Devastating Moments

lockerAs a teacher, I can tell you the most devastating moment for seventh graders.  The first day of school.  It’s even devastating for me, because I have to WATCH them be devastated.  They all look like deer in headlights.  New school.  New teachers.  New type of schedule.  Passing time?  What’s that?!  Everything is new…It happens every year…

The students go to their I-Block class (first class of the day, I guess you could compare it to homeroom).  As a teacher we face that awkward first-day-of-school silence and in the back of my mind I can’t help but think, “I give this two days.”  Because, well, you know how middle schoolers can be.  Silence is not in their gene pool.

So I meet-and-greet them; try to make them feel as comfortable as possible; but I try not to smile too much, because after all I want them to be a little intimidated haha.  And then I talk about my classroom expectations as they stare at me in complete silence, almost as if they’re looking through me, not even at me.

And then it happens.

Locker practice.  Yup.  I take my students out to the hallway with all of the other seventh graders and their teachers, and we attempt to open lockers.  They’ve never had lockers before.  They don’t even know how to use a combination lock!  And it never fails, I always have that one student who just can’t seem to open their locker, and they’re on the verge of tears, whether they’re a boy or girl.  And they ask me for help, because that’s what I’m there for.  And I do it.  Get it open, easy as pie.  And I explain and show them how to do it… overand overand over… because they still can’t do it.  This goes on for about five minutes, and then finally they master it!  And there’s a huge exhale of relief and smiles going around.  Because by this time everyone has gathered around to watch.

But then you have another student.  There’s one left.  The one that I haven’t had a chance to get to yet.  The quiet one.  Who others noticed couldn’t get their locker to open and even they tried, but they couldn’t succeed either.  And so I go over, ready to work my super-teacher magic. Popping my knuckles in my mind.  And disappointingly, I can’t get it either.  And the student looks at me with puppy dog eyes as if to say, “Mine is the only one that won’t work?”  And I make attempt after attempt.  But still fail.  And then I have to disappoint them and say, “I’ll have to let the office know your locker number so they can fix it.”  And the kid is so embarrassed.  I can see it on their face that they just want to cry, but they won’t because, well, they’re in seventh grade now.  Goodness, it breaks my heart to have to break their heart.  So I try to divert everyone’s attention by heading back into the classroom to transition to their next class.  In the meanwhile I write down their locker number on a post-it so I can get it to the proper person to get it fixed.

This is one of the most devastating moments a seventh grader faces hands down.  And I have to witness it every single year.

The funny thing about this is as an adult it seems so trivial.  Because we face different types of devastating moments as we get older.  Ones that make not being able to open a locker seem like just a miniscule bump in the road.  But to that seventh grader, that bump is like a giant boulder laughing in their face as it blocks the entire road.

I think it’s important as adults when we face devastating moments to relax.  Take a deep breath. Maybe seek someone to try to help you through it.  Will that person always be able to help?  No. They might try.  But they might not have an answer.  But I know someone who always will:  God. Know that in the end everything always works out, not necessarily as we planned, but it still works out.  The locker eventually gets opened.

There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Friend’ Part 2: Idolatry

As a coach, it drives me nuts when I know teenagers are choosing to go play in (or watch) a soccer game on a Sunday morning rather than go to church, yet say that God is their #1, hoo-rah and yada yada.  I love that my players love soccer.  But not at the expense of where they’re missing church for a silly game that doesn’t even really matter in the bigger scheme of things.  And then  they put “God. Family. Soccer.” on their social-media byline underneath their username, like a list of priorities.  Makes me cringe!  But as adults, we do the same thing. We give off a particular “byline” when people see our lives.

Today I asked some of my friends, “What’s something you’ve been guilty of putting before God?”

And I got a load of responses: Own desires (like having a busy day), sports and other extra-curriculars, boyfriends, family/kids, sleep and slothfulness, approval (caring about others’ opinion more than God’s), Pinterest surfing, serving so much at church that the relationship part with the Lord would falter and because of that there was stumbling, fitness, work, a good book, finances (not giving to God first when they know they should), school and homework, social media (checking Facebook, Twitter, etc. before reading God’s Word),  laundry, watching Netflix, and lots more!

And then someone texted me back and said, “Do you have an idol?”

Which brings me to this current blog entry.

Something in my life I’ve placed above God would be friendships.  I was actually convicted about this issue last summer (I grew and learned) but now even more so this summer (time for more growing I suppose!).  I’ve been guilty of spending more time thinking about my friends than I do  about God.  Ouch.  It’s gotten to the point before, when friendships consumed my thoughts more than God did!  That’s embarrassing!  Not only to admit it, but the fact that it’s even true.

