Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

I sit here on the eve of a new year.

2013 is almost over. It has been 12 months of ups and downs, things that went the way I hoped and things that didn't, blessings and hurdles that I had to overcome.

It is a time to look back on all of things that God allowed me to experience and to set goals for the upcoming year.

In the past I have made resolutions, promises to myself- some of them went fairly well, some of them were forgotten within weeks, and some of them proved to be a larger issue than I cared to deal with at that particular time.

This year I am keeping things fairly simple:

1. Try to lose those pounds that I have managed to put BACK ON since I lost it a few years ago.

I am not specifying a particular number. I think it is more of a personal comfort level. When my pants stop feeling so snug, I will know that I have reached my goal. I am not sure yet what I will do in order to shed those pounds, but my vow to myself is that I will keep on trying until I find SOMETHING that works for me.

2. Attempt to reclaim a sense of balance to my life.
In recent months I have found myself overwhelmed with the lack of personal time. I am finding myself doing more and more things that are related to my job: grading papers, attending meetings, writing lesson plans, researching units.... you name it and I have done.... often on the weekends or evenings when I could be spending time with my family. It has been literally MONTHS since I have enjoyed scrapbooking. That has always been my personal form of therapy. Whenever work or life got too overwhelming, I could escape to my little craft room and enjoy an hour or so with paper, glue, and photos. Allowing those creative energies to flow somehow also allowed the pent up anxiety and stress to escape my body. Without that, the stress has somehow managed to stay inside me.... creating a feeling of total imbalance.

I really want to work to find a good balance between work related duties and life. I want to enjoy my time with family and friends and I also want to have time for myself.

3. Share more of myself with others.

I have always been one of those people who enjoyed doing the "little things" to brighten the day for others. At Christmas this year I spent lots of time making handcrafted gifts for those around me. Each one was carefully planned and prepared with the recipient in mind. When I hear someone say they need something or they would like something, if I have the capability to help provide that thing, I try to step forward to fill the gap.

This year, I would like to extend that giving beyond my own little circle. I want to seek out ways that I can use the talents that God has given me to help make the lives of others a bit better. I already have a couple of projects in mind and I am anxious to get started. I know that these things won't be earth shattering in size and scope, but I also know that they will help meet a need for someone somewhere. I also know that by giving of myself, I will become a happier person. H. Jackson Brown said, "The happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more." I think that is true.

Those are my goals for 2014- In 12 months, I will sit down and examine the year. Hopefully, I will be able to speak of the successes that I have had with these efforts. Between now and then, I will try to keep you updated on my progress.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Birthday to ME!

Yesterday it happened....... after a year of reality checks, contemplating, and dreading........ I turned

I don't really feel fifty. My own mother said, "How old are you?" and when I told her she said, "No, you can't be."

I once heard a quote from Mark Twain who said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." I have decided that it really doesn't matter how old I am. I intend to live life to its fullest, as long as I am able.

My daughter and I were talking this morning about hair color. I was joking that I turned fifty yesterday and this morning the grey hairs started peeking through my hair color. She said that I should just, "live with it" and allow my hair to turn grey. I don't think so. I'm not ready for that.... I think I will keep coloring it, for now. I know that there will come a time when there is too much grey to cover, and when that time comes, I will have to learn to live with it.

I know that my bones will begin to ache, my energy level will begin to decline, and my ability to do things that I want to will be diminished, but for now.....

50 is just a number......

Happy Birthday to ME!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Back to Work

Well, here it is...... Monday morning, after a 5 day break from teaching.

I have enjoyed every minute of the time that I have had. I did not grade one paper, write one lesson plan, or hear from one disappointed student or angry parent.

Instead, the last five days have been spent just lying on the couch watching television, reading an e-book on my Kindle, cooking with family, talking with family, eating with family, and shopping with family.  It has really been FANTASTIC!

I wish I could be as happy about returning to work as those little dwarfs were in the Disney movie.....

Dopey always seemed to have a smile on his face.... even when they headed out to a busy day with their picks to dig in the mines. I may not have Grumpy's permanent scowl this morning, but I just can't bring myself to sing, "It's back to school I go."

I really don't think that my family understands. On Saturday, my daughter and I decided to tackle a few of the after Thanksgiving sales. While traveling from store to store in the car we talked about what to get for this person or that person and the conversation eventually rolled around to me. "I don't know what to get you," she said, "and don't say TIME. You say that every year." My response was, "That's because THAT is really what I want."

She can't really understand what it is like to be at work from 7 until 5 on an almost daily basis and then carry a bag full of papers home when I do leave the building. Sunday afternoons are usually spent writing lesson plans for the coming week, and, on the occasional day off, it is becoming more and more common to be asked to come in for some type of professional meeting.

Don't get me wrong..... I am very thankful to have a job that brings home a substantial paycheck on a regular basis. BUT..... I wish that job wasn't such a full time job. This is year 29 for me, and, over the years, I have seen things change. I always took home papers to grade. I always had a lesson plan rolling around in my head. I always met students and parents out in "the real world". In recent years, however, the demands on my personal time have increased. New computer programs that we are expected to learn and utilize, new trainings that we must attend, and new curriculum that we must educate ourselves about. Add to that the internet and its increased presence in education and our daily lives, and it's all enough to make me want to just flip the pause button so I can have a few minutes to breathe.

I keep telling myself that I will master the ability to have time for both my job and myself..... but I haven't figured it out quite yet....

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thank You Lord!

I don't say it often enough, but Thank You, Lord!

Thank you for the wonderful family that you have given me. Thank you for a husband who so often places the needs of others before his own. Thank you for two healthy children who are able to run, play, think, and learn.  Thank you for loving parents who took me to church and made sure that I learned about you when I was young. We may not have much time together because of work and responsibilities, but the time that we do have is wonderful!

Thank you for a home with a roof over my head; so many people in this world don't have that anymore. The electrical breakers may flip, the heater may not always light, and the carpet may be old and stained, but it is OUR house and we can come home to it each night.

Thank you for a steady job; in today's economy there are many who don't have one. I may work long hours and bring home lots of paperwork. I may get stressed because of new programs and duties. I may get frustrated by students who don't seem to appreciate the education I am trying to provide for them...... but at the end of each month, there is a steady paycheck waiting for me.

Thank you for good Christian friends. They listen to me, comfort me, and support me.

Thank you Lord, for the trials that you place before me. They make me stronger and build my faith.

Thank you for the times that I stumble. It is at those times when you reach out a loving hand to pick me up and remind me that you are there WHENEVER I need you.

Thank you Lord, for everything that you have provided for me for so many years. My life has been so richly blessed.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

#I Am Not

See those two smiling faces in the picture above? That's my daughter and me, after a race earlier this year. Just looking at the picture it probably appears that we are close and always have been- but pictures can be deceiving.

Kari is my second child. With her brother, Keenan, mothering just seemed to come naturally. He was more subdued, more calm, and more manageable. Our house was peaceful and I felt like I had everything under control. Then Kari was born.

