Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sink the Sub - I Was the Target Substitute Teacher

My last day to substitute teach in the local city schools I became the target of the upper elementary game "Sink the Sub." These students were quite astute at playing and I am certain many subs lay in their graveyard of the sea of humans they have hit. A fourth grade class should not be such a big deal for a 51 year old. (Think again!)

This should come with every Substitute Folder

Know the Dangers

I deliberately knew what I was getting into. I chose to take to the waters of this dangerous sea. Only a month prior I worked half-day for a new teacher--an energetic, hardworking, determined twenty year old that was facing the turbulent waters of challenging students who themselves had been through their own individual wars in life. The first time I saw her I gave her a big hug; I wanted to be an encourager to her; she had enough behavior issues in her class of 24 that could make tsunami waves. She had to learn how to sail in rough waters and to remain the captain of her crew. And I was proud for her sticking in and refusing to be tossed overboard.

So when I received a text from her to take on a full-day, I agree knowing what I was getting into. Being a certified teacher myself, I had the skills to tackle any lesson plans I would be given and after teaching my own children K-12 grade though homeschool I had a wide range of subject matter knowledge. Also, I am compassionate. I love people, including children. I want them to be the best they can be, to succeed in life and to learn all they can to be the unique person they were created to be. And oddly, I really do LOVE to teach.

I deliberately came prepared with an art project and purchased the supplies of black paper, paint trays and q-tips to use with acrylic paint that I owned. I wanted to let the class know that we had a fun activity reward if we could successful get through the days work.

Have a Zillion Back Up Plans

All was basically smooth waters until intervention rotation began. Some of my students left and in walked a handful of new students who were sorted by reading level. The students entering my class gave me no problems. However, for a one hour period, I was to lead these students through a two page reading assignment on a copied handout that had four questions at the end. We finished in thirty minutes. It is great to get work accomplished, but it can bring the sharks circling if the sub's lesson plans do not include extra work. I had none.

The complication of having students that are at a specific reading level is that as a substitute teacher I have no idea what the students can and can't do. I don't know how to gear a thirty minute "out of the hat" reading plan for them or coming up with a reading lesson without a reading book. Sure, now that I am out of the shark tank, I can know think of hundreds of ways we could have tackled that two page handout creatively, but that is where I began to gasp for air. I was stumped, and the students smelt the tinge of red blood rise to the surface. That is all it took for their hunger to play "Sink the Sub" to unleash.

I stalled them through the thirty minutes and successfully made it through math intervention with a mixed group of students from all of the fourth grade classes. We tackled long division and I had enough work to keep them plugging along. But by the time my original class returned, I was still shaken and word must have gone out because the jabs and volleys of toying with the teacher were in full force. By the time I had the class lined up for lunch I was hold back tears and filled with doubts of my capability to ever had thought I could take on this challenge. I had lost emotional control of the class.

Bullying Need to Include How Students Treat Teachers

Recognize The Kind of Leadership

Returning to my class, I passed the principals office and through tears asked if I could speak to her. Unfortunately, she was a stern, slab of rock. Emotionless and undaunted by my tears, she said she would come to my class after lunch. Without one word of kindness, compassion or encouragement, she "off with my head" told me that if I couldn't handle the class she would sit in it the rest of the afternoon. Rattled I walked down the hall to my classroom, opened the door and intentionally made sure it locked behind me. Fragile, I pulled my lunch from the frig and headed to the teacher's desk to cry between bites of food. The twenty minutes felt more like two. I pulled myself up as composed as I could muster and headed to the cafeteria to pick up my class.

Thankfully, as I led them out I ran into the dynamic, assistant principal. He knows each and every student personally because he is driven by a desire to see each child succeed. I shared with him that I was having a rough day and he walked with me back to the class. Like a pro, he came to my rescue in a way that elevated my stature in front of the class. He honored me before the students. Next, he spoke to the children and asked them to self-access if they had acted appropriately today. He told the students who felt they had to stand by their desk. Amazingly, about half of the class stood, and the others properly knew they had not and honestly judged themselves. As he was carefully instructing them on behavior, the stonewall principal arrived.

She lectured the class, and indirectly me, on the reputation of the school and how she did not want me --whom she called a visitor that traveled around through out the city schools--to go talking about what a bad class and school they had. After her "cover my ass" performance, she exited and was never seen again.

I thanked the assistant principal and proceeded to make it through the rest of the day. We had a lot of ground to cover prepping for two test the following day. So together as a class we plowed through a History and Science review sheet. Fortunately, earlier that day I realized the teacher did not leave me the answer key so I asked the lead fourth grade teacher for it. I would have certainly drowned trying to find the answers in the chapters of the books. Yet by the end of the day I was still shaken to the core. I didn't sink, I floated on a rescue raft thrown out by the assistant principal but I was walking unsteady. I tried to tidy up the room and leave an honest note to the regular teacher about the day.

We Teach and Sub Because We Love Students - Believe it or Not.

Ready Yourself to Return to the Seas

Even though my confidence is shaken in my ability to handle any class situation, I have not fully raised up the white flag.

What I learned from the experience is that long ago, about twenty years ago, I realize now that I had a "stonewall" principal. Being a newbie teacher I didn't know a gentle, compassionate supporter from a rigid, slick head, but now I do. I can see clearly why my first year teaching was so difficult. I didn't have the helping arm of an administrator that knew her students/teacher or even cared to know their situations. I had a master of a cargo ship that was aiming on taking to the high seas to rise up in the ranks as far as she could go.

You see there are two kinds of leaders. One keeps at a safe distance and barks out expectations on how to sail. The other gets into the turbulent, rocking boat and helps guide you through the icebergs or sandbars with you, for a while, until you are back in stable waters. Anybody can be the first kind of leader, but it take a unique, special soul to be the second. Thank God I was blessed with one of each to learn what God wanted to show me.

