Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Evolution Revisited

This is it......... This week brings an end to the first year of my fifties. This time last year I was busy trying to get myself in a mindset that would allow me to face this milestone. As a result, I selected "Evolve" as my word for the year. (You can read more about that in this post HERE.)

Before I close the year, I wanted to look back and see what I have accomplished...... How did I evolve?


1. Facing Grey- I did it..... I went the entire year without coloring my hair and...... it really hasn't phased me a whole lot. Every time I went to my hairdresser, she would say, "Are you REALLY not coloring your hair?" At the last visit her daughter asked me the same thing. My response was, "No..... I have earned each and every one of these grey hairs. They are kind of like my war wounds." That may be a bit of an over-exaggeration, but I truly feel that the grey in my hair stands as a symbol that I have been through time, stress, and turmoil and I have survived! (Besides, it doesn't look nearly as bad as I expected. Some people have even pointed out that it looks almost like I have just highlighted my hair.)

2. Becoming a Caretaker- I have always heard that we go through life and the roles change, with the child eventually becoming the parent. This year I have come to realize that this change in my life is quickly approaching. My mother spent an extended amount of time in the hospital and nursing home, and my father has been rushed to the emergency room twice within the last 2 months. Throughout all of this, I have taken on other duties. I have been chauffeur, cook, housekeeper, and liaison between them and their doctor. It has given me a slight taste of what I have to face in the future. This has all been stressful, on them and on me, but we have come through it and I know that I am stronger because of it. There is no doubt that I will continue to be called on to do things that I have typically not done, but I now know that I am strong enough to handle it. I also know that I will not face it alone. Through everything, my husband has been there at my side, allowing me to lean on him for support. More importantly, God has been there, always helping me and providing me support.

3. Rethinking Retirement- I am now in the middle of my thirtieth year of teaching. I have always heard that I need to keep teaching until I am 55. That would require me to teach 34 years- WELL..... technically 33 1/2 years, but I like round numbers. I have always thought that I would do just that.... teach 34 full years. My thinking on this is still evolving. Students have changed, the system has changed, and I have changed. At this point, I truly am not certain that I can do this job for four more years. I may or may not be a teacher for 4 more years; I am praying about it and waiting for God to help me decide.

4. Rediscovered Creativity- This year I have spent a lot of time rediscovering my love for crochet and card making. I find myself constantly surfing Pinterest to find other patterns and ideas that inspire me.  I have sold a few items and, at one point, when I had run out of people to crochet items for, I actually crocheted items and mailed them off to people I knew, just so I could try out patterns. I love being creative and I REALLY love seeing people's reactions to the things that I make.

Yes, this year has been one of rediscovery and evolution for me. 50 hasn't been so bad and I'm ready to see what 51 brings!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

It is the time of the year when we all sit down around the table and give thanks for the many things with which we have been blessed. Televisions shows, newspapers, advertisements, and people everywhere keep talking about how thankful they are, even for the little things.

Yes.... it is Thanksgiving time, so I will do as my ancestors did and pause to give thanks.

1. First of all, I thankful for the Lord above, who saw fit to give mankind a second chance. and sent his son to bear our sins on the cross and rise again, showing us that eternal life with him really is possible. God is there for me every single day and I truly could not survive without him.

2. I am thankful for family- this year even more than most. Watching as my own father and mother suffered illness, injury, and pain has reinforced in me the need to enjoy every day that I have with them. This has been further reinforced as I watched friends lose family members in the blink of an eye. This year has also seen me leaning on my husband's shoulder a bit more than I did in the past and I am so thankful that I have had that support and love. Work and life has not always allowed us to spend a great deal of time together, but that makes the minutes we do share even more special.

3. I am thankful for my children..... God saw fit to bless me with a son and a daughter who are quickly becoming adults. I am grateful that they are young adults who are caring and kind, thinking not only of themselves but of others. I am so blessed with their giving heart- always ready and willing to assist those in need.

4. I am thankful for friends. Without their listening ears, their prayers, their smiling faces, and their words of support life would not be nearly as bright or as much fun.