 Kari has always been the more independent of the two: wanting to do things on her own, not wanting help from others, and wanting to make her own decisions. The teenage "attitude" hit early with her. (My husband and I joked that she was 10 going on 18.) I would say something to her, even calmly,  and she would tell me to stop talking so mean to her. The attitude seemed to show itself more frequently with me than it did with her father. Several times I can remember him saying, "I just wish you two could get along."

There were many tears shed and many prayers said. There were times when I just wanted to throw my hands into the air and say, "Lord, I can't go through this anymore." At times, I found myself sitting around the house with my mouth clamped tight, for fear that I would say the wrong thing and it would all explode. I really doubted my abilities as a mother.

But.... I didn't give up.

I kept on keeping on: praying for guidance from God, reading every blog out there, talking to other moms, and loving my child.

Finally, this past summer, things changed. Kari spent five weeks away from home at the Governor's Scholars Program. I missed her. She missed us. She matured. I learned to allow her to grow.

Since then, it hasn't been all peaches and cream, but it has definitely improved. Kari and I can actually talk now, but I usually let her approach me first. There are still times when Kari gets upset, but I just back away and let her calm down. If she needs me, she comes back.

Kari has also developed a much more active religious life. She is reading her Bible daily, attending Bible groups at church, and is the first one to chastise my husband and I if we miss too many activities at church ourselves.

It has taken a long time................ but with that time and God's help, I can honestly say that I am NOT a bad mother. Those doubts that flooded my mind for so many years have been washed away. It required patience, prayer, and practice............... but I now have peace with the fact that I am NOT a failure when it comes to being a mother.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Who I Am

This week I have been thinking a lot about who I am.........................

All of those little identities that the world has given me or that I have given myself.

I think back to high school and I remember that shy little girl, the one who lived out in the country but had to travel to town to attend the only high school. That girl studied and worked hard to get every grade that she got, but was often made fun of by her classmates. As a teenager she never got asked out on dates, wasn't invited to the prom, and never really felt like she belonged in the group of students with whom she was placed by the school system. That girl is still right there inside me. She has never attended any of her high school reunions because she was never really sure that she would be accepted or welcomed.

That girl grew up and went to college, determined to show everyone that she really was smart; she really did deserve the accolades and honors that were given to her. She graduated college as the top female education student and then she headed off to HER first classroom of students. That first year was rough. Kentucky had instituted a new teacher intern program which required a visiting college professor to observe each teacher and offer critiques of their lesson planning and instruction. Though the young teacher felt like she was doing a good job, that professor never seemed to have a good thing to say about the teaching that was going on. The teacher felt good about it, the principal said that she was doing a fine job, but the professor always seemed to find things that needed to be "fixed". Even after 29 years of teaching, that struggling young teacher is still right here beside me. She shows up every time I get observed and every time that my school institutes a new program. That young teacher is always wondering, "Am I doing a good job? Why can't I reach them? What am I doing wrong?"

There has been uncertainty and doubt throughout my life: the new wife, the young mother who had very little experience with babies, the mother of a teenage girl with all of the emotional upheavals that go along with puberty. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist- struggling to be the perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect teacher...... Of course, I always fell short.

This uncertainty and self doubt has sometimes even permeated my spiritual life. I sometimes find myself asking, "Why would God use little old me? I am just a plain old country girl- I have no great stories to tell. I have no great skills that God can use." It is then that God gives me the boost of confidence that I need.

God tells me, in John 1:12,

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

I do believe. I have given my life to him, I AM a child of God and that is the GREATEST identity that I can have. 

As for my doubt about the quality of myself and my abilities, the Bible says, in Ephesians 2:10,

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

When I read this verse, I am reminded of a t-shirt I once saw that read, "God don't make no junk." I have to keep telling myself that God did make me, he has shaped me and molded me, with a job in mind. Even with my little quirks and doubts, THAT is who I am: God's work, his product, perfectly shaped by him. He accepts me, just as I am. Perhaps now, I need to work at doing the same.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Unexpected Blessings

God always seems to know when we need that little pick-me-up, and he always seems to provide.

It has been a very long week, full of a regular week of school plus meetings, after school obligations, and other obligations added after that. There were times when I found myself wondering if I would make it through the week in one piece. My husband has been sick, my students have been rambunctious, and I have been getting more and more tired.—– But God provided me with the energy to finish and get it all done.

God always seems to do that.  God provided an opportunity for me to adjust my schedule on Thursday so that I had enough time and energy in reserve to support my daughter and participate in the 5K that she had helped sponsor. On Friday morning, just as my body was running low and I was noticing that my energy was gone, I somehow found the ability to smile and joke, just enough to boost my energy and make it through the day. Last night, God came through again.

My husband, daughter, and I headed to the annual festival that is held here in our town. We were just going to cruise the streets, say hello to old friends, allow my daughter to pick up a gift for her boyfriend, and head home. Money is tight this year, and I wanted to save some because I am travelling to see my son at his college today.

As I passed the local bank booth, I heard them saying something about giving away $100; I walked up to the tent, filled out a ticket, and even jokingly had my daughter tap it for good luck before handing it over to the lady working the table. We strolled on down the street and continued to talk with old friends when my cell phone rang.

 I didn’t recognize the number. My husband said, "Call it and see who it is," but I hesitated. Just then a voicemail came through. When I played it, I learned that God had blessed ME with the $100. This within 10 minutes of the time I had entered! When I went to pick up the money the lady at the table said, "What about that? You were just here, but we shook it up REALLY good."

Because of the blessing my son and I will enjoy a good meal today. I will reserve a crisp $10 bill for the offering plate and will thank God once again for the unexpected blessing as I place it there tomorrow.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


This week in the online Bible study we have been using #Priceless as our keyword.  I found myself thinking back on those commercials they used to have on television where various things were "Priceless." Then the English teacher in me felt the need to consult the dictionary to see what it said.

According to Miriam Webster, Priceless has several definitions:
1. extremely valuable or important
2. very funny
3. having worth beyond price
4. costly because of rarity or quality
5. so precious that its value cannot be determined

At this point, I must admit that I am a bit of a sentimentalist. If you took the time to come to my home and search through certain boxes or drawers you would find the letters that my sweet husband wrote to me when we were dating, the cards that my daughter has made for me over the years, scraps of cloth from dresses that I made for her, my high school class ring (though it no longer fits), a dress that my aunt made for me when I was an infant (I kept it and my daughter actually wore it too, if only for a photograph), and boxes and boxes full of photos.

To an outsider, these things might seem insignificant...........

But to me, they are priceless pieces of my life.

When I pick up one of those scraps of cloth my mind can instantly flash back to the day when my daughter wore the dress: a hot Kentucky afternoon in late summer, the school Heritage Fair, she wanted so badly to enjoy the festivities, but she was sick and could do little more than lie around and drink fluids. I can instantly remember the way my heart broke for her, that motherly love oozing out.

When I open one of those letters and read the words that my husband wrote to me I can immediately remember those feelings of an emerging love that both of us experienced and the joy I felt when I glimpsed his car pulling into my driveway for our weekly visit.