It is about time for me to check the substitute calendar for new assignments for 2015. I am grateful that I write, because I am able to use it to talk myself through difficult situations, and maybe in turn it will help one or two other daring souls who substitute teach.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Is Jesus Enough? At Christmas and throughout the Year

Good tidings to you and all of your kin! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Joy to the World and Goodwill to all men! Peace on Earth! These are cheery exclamations we read and hear at this time of the year. And when I begin to write from my heart I feel like I am more like the Prophet Jeremiah writing a Book of Lamentations. No wonder I don't have the most popular blog and a thriving following of people longing to return to what deep, dark insight I will be sharing today. Alas, I am who I am and I must be true to that, so here I share for all who can bear to endure and maybe glean some insight to their own heart and thoughts of others.

Prayer Time

In my meager attempt to return to practicing being in the presence of God, I lightly pressed my hands upon my face as I laid in bed and turned my thoughts to Him. On Christmas Eve, at 9 a.m. my house was already active with noise. So I really had to work on concentrating, focusing myself on being with God. Hearing my teen son running up and down the steps, my husband putting dishes up in the kitchen, and of course, the TV was already on in the Living Room, I pressed in and through the distractions. I know if I get up, I will never come back to prayer with Him. I will see everything that is calling my name to be done and with the noisiness of an active household, I sadly won't hear His voice.

So as my thought meandered in His presence, particularly on Christmas Eve, I reflected about family ties. Before I went to bed last light I noticed some wedding pictures of families that I know through church. Like all the wedding pictures I see, so many people surround the couple rejoicing. The reception is very festive and in a barn (as is so common in 2014). There is great laughter with dancing, and I can tell that a very fun time was had by everyone. When I clicked through theses photos, I saw a family picture that included extended family, like the size you would see at a family reunion. In a beautiful outdoor landscape, about 75 people young and old stood with the couple in their wedding attire. It was a lovely photo and one not often taken at weddings that probably should be taken regularly.

Extended Families

Looking at the large family I had the same feeling I get so many other times when I see large, family-gathering photos; I feel a sorrow knowing my children will not have a wedding like that or a family photo like that. All throughout their life, it has only been my husband and myself that are their family. We alone attend their celebrations and milestones of life. I thought about how the bride and groom have sides for sitting and know our side would be very thin. At times of weddings and holidays, our thoughts, of course, turn to extended family. I think about what could be and what is. We can live all year as a little foursome but when extended family parties begin on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we are still a foursome. (We use to be five but my oldest son has chosen to not be part of his family).

In writing that last note in the parenthesis, I wonder if you my reader thinks what on earth is wrong with us that we are only four and have even "lost" our oldest son. For this article post, it is too complicated to explain the details.

I just saw someone's holiday photo entitled "Full driveway = Full hearts" and it tugged at my heart. It is what happens when we drive around and see a house that has cars all lined up in the driveway and down the street. We know someone is having a holiday gathering of family. Truly, I am happy for them but at the same time I feel a loss in my heart. I am wrong to be honest? I rejoice with my friends who have family coming home, but at the same time I hurt and know others who heart because someone special will be missing. That feeling of someone or something missing has been a permanent part of my children's life, they know friends have been gatherings of family and they do not. We have always tried to make the best of simply being together and sharing the time we have with each other in our own unelaborated way.

But in prayer today I heard God say, "Is Jesus Enough?"

The truth is we have no presents under our tree and the stockings at this moment are empty. We went on a Christmas trip and spent our money for gifts on spending time with each other. So the question is very poignant this year, "Is Jesus Enough?"

If in our family photo we have Jesus, is that enough to make up for all the extended family that are not standing side by side smiling and supporting the young couple. "Is Jesus Enough?"

At our Christmas gathering in our home, when it is just the four of us, "Is Jesus Enough?"

For me and my sweet four, He is more than enough! Jesus being the essence of our life is what we aim for in all we do, in our choices of how we shall live.

A simplified life is what I have always admired and this Christmas we could not be more simplified. We will miss my oldest son, and it will feel odd not opening presents, but the truth is "Jesus" is all we need and want. I am grateful to say, that we get to experience a Christmas this year that is totally focused on Jesus. We didn't plan it that way but maybe God planned it for us. I won't know what it will end up being like until it is over, but I trust it will be full and satisfying.

May you have a blessed holiday together with your family and may Jesus be in the center of your Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Heartache at Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time! So many people enjoy it as their favorite holiday of the year. Some decorate each room of their home so beautiful. Americans even have nationwide contest for who has the best lighted property. People go through so much planning to make everything special.

And still, many others hurt deeply during Christmas.

The holiday highlights brokenness in family relationships; it brings the grief of those lost to death; it presents several occasions where individuals who do not spend much time together must share gifts, food and time. Holiday parties can be awkward and feel forced.

"Hallmark vs. Reality" 

Most people have a desire to have a "Hallmark" Christmas where even if things are not perfect, in the end everything works out for the best and love prevails in the most magical way possible. Of course, some families really do experience wonderful Christmases. They actually know and love each other deeply. They have meaningful holiday gatherings and enjoy deepening relationships together. These families are truly, blessed richly.

For the majority, reality clashes with expectations. Gifts are rarely our heart desires. Frankly, we often open up something that we never would pick out in a million years for ourselves and are saddened that dreams did not come true. We thank the giver and think about how to make it through the small talk to get through another family gathering without anyone getting upset. Some people don't even have gifts to open. They smile and act like it doesn't matter but it doesn't seem right and hurts. Even families that have tons of presents under the tree, more than anyone could imagine, still struggle with relationships that are strained. It seems no matter how hard someone can plan, people cannot be satisfied and feelings get hurt often by little comments, jabs or avoidances.

Truly we are a mess! Aren't we?