5. I am thankful that I have the basic needs- food, clothing, shelter. Many people in this world aren't so lucky.

6. I am thankful that, in today's economy, I am one of those people who still has a steady job. Yes, I work long hours, sometimes too long. Yes, there are days when I find myself disappointed, and even upset, by the lack of effort exhibited by many of my students. Yes, there are days when I come home and ask myself, "Do I really have to go back?" Yet, there are also days when I would not trade my job for anything in the world. It is a steady paycheck and it allows me to touch the next generation, possibly affecting not only their intellect, but also their character.

I would like to think that it did not take a legal holiday that is printed on a calendar to bring out the gratitude in us. As for me, I can honestly say that this year I have found myself saying, "Thank you Lord," a bit more frequently. It has been a tough twelve months for me and for my family, but the good Lord has seen us through. He has always been there to hold me up, strengthen me, and remind me that he is always there for me. As the new year begins soon, I hope that I can continue to have that grateful heart- the one that always finds something to be thankful for. I want to pay attention not only to the BIG things, but to those little things.... those tiny split second smiles just when I need them, that extra dollar that I find in the pocket of a forgotten coat, and those people who take an extra second to hold the door open for me.

Won't you join me and try to find something daily that you can be thankful for?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

II Corinthians 1: 8-11

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God,who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

The last few months of my life have been a roller coaster of emotion.

In late July/early August my mother fell and ended up in the hospital. The next few days I traveled back and forth between my home and the hospital. Just as school was ready to start and I was supposed to begin teaching again, Mom was transferred to a local nursing home for continued therapy. I spent my days teaching and my evenings traveling to the nursing home to check in with her before heading home to do my daily paperwork.

As I was dealing with this I also found myself moving my daughter into college to begin her freshman year and my son to his college to begin his junior year. This left me dealing with an empty nest for the first time in 20 years.

My daughter's year has gotten off to a rough start and I have been trying to mother her through phone, text, email, and regular visits. I hate to see her suffering through the pangs of feeling friendless, behind in her classes, and struggling to maintain her high standards of academic achievement. I have often felt helpless, sitting on the other end of a phone wanting so badly to just embrace her and say, "It's going to be ok."

My class load this year has presented its own stresses. This year's groups of students have proven to be a greater challenge than I typically face. Behavior issues, student apathy, and lack of effort seem to be creating more problems for me and for my colleagues and we find ourselves feeling depressed, unsettled, and discouraged much of the time.

Then..... about 2 weeks ago I got an emergency phone call that my father had fallen and cut his face very badly. I rushed to my mother's side and waited. Hours later he returned from the emergency room with at least 23 stitches encircling the outer edge of his right eye. I spent the next 4 days with him, helping to cook for them and cleaning and dressing his wound daily. 

Just as I thought things were getting better I received another phone call Friday telling me that he was being rushed to the emergency room again. I am so glad that it turned out to only be a strained back muscle, nothing worse, but it was another jolt to my already weakened emotional state.

Through all of these challenges I have found myself thinking, "How much more will I have to face?" 

Then I thought of Job.....

He suffered the losses of his sheep, his oxen, his camels, his servants, and his children, and yet he never lost his faith in God. He kept on praising God and thanking him for being there.

These past few weeks I have found myself going to the Lord, again and again: to ask for his strength in dealing with the things that I was facing, to ask for the healing mercies on those who were suffering physically, to ask for strength for my daughter as she tries to find her own way in the new world of college, and to thank him for the many things he has done for myself and my family. 

I have no doubt that there will be continued challenges and stumbling blocks that I find in my path, but I also have no doubt that the Lord will continue to be there for me, if I only call on him. As Paul said, in 2 Corinthians, I have placed my hope in the Lord and my hope will continue to be there no matter what comes my way.

I pray that you can also place your hope in him and trust him to be your guide, your comfort, and your strength as you deal with the things that you face. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Psalms 55:22

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.

The past few days I have found myself silently singing the words to that old standard hymn, "Leave it there, leave it there, Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there; If you trust and never doubt, He will surely bring you out— Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there."  

It has been a rough week. I won't go into it here, but let's just say that I have been facing a lot, praying a lot, and thinking a lot. I was feeling pretty unworthy and stepped on by the world. Those thoughts inevitably ended in even more prayer. I found myself returning, time and time again, to my rock- the one who could take care of everything- the Lord.