As priceless as those memories are to me, they do not compare to the love that our heavenly father has for me. With all of my weaknesses, faults, and stumbles he still accepts me exactly as I am. I don't have to try to be something that I am not. Job 34:19 reminds me that God is one "who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the works of his hands."

God loves all of us---- equally--- totally--- perfectly.

This love is truly priceless, so precious that its value cannot be determined.

When I am tired from a week at work that has been overly filled with activity, God reminds me to "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

When I am weak, hesitant to face a challenge, God's word is there to tell me that "the Lord is my strength and shield, my heart trusts in him, and he helps me." Psalm 28:7

When I make a mistake and want to run and hide, I can take solace in the fact that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

Yes, God is always there............ He is there to comfort me, to uplift me, to encourage me, to love me................. No one can come between us. Nothing will cause him to turn his back on me. He accepts me, just as I am, warts and all.

A love like this is truly priceless.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Believe.....

This week I started the latest Proverbs 31 online Bible study. This one focuses on the book A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. As I read the first two chapters, I found myself saying, "Ouch", more than once as I felt a nudge in my ribs saying, "Hey..... that's you she is writing about."

In Chapter one Renee wrote about not only believing IN GOD, but BELIEVING GOD. BIG difference. I was raised in the church. For as long as I can remember I was a Sunday School attendee, VBS participant, and I sat in the pew alongside Mom and Dad every Sunday morning for the worship service. I gave my heart to the Lord during a revival meeting as a teen and was baptized one bright Sunday morning. I was married in a church, took my children to Sunday school, and I continue to be a regular church attendee and helper. There is no doubt that I believe IN GOD.

I must confess however that I sometimes don't fully BELIEVE or have faith in God as I should.

One of the biggest concerns that I have had within recent years has been money. The economy has been bad, my husband retired (which lowered his income), and my son started college. I was always frugal; my children even called me a penny pincher, but all of these circumstances rolled into one have compounded my concern about money.

I know that the Bible says God will provide.....

In Matthew 6 I read....

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 In my gut, I know that this is true. I know that God will make a way for my family and I to be taken care of. He has done it before. When money was tight, an unexpected refund check would come in the mail, an extra position that paid a stipend would open up at school, or I would sell a crocheted project or two. And yet my doubt and worry continues.

I think that I just need to keep working to strengthen my faith..... I need to keep reading the Bible, praying, and just believing more. I am hoping that this study will help me with that. I would like to end the study knowing that I BELIEVE GOD just as much as I BELIEVE IN GOD.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Heart at Rest

I am just completing my second online Bible study through Proverbs 31 ministries and I can honestly say that I am a changed woman. Had you seen me a year ago, you would have seen a woman who spent every waking moment trying to get school work done, rushed around in whatever spare time she had to keep her home clean, tried to be at every event at school and in her daughter's life, and spent sleepless nights tossing and turning and making lists. NO LONGER!

First came the Stessed-Less Living study, which helped me to see that I truly had my priorities a bit askew. I began making daily time to do Bible study, reading, and praying. I found myself leaning on God for assistance in times of need, accepting other's help with things, and taking on less responsibility.

Then came the What Happens When Women Say Yes Bible study. Through this study, I have reached an understanding that I do not have to do major feats for God every day, month, or year. I can serve him right here, at home, with my talents. I also realized that I can continue to pray to God to reveal a greater purpose, but that I must be willing to accept that purpose when it comes and make whatever sacrifice necessary. Last Sunday, that is what our minister's message regarded: being willing to give up family, friends, home, or lifestyle if called upon by God. (Isn't it amazing how God keeps sending us the same message over and over until it finally sinks in?)

For now, I continue to pray. I continue to be willing to say, "Yes" to God at any point. I have always thought that I would wait to retire when I knew that my family's financial needs can be met; now I know that I need to retire when God shows me it is the right time. HE will provide. HE will make a way for my family's needs to be met..... as long as I am about his work and doing what he asks.

I used to think that my family would live in this home forever, until some day it was passed along to my children. But lately, I have been feeling that little tugging at my heart guiding me somewhere else. When the time comes, I have no doubt that GOD will show us just the right house, in just the right city, with just the right church for my family to serve him.

At this time in my life I feel more calm, more at peace, more restful than I have in a very long time. Don't get me wrong.... I still have those occasional spurts of, "I HAVE to get this done." I still have bouts of worry over things. BUT..... these don't last for very long. With God's help, I have a new focus, a new me. I just need to remember this adage:

As long as I rest my mind on God..... on his purpose for me......... my heart will be calm!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Glimpses of God

They are everywhere...........

All around me...........

When I see one of my teenage children casually lean over to a young child at church to smile, laugh, and help with an art project, I see the love that Jesus expressed when he said, "Let the little children come to me."

When I come to school in the morning, loaded down with the burden of books, graded papers, and my lunch bag and one of my students rushes to the door saying, "Do you need some help?" I see the giving hand of God.

When our community unites to raise money for a young lady who was in a tragic car accident, I feel the rush of God's care taking care of those in need.

When I have had a bad day at school and I get an unexpected email from a parent or student, saying, "Thank you for taking the time to help." I feel God's tender embrace saying, "You are loved."

When I am driving home after a particular trying day at school and just the right song comes on the radio, I feel God's strength and encouragement saying, "Be strong. You did your best. Tomorrow, you can try again."

Yes, sometimes it is not the BIG things...... those moments when something amazing and miraculous happens.......

Instead, it is the little things, those quiet, dainty, feathery touches of God's love that mean the most.

I think back to when my children were young and my daughter would be playing in the fresh spring grass. She would find one of the first dandelions of the season and would rush to my side, great joy on her face. We would sit together, side by side, as she blew on that dandelion, spreading the seeds into the wind. Weeks later, tiny little dandelions would sprout throughout the yard.

That is the way I envision God's love. It is those little things, the tiny dandelion seeds that I need to spread throughout the world. I don't have to always move mountains. Instead, I can take the time to do a small thing.

I can bake a dish of brownies for a friend.

I can deliver a plate of left-over food to a lonely neighbor after my own family has had a big get together.

I can take a bag of gently used clothing to a family in need.

Just as my daughter's dandelion seeds sprouted and filled the yard, those "little things" that I do will spread God's love throughout the community and can sprout more deeds of love. I just need to keep my eyes open and pray for God's guidance as he reveals the opportunities to me.

Won't you join me? Can you think of some seemingly small thing that you can do today to share God's love with someone who needs it. Are you willing to give them a glimpse of God's love?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Life Interrupted

I have always been one of those people who plans things. I try to make at least a mental list of the menu for the week. I am usually planning my next unit for school well before it is needed. Before my family goes on vacation I like to know which spots we will be visiting and I usually have a daily itinerary. It just makes sense to me. My life has been one long plan...... with one major exception.

Beginning in my late teens I experienced a heart arrhythmia. At first it was only a few quick beats that lasted for only a few seconds. When I felt it the first few times I didn't think much of it; I blamed it on too much caffeine or stress from college. However, over the years the increased heart beat would continue. I couldn't know when it would happen or where I would be. During a physical I mentioned it to the doctor and he said that it was a common thing in young women and that it should disappear by the time I turned thirty. (At the time, I was in my twenties.)