I shared the deep, secret reality of my Christmas feelings this year in this post, No Home For Christmas. It doesn't tell everything I am experiencing but it shares a lot; I sometimes wonder if I shared more than I should have. My filter for what to expose is not very strong. It is something I am still learning. It is my heartache this Christmas that my oldest son is choosing to not spend it with us because we disagree on life issues. As a mother, I feel a whole in my heart, but I know Jesus can fill all holes and heal all heartaches. This doesn't mean the relationship will be solved but it means that He will walk with me through it. I will not be alone in my pain.

As a Christian, I understand that Christmas is not about the tree, lights, wreaths, presents or cards. Oddly enough, it is not even about spending time with family and friends.

Christmas is a Holy Day that comes once every year to remember that Jesus entered this world as a baby to become our Savior so that we could be permanently reconciled to God. 

Christmas is a time to reflect on our relationship with Christ, a time to thank Him for lowering Himself from being all God to become all man, knowing that he would grow up to die for the penalty of our sins on the cross, so that we might no longer be separated from God.

Christmas actually takes place during or around the Jewish season of Hanukkah that celebrates the oil that miraculously did not go out giving the Jews the light they needed during the time of Maccabees. During the season of Hanukkah, Mary became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, while she was a virgin. (If you want to consider more about Mary carrying Jesus, you might want to read Baby in the Womb.) She became the host of Emanuel - God physically with us. During this festival of lights, the Light of the World entered the physical realm as a baby who would be called Jesus; He is the only begotten son of God.

We actually are celebrating the provision of God Himself--how He gave Himself to save us from our sins. 

We are celebrating the ministry of reconciliation: Jesus entered the world to save us from our sins, to give us eternal life, to provide a way for our own bodies to become a dwelling temple for God, the Holy Spirit. Like Mary, God lives within each of us who receive Jesus as the Lord of our life and Savior from our sins. We are separated from the world and unto God, apart from the world but together with God.

Christmas should be a time of reconciliation, a time to rejoice that because of Him we can forgive others who have caused us heartache, just as God has forgiven us of every sin we ever committed or will yet commit.

Christmas is a time to examine ourselves and to let His Holy Spirit to examine our spirt to see if their is anything within us that he wants us to change or address. You might enjoy reading "Preparing Your Heart for Christmas."

Christmas is a day to soak up the presence of God, to become filled up and overflowing with the love of God, to be thankful for all He has done and continues to do and to rest in Hope of knowing that HE  reigns and is in control, even though the world is spinning into evil and despair. He is the contrast to everything counterfeit being offered by marketers during this holiday that is suppose to bring joy, peace and goodwill to all men.

Jesus! He can't be put in a box. He isn't found in a stocking or under a beautifully decorated tree. He gives Himself as the eternal gift that never fails, empties, breaks, goes out of style or becomes unnecessary. He is a gift that is received once but that continues to supply all of our needs, that heals our hurts, that binds our brokenness, and that brings us into a state of becoming everything we were originally created to become. He is the gift that is perfect for everyone. He is not a quick fix, but a lifelong companion, a friend that never falters, and a person that is always with us.

So whatever heartache you might be bearing this Christmas, I invite you to receive Jesus, to know Him as Lord of your life and Savior of your sins. He is Christ! God's balm given to everyone in the world who will receive Him.

You might not get a "Hallmark" type of Christmas, but you have the potential for something better! So if you find yourself hurting this Christmas, turn to Christ and let Him be everything you need, let Him become the desire of your heart. See that you can really find peace and joy and love!

This is my prayer for myself, my family and for you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

He Calms The Storm

At my home church on Sunday morning, we have been going verse by verse through The Gospel Book of Matthew. The apostle and author, Matthew, is teaching us that Jesus is God in Chapter 1 - 9. Jesus begins ministering by healing the sick. And just after he teaches on the cost of discipleship, he gets into a boat and his disciples follow him.

He Calms The Storm
(Storm by NicolasEariste on Deviantart)

Let's take this up in Matthew 8:24:
And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves. But He [Jesus] was asleep. Then His dispels cam to Him and awoke Him saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" 
 But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

Old Testament Teaching

This morning as I was cleaning the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher, and fixing my morning coffee, I put on a CD of Psalms which is read with the background of orchestral music. When the reader got to Psalm 107, I heard something familiar to the teaching in Matthew but did not realize it was also in the Old Testament Psalms. Look at Psalm 107 beginning in verse 21:
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.
Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens; They go down again to the depths: Their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and they are at their wits' end.
Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses.
He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

A Lesson and Solution

The disciples marveled that Jesus calmed the seas because they knew that God was the One who had the ability to calm the storm and command the waters. No wonder Jesus questioned the size of his disciples faith. Didn't they understand yet that HE was God? Matthew records this occurrence because it is a time in Jesus' ministry that He demonstrates that He is God! Only God can calm the storm of the sea and, likewise as the psalmist writes, only God can calm the distressful storms of our soul.

How many of us live a life of being tossed, reeled to and fro, staggering from one situation to the next like a drunken man and finally coming to our wits' end?

But a great lesson and solution is told within the Old Testament Psalm! Re-read Ps 107: 28-29:
Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. 
He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

What are you waiting for? 

Are you not yet at your wits' end? Are you waiting for your life (your work, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your soul) to be tattered even more in the storms?

Jesus is waiting for you to cry out to Him. Jesus is wanting to act on your behalf. He is ready, but the question is "are you"? Are you willing to humble yourself and cry out in your distress, so that he can calm the sea of your melting soul?

If you do, He will calm the storm that is raging, and as you allow and listen, He will guide you step by step.  Crying out to Jesus is not a quick fix. It is a genuine desire for God to take control of your life. It is yielding to God's way. You must be ready to no longer live in sin. You must be willing to obey. Life in Christ is not easy, but it is better, because you will be in God's protection and blessing.