Of course, there were people near me telling me, "Don't worry," or "I am here." I know they mean that, but years of living and years of praying have shown me that the ONE SINGLE BEING who can TRULY tell me not to worry is God.

The entire time that I kept praying and praying and turning it all over to God I kept waiting and watching, hoping that I would receive some sign from him- some tangible touch other than what I was feeling inside.

On Friday, I received it.....

I walked into my classroom bright and early at 7 AM, a half hour before students would begin arriving. I set down my bags and logged into my computer. Then I did what I always do when I have a few minutes to prepare for the day- I turned on my iPod. 

There............ coming from the tiny piece of technology and reaching across the room to my heart was this song.....

A smile came to my lips and a single tear rolled down my cheek. That single tear was soon to be followed by more.....

As I was attempting to recover my composure the song ended and this song began....

If there had ever been any doubt, there was none now. God had sent me those 2 songs. He felt the weight of burden that I had been facing and he wanted to assure me that he was there for me!

 As the song continued, I smiled a huge smile, wiped away the tears, and gathered myself together. I was ready for anything! My burden had been cast upon my Lord and he had graciously accepted it, leaving me free to smile, free of care, and ready for whatever the day might bring. 

He can do the same for you...... Go to the Lord in prayer. Tell him what is weighing you down. Tell him what you are facing that you need help with. Then trust him to help carry that burden for you. Keep praying and keep watching. You just might get a sign back from him, just like I did!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

No Failure in God's Eyes

Proverbs 14:23
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.

Titus 2: 7-8
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

This school year has gotten off to a rough start. What can I say? Class sizes are up, the work level has increased, and I am older and less tolerant of bad behaviors.

Recently, after a particularly hard week I was feeling down. I found myself asking, "Why am I not able to reach my students like I used to? Why am I such a failure?" 

Then, as usual, God spoke back to me.....

"You are trying," he said, "with all that you have. The only failure is in just talking about the problem, standing there and waiting for someone else to fix it."

So often, we as Christians feel like failures. Perhaps we have attempted to reach a certain person: praying for them, being a good Christian role model, inviting them to church, and telling them about God's ability to wash away our sins. We have continued for month after month, sometimes even year after year. The person has seemed to listen, but he or she has not responded. 

In a case like this, it is so easy to just give up and say, "I can't do anything else." 

Or perhaps we have seen a gap in our church program or community: a youth group lacking a leader, a Sunday school class that needs a teacher, a program that might assist our community in some way. It is so easy to sit and talk about the problem- but it takes guts to step up to the plate and actually attempt to do something.

God lets us know that our efforts are seen- ALL efforts are seen. We may be trying and trying and trying. We may feel that we are failing or that our time just isn't making a difference..... but God assures us that ALL toil provides profit.

There are going to be weeks when I may not reach all of my students, but I need to try to focus on the one or two whom I was able to teach- that little bit of growth is my profit. I need to remember to continue to strive to be a good role model: speaking kindly, showing personal integrity, and never giving up. 

There are going to be times in life when I feel that I am a failure in my Christian life too, but I need to remember that if I am a model of good works, then those works WILL be rewarded. The only failure is in giving up and standing by..... waiting for someone else to do the job.

Lord, help me remember that I am NOT a failure, so long as I am continuing to try!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

An Empty Nest

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Listen.............. Can you hear that?.................... It is the sound of silence.

I am sitting here at the keyboard listening to every single tap, tap, tap of the keys. The background is filled with the quiet hum of the computer. Little noises like that are standing out to me so much more now that both of my children have flown the nest.

My daughter left on the 12th. Her father and I drover with her to Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky and made sure that she was all settled in what will be her home away from home for the next 4 years. Then on the morning of the 13th, my son loaded his car with clothes and the basics to move back to Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is in his third year. 

That night when I arrived home from work it hit me...... the sound of silence. No television mindlessly talking away, no dishes clanging in the kitchen, no babbling conversations. Since then it hasn't gotten much better. My sweet hubby has a lot of meetings after school, leaving me at home to deal with the silence on my own. I tend to turn on either the radio or the television, just so the noise won't be so deafening.

There is one positive thing that is helping me deal with all of this...... I know that I have raised my children right. They know right from wrong, they know about the Lord, and they know what it means to be a servant for him.  

