Thursday, December 31, 2015

Balance in Life


For each of the past 2 or 3 years, I have made time to sit down at the end of the calendar year, reflect on the last 12 months, and think about what I wanted for the next 12 months. From that, I select one single word that I use as my "Word for the Year". I think on that word throughout the year and allow it to help me make purposeful decisions.

This year I have spent at least three days thinking about what it was that I want for myself for the next year. What do I want to change? What do I need from God? What do I need to do in order to achieve my goals? Tonight..... my word finally came.

I was reading Ecclesiastes 3 and thinking about what God told us about time. I had always thought about this particular scripture as just explaining to us that life isn't always what we want. It isn't always laughing, happiness, searching, or love. Tonight I realized that for me, it means much more.

In recent years I have found myself devoting more and more time to career. It isn't just the usual 8 to 3 school day. I bring home lesson plans that need writing, papers that need graded, emails that need responses, and other things that I always think just HAVE to be done at the time.

As I entered into this, my 31st year, I also found myself thinking about and agonizing over whether I should go ahead and retire at the end of this year. After all, there are bills that will go on.... cars that will need repairs.... and one more child who still has 2 years of college and college debt.

As I read this passage I realized two things:

1. I need to create a more balanced use of my time. I need to allow myself to take personal time for my family and for myself. I have allowed myself to get off kilter- devoting too much time to work and being serious. I need to stop beating myself up over taking a bit of time to read a book, go out to eat with my husband, or just sit and watch a television show.

2. I don't have to worry about how retirement will affect me or my finances. If it is time for me to retire, God will provide. He has blessed me with a talent for crafting, crocheting, and sewing. In the past couple of years, he has shown me that I can create things and sell thing to supplement my income. Retirement could provide the opportunity for me to finally go ahead and turn that into a full time side business that can help if my retirement money runs a bit short of the financial need. It could also allow me to do something else that the Lord has in mind for me. He led me into teaching and he can help me to figure out what his plans are for me after retirement.

Because of these realizations, I have decided that my word for 2016 is BALANCE.

As I read the Bible, study, journal, and pray, I am sure that God will help me to find the personal balance that my life so badly needs. As a reminder, I added a small drawing in my journaling Bible, along with a short prayer.



Thursday, November 12, 2015

God Comes Through....... Yet again!


Boy, did I need that verse! I am definitely weary at this point in my week and at this point of the school year. I was just telling someone at school today that I really need what some of my friends call a "mental health day." Actually, what I told him was that I could really use an early snow day, an unexpected electrical outage, OR a mental health day. The only problem is that I am too stubborn to take it.

Everyone talks about how we teachers get sick days. My problem is that I get them and I don't use them. Unless I am so sick that I just can't teach, I am right there in my classroom: pocket full of cough drops, full box of Kleenex on the desk, and a back-up box of sinus medication by my side. A couple of weeks ago, my sweet hubby actually called a sub and scheduled him to come in the next day so I could stay home and recover from a sinus infection that had me under the weather. I texted him back and told him not to come. I wanted to be here for my students and I was willing to suffer through another day. To me, a sick day means that you have to be down and out and unable to do your job.

Right now, as I said, I am just tired. It is a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, we just finished posting midterm grades, and I still have my students' Halloween stories that need to be read and graded.  About a week ago, we repainted our living room and entry. I vowed that I would use this as an opportunity to weed through my baskets and baskets of papers and (mostly) unnecessary things. Each evening, I go home after my 10 hour day, walk in the door, and collapse on the couch, only to sit there and stare at the boxes and baskets that are still overflowing- too tired to do much constructive purging.

Just this morning I was saying, "I need some refreshing! I need to rest! I need to have an energy REBOOT!" Then tonight the Lord came through....

I was sitting in the computer lab with several students, completing my after school services with an enrichment program when I received an email. As I clicked on it, I was thinking, "Just what I need, another meeting, some student with a question, or maybe a parent who needs something." Much to my surprise, it was a notice that I had been selected to receive the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English Middle School Teacher of the Year award.

For several seconds I was skeptical. I searched online to verify that the organization existed, that the lady who had sent the email was with the organization, and that the recognition ceremony dates were accurate. Still being doubtful, I forwarded the email to an instructional leader in our district and asked if she knew anything about it. To my shock, she responded that she had nominated me.

While my body is still physically tired, my spirit is indeed rejuvenated! Knowing that there are actually people out there who see the effort that I put into my job inspires me to continue. God knew what my spirit needed. It wasn't chocolate or flowers. It was that little nudge to say..... You DO make a difference!