My heart prayer is that for as many that are willing to open their heart to hear God, that they will bow down to Him and receive abundant life, a life in Him that can sustain you through the storms. When He calms the storm in your soul, the outer storms of life do not so easily affect you. In Him, you are shielded and able to rejoice in Him regardless of your circumstances.

He Calms you! (By NicolasEvariste on Deviantart)

Remember: If you cry out to Him, He calms the storm.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Are Love Letters Real?

Dating is so hard! Do love letters complicate it? Watching my children experience dating relationships, I can really see the strong benefits of waiting to find your mate when you are ready to marry. We always taught our children this but "courtship" is so antiquated.

To us, "Ready to marry" means you are financially stable enough to support a wife and begin a family. Of course, no one is ever that ready so it means you have a steady job, a means of support. This is the ideal, not the one and only standard.

What to Say in Love Letters (love letters by Lizkit50 on deviant art)

My husband and I got married at 21; we have been married for 30 years. We had no money; well, $300 if you count the money we got as marriage gifts. We had no jobs. I had recently graduated as an LPN (licensed practical nurse) preparing to support my husband through college. We moved to a new city, Nashville, TN, as a newlywed couple. I still have the first groceries receipt that took a little over a third of our wealth. We had no staples: not a broom, mop or spices. We needed it all.

We rented a brand new one bedroom apt; it was a very nice way to start our married life together. I definitely did not marry for money. I married my dearest friend in the world; he is still that today. Through all the ups and downs life brings, he has been stable and steadfast in his unconditional love. I can guarantee you that true commitment is better for a marriage than $30,000 put away in the bank and a well-paying job.

I laugh at my earlier statement that a person needs to be "ready to marry" that is what my husband said about children; he kept saying we needed to be financially ready to have children. So we waited 10 years until we both were finished putting each other through college. I am glad to have my degree. I know we have been blessed financially by him have his two degrees (that is another story). But of course we were never "ready to have children." So what does all this have to do with love letters?

Although I love to write, I never felt compelled to write a love letter. I barely like to write in cards. It is not that I do not love. It is just that love is an action expressed through our daily communications and our behavior; it is not words on a piece of paper. I have written a few letters to my husband in our 30 years of marriage, but it has been at times when I have talked until I am exhausted and I still think he is not hearing me. So I put my words on paper, so he can reflect on them without my tone of voice or poor timing, hoping he can hear that way.

Also, through the years, I have also jotted down quick, little, sticky-type notes to my husband and children in surprise places to build them up or to say I love you, but these have not been long letters of declarations of my devotion.

I look at a love letter one of my children received from a person they dated. Both of my children who have dated have a least one of these. In the letters are an overwhelming promise of forever love: "I will always be there for you," "I will support you through everything in life," "you are truly the man for me," and "you are my dream." But when the relationship breaks up, a person is left with a piece of paper of empty promises. The words were heart-felt when written I am sure, but without the right timing of the ability to make a commitment to marriage I think they are premature.

Love letters during dating are a slice in a a time of life. A way a person feels about another in that moment. They are genuine, but usually not permanent states of commitment.

This is why I think we need to be very careful about relationships, particularly "love relationships." We can say a lot of things we feel without really thinking about the weight of the words or the followthrough of our commitments.

The Bible says we need to let our yes be yes and our no be no; we are to follow through with commitments which are in many ways vows we make to another. When we say we are going to do something we really need to think deeply and make sure we really can honor our words.

Maybe love letters need to be more general, like "you make me happy," "I smile when I think about you," "I think you are amazing," or "I enjoy spending time with you." These are also some of the words written in my child's love letter. These are statements of the present time and valid for that moment. Until one is committed to lifelong marriage, love letters are better to not contain promises that will not likely be kept. This way they can always be an encouragement letter, even read 10 years later.

"I love you" is true, but no one can foretell the future to know what shape that love will take. Sometimes the best way we can love a person is to let them go. Of course, no one would write that in an early love letter but in maturity it is a reality of love that does not enable or hold back.

These are simply my thoughts. Feel free to share yours.

You might also enjoy these posts:

Do You Love Unconditionally?
Marriage Is Hard Work
I Choose to Love

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When To Stop Talking

I have a serious problem. I don't know when to stop talking, and I cross many lines of comfortability for other people.

I have always noticed I have had a relationship problem. I figured it was due to my abusive childhood and not learning developmentally how to properly relate to people. I never blamed my past or my parents. It was more of something that I accepted as one of the many side effects of my terrible childhood; I thought something hardwired into my brain that I had not yet learned to change. And this probably is true, but God made our brain malleable. You can teach an old dog new tricks! You can also grow new brain cells and habitual pathways or lack of them, as the case may be.

But, I like most people had something blocking me. You see, it is very hard to learn to change something you can't identify.

I notice the glassed over eyes or ones that dart beyond my head and know that the person I am speaking to either needs to be doing something else, would rather be doing something else, cannot relate, is not interested or has for some reason disengaged. Yet, instead of thinking of trying to find a quick exit statement and moving on, I feel compelled to hang on, to somehow find a way to reconnect or to establish a connection. It is like something is broken. I sense it. And I am inwardly urged to fix it.

The funny thing is I am not a fixer. At least I don't perceive myself as one. Others might.