But it didn't go away, as I grew older the arrhythmia kept happening AND on top of that, the episodes became more frequent and lasted longer each time. I learned to hold my breath or drink cold water to help my anxiety minimize and therefore the heart beat would slow down. After giving birth to two children, the heart problem really began to worry me. I mentioned it to my doctor and, on at least two separate occasions, he had me wear a heart monitor. It showed nothing..... not one single blip out of the ordinary. I began to wonder if maybe I was causing the problem.... Was I worrying too much about something? Was I doing something that I shouldn't be?

I did have witnesses to the episodes, so I didn't completely think that it was all in my head. My husband had been with me many times when my heart would simply start racing. Once it happened in my classroom with students present; I just sat down and said, "Give me a minute." They could tell that something was wrong and sat silently until I was ready to continue. (That is saying a lot for middle school students.) It also happened once during a faculty meeting and the principal would not let me drive home, even after my heart returned to a normal rhythm. Instead, he phoned my sweet hubby to come and get me.

This sounds like a lot, I know..... but keep in mind that these episodes were spread out over 20 to 25 years. During that time the doctors and the monitors were NEVER able to verify a problem.

That all changed in 2008. It was nearing the end of the school year and I was hard at work preparing my middle school students for the upcoming end of year testing. I am one of those teachers with a reputation for pushing and pushing and pushing to get the best out of my students. I just don't give up. I will try quizzing, reteaching, games to help with review...... You name it, I have probably tried it over the years. This hasn't always pleased my students. As for them, they either like me or they don't. At the time, I had a lot of students who DIDN'T..... they didn't like giving effort, they didn't like work, and I required both. As a result, my time in the classroom was often wrought with a lot of "attitude" from some of my students and a lot of displeasure from me. I would often go home frustrated and tired, sometimes wondering why I had even become a teacher.

The week before spring break I developed a sinus infection. Here in Kentucky, that is nothing new. Almost all of my family members are afflicted with an allergy to something. I visited the doctor and was given my usual prescription, a Zpac and a shot. The doctor told me to hold off one day before beginning the Zpac, since the shot would kick in first.

The next morning I took my first dose.

I had taken Zpac before, many time, with absolutely no problem. I figured I would end the course of medication during spring break and return back to school as usual, ready to finish my preparations for testing. Again.... that was MY plan.

All day, I felt a bit unusual and toward the evening my lower back began hurting. I thought that maybe I had just been on my feet too much that day or something, so I tried lying on the couch for a while. After a bit, it became apparent that reclining was NOT helping, so I got up and began walking around. It was quickly becoming very painful and I couldn't keep the discomfort hidden from my husband. Given the position of the pain and the extreme level of it, he thought I might be passing a kidney stone. He had experienced the pain of those himself and had previously been hospitalized for the problem.

As the pain grew, we both knew that something had to be done, so we called his sister to watch our children and he rushed me to the nearest hospital. They got me into the emergency room and on a table. They hooked me up to all types of monitors and started checking me over. It was then that MY plan went haywire and God's plan kicked in.....

Suddenly, with no warning, my heart beat shot up to over 200 beats per minute. When that happened the attendants stopped worrying about the possible kidney stone and instead tried to slow my heart down. I don't remember how long it took, but I do remember the sense of panic in the room, two shots of Adenosine, and two hits with "the paddles". When my heart finally skipped a beat and returned to its normal rhythm they admitted me to the hospital and decided to keep me to see the cardiologist.

Over the next few days I was picked, poked, prodded, and transported to a second hospital. At that hospital they ended up doing heart ablation, which took care of my heart arrhythmia.

A few days later I found myself walking back into school---- walking a bit slowly, but I knew that I had to plan for my return.  I wasn't exactly looking forward to it. After all, I was still experiencing some soreness and I certainly wasn't looking forward to the "attitude" group.

It was spring break so there was no one else there.  As I entered my room I saw my room literally COVERED with notes and well-wishes. There were signs and cards scattered all over the walls. The dry erase board was littered with signatures and "I miss yous".

Nearly every single student had signed somewhere...... even those who had been giving me attitude.

NOW I was ready to return........ I was needed.......... I was missed........... I was appreciated.

Looking back on it all now, I think that God used this entire episode to take care of two things: He presented me with the opportunity to finally get my heart issue resolved and he also helped to remind me that, though students complain and whine from time to time, they truly do have a heart. They may not always appreciate my efforts, but they know that I am there for them and I mean well.

In the years since, I have taught a new group of students each year. Some of them have been "tough" and some of them have been "joys", but ALL of them have been liked. I make a point each year to tell my students exactly that..... I may not always like their behavior, but I DO LIKE them!

My carefully laid plans were interrupted, if only for a week or two by God and HIS plan...... and I am all the better for it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Yes Lord............

Lately I have been feeling a bit insignificant. I am just a mother, just a wife, just a teacher. I live and serve the Lord in a small Kentucky town that is like so many others. We have paved roads, electricity, and telephone. Most of my students even own cell phones.

For so long I have thought that being of service required something extraordinary- a mission trip, giving up your home and moving, doing something that was totally out of character just because God asked.

Well, I am here to admit that I was wrong.............

Sure, I can do any of those things and they would be in service to God, but if the opportunity doesn't come my way, I can still serve him right here, right now.

A couple of years ago, I made plans to retire from teaching. My papers were filed, I had visited the retirement office several times, the school presented me with a retirement plaque, and I had cleaned my room and shared the supplies that I had stockpiled over the years. THEN...... the axe dropped. Technicalities stepped in and my dreams of sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch were shattered. As reality set in, a small voice inside me said, "God isn't finished with you yet." Even then, the message did not sink in to my brain.

Over the past year, I have done some mental calculating..... Here in Kentucky, teachers can retire after 27 years of service, though they will not get full retirement benefits. In order to maximize your retirement dollars, you must teach until age 55. For me, that would require 34 years of teaching experience.

Last year, several times, my peers and I discussed the state of education and how it was affecting us as parents, family members, and individuals. Many times I uttered these words. "I would have to teach 6 more years. I don't think I have that many left in me." 

I realize now that maybe I have been stating that sentence incorrectly the entire time. What I should have said is, "I would have to teach 6 more years. I will have to wait and see if that is what God wants."

All of this time I have been focusing on me and what I wanted...... I wanted to stop having to deal with all of the paperwork, I wanted time to do things that I want to do, I wanted to be able to go when I wanted and just LIVE. I almost hate to admit how selfish it all sounds.

I have noticed a difference this year though......

I am not as dissatisfied with my job. The paperwork still exists...... there are still those students that I have to really stand over if I want work done...... there are still the other things that demand my time and attention. Yet, for some reason, I don't feel the stress and strain that I used to feel.

I think that I have finally REALLY turned it over to God. I have finally said, YES LORD.... I am here to teach, for however long you wish. Show me when YOU are finished with this stage of my life.