As a member of the Bellarmine Student Government, my son actually headed back to college 7 days ahead of the usual move-in day. He left early to help prepare bags for the incoming freshman class. He spent 3 days volunteering and bagging planners, pens, and other necessities for hundreds of students. He was tired at the end of the day. (I know, because he actually called to tell us about it.)

Here you can see Keenan in the center, along with some of his fellow SGA members. Those bags on the table and stacked in the background are the ones that he worked tirelessly to prepare.

Kari actually headed out early to college also. As a member of the cross country team, she was on campus undergoing training for a full week before her fellow freshmen. She has already had two opportunities to do community service.

The first came when she and her fellow team members headed to a christian camp near the college to assist with cleanup and painting. The coach posted a photo of them after they were finished.

Then, last night, Kari posted this photo on Facebook,

along with the following words: 

Today I was blessed to do service at a little United Methodist place called the Henderson Settlement in Bell County, KY. The view from the hill was incredible so I thought I would share a picture.

I am so proud of both of my children. I know that my husband and I have prepared them for whatever may come their way, and that the Lord is always right there by their side. I also know that, just like the prodigal son, they will return home ....... when they get hungry for some good home cooking, when they need more money, or when they just need to feel the comforts of home. Until then, I can deal with a little silence.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Showers of Blessings

Ezekiel 34:26
And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.

The past week has been filled with turmoil, anxiety, and fear, but God has seen me through it and has helped renew my faith.

On July 25, my 75 year old mother fell. She had stepped up just one step and somehow slipped, taking a tumble. At the time, the only apparent injury was a pop knot on the back of her head which had not even broken the skin. For the next 3 days she continued to walk and function as she would have normally. I escorted her to the doctor where they did x-rays and CT scans and treated her arthritic knees with steroid shots. Then came Tuesday...

By Tuesday night Mom could not even use a walker. She was moving only 2 or 3 steps and her legs would give out. She had stopped eating and drinking. By Wednesday she was spending her day lying on the couch, sleeping much of the time. By Thursday we knew that it was time for further action. We took her back to her doctor, she was diagnosed with a compression fracture in her lower lumbar area, and she was admitted to a nearby hospital.

Since Thursday it has been an uphill battle: xrays, ultrasounds, IV drips, antibiotics, and scans. She was dehydrated, her sugar was high, her potassium was high, and her blood pressure was low. Once the blood pressure got regulated they began to look at every nook and cranny to see what else might be wrong. 

Sunday morning we arrived at the hospital to find that the orthopedic doctor was there. He took us to the hallway and told us that the full body scan had shown something in her throat (likely swelling or infection) and quote "something big" in her left hip. He then asked us if she had ever had cancer. 

It was at that point that fear set in. I heard the big C word and immediately began praying that her hip was broken. That I could deal with. All day Sunday I kept uttering prayers: prayers for healing mercy, prayers for less pain, prayers for God's will, and prayers for personal strength to deal with whatever came.

We got word Sunday night that they were doing an MRI to see what was going on, but Monday morning I was supposed to report back to work. I went to school early and worked in my room, like a dutiful teacher. Then, just before our meeting was to start, I went to see the principal. He was so gracious and kind. He could see that I was upset and really needed to be with Mom, so he sent me on my way.

I arrived at the hospital to learn that...... Mom was being released! The MRI had come back negative. There was NOTHING on her hip: no breaks, no fractures, no apparent lesions or cancer. When I told my husband about it he said, "But what about the scan?" I responded, "Either it was just a shadow or God took care of it." We began the process of getting Mom admitted to a nearby nursing home so she could receive therapy to get her back on her feet. Yesterday, she was actually released.

After getting Mom settled in her room and visiting awhile, I got into my car and headed home.Several miles out of town a gentle shower started to fall-

As the drops of rain gently hit the windshield of the car and the road ahead of me, I found myself mentally singing "Showers of blessing". My heart leaped for joy and I even had a second's worth of temptation to stop the car and run through the rain as I had when I was a child.

I began praising God and thanking him for his healing mercies, his strength, and his love. Just then the shower stopped and the sun peeked through the clouds. I knew that God had, once again, heard my prayer!