Saturday, October 3, 2015

3 John 1:4 

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Over the years, my children have brought me much joy. I have beamed with pride when they received awards for an academic or athletic achievement, laughed when they said or did something silly, and felt a mother's heart full of love as a dirty little hand delivered a fist full of wildflowers carefully picked just for me.

Yet, none of these can compare to the joy I feel when I see one of my children doing God's work. Today was one of those days. I sat in the wooden pew of our small country church watching as my daughter sang for the congregation. It was a simple little song that she had heard on the radio and requested, "Dad, can we learn this one? I would like to sing it at church sometime."

She arrived home late Saturday afternoon, after a particularly grueling day at college. She had just finished a placement test that will be used to determine her admission into the college of nursing. After the hour drive home, she sat down and ate a quick bite and then joined her dad to begin practicing. 2 or 3 times through was all it took. There was no doubt in my mind that she would be ready to sing at today's service.

Later last evening, she sat on the couch with me and introduced me to a blog that she has started. (Apparently, she was inspired by my attempts at a blog and created her own to share the woes of being a college student and her personal growth as a Christian.) As I read through some of her entries, I again felt my heart fill with the joy of knowing that my daughter is living her life for Christ and is already beginning to share with the world how he is blessing her. 

At this point I want to share a link to her blog. I have tried and tried to upload a video of her song, but it just isn't working. If I can get it to work at some point I will edit this post. Feel free to offer some comments and feedback on her blog to encourage her. If you know a college student who might be interested in following her blog, feel free to share the link with them.



Finally! Success!
Here is the video of Kari singing at church.
Hope you all enjoy it and find it a blessing!




Saturday, August 29, 2015

Walking With God.... Literally

Deuteronomy 5:33
Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.


A few weeks ago I went back to my doctor for a follow-up visit. Earlier in the summer he had been concerned because my blood pressure was a bit higher than it should be. The whole thing really surprised me since my blood pressure had always run a little low. The doctor had told me to return just before school started so we could see if there was any change.

The follow-up did not bring good news. My BP was still running high, so I was told to change my diet and exercise. The doctor recommended walking, something that I used to enjoy.

I racked my brain and tried to figure out HOW to fit walking into my daily schedule. I already get up far before the sun does and, with school starting, I would be there until late in the evening. I needed motivation and I needed help. 

Allow me to introduce you to the 2 (or 3) new friends that have helped me along my walking journey.


You thought I meant actual PEOPLE? Well..... there is one other person in that picture above. (An explanation will shortly follow.)

You see, I first needed some accountability. That is why I bought the FitBit. I knew that it would accurately track my steps each day as well as the amount of time I spent engaged in physical activity. It has worked wonders for me! 

I have worn the FitBit for 10 days now. On 9 of those days I actually met and slightly exceeded my goal of 10,000 steps per day. Even a sore ankle didn't stop me. I just wrapped the ankle in an ACE bandage and kept walking on.

The second thing I needed was some encouragement- some type of motivation to keep walking during those times when my body was tired and I felt like stopping. That is where the iPod comes in. I loaded a playlist with every gospel song that I could find on my computer. (Between my daughter and I, we had collected a LARGE number.) I added a good set of earphones that would allow the heavenly tunes to come straight to me- loud and clear.

That brings me to the other person on this journey with me. You can't see him in the picture above, but trust me.... he is there. GOD.... You see, while I walk I pray, I think, I listen to the music, and I allow God to speak to me. He never fails me. When I am feeling tired and my shins are beginning to ache, a tune will come on my random playlist that pushes me to keep on walking and not give up. When I am thinking of one of my children and the struggles they are having, a song will begin playing that lets me know that God is there for them AND for me.

This daily walking isn't always easy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. It is my daily worship time, with God and whatever message he chooses to send me through my earphones. 

So, if you see me out there walking along the halls at school or along the roadside, seemingly lost to the rest of the world, with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step perhaps you can better understand WHY I am so happy amidst the sweat and pain. I strongly recommend this type of daily walk with God....... It has heart benefits in more than one way!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Many Hands Make Light Work


The school year has begun and with it comes many jobs that need to be completed: copying papers, learning how to implement new computer programs, clearing out and moving rooms, making schedule changes..... it all can seem too immense, if you allow it.

My Bible study this morning was from the book of Nehemiah. As I was reading the story in Chapter 3 about how the walls were rebuilt, I was hit with a brainstorm.

In that particular chapter, various groups took a personal responsibility for rebuilding one small portion of the wall. When looking at the whole wall that needed rebuilding, it would have been very easy for them to just throw their hands in the air and say, "It can't be done!" The task before them was immense, but they realized what I have often been told, "Many hands make light work."