With the new realization that I AM serving God I am also noticing blessings that I hadn't seen before. Tonight there was a young man who stayed after school to get some extra help with an English lesson. There was a look of gratitude on his face that I don't often see these days. There was a "Thank you" from his mother who probably wasn't used to teachers staying after work if they weren't paid for it. There are the little smiles and hugs that I am getting from a teenage daughter with whom, not that long ago, I was usually in verbal battle.

I really AM serving God..........

As a mother

As a wife

As a teacher

As a role model

For now.................. that is enough.

Lord, when YOU are ready for me to enter the next stage of life.............. show me............ tell me...........

I am ready and waiting to say.................... YES!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Achievement

Today I did something that I have wanted to do for quite a time. My daughter is a member of the cross country and track teams at her high school. For years now, I have watched with great envy as she ran in races all across the state. Even more amazing to me were the many adults who ran right along with her. I decided a while back that I really wanted to attempt to at least walk one of the races and my chance came today.

The route was a 2 mile length road race with only a couple of inclines and declines. The weather was perfect for it too- nice and cool throughout most of the route. I had not done much training, having only walked a night or two in the last two weeks. Nevertheless, I took the plunge and signed up in the 45-50 women's category.

When the starting gun echoed, I plugged in my iPod and took off walking. At points through the route I found myself praying to God to ease the pain in my shins so that I could at least finish the race, but I kept on walking. I shouldn't have been surprised that, even though I had my iPod on shuffle, God found a way to send me just the right words to keep me moving.

At the end of the 2 miles, I still had a smile on my face, as witnessed by this photo:

A bottle of water and a short walk to cool down and I was ready to wait for the awards. I hadn't really been sure how many of the women in the race were in my age category. (I will confess that I attempted to judge ages by appearance, but I knew that my guesses were probably well off...LOL!)

20 minutes later and I learned that my daughter had placed 2nd in HER age category and I had placed 2nd in mine!

When Kari heard my time of 33:08 she told me that next year I would make it a 31. I guess that means that I will be doing it again..... For now, I am just crossing one more thing off the bucket list..... Maybe I will add one too.... MAYBE..... just maybe..... I will work my up to RUNNING the route..... We will see.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Palms Up

I have spent my whole life in the church: Sunday School and VBS as a child, youth group as a teen, a young adult who attended Bible study, and now a mother who takes her own children to church and teaches VBS. Throughout those many years I have always had a connection to the women who served God.

The one who stands out in my mind the most was a Godly woman, a kind sweet grandmotherly type who was always there at every church function. She would help teach Sunday school and always had a special dish at each church potluck dinner. She always had a smile on her face and God's love beaming throughout the community through her. If you needed something, you could always call on her. Carrie spent her life in service of the Lord and she meant so much to me that, years later, I would name my own daughter after her.

Over the years I had many wonderful role models, women who devoted much of their lives to God. These women said "Yes" when God presented a need and did so in a seemingly effortless way- without fear, worry, or stress.

Why then, does it seem so difficult for me?

I truly believe that God is an ever-present force in my life. He hears me, comforts me, provides for me, and wants to direct me. I WANT to do his will. I WANT to do his work.

So what is holding me back?

For years, I have felt unworthy- after all, I am just a plain old mother, teacher, wife- one of those who goes through life doing what just comes naturally. I watched my mother get up early to cook and prepare for our family's daily life; Now I do the same. I am a normal woman. I make mistakes. I stumble over my words. I don't always know the right verse at the right time to comfort or help someone. Don't I need to be more than that? Don't I need to be more Perfect? More like those Godly women from throughout my life?

This week, during the "What Happens When Women Say Yes to God" Bible Study I realized that I DON'T!

God doesn't require a perfect woman. God doesn't require that I respond to each situation in a perfect manner. God just requires that I have a desire to serve him and a will to do what he asks.

In my youthful eyes, I saw Carrie as a perfectly Godly woman, but I am sure that there were times when she got out of bed and felt a bit too tired to go to church or a bit too bored with the same Sunday school routine. I am sure that she was not perfect- but she certainly had a perfectly willing spirit. THAT is what I want to have!

Lord, I am here--- hands open--- palms up! Ready and waiting to hear what you would have me to do. Use me to do your will. AMEN

Friday, August 2, 2013

It's That Time......

In a way, it is hard for me to believe that this time has come. It seems like only last week when I walked out that classroom door and thought to myself, "Now it's time for ME!" I had big plans for the summer, most of them being things that I wanted to do just because I had not had time during the school year. Some of them I accomplished; some of them I didn't. Whatever the case, come next Monday morning at 8 A.M. I will be sitting in a teacher's meeting contemplating the next 10 months of my life.

Last night was our annual Back-to-School event with the usual supply distribution, schedule handout, and meet and greet. I found myself remarkably calm about the whole thing. This calmness is a bit of a shock to me. After all, our school has lost several staff members due to retirement and budget cuts, likely resulting in larger class sizes and increased demands on teachers. Within the past 2 weeks our school has experienced the added loss of 2 enrichment teachers, as they found positions elsewhere. Because of this, we face the possibility of beginning the year with at least one of those positions vacant for at least a few days. I have not revised last year's class syllabus yet and I don't have lesson plans down-pat for the first weeks of school, yet I still feel an inner peace.

I think this is largely due to the fact that I now realize I have a full-time support system.

Don't get me wrong.... I always had my husband and my kids here. I knew that they would listen to my complaints, offer up advice, and even try to help with the things that caused me stress, but I had forgotten about the one person who could actually GIVE ME REST. Participating in the Stressed-Less Living Bible study this year has really helped confirm to me what I always knew.... when I need a break there is really only 1 person who can truly give it to me- the Lord.

Matthew 11: 28-30 says

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. 

God WILL give me rest! Exactly when I need it............ I only need to seek him and learn about him. The first part of 2013 has seen me renewing my dedication to Bible study and devotions and it has truly been wonderful!

Being so blessed by the last online Bible study, there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to be involved in the next one. This one will focus on the book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, by Lysa Terkeurst. Even though the Bible study begins August 4, it isn't too late for you to join us. You can check the Proverbs 31 ministry for more information. 

Here's a link:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Prodigal Returns.....

The last two weeks I have been busy at work, preparing for my daughter's return from Governor's Scholars. She had been gone for 5 weeks: 5 weeks without her smiling face, her sweet voice echoing from the shower each night, and even 5 weeks without the extra piles of dirty laundry.

I decided that I needed to do something special to welcome her home: redecorate her room. I spent the time carefully selecting paint colors for her bedroom, clearing it out, and taping and painting. Of course, freshly painted walls needed new wall art and decor. Being a DIY kind of gal, I couldn't just go out and purchase all of the art and accessories. No, I had to take the time to find a $3 lamp, a $5 shade, ribbon, and polish to make her new bedside lamp truly one of a kind. A 3 hour drive to IKEA provided a shoe cabinet to house a large portion of her growing shoe collection, and when I returned home it was another 30 to 45 minutes to assemble it.

As I worked diligently throughout the weeks, I kept thinking of one thing......

This smile, that I knew would be there when Kari finally saw the time and effort that had gone into creating her new room. (As you can see, I was not disappointed.)

