in the waiting.
And help my heart grasp what my head knows: You got this.

Monday, October 13, 2014

It won't last forever

I have had moments of sheer and utter weariness while being a mom to both of my boys.

When Jacob - our oldest - was only months old, he was waking every two hours, round the clock.  I was baffled...and exhausted.  Frustrated that we couldn't seem to figure out why he wasn't sleeping, we tried a sound machine.  We tried a bassinet.  We tried putting him down in his crib.  We swaddled.  We unswaddled.  Put him on his back.  Put him on his side.  We thought it may be acid reflux.  We tried so many different things to get that boy to sleep.  It was miserable and felt like it would last F...O...R...E...V...E...R.

Jacob has always been an extremely busy boy.  Curious and bubbly, he is often rambunctious and easily excited.  While it is fun to watch him discover, explore, and enjoy the fun of whatever he is experiencing, it was especially tiring when he was in the throws of toddler-hood.  He was a barrel of difficult-to-contain (and restrain) energy.

Eventually, and somewhat accidentally, we figured out that Jacob wasn't sleeping because he was hungry.  Initially I felt so guilty and inadequate.  I somehow felt that it was my fault that I couldn't provide for him.  However, once we got that tummy full, that boy turned into a sleeping machine.  I mean like 7:00 p.m. -7:00 a.m. plus two 90-minute naps every day.

Today I took Jacob in for his 4-year checkup.  Jacob wanted me to read him a book while we waited in the patient waiting room.  He sat so sweetly and calmly as I read him a riveting installment of Spiderman versus Electro.  As we finished up the words of the last page, in movie-perfect timing, they called his name. They weighed him (50 pounds!), measured his height (44 inches!), and we waited in the exam room for the pediatrician.  He quietly asked if he could play the "Bible Game" on my phone.  And then asked if he could sit in my lap.

And it occurred to me just how fast my first baby was growing up.  How proud of this sweet boy I was.  I am.  How much we've been through.  How much I've not only learned about him but about myself in the process. 

It would be dishonest of me to say that I've never had moments where I wished the difficulty would pass.  If we could just fast-forward.

But I think about what I would have lost in the process.

In Zeke's first few months, acid reflux and food intolerances brought even more sleeplessness.  I prayed many a night in desperation for God to soothe my baby since my attempts were just not working.  And while it took some time for the medicine and dietary changes to kick in, Zeke's tummy began to heal and relief spread throughout our house.  

But one thing was different this time:  I knew it wouldn't last forever.  

So, now as Zeke is entering full-blown toddler-hood and proving to be just as active (and feisty and dare-devilish) as Jacob, I again have a comfort that I didn't have the first time: this difficult stage will not last forever.  

I will blink and my Squeaker Zekers will be a 4-year-old, speaking in full sentences, sitting in my lap for an entire story, and able to dress himself from head to toe.  

It's such a poignant mix of emotions, really.  Taking heart that the challenging stages will pass.  And savoring those sweet, priceless, precious moments.

Because they will not last forever.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Series of Milestones

*Spoiler Alert*
I am getting ready to talk about an ending moment from the movie, "Boyhood." Consider yourself warned.

Recently Jonathan and I snuck away for a day date.  It was fabulous.  We ventured to a fun taco joint in Mockingbird Station, had some Pinkberry fro-yo, and caught the movie "Boyhood." I was so taken with the premise of the film: they literally filmed a fictional story over the course of twelve years.  So we, the audience, got to watch a 5-year-old little boy over the course of those years literally grow up.  What most grabbed my attention, though, was the mother in the film.  Near the end of the movie, she is sitting in the kitchen while her son finishes up packing for college.  He walks in to find her upset as she relives the big milestones of her life: growing up, falling in love, having children, going back to college, getting a great job, both of her children have graduated high school and are venturing off on their own.  She is upset because the only big milestone left is death.

This morning, I finished listening to "Despair & Hope," one of JR. Forasteros' podcast episodes from his "What's the Big Idea" class.  Awesome class, by the way.  He chronicles the movie "About Schmidt" and the central character's end-life crisis as he realizes that the American Dream he has spent his whole life seeking, was for naught.  Landing a great job.  Working hard for countless years to earn a good living.  Retiring comfortably.  But what difference has this life - his life - made?

These two scenarios are grabbing me at the gut-level right now because I feel a change is on the horizon.  I will graduate with masters in just a few more weeks (hooray!).  While I am feeling especially primed and ready to re-enter the "workforce," I am feeling the tension of what to do.  Should I take an office job to get some experience in my new field?  Is that experience ultimately necessary, though, if my goal is to return to the classroom?

Even deeper, though, is that I am being reminded of the best way to live.

I am a task-oriented individual, and I often view life as a series of checklists. Being a stay-at-home mom has helped with this; it is fruitless to check off "changing a dirty diaper" or "picking up toys" when these things will need done before I can find my misplaced list.  While I watched "Boyhood,"  and listened to the mother revisiting her list of checked-off milestones, I saw myself in that mother.

I could easily be sitting in that chair in 15 more years.

And it rocked me.

I want my life to mean something more.  And I want to be intentional about enjoying all of life's precious and beautiful moments.  Not only the fleeting feeling of accomplishment - or the weight of the self-induced stress - that accompany those checked-off boxes.