Therefore, I googled "How do you know when to stop talking" and found a post, Six Signs You Need to Stop Talking, by Joyce Meyer. As I read the article, I felt nailed and a pain grew in the pit of my stomach. Of all of the six, this is the one that resonated the most:

"You’re Self-Inflated

We like to boast about what we’ve done, what we can do, and what we’re going to do. If we’re not careful, we can even take credit for things God did!
Everything we do, we should do it as unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:23) I don’t think we can even begin to know what God would do for us and the things He would allow us to participate in if we would learn to keep our successes a secret between us and God, unless He specifically gives us permission to share them."
OUCH! It hurts when you see "ugly" in yourself. My poor close friends! How do they put up with me? I need to be talking to God more and asking Him, "Is this something you want me to share for your testimony and glory or is it something I want to say for me to get a pat on the back?" I feel pierced in the heart. I know that feeling must be shame. God does not want me to be shamed. He wants me to know true guilt, be convicted of sin, confess it and be forgiven by Him. Therefore, I have uncovered something I must confess and be cleansed of. It will be a process. And in the end, it will be good for me and others, especially people I speak to in the future.
But this was not the only one. 
The other one I identified with was:

"You’re Criticizing Somebody

Picture this. Someone says or does something you think they shouldn’t have done and all of a sudden, you’ve got about a hundred opinions about them that you want to talk about!
First Thessalonians 4:9 says, “But concerning brotherly love [for all other Christians], you have no need to have anyone write you, for you yourselves have been [personally] taught by God to love one another” (AMP).
In other words, sharing your critical opinions about other people is always a mistake. We need to cover one another with love, instead of uncovering their weaknesses and pointing out their flaws."
UGH! This feels like an arrow pressed into my heart. I can remember a time today that I was guilty of this one. Just saying that makes my right arm tighten and get heavy. I am so sensitive in my body. I feel deeply. While spending many years in brain-based therapy, I learned a lot about how to read my own flesh and how to know when something was wrong. As I type this, my heart beats harder and the grip around my arm is tighter. Yet, I will press through as I did earlier. 
God does not want me to be overwhelmed by shame. Many people say these are the signs of anxiety: a tightened arm, a heavy heart, or a pain in the body. But I know I am not anxious right now. I am guilty. I am ashamed. I am embarrassed to know that I met someone new today and spoke wrongly about someone else that I did not even know. I said some unkind words. I made a judgement about her, mumbled some ugly remarks that I definitely would not want heard on the loudspeakers at the event. 
Oh, God forgive me. 
I was at an event for the community around our church and I said something mean in a laughing way to a church member I had just met. I triple sinned! Once against God, once against the dear lady I just met and once against the lady from our community. I confess. I was that snooty, hypercritical church lady everyone--including myself--detests.
Boy! I never realized how much trouble--sin--my mouth causes. Maybe this is why some of the most godly people are quiet, I reflect. 
As I take in a deep breath, I know I am a work in progress; God is completing me. I rolled off His potter's wheel, fell into the grass, got some rocks and sticks pressed into my clay and I am all messed up. 
As a Christian, I am grateful to have a Father that when I look toward Him in confession, eyes bowed low, I know when I look back up into His eyes, He still delights in me. It just doesn't make sense, but it is true. He love that much!
Father, forgive me for falling so short, for using my mouth to tear down, for speaking highly of myself and lowly of others and for not talking to you more than I talk to others. 
I am not all bad. God reminds me of a few of the highlights of the day to lift me up but I am going to keep them between me and Him because I am practicing not being self-inflated. Did I just self-inflate by saying that? I wonder.
I told you I was a mess!
Thanks for reading. Until the next time, be blessed, turn to God in your need. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Obedience, Disobedience - Depends on your Worldview - 21st Century Parenting

What is obedience? This answer depends on your Worldview. This is an issue my husband and I have been reassessing as our children grow into adults. We are reflecting on our own choices and experiencing the consequences. We are also learning to improve our own choices to be better parents.

The the big questions that most people have pondered at some time in their life are: Who gets to decide? Who makes up the guidelines, the rules, the moral code? Who decides what is right or wrong?

Even the atheist or agnostic has decided on some kind of base system of a moral code, such as:

It is wrong to kill your neighbor.
It is wrong to walk up to a person and take what is his.
It is wrong to make up lies to defame a person, to spread false rumors and damaging gossip.
It is wrong to have sex with your child, your relative.

Almost everyone in a society of civilized people can agree on these. They seem fair to all.

But beyond this, the rules of wrong are harder to categorize. Most people in our American society believe that a person has a freewill and, thereby, a right to choose their own course in life -- and, indeed, they do. God created all humans with freewill. Yet, sadly, all humans do not know they were created by God this way. And just as sad, some who do know that they were created by God with freewill misuse this gift.

As a parent with children becoming adults we have been learning in a deeper way how to release our children to God and let them develop their own answers to these big questions. This does not happen without growing pains in our own heart.

Our Affect on Others

No one lives in a vacuum. The act of our will has a ripple effects on others. We are all in relationship to others. If I take all of something to indulge, then nothing is left for the next person. If I play an acoustical, music instrument very loud, then everyone within hearing distance is affected. If a parent uses drugs or alcohol, the family's finances are affected; and if the parent can't handle liquor, is addicted or abusive, other people are drastically hurt.

In the same way, children can also have a big effect on their family. The consequences to their actions rebound throughout the family. As a parent, we are learning to limit the negative consequences of one child's own choices on the rest of the family, especially to the other siblings. It is our responsibility to do what is within our power for the good of everyone in the family.

While all actions have consequences, people don't often realize that thoughts can have consequences, also. This is because our mind is the birthing place of future actions. The Bible teaches us to take captive every thought and bring it to God. Allowing our mind to be examined by God is a beginning point to changing our actions. The consequences to our thoughts are not immediate. Usually they can be felt once our thoughts are brought forth into actions.

Most people want to ignore the fact that their actions have consequences; they want to receive the positives in life regardless of what they do or do not do. For example, people want to eat regardless of whether they work or not. This is a pretty new concept that eating is considered a right, not a benefit of work. People are dependent upon others for too long of a time--whether it is children in a home or 'the poor' in a society. A child's dependence on his parents needs to grow smaller as a person ages. A teenager should be developing strong independence and thinking skills. While a parent may still needs to coach their child into their 20s, a child should not be rescued from the consequences of their actions.

While we gave our children a lot of independence in making choices to become the person God created to be, we did not require enough responsibility from them. This is something we have had to learn the hard way.