When I think back on the feelings that surged through me as I prepared for my daughter's homecoming, it brought to mind the parable of the Prodigal son. I can imagine the father's overwhelming feeling of joy and celebration as he bid the servants to bring forth robe and ring and sandals and the fatted calf.

According to Luke 15:
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

As much joy as I felt upon Kari's return and as much joy as that father felt on the return of his long lost son, it pales in comparison to the overwhelming joy that God must feel each time one of his lost children comes back to the fold. What pain God must feel as he watches a sinner go through his daily life, wandering aimlessly! What extreme anticipation he must feel as that same sinner begins to realize that he needs God as part of his life! What wonderful exhilaration God must feel when that sinner, that lost child, finally accepts God as his Savior and ever present help-meet and Father! And.... what a celebration must occur in heaven each time a Prodigal child returns home.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Just Say Jesus

I recently heard this song on KLove and it has quickly become one of my favorite songs.

There are often times when we, as humans, just aren't sure what to say. We just can't find the right words and don't quite know what to ask for. It is in times like these that we can just say, "Jesus." He is always aware of our real needs and knows how to help us with them, even when we can't put those needs into words.

I can hardly wait for the full album! The single is available now. Let me know what YOU think of it!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stressed Less

It is so difficult for me to believe that this is the final week of the Stressed-Less Living Online Bible study. For me, it has been transformational.  I wish that there was a "stress gauge" that I could use to scientifically document the difference between my stress level at the beginning of this study and my stress level now, but I don't think I can purchase one at the local department store or pharmacy, so I suppose that anecdotal references will have to do.

I came into the study thinking that it would show me how to eliminate some of the stress in my life. After all, that was the title of the book, right?...... WRONG! Right off the bat, in Chapter One I learned that what had to change was not my life, but ME! Once I accepted my responsibility, I began to realize that the old saying was true, "An ATTITUDE is a little thing that can make a BIG difference." I needed to stop being so negative all of the time and focus on the brighter side of things.

Chapter Six of the book brought another huge slap that woke me up to a new reality---- I was taking too much into my own control. Those people who know me might say, "Hey, wait a minute... we always knew that!" Looking back, I can see that I always tried to jump in and fix things. I am one of those who thinks it is all one big logical sequence: see a problem, determine the specific needs, work to fill the need. Now I realize that there are are some things that I had been leaving out of the sequence. It should read: see a problem, TAKE THE PROBLEM TO GOD, ALLOW HIM to determine the specific needs, work to help GOD fill the need. Because of what I have learned in this study, I find myself praying more, asking God to help me see what needs to be done and then to provide me with guidance to help meet the needs. Sometimes I find myself praying about things for quite a while before God speaks back, but that is ok. I am developing a real patience.

Chapter Eight found me saying, "Hello, My name is Stella and I am an Accomplisher." Yes, I like to make lists- even if they are sometimes mental lists- of things that I need to do each day. It gives me great pride to cross each item off the list and move on to the next. Before I started this study my daily list might be VERY LONG and I would find my heart pounding, pushing me to get started. As I completed each task that adrenaline did not slow down. Instead, it was almost as though the list was growing.... imagine that! I would think of all the things that I had LEFT to do rather than those things that I had accomplished. What happened if I reached the end of the day and there where still things on the list? Can you say the word, "Breakdown"---- No longer! My daily list is shorter and if things are still left at the end of the day? In the tone of Scarlett..... "Tomorrow is another day!"

My last bit of evidence is to relay some personal examples from this week. In order to discuss the change that has occurred in me, I need to tell you about the stresses in my life, what might have been, and what my new reality is.

This week I had two major stresses: Two final days of teacher training and temporarily losing my daughter to a summer program.

First the training: As school went out early in May I received an email about a possible summer literacy training. After some investigation, I decided that I would LOVE to attend. It would give me some great strategies for my classroom and besides.... I would get paid a nice stipend for attending. Early in June I received a follow up email asking if I wanted a hotel room or did I just want to drive back and forth? To fully explain the situation, I suppose I should tell you that getting to the training involves a 73 mile commute (one way). I decided to drive. Normally, the stresses of traffic, weather delays, getting up extra early during the summer, returning home late, gas prices..... you name it..... all of these things would have combined to create a frazzled me. But this time.... they didn't. I used the commute as a time to listen to KLove on the radio, sing along with some of the songs, utter a few prayers for people in need, and just spend quiet time with the Lord and my thoughts.  I even squeezed in a shopping visit one morning when I arrived at my training TOO EARLY! Imagine that!

The second real stress came on Sunday when I dropped my daughter off for a 5 week Governor's Scholars Program. Here in Kentucky, students who are juniors in high school can apply for the program. A little over 1000 are chosen from across the state. They spend 5 weeks on a college campus developing leadership skills, learning about themselves, learning how to make decisions, and basically getting a new mind-set and attitude that is supposed to better prepare them for the real world that lies ahead of them in the coming year. During the five weeks, families can only visit 1 day- Family Day- which is about 2 weeks into the program.

I had been through the whole thing two years ago when my son was in the program. I was a blubbering idiot on drop-off day, Family Day, and even on pick-up day I think. I will be honest and tell you that I still shed a few tears when I left her, but I knew that she was safe in God's hands. Last night she called to tell us that a storm was moving through the area. She and several other girls were kind of temporarily "trapped" in the dorm and might miss supper. "I will eat some of my snacks and maybe call out for a delivery from somewhere a little later." Boy, did she really grow up THAT much in 4 days? To further heighten my stress level, her birthday is coming up this week. She will celebrate her Sweet Sixteen over three hours away from me. The old me might have approached this with more tears and a second box of Kleenex, but the new me did a Pinterest search for creative CARE package ideas, did a shopping trip, and came home to get a box ready for mailing. (Hopefully, it will arrive at the dorm before the big day.)

Yes, this study has been a life-changer! I can't wait for school to start back. (Did I REALLY just say that?) I am hoping that my students will see a quieter, less-pressured, more attentive ME..... one that thinks more before she speaks, smiles more, and can let her hair down from time to time. Thank you God for sending this Bible study just when I needed it!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Blessings of Summer

From August through May, my life is filled with school..... school work, school thought, school activities. I say "life" rather than "week" because, even though school is only technically Monday through Friday, it has a way of invading my weekends too. Between all of the things I have to do as a part of my job and all of the things that I do for my own children, I often get so busy that I neglect to give thanks for some of my biggest blessings. Summer brings that down-time that I need to clear my vision, calm my spirit, and help me reflect.

Blessing 1: Another year in a happy marriage

With summer comes another anniversary. This year made 20. As a teen and young adult, I did not have a very active dating life. I had almost given up finding someone to make a part of my life. It was at that point that God sent my sweet husband to me. Both my husband and I realized that God had brought us together. In this day and age, when so many people are separated or divorced, I am so blessed to still be with this wonderful man. God has helped us through many things in these 20 years, and God still remains at the center of our home.

Blessing 2: Bountiful Beauty

I am blessed to live in one of the most beautiful spots on earth. When many people talk about Eastern Kentucky they talk about the curvy mountain roads. I prefer to talk about how beautiful it is. This is true all year round, but never more true than in the summer months. The many subtle tones of green in the grass and the leaves create the perfect background for the bright splashes of floral color. Brilliant orange or yellow wildflowers are tucked away in the tiniest of places along the roads and waterways. From the blue skies above to the dusty brown paths below, I see God's handiwork on display.