I could easily try to justify that it’s not a bad thing.  Well, when it starts affecting (or is it effecting?  I have no idea, and yes I’m an English teacher) Anyways, it is a bad thing when it begins consuming you.  Who would’ve thought friendships could become idols?  We might try to come up with reasons why it’s okay, but in the end, anything that consumes you, your mind, and your time, and holds a higher esteem than God, becomes idolatry.

Me placing friendships above my relationship with God  makes it idolatry.  I’m not just talking about choosing to hang out with friends rather than spend time with the Lord.  I’m talking about something more than that, deeper than that:  the consumption of thoughts, feelings, and emotions with friendships, taking precedence over God’s reign in my life.

Maybe it’s different for you.  Maybe you’re not committing idolatry with friendships.  And kudos to you.  But if your life had a “byline”, what would be first?  Better yet, if we’re being honest, what would others say is probably first?  Oh!  Or even better than that… what would God say is first?  Hmmm.

I read a quote last night that said,  “Idolatry is really not good for anyone. Not even the idols.”  And that my friend, is so true.  Friendships won’t be successful when there’s selfishness involved (read the previous post).  And they definitely won’t be successful if there’s idolatry either.

Welp, until next time…

P.S. Thank you to everyone who shared with me and was open and honest toward my question!


There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Friend’ Part 1: Selfishness

I have some of the weirdest dreams.  Just ask my friend Elizabeth, I tell her all of my dreams, and she would probably agree.  Last week I had a dream and in it I was arguing with someone about how to spell the word ‘friend’.  And the person yelled at me and was like, “THERE’S NO ‘I’ IN FRIEND!!!”  And I yelled right back, “YES THERE IS!!!  F-R-I-E-N-D!!!”  And we went on arguing about how to spell the word.  And then I woke up. 

When I woke up I was thinking about it.  And how it applies to my life right now.  And maybe the person in my dream was right to an extent.  So I decided I’m going to write a two-part blog about friendship and I’m going to try to prove how there really isn’t an ‘i’ in ‘friend’.  Or at least… why there shouldn’t be.

You’ve probably heard the old phrase, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” And after the dream I had and the lessons I’ve been learning this summer, I would say that the word ‘friend’ should be the same way.

One of my goals in starting this blog is to be transparent. So I’ll just say it: I’ve been guilty of being selfish when it comes to friendships. And this summer God has really brought it to my attention and I’ve been trying to work on it. I’ve been learning a lot about myself and some things that I need to change about my personality, when it comes to being a friend. Sometimes it hurts to grow and change, especially things about our personality. But I’m thankful I have a merciful God that helped me recognize my selfishness rather than someone else blatantly pointing it out to me. Because that really would’ve hurt. And God loves me too much to leave me the way I am.

I’ve been selfish in ways that I never intended to. And I never even knew it. That is, until recently. A few weeks ago I started to examine myself and tried to get to the root of some problems and why I was feeling the way I was and it came down to the fact that I was being a selfish friend. Not in the, “I want this, I want that!” kind of way. More of an internal selfishness. Subtle, but definitely there.

I’ve had a few friends in my super-long 27 year-old life that are selfish and often only cared and only talked about themselves. Which you can tell by basic conversations. Because when they ask you about you, it feels kind of forced. 

Unfortunately, at the same token, I too, have been selfish. Let me tell you how: I’ve always wanted the most out of my friends and that’s not fair to them. Especially if we’re on different levels and in different stages of life. I can’t expect a friend who has a family to be available all the time. I can’t expect a friend who works full-time to want to hang out after work. Or to always respond to my text messages and phone calls. A coach of mine once told me, “Kristen, the only person who will ever meet your expectations is YOU.” And that’s true. I can’t expect people to meet MY expectations.

Selfishness can ruin a lot of things. If you want a friendship to last and be successful it’s important to not become selfish. Imagine if Jesus decided to be selfish. He probably wouldn’t have died on the cross for us. I’m thankful He chose to be selfless.

I challenge you today, when you text someone, to not use the word “I” at all in your conversations. It’s hard. But maybe it will open your “eyes” (pun intended!) to how selfish we humans can be and how often we think about ourselves.

So in closing, I’ve decided if we were to spell the word ‘friend’ without the letter ‘i’ it would still sound the same:  FREND. And it would make things a lot easier

Until next time…

Not Every Phone Call is a Bad Thing!


So there I was, last night, laying in my bed at 12:26 a.m., and as many know, way past my bedtime.  I’ve been wanting to start a blog for awhile now, a little over a year, and I’ve attempted to but I just haven’t found a solid foundation of what the theme of my blog should be.  I want to write about so many different things:

  • Teaching
  • Coaching
  • Jesus
  • Being single
  • Being a Christian single
  • Living in a town where your closest family is about 7 hours away

Lots of things.  I suppose life in general.  I’ve actually always wanted to write a book but I figured no one would be interested in my life.  But I’ve always felt like I’ve had a lot to say.