Entitlement Versus Empowerment

The desire to fulfill basic needs has--since the beginning of mankind--been the motivating catalyst in the structure of society, even in the small "institution" of a family. When a child is first born, all of his needs must be met by others. Detrimentally, in our current society, people expect others to meet most of their needs for decades--even for generations. Food, clothing, shelter and protection from harm are the baseline of needs. Gradually, even a child should be expected to become responsible, helpful, respectful and industrious. It is important for humans to learn at a very young age that they are not to live dependent upon others, but instead that their own actions alter the outcomes in their life.

Entitlement is destroying our society. And, it begins in the home. I am guilty for not installing a strong, work ethic in my children. I focused more on being a provider and a protector then teaching my children to be empowered by receiving the consequences of their choices.

Cause and Effect

A person is empowered when they are taught that their actions are the cause that creates an outcome.

 God instituted this principle with the first two children He created. Before disobedience ever was part of the world and its negative consequences had occurred, He gave his children work to do. God works and knows that work is a meaningful part of living. We have separated the concept of work to be "bad" and play to be "good. In learning about child development during college, I was taught that play was children's work. Indeed, children do learn a lot about life through playtime, but they also need to be given meaningful responsibilities. If a child is idle, he literally shrivels up not only physically becoming atrophic but also emotionally developing detachment: a flat, lifeless psychological affect. Every human was created for a purpose, discovering it is the key to finding personal meaning in life.

God also instituted a very simple rule of warning his two children not to take the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He wanted them to be innocent of evil and to only bask in goodness. It is a parents' heart to be like God; we want to protect our children from the harms of evil as long as we can. We know some actions and choices have painful consequences, and therefore, we want to prevent as much pain in our precious children as possible. It is for this reason alone that a good parent sets up rules. Depending on one's worldview, a parent will determine which rules should be enforced. 

Holy Standard

Believers, followers of Jesus Christ, have a distinct worldview; they live by the standards set forth by God to protect his children from the harmful consequences of evil. When we obey God, He can funnel blessings through us so that we can in turn bless others. BUT when we choose to not obey God (His basic standards written in the Bible), we will receive the negative consequences. Christian parents will come to a point in childrearing that they must decide if they love God more than their own child. At first, that can sound cold or harsh, but when big decisions must be made on how to respond to actions of a child, a Christian parent has to determine if God's standards of holiness are going to be firmly established or if they will be ignored in favor of not causing a child to be uncomfortable, affected negatively or indulged.

As a parent, I have learned that it can be heartbreaking to stand for what is right in the eye's of God. God's ways are not popular today and a parent that holds to His standards will be viewed by most as unloving, unreasonable and wrong. It is then that parents must ask themselves, "Who am I going to please?" Do I want to be approved by man or God? Am I going to remain steadfast to the narrow road  of godliness or condone the wide path in life? Is my relationship with my child more important than my relationship with Jesus? If my child willingly chooses to disobey God, will I provide the means for unholy choices?

Unless there is something emotionally or mentally wrong with the parents, they naturally long to bless their children. Parents want their children to have good lives and to be happy. But sometimes, in order to be a godly parent, I have learned that I will have to endure the pain of showing love that is tough. Tough love is not uncaring or done to inflict pain on the one you love; quite the opposite, tough love is painful to give because it restrains natural inclinations to rescue, restore and rush changes. Tough love is love that endures all things, hopes all things and bears all things. Tough love never fails. Tough love does not give in to emotions such as false guilt or pity. While it might not feel good in the present time to do, it will bear fruit for eternity and in that hope a parent must trust God and rest upon His Word.

You might also enjoy reading Without a Compass - How do you live?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rebellious Children, Rebellious Adults

Do you have a strong willed child? Do you have a child that creates tension in the home, chaos or brings you to tears regularly?

First, recognize that God hand picked each of your children. He is completely sovereign and knew beforehand what you and your children needed. Never question His will or His plan. It is perfect. The experiences that you will encounter because of a particular child are the exact ones you need, and vis-versa, the relationship your child is given is what he or she needs to grow into being the person of God he or she was created to be. God makes no mistakes and nothing is a coincident.

Second, you can teach your children and shape their experiences, but you do not make their choices. Every single person is born with freewill. If your child has a strong independent will and chooses to disobey regardless of the consequences, it is not your fault. Of course, no earthly parent will ever be perfect, but if you commit your children to God and bend your will to obey Him as you raise your children, you can rest in knowing you have done your best. You have raised the child entrusted you to parent for Him.

If you still have a child under eighteen, set clear expectations and consequences. Consider to even write them down and have older children sign them as a way of agreement to give them no wiggle room in manipulating your words. As a couple determine to be consistent in following through with consequences for disobeying. Withholding a privilege or giving extra chores/responsibilities is not pleasant for a parent but a child shrewdly knows if one parent is lenient or if the parents can be played against one another. Back each other up and discuss your differences in private.

You want to shape the heart, not only the behavior. This sound so reasonable and easy, but this is the one area in which a strong willed child will not obey. Due to the might of parents, he will recognize when he has to change his behavior, but a sour heart can build and brew under seemingly complying actions. As a Christian parent you need to pray for your child, show grace in your interactions and live a daily transformation life before you children so they can witness in your life what it looks like to be obedient to God and to be conformed little by little into Christ-likeness.

In the end, accept the truth that you cannot make inner will choices for your child. Adam and Eve, and every child of God from that 6th day of creation has chosen to disobey their perfect parent. Don't be shocked if you have a child that ignores instruction and disobeys you. Be warned though that a child who never surrenders his life to God, rebels family rules and disrespects you will grow into a rebellious adult. Do not enable your child to make bad choices. Limit their finances if they are buying items that are not healthy, take their electronics away if they fill their life with negative influence, and be steadfast with your consequences. The penalties and pain in childhood have much less gravity and permanence than the poor choices made in adulthood.