Blessing 3: Time with Family

With so much going on in our lives, it is so busy for me to truly spend quality time with my entire family. It is only during the summer that we can convince my sweet husband to give up a few days of work to slip away somewhere as a family. This year, our journey took us to Columbus, Ohio where we visited the Zoo and Science Center. It was only 3 days, but it was so nice to just laugh, talk, and have fun together.

Blessing 4: Friends

The summer is not only time away from school, but time away from some of my best friends. The people that  I work with are actually more like family than they are friends. They help me through the stresses of the job, celebrate my successes, and comfort me when things don't go well. During the summer we all have our own lives, but it is so nice to know that we don't forget one another. Facebook, summer training sessions, and occasional get-togethers help us keep up to date with one another's lives. As for us "girls", we even sometimes have a shopping trip or two to buy those back-to-school clothes.

Blessing 5: God's Protection

It seems that every night the news is cluttered with shootings, car accidents, and deaths. Each day on Facebook I see yet another post about a friend or colleague who has been diagnosed with some disease or condition. Though our health is not perfect, none of my immediate family members are facing anything like that at this time. I am also blessed to know that, if and when we do face a tragedy or a major illness, God will be right there with us, helping us deal with it all.

Yes, the summer is a time for relaxation, renewal, and rejuvenation, but I like to think that it is also a wonderful time for reflection............... a time to remember all of the things that God has seen fit to provide. Won't you join me and take a few minutes to count some of your summer blessings?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Real Miracle....

When I looked at the list of possible blog post ideas for the Stressed Less Living Bible study, I knew exactly which one I would be writing about:

3.  Miracles. In this day and age, miracles still happen…we simply have a harder time believing them. If you have ever experienced or witnessed a miracle, we would LOVE to hear your testimony of His Glory

This weekend we also celebrate Father's Day, so it is the perfect opportunity for me to pay tribute to my own living, breathing, walking proof of God's grace and miracles- my father.

I guess I was a lot like other young people growing up- I sometimes took my father's presence in my life for granted. He was just always there for me any time that I needed him.  He worked Monday through Friday and took us all to church on Sunday. He was a deacon in the church, the church custodian, and the maintenance man for a nearby Girl Scout camp.

Even when I married and started my own family, I could count on Dad to come when I called.  His presence was more rare, yet he always seemed to be there when I really needed him. He earned part of his living as a carpenter: building and renovating homes, repairing plumbing or electricity, or whatever else needed to be done around the home. This meant that whenever I mentioned a toilet that wouldn't flush right or a leaky faucet, or even something bigger Dad was right there- Mr. FIX IT on the spot.

There have been several times that I thought we might not have Dad in our lives for much longer, however.... and that is where God and the miracles come in.

The first episode I remember was when my mother phoned me at work to tell me that Dad had been on a tractor and had been flipped from it, landing in a ditch, with the tractor on top of him, pinning him down. An ambulance rushed him to the nearest hospital, who loaded him on a helicopter and flew him to a hospital in a larger city within the state.The doctors were concerned about the tractor's weight possibly causing internal injuries. Miraculously, Dad came through that episode with only a few bruises. Thankfully, Dad cannot remember much about the whole thing because they had sedated him.

The next miracle came several years ago when I was sitting at home preparing dinner. The phone rang and it was my mother, telling me that Dad had fallen from a church roof while he was building a steeple. He had plummeted to the asphalt below and was unconscious. Since the closest hospital to the work site was in a nearby state, they had flown Dad there. I rushed to Mom's side and drove her to the hospital, praying all the while. I will never forget sitting in that silent, antiseptic, cold waiting room outside of surgery, anxiously awaiting word of whether Dad would survive. This time Dad's injuries were a bit more severe. When Dad hit the asphalt parking surface, the retina in one of his eyes had separated from the back of the eye. When it lost blood flow, it basically died. My father, who made his living by doing detailed electrical and woodwork was now permanently blinded in one eye.

I feel terrible about this, but at the time, the only thing I could think of was the fact that Dad could not see as well. I did not take the time to thank God for his mercy in saving Dad's life; instead, I told my mother, "This will kill him. He won't be able to do the things that he used to." Boy, was I wrong! I under-estimated both God and my father. Though his eyesight was lessened, his determination wasn't. Dad kept working at it and eventually returned to MOST construction work, leaving such things as the detailed electrical wiring for someone else. He kept reading his Bible and driving himself to church every Sunday morning.

Since then God has intervened when Dad was in a car accident, colliding with a loaded coal truck. Dad did not escape that accident completely unscathed either; he suffered a broken ankle- the first broken bone that he had ever had.

Another time, Dad cut his hand when a saw kicked back on him. He had to undergo several hours of neurosurgery and lost one pinkie finger and part of the finger next to it. After months of rehabilitation, Dad returned to farming, helping with repairs at church, and continues to fill his spot in the pew each Sunday morning.

I jokingly say that Daddy is like a cat- he has nine lives. He has certainly been through more physical injury and potential tragedy than most people. To be honest, I think the truth is that Dad just hasn't finished all of the things that God intends for him to do here on earth. Each and every accident had the potential of ending in death, but they didn't. Each time, God spared Dad's life and sent him back to the family and the church who depends on him so much. He continues to be a strong testimony of God's protection and the fact that miracles really do still happen- even in the 21st Century.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Cheerful Heart....

This morning I started on Chapter 10 of the Stressed-Less Living Bible study. When I read this verse, my thoughts immediately went to that old adage, "You are only as old as you feel."

When I allow the weights of the world to push down my spirit, I do feel a bit "crushed" and I definitely feel OLDER! On the other hand, when I take the time to deliberately look at the brighter side of life, I have a more positive outlook and a spring in my step.

This weekend I was out shopping with my son. We were having a great time looking for bargains and even enjoying some REAL conversation.... something that is difficult to get with a teenage boy.  While walking down one aisle in the home decor section I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thought, "I look pretty good- my middle isn't nearly as big as I thought."....... This coming from the almost 50 year old woman who usually notices every grey hair, wrinkle, and bulge!  My heart was cheerful and I was having fun, so when I saw myself in the mirror it was impossible for me to be negative. If only I could maintain that positive, cheerful heart all of the time!

I had not realized how extensively my emotional being could color my life and my thinking. I realize that I need to be live more like the song.....

Striving to maintain the cheerful heart-

The one that focuses on the blessings that God has given-

The one that sees the smile on my face rather than the wrinkles smile lines in the corners of my eyes-

The one that sees the size on the label and smiles because it so much smaller than it used to be without focusing on the muffin-top that bulges over the waistline of the pants-

The one that focuses on having a roof overhead rather than the dust bunnies in the corners.

If I can make a conscious effort to do this---- then my spirit will not be crushed and I might not feel quite so "Old".

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Spiritual Vitamins

I am in the middle of Week 9 of the Stressed-Less Living and boy is it working!

