Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Back on Track

Wow! Has it really been months sit I sat down and actually shared my thoughts on this blog? I feel a bit guilty about it actually. I had good intentions, but sometimes life just got in the way and I felt too tired, too busy, or too stressed.

The wonderful thing is ..... it is never too late.

I can get back on track........

I think back to the parable of the Prodigal son. He had wandered away from home, being gone so long that some people might have even forgotten about him. Then he returned home- to find himself welcomed back with open arms, a feast, and a father's heart filled with love.

I can return to a routine, trying to post at least once a week, sharing my heart, my thoughts, and God's message with all of you. I know that God will gladly welcome that- hopefully you will too.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Are You TOO Comfortable?

If you are anything like me, comfort means a lot.

My two kids hate to go shopping for clothes with me. They complain that I dress for comfort too much and constantly try to convince me that it is possible to be BOTH comfortable and stylish. Well, they may be right, but I just haven't found the right mix yet. I will take a good soft pair of well-worn jogging pants and a pullover shirt over a "stylish" outfit any day!

Shoes are another really big hangup of mine. Being a teacher, I am on my feet most of the day. My shoes have to fit me JUST RIGHT.....and they have to have enough support and cushion to help me making it through what is sometimes a 10 hour day. Even then, the first thing I do after walking in the door at home, setting my bag down, and taking my coat off is to kick off whatever shoes I wore that day. When I do find a "good" pair of shoes I will wear them every day until I practically wear them out.

What can I say? Comfort is big for me.....


Can we as Christians get TOO comfortable?

Sometimes we allow ourselves to get into a routine: Sunday morning, dress for church, sit through the sermon, sing the same songs, put the same amount of tithe in the offering each week, read our Bible (when we allow it to fit our routine), and tell a friend, "I'll keep you in my prayers."

It is comfortable; it feels good. We become used to it and we like it because it is what we are used to.

Then comes the Sunday when the sermon touches a bit too close to home, we feel that little tug in our heart telling us that we need to speak with someone about God, or someone asks us to do something for the church that we just aren't sure we are ready to try. These things make us uncomfortable. We sometimes try to ignore those feelings or whatever we are being called to do and just slip back into that comfortable, cushy Christian life that we have been used to.

When we do that, we are not only ignoring the voice of God, but we are also turning our backs on an opportunity for growth. Think about it.... When you were a teenager you may have had those occasional aches or pains in your legs like I did. My mom always called them "growing pains". My muscles were growing, lengthening, and stretching and it caused a little bit of pain. I learned to live with it. It was just a part of growth.

Our Christian life is like that. We have to experience a bit of discomfort if we are to grow as Christians. We have to hear messages that make us think, that cause us to reflect on our own life and where we are in our Christian journey. We have to be willing to accept new leadership roles within the church or step out on faith and share our talents without worrying about our possible feelings of discomfort.

Our true life as a Christian cannot begin until we accept the fact that we NEED to feel a bit of discomfort- it lets us know that we are in new territory, that we are learning something or experiencing something that will help us to continue our own personal growth. God cannot really use us if we allow ourselves to sit there in that same comfy old Christian recliner that we have been in for years. We must push ourselves to the edge of our comfort zone and be prepared to step out of that zone in order to grow and to truly experience the life that God wants us to have!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Throw of Many Colors.....

Joseph had his coat of many colors.....

Genesis 37: 1-3 
1And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

Dolly Parton had her coat of many colors.....

And now.................
My daughter has her "Throw of many colors."

A little over a year ago, my sweet hubby brought home a HUGE yarn stash that he had purchased. There were literally bags and bags of yarn in every color and thickness. I have been trying to work my way through the stash, but I was not having a lot of luck.

Recently, on one of my Pinterest searches I found a pattern for this "scrap afghan". I knew I had found my answer. Over Christmas break I began working on it. The throw or afghan is worked with 3 different pieces of yarn at the same time and a very large hook. As one color of yarn ran out, I would join a new one and just keep crocheting. This causes the colors to blend rather than end abruptly.

Here's a close-up:

The only color that I used throughout the entire thing was the white or cream color. (I had plenty of that.)  My daughter had a great time selecting which color would go into the mix next. When she left home about a week ago to return to college, I had her pick out the next several colors so that I could finish it. Tonight I put in the final stitch and ended. I really should have kept track of just how many skeins or bundles of yarn went into the blanket. I know that it was a lot. With all of that yarn, the throw weighs a total of 6 pounds! 

I sent my daughter a picture of the finished throw, but it really did not do it justice. I can hardly wait to see her reaction when she sees the finished product in person. Hopefully she will know that, just as with Joseph's coat, this was made with love in every stitch. When she is laying under its warm layer, I hope that she can sense the hug that I have stitched within it as I crocheted each and every little loop. 

Oh..... by the way..... That yarn stash? Well, there is still lots left, so I will likely make other things for other people that I know and love.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Year

Isaiah 43: 18-19

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! 
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Here it is- a new year and new beginning. Rather than looking back on the old and what HAS been..... I choose to look forward on the new year.

I sit here with a smile on my face, ready and waiting for whatever the Lord allows to spring up. In Isaiah 43, God tells us, "I am doing a new thing". I trust that he will continue to do new things, here in 2015, thousands of years after he first made that promise.

I often find myself wondering about what choice I should make, what direction I should go, or what I should try to achieve- so I suppose you could say that I, too, find myself wandering in the wilderness. I trust that God will guide me, if I ask him and listen to him. He will make a way for me......

I know that God also told us not to dwell on the past, but I feel that he will understand that I must glance back in order to see from whence I came.....

The last year was often filled with stress, trouble, and turmoil. There were health issues for my family, as well as myself. I have often found myself overwhelmed with work, debt, and pressures of life. I have not had nearly as much time to create and relax as I would have hoped or liked.

Over the past month or so, I have felt that God might be telling me..... "Stella, you need to slow down. Rediscover the joys in life. Take more time for you, for your family, and for me."

Perhaps that is the "new thing"-  Perhaps I am meant to return to some of the joys that I have enjoyed in the past. I am open to that.

Won't you join me in my efforts to learn what God can make possible in this new year? If you, too, want to discover the "new things" that God has planned, would you pray with me?

Dear God,
I thank you for your continued love and guidance in my life. As I stand here, at the beginning of a new year, I am ready and willing for whatever you would have me to do. I know that I can be stubborn, and sometimes I try to make my own way. At those times I would ask you to gently remind me that YOU are there and you know what is best for me. I also know that I sometimes allow life and its pressures to blind me and to overtake my life. At those times I would ask you to do what you need in order to turn my vision back to you and your will. 

I do not know what the new year will bring- but I do know that it will certainly be filled with new experiences, enriched by your love and your presence. You WILL make a way for me in the wilderness of daily life and you WILL provide refreshing streams when I need them most.

Thank you Lord, for your love, your guidance, and your tender touch as I continue throughout this new year!

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.