In Isaiah 30: 1-5, 8-15, God speaks to His rebellious children, (note: I have inserted "world" for Egypt"):

"What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,”
says the LORD.
“You make plans that are contrary to mine.
You make alliances not directed by my Spirit,
thus piling up your sins.
2For without consulting me,
you have gone down to the world for help.
You have put your trust in the world’s protection.
You have tried to hide in his shade.
3But by trusting the world, you will be humiliated,
and by depending on him, you will be disgraced.

5All who trust in him will be ashamed.
He will not help you.
Instead, he will disgrace you.”

A Warning for Rebellious
8Now go and write down these words.
Write them in a book.
They will stand until the end of time
as a witness
9that these people are stubborn rebels
who refuse to pay attention to the LORD’s instructions.
10They tell the seers,
“Stop seeing visions!”
They tell the prophets,
“Don’t tell us what is right.
Tell us nice things.
Tell us lies.
11Forget all this gloom.
Get off your narrow path.
Stop telling us about your
‘Holy One of Israel.’”
12This is the reply of the Holy One of Israel:
“Because you despise what I tell you
and trust instead in oppression and lies,
13calamity will come upon you suddenly—
like a bulging wall that bursts and falls.
In an instant it will collapse
and come crashing down.
14You will be smashed like a piece of pottery—
shattered so completely that
there won’t be a piece big enough
to carry coals from a fireplace
or a little water from the well.”
15This is what the Sovereign LORD,
the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.
But you would have none of it.
I love that throughout the Bible God is gracious and always ready for a child that returns in repentance. He says is Isaiah 29 that once a person recognizes the error in his ways, he will be restored blessings to his life.

As a parent of an adult child, my husband and I have recently been through the gut-wrentching experience of having to kick our child out of the house even though he had no place to go, because he was rebellious and disrespectful.

Today this is not commonly done. I was shocked that outside the Christian worldview, parents are instructed to ignore what their adult children do in their home, to let them make their own adult choices and to live like they want while still providing for them. But this advice only enables a child to continue longer in their destructive choices without facing the consequences of responsibilities. Today we have prodigal sons living the wanton life in their family homes and parents are afraid to stop supporting their child because they don't want to loose the parent -child relationship.

Any child that is disrespectful of their parents does not really have a true relationship with them anyway. Giving in to an adult child is only enabling them to live in sin and destruction. Be strong and courageous and make the hard choices that will end up in positive blessings in the long run.

You might also enjoy reading Raising a Christian Child and The Secret Power of a Mother's Prayer.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Love The Church

I have gone through seasons as a Christian of nearly three decades of struggling in local church congregations: mostly feeling like I simply didn't fit in, not being able to find a place to belong, not building strong relationships and once deeply serving seeing the dirty side of the local church--the politics of those who rule the organization. 

So our family went through a new season for about three years: we were unchurched. It was not that we didn't want to be in a church. 

Beautiful old church in PA that I visited. Like many old church buildings it is being repurposed for other uses than worshipping God, because congregations in the NE of USA no longer are large enough to be housed in and to financially afford such a church building.
I confess, I was exhausted; I felt so beat up, rejected and unaccepted.

I smile when I wrote "rejected and unaccepted" thinking isn't that the same thing, but realizing that it is actually two different kinds of actions. Rejection is when you are let go, when you are told you don't fit or when some stops being your friend. Unaccepted is when you can't find a place to belong, when people smile but don't let you into their world. And through all we have experienced I am not bitter; I have so many dear Christian friends from every church we have ever attended for any length of time. Matter of fact, my dearest friends (my-come-along-side-spiritual-buddies) don't attend the same local congregation as I do now.

But most importantly, I am not bitter because I have in all seasons had a consistent loving relationship with Jesus. My relationship with God does not follow the ups and downs of my relationships with people. He is steadfast. He is faithful. His love never fails. He never gives up on me. He always accepts me with open arms. Truly, He talks to me and walks with me every day.

So how does all of this make me love the church? I have heard it said many times that the church is the bride of Jesus Christ. Interestingly, this phrase "the bride of Christ" is not in the Bible, but many passages of the Bible refer to the Church symbolically as Jesus' Bride. Here are a few I selected:

Revelation 19:7-9 - Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
Revelation 21:2 - And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Ephesians 5:25-27 - Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 
The church we belong to today (Experience Community in Murfreesboro, TN) does not have membership. It talks a lot about the Church as a whole being all of the Christians. We pray regularly for all the different local churches in our city and in the Nations. We are not in competition with other local organizations; we function out of a local group but we are taught to see ourselves as part of the whole Church, not simply a local group. This has really changed the way I view the Church. It no longer is in a building or one specific group; the walls are down and I see myself a part of all Christians whether I attend their "local church" or not. I view everyone as my brother and sisters. I honestly did this before but not as strongly. It is amazing how de-emphasizing membership has enlarged my view of the Bride of Christ and increase my love for His Church. It is also amazing how connected I now perceive myself to the Church. My love interweaves with the lives of all of my Christian brothers and sisters and we are a large living organism, not a local organization.

We are getting our feet wet and beginning to minister within our local church to serve others, but my service in Christ is everywhere. I don't ever see how I would feel like I didn't belong to the Church again, since I view myself as part of the entire Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world. It is freeing and enlarging my love for the Church. I thank God for allowing me to experience this and teaching me to understand what it means to be part of His Church and how to love Her with a passion that I never knew was possible.

My prayer for you is that you first know the Lord Jesus Christ intimately, personally and then that you engage with other believers embracing them, knowing that like you they are being sanctified by God, remembering:

 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like Love of the Brethren

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Transforming Grace

He saw more--
Than I saw
In myself.

Heirs of His--
For all the--
Human race.

Weary orphans
Who discover--
The Delight
Of being
And Daughters
Of their Heavenly Father.