So let me just start with something that involves a few of those things all in one.  It’s a memory I have from my second year of teaching.  My mom always told me, “Kristen, you should keep a diary of all the things that happen to you while teaching.”  I’d love to.  But I don’t have much time to sit down and write.  Thankfully, right now it’s summertime, and I’m bored out of my mind so this one goes out to you, Mama Dolenator!

In my second year of teaching, which was definitely one of my favorite years so far (in my veteran four year teaching status, going on five), I watched an inspirational video about teaching.  Well I took a little something from that video and decided to give it a try.

What did I do?   I’ll get to that in a minute.  First I have to tell you what I saw and heard a student say.

So there I was… (I tend to start awesome stories with that phrase, I picked that up from one of my lit professors in college, Dr. Pearce).  Anyways, SO THERE I WAS…

It was probably the second month of school and the day was over.  I was walking through the hallway and I saw some students in the library for Math Club.  I saw one of my students, EG (I’ll just use initials to be on the safe side), sitting at a table in the library, doing the math work, or what looked like math work anyways.  This student, she was a pretty popular student.  Well I saw her sitting there, and then I heard EG say to another female student who was standing up looking for somewhere to sit, “Hey you can sit with me.”  I don’t remember who the student was that didn’t have a place to sit but I do remember I was in awe because that student wasn’t somebody that was very social, she probably would’ve sat alone had EG not invited her to sit by her.

It sounds simple, but this kind gesture was one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen a student do.  Especially someone like EG.  A student who was popular and often misunderstood, and who had a history at her previous school of getting into trouble.

So that’s when I decided to bust out my move from the inspirational video I had watched.  I went back to my computer in my classroom, and looked up the student’s home phone number and attempted to call home to tell her parents that I’d seen her daughter do something so noble.  Well when I called no one answered.  So what did I do?

I drove to her house.  I remember walking up the driveway planning in my head what I was going to say about EG.  I knocked on the door and my student’s dad answered.  I extended my hand and I said, “Hi, I’m Ms. Dolen, your daughter’s Language Arts teacher.”

He shook my hand and gave me a confused look.  And without hesitation he asked me, “What did she do?  Is she in trouble?”

I looked at him and smiled and said, “Oh, no no no no! I just wanted to tell you that I saw your daughter do one of the nicest things today.  There was a girl who didn’t have anywhere to sit and she invited her to sit at her table.”

He looked at me in shock and couldn’t believe that his daughter would do something like that!  And shame on me, but I didn’t see it coming either because a couple weeks prior to this I had to stop a typical-teenager girl spat that involved his daughter.

Well we stood outside talking for a few minutes and he was sharing some concerns about his daughter, and then EG came home.  She saw me standing on her porch and even she was confused as to why I was there.  Her father and I actually played a trick on her and said she was in trouble, but then we told her the truth.   J

They invited me inside and I got to sit down and talk with them for a little bit.

Looking back, a few years later now, it’s true what they say, you know… on those cute little teachery-quote signs:  “They might not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”  That’s part of why I became a teacher, I had some great teachers and coaches that made me feel great.

Well, the next year, her 8th grade year, I got to coach her in basketball.  The summer before her freshman year (last summer, the summer of 2013), I’ll never forget the morning she texted me and asked me if I would come over to her house with my Bible and talk to her about God.  To this day she still talks to me on a pretty regular basis whether for advice or just to talk.  I was nervous for her to go to high school but she matured quite a bit and it’s been awesome watching that.

So if you were to takeaway something from this memory hopefully it’s one of these things:

  1. If you’re a parent: Don’t underestimate your child. They will surprise you and do and say things that seem unnatural. Not every phone call (or home visit) is a bad thing! Will they make mistakes? Yes. Will they disappoint you? Yes. But there is STILL good in this world! There is STILL hope!
  2. If you’re a teenager: Do something nice for someone! I bet that girl that got invited to sit down felt wanted. And also, be aware that people are watching and listening to you. Hearing and seeing that happen reminded me of part of the reason as to why I got into teaching.
  3. If you’re a teacher: Praise, praise, praise. Don’t be afraid to compliment a student to their parent whether it’s via email, phone call, or a home visit. It will probably make the parent’s day AND the student’s day.

So this was my first official blog post. It was kind of all over the place, but I promise it made sense inside of my massive brain. I’m still not sure where this blog is going to take me but I’m excited for the journey.

To the people who ask me, “How do you get to talk about God and share your faith with students?”

Pray for your students.
God will provide a way.
God will open doors.

Until next time…