Several months ago, I made a conscious decision to spend more time with the Lord. I was always the first one in our house to awaken, so that seemed a natural time for me to be alone with God, praying, reading his word, and thinking about his purpose for me and my life. This led me back to something that I had discovered through KLove radio: Proverbs 31 Ministries.

I began reading the daily Encouragement devotional that was posted on the computer. Then I would read the daily Bible passage that was there and spend some time in prayer. A few weeks into this spiritual journey those spiritual vitamins: reading the Bible and praying were doing the trick. I was already heading out the door in a better mood, but then I would often come home after a day of school, burdened with work and stress.

Leave it to God to give me my next spiritual "prescription"!

One day as I was reading the devotional I was led to another blog by a contributing writer. This led me to a notice about the Stressed-Less Living Bible study. I had been wanting to participate in a Bible study but really needed one that I could work into my busy schedule. An online one seemed like a perfect fit, so I signed up and purchased the book.

Long story short....... this Bible study has been one more "spiritual vitamin" that I really needed. It has also helped me to recognize just how essential it is to make time on a daily basis for God.

I continue to start each morning with my daily dose of Bible reading, prayer, and devotion. I also find myself uttering silent prayers throughout the day whenever I feel a need being laid on my heart. KLove, which I mentioned earlier, is yet another spiritual vitamin that I use on a daily basis. My car radio stays tuned to that station and my daughter has come to love it as much as I do. Listening to the wonderful Christian music on the way to work each day helps me get into a positive mindset and hearing it on my way home helps me shed some of stress and negativity that can befall me during a day of work.

I am sure that every one of you, at one time or another, was given a prescription for some type of vitamin, pill, or medication and was told to finish the entire bottle. Then you went home and started dutifully taking the medicine as prescribed. When you "felt better" you left the bottle sitting there, until you felt the symptoms returning. OR...... Maybe you had a prescription and you finished the bottle, but you just didn't get it refilled.

Well, I have been given a LIFETIME prescription for these spiritual vitamins! I have come to the realization that I MUST daily spend time in prayer, reading, and Bible study in order to strengthen my body, my mind, and my spirit. Isaiah 12:2 reads:

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord, even the Lord, is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

If God is to be my strength, then I need to exercise my spiritual being by spending time with him. I have often told my students that they need to read and study in order to exercise and strengthen their minds. I now understand that I need to do my prayer, reading, and Bible study in order to exercise and strengthen my spiritual being. Without my daily dose of these spiritual vitamins, I will return to the same stressed out woman who sometimes wanted to pull out her hair under the mountain of life's stresses.

Won't you join me? I highly recommend these vitamins! They WILL change your life.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Family Affair....

Last night we began our annual week of VBS. Some people would think that I was crazy for giving up a week of my summer break to spend it teaching. After all, that is what I do from August through May of each year. But this is different.....

Not only do I get to play and have fun with the kids... (I am the arts and crafts teacher.) Not only do I get to help deliver God's message to all of those who attend.....  Even better.... I get to spend it with my own children.

 Both of them are at that stage in their life when their schedules are full: friends, fun, school groups, summer jobs. It is rare that I get some time with them and even more rare that I get to stand on the sideline and just see their character shine. Whenever they are at home, they are often so tired that they are either collapsed on the couch napping, or just shut up in their rooms watching television or texting a friend.

My daughter, Kari, has been the puppeteer at VBS for four years. 

This year, her alter ego is "Godwin" a talkative parrot. Here she is with all four of the puppets that she has used to help deliver God's life lessons. She loves it! It is one of her favorite times of the year. I don't know if she will continue with this service each year or not, once she graduates high school, but I am sure that she will continue to do God's work in some way. I love to be there, listening to her transform into whatever character she represents each year. She may be a teenager, but when VBS rolls around, Kari's inner child get released.

Even my son, who is working a summer job during the day, is helping this year.

Keenan is assisting with the opening and closing programs and filling in wherever needed. Last night he helped me with crafts when I had larger groups and even got the chance to deal with some boo-boos. It really touched my heart to see him talking in a soft voice with an injured child, gently cleaning the wound, and then bandaging it. 

As for me....... I am not only the crafts teacher.....

I am also the clown! Our theme for the week is "Fun Fair" and what fair would be complete without a clown? At my age, I try to take any opportunity that I can to NOT take myself TOO seriously. This is certainly one of those. Throughout my career I have been known for several different "looks" at school for special occasions. (Maybe I will share some of those in another post sometime.) At one time, I asked my son if he was ever embarrassed by it. He responded, "No, we are kind of used to it." 

Sometimes the two and a half hours of nightly VBS classes seem much longer: glue that is too gooey, classes that run behind schedule, more kids in a group than we have seats. But through it all, I can still smile and enjoy the moments. I am thankful that my two children have adopted the idea of service- that joyful feeling that you get from helping deliver God's message and God's love to others. VBS is a family affair and I am glad that it is! 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Slowly But Surely....

Eight weeks ago I started on a journey........

A journey to a LESS STRESSED ME.........

The road has been brightly lit, but a bit bumpy and full of many caution and stop signs.

When I started on the Stressed-Less Living Bible study I really expected to learn ways to eliminate or wipe out the many stresses in my life, but I have discovered something much greater than that. I have discovered that involving God more in my daily life, my daily thought processes, and my decision making will not necessarily ELIMINATE my stresses, but it will better enable me to deal with them.

On Sunday, my minister delivered a sermon based on Romans 5, verses 1 through 11. What he had to say spoke directly to my heart. I have no doubt that God had delivered the message to him at just the right time for me. It meshed very well with what I had been studying in this Bible study.

Any doubts that I might have had flew fleetly away when I opened the daily Bible reading on Proverbs 31 today and discovered that it was the EXACT SAME TEXT. When I sat down in front of the computer this morning, I had asked the Lord, "Please help me know what to discuss in my blog this week." In that one moment, as I looked at the screen, I knew that God had sent me the text for my weekly post.

You see, this passage deals with patience, experience, and hope.

Romans 5
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

I had been suffering through my stress...... through my life for a very long time. There were points during the last year especially when I just wanted to say, "Let this crazy bus STOP! I want to get off!" I had cried out to my friends, my family, and my colleagues, but it took a lot of suffering before I finally discovered this Bible study and learned that what I really needed to do was cry out to GOD! Within the last 8 weeks, I have learned that only God can provide me with the inner peace that I so badly craved.

At the same time, I also learned, as Romans 5 verse 3 says, that my suffering produces perseverance. All this time I think I wanted God to eliminate my stress, when what I really needed to do was use that stress to develop my stamina- my ability to deal with stress. Because that is what will ultimately produce my character and therefore- my hope.

That is where I now stand. I stand in hope-

Hope that with God's help, I can better make choices about where to delegate my time and energy-

Hope that I can continue to be helpful and a hard worker..... a provider for my family.... but that with God's help I can face my stress more calmly simply because I have involved him in the process.

I am still on my journey.

It is going to be a long one, but if I continue to take one day at a time. I WILL slowly, but surely, reach my destination- a TRULY Stressed-Less ME!