No more fear,
But freedom--
To chose their

All to share,
Love and Care
His grace is
Always There.
To every burden,
That remains,
It can bear,
And unchain.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Do You Have Mental Illness In Your Family? I Can Help

What a bold thing to say, that I can help if you have mental illness in your family. I am not a doctor or a therapist licensed by the government. What possibly could I know or do?

You were created to live free.
(photo by simoendli on Deviantart)

First-hand experience is often a better teacher than books, professors, lectures and clinical practice.

I have lived with mental illness for 50 years. My father had it, so did my mother, my grandmother and then when I was young adult I faced the fact that have had it. As I grow older, I know many others who have struggled with mental illness in their family. Living with mental illness, but not surrendering to it, I have learned a lot. I have learned to be an overcomer, not a victim. I have learned to get help, not to deny it or give in to it.

But still, what makes me different? Why can I- not so boldly say- "I can help"? How can I offer help when so many others in the world also have mental illness? Having something does not actually make you the ideal candidate to assist others. And to this I agree.

What makes me different is that with God's leading and empower, I have faced mental illness head on. I have looked it square in the eye and I have lived a life of confronting it, accepting it, overcoming it and learning how to live with it.

I have walked this journey many decades without many helping hands or listening hearts. Yet, I have NEVER been alone. I have fumbled around seeking answers, crawling through pathways that not many were willing to travel determined to be as whole as I could be, as healthy as I could be. I discovered:

God is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord Who Heals. He is not only my healer, but He is Elohim (Creator God). He knows me inside and out; he wrote the manual on living--the Holy Bible God-breathed by man onto paper. He lives within me--dwelling in the form of the Holy Spirit in my body. All along the way, I have had God as my solid rock, my comforter, my shelter of protection, my redeemer and so much more. 

Yes, I have gone to psychiatrist, therapist and take medication, but I would not be alive today if God was not.

Today, I live because He lives. Today, I breath because He breathes through me. Today, I have a reason because I know He has a purpose for my life--a royal kingdom purpose ordained from the beginning of time. My life has purpose---to know Him, to be known by Him, to serve Him and others because I am loved.

Is mental illness in your family? It is in mine. I have it. And I will not be ashamed. You may have so many questions. Ask. If you ask them below then this post can be a forum for others to learn; but if you want to personally ask, send me an email. And if you would prefer to read and search out answers, look at my blog site: Abuse and Trauma - Hope and Healing.

You are not alone! Do not be afraid. You can get the help you need. Life will not be perfect but it will be better than if you try to ignore, deny, fight away or give up. Even if you yourself do not have mental illness but someone dear to your heart does, if you have a question, ask me. I will try to do anything I can to help. No one needs to suffer through the disappear of feeling so alone, so afraid.

Love you dearly,

Monday, June 30, 2014

Raising A Christian Child

As a Christian homeschoolering parent, I raised our children to live life as a Christian, to live with a Christian worldview, to live in the world but to not be one of the world. 
Credits: Family by Shadowsplicer Deviantart

I never considered how to raise a non-Christian. I simply wanted my child to be prepared for how to live as a Christian in a non-Christian world. I wanted them to be strong enough as an individual to be able to stand on their own two feet. I wanted their faith to be their own, not mine. Therefore, I taught my children more than anything how to think.

It has not always been easy because my children question everything. They do not just believe something because it was taught or spoken. To some degree, they mentally challenge it. And for this I am glad. 

Peer Pressure - Outside Influence

I think the biggest thing I was not prepared for was the strong influence of peer pressure. I felt my children being secure in knowing they were loved by two parents was enough to not desire to be love by others. Certainly, I knew if they ever genuinely knew they were loved by God it would not matter, that God's love would always trump peers. Therefore, I kept moving in the direction that all of my children would eventually be Christians and secure in God's love for them.
Today I have one adult child who has not made a full yielding commitment to the Lord and does not know how deeply God loves. This child looks for others to confirm directions, self-worth and approval. Peers are much more important than parents in the secular worldview. Parents love is expected and not cherished. There is an unquenchable drive to be approved, accepted, and liked by others. And with this comes insecurity and unwise decisions.

Lessons Learned

What I am learning I think could be helpful to any Christian parent, not just homeschoolers.

Adult Children and Their Freewill
When our children are of age to choose, if they choose to live in the world or even to try out living in the world, they will not find it easy. They will feel sorely prepared for being a worldly adult, surrounded by non-Christians, who live in a completely different worldview. They will be influenced with worldly ways and opinions. They can be swayed and convinced that much of the way we raised them was wrong, by people with a non-Christian worldview. We must accept this as a possibility.
No matter how much we prepare our children by teaching them the ways of the world in comparison to God's ways, they will not be equipped to fully function as a non-Christian for we did not teach them how to live that way.
If they choose worldly values and worldviews, they will have many hard life lessons that we can not save them from, but we must simply allow them to experience. As their parents we can love them unconditionally and as much as they allow we can still impart our wisdom, but their freewill will ultimately allow them to choose which way they will live.

As my own children are coming of age to make their own decisions, I watch and love and pray. If they choose to not live among Christians, they will struggle to find friends unless they make worldly choices. They will be made fun of, picked on, ridiculed for being obedient to God. They will not find a mate that is respectful of a godly upbringing nor one who desires a relationship based on godly principles. All of their upbringing will seem foreign, ancient, over-protective and to some extent controlling.

Our Response in the Midst of Rebellion/Waywardness

Still, we parents must know that we ourselves obeyed HIM and continue to walk steadfast. Each individual and then family must choose whom they will obey and live for, no one else can make that decision for another. And each will be judged by God for the choice that was made. Our fruit and kingdom work will testify to our choice. Either it is for God or for Satan.

Joshua 24: 14-15 (partial)

Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth... Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers serves that were ... in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.