It isn't easy to accomplish some tasks; it would be so easy for us to just give up and think that the job lying before us was too large or too difficult to actually be completed. Yet, when we stop and work together, great things can be accomplished: houses get built, documents get written, and programs are begun.

Working together also makes it less likely that you will give up and quit. When you know that other people are counting on you and supporting you, it is much more difficult to walk away from a task at hand. My husband and I have recently begun a diet/exercise plan to try to get a little more physically fit. One of the purchases that we really want to make is to buy Fit Bits for the two of us so that we can challenge one another and others to walk more. My sweet hubby said, "I think I have a better shot at actually doing it if others are doing it with me."

Do you have a personal task that seems overwhelming? Maybe you need to ask someone else to help you. If you can't think of one, try praying for God to send you someone. That might just do the trick!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Drowning.....



Last night, I had a dream. In the dream I was driving down the road when I suddenly encountered water streaming across the surface. For some reason, I kept right on driving through, heedless to the danger.

I felt my car slip to the right and head off the road into the raging water. The car went down, down, down below the surface; yet, I did not feel fear. Instead, I was remarkable calm. It was at that point that I awakened.

I puzzled about the dream-  Why did I head straight on into the water rather than turning around, as I have been taught? Why was I so calm in the midst of danger?

Then, this afternoon, it all became clear.....

I was sitting at home reading some devotionals from my iPhone, when these verses popped out at me:

Isaiah 43: 1-2
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;



    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
 
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.


WOW! I felt like I had been shoved with an elbow in the ribs. This was so much like my dream. With further reading, I saw that the devotional was referring to fear and how it can overwhelm us, but for me, the verses held a different meaning.

This summer I have felt extremely overwhelmed. My father has been ill and has 2 different surgical procedures, my husband has been experiencing heart issues and has been undergoing several tests, and my son is experiencing some "about to enter adulthood" stress and indecision which has caused him to experience high blood pressure. Through it all, I have been trying to be the stalwart, the one who is there for everyone, to the point that I have ignored my own health issues. . At times I have felt like I was there, all alone, trying to be all and do all. This was my own personal flood..... my own raging waters.

Yet, here was God, telling me that he IS here with me. No matter how hard life gets, no matter how high the flood of stress gets, he IS there with me to help me through. I am NOT alone! I have no reason to fear. I am HIS and he will be there. I simply need to remember that and lean on him for strength and support.

Lord, please help me to remember to call on you when times get rough and I feel the floods of life's stresses pouring in on me. Help me to remember that I am not alone and that you will always be there for me. I am your child and you will be my life-vest when the storms begin to rage. As much as the stress weighs on me, you will keep my boat afloat on the waters of life.




Monday, July 6, 2015

Something New

It is hard to believe that a little over 6 weeks ago I was monitoring end of the school year testing. Each day I circled the classroom, almost endlessly, monitoring my students as they took assessments designed to show what they had learned this year. Each evening I would come home and collapse on the couch, resting my feet, my body, and my brain.

It was during one such rest that I discovered something new that I just HAD to try..... Bible art journaling.

What is it?- I could explain it, but I do not think I could do it justice. Instead I will refer you to some of the many websites I discovered via Pinterest and Google.

The first of these is written by Danica: Anatomy of a Bible Art Journal. She sounds a lot like me.

The second website is written by Kristin: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Bible Journaling. I found her blog entry to be a good introduction to the process that she uses when she journals, as well as to her supplies.

There are some beautiful examples of art journal creations online. Just go to Pinterest and do a search for Bible Art Journaling. You will find literally hundreds of BEAUTIFUL blessings! While I cannot see myself coming anywhere close to the techniques and art that these wonderful women have created, I do think that I can use the journaling to help me get closer to the Lord.

I know that some people might feel hesitant about doing some of the artwork in the BIBLE.... I am still struggling a bit myself. As an English teacher, I love communicating with the book that I am reading by underlining or making notes in the margin. Over the past year I have given myself permission to do that in my Bible as well. There aren't many notes yet, but the ones that are written down help document my relationship with God, his promises, and his desire for my life. This quote says it better than I can.....


Think about it..... of all the books that I read, the Bible will be the one that holds the most importance for me and for my life. There is no other author that I would rather have a conversation with than God himself. These art journals can help with that.

I also think that my Bible and all of its entries will be a wonderful legacy to leave behind for my children and whatever grandchildren I may one day have. Through its words and drawings they will surely be able to catch a glimpse into my devotion to God and the role that he played in my life.

Mission number one for me is to find the ideal Journal Bible to begin my journey..... More on that to come soon. Keep watching!