Sunday, April 29, 2012

A perspective on dandelions

Last evening at the dinner table..

Luke- "Everyone has computers."
Scott- "Not everyone. Ya know when I was a kid, no one had a computer."
Rachel- "What did you do?"
Theresa- "Play outside like normal little kids."
Will- "I have heard of this. Ya know, I heard somewhere, back in the olden days, like in 1991, they didn't have computers. I heard you had to use sticks to count with in school."
Theresa- "Will! I had more than sticks to count with in school, and 1991 is not the olden days."
Will- "How about 1990. That was defiantly the olden days."

A little perspective goes a long way. In Will's mind, I am sure 1990 seems like an eternity away. After all, to him Christmas was another lifetime. But to me, 1990 is barley yesterday. I can bring up memories of elementary school, playing on the Bakerton ball field, and fishing with friends. The olden days? I think not.

Have you ever heard "it is all in how you look at it?" Of course it is. Let me give you one of my favorite example. One in which my age isn't being trampled into the ground!

The dandelion. I have always loved this flower. As a kid I would dance through the yard, gathering up as many as I can find. It was a good day when the dandelions had shed their yellow and became the wishing flower. A white puff of dreams blown into the wind. The more flowers I found, the more wishes there were. I know now as an adult I should hate the dandelion. It is a symbol of an unkept lawn. A weed if you will. As I walked through the store the other day, bags of dandelion killer were everywhere.
But I can't help it. I still love dandelions. I love the bright yellow scattered over a sea of green. I love it when my little ones bring me fist fulls of sunshine. I love watching them puff their little cheeks and blowing the whiskers to Santa. It is all a matter of perspective.

You know one of the things I love about Jesus. Really probably in my top 5. His different perspective of things. He never quite saw things the way others did. While other people looked on the religious leaders of the day with reverence and awe, Jesus saw a pit of vipers. When woman and children were seen as more of a nuisance and an inconvenience at best, Jesus saw the future and a hope. They saw a poor woman with a useless offering. He saw a mountain of faith. They saw sinners and scoundrels while he saw pain, sickness, and agony in need of a Healer. He saw purpose.

Jesus's perspective wasn't by far the popular one. He never would have won an election. Heck, they were shouting for his death a week after his praises. He wasn't about swaying popular opinion. He looked beyond the surface and saw what was hidden. He had the perspective of God.

Every day I need to pray for that perspective. Trials and hardships can weigh on the heart. Changes in plans can be seen as deal breakers. Sometimes if we take the time to step back and really look closely, we can see these times as opportunities for growth. I also need to stop trying to see things from the popular perspective. Or the way everyone else is looking at it. I need to see beauty where I once saw a field of useless weeds. Because really, things are all in how you look at it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Why?

I am away at a conference right now. Truth be told this would not have been my first choice. It takes a lot for me to pack up my four little ones and spend three nights away. It is an amazing thing that I have such a supportive and awesome family who steps in to help. My mom, sisters, and brother are watching the little cherubs while Scott is on night shift and I am here. Again, blessed beyond measure.

Today we discussed the idea of the “WHY?” In our classrooms, we often start out a discussion with a focus question. The “teacher” presents the question and then gives time to write out an appropriate response based on what we think or previous knowledge. Material and presentation is given and then the question is revisited. Today I was asked “why are you a teacher?”

I wrote “I am a teacher because I believe that effective life habits and attitudes are formed in childhood. I want children to know that each and everyone is valued, important, and will impact the future in a drastic way- one way or another.” The conversation that followed was a fascinating one.

We spent time discussing why some people “buy into” certain products and why some flop. Why some people inspire and others never seem to grab much of a following. A video we watched made an intriguing statement. People don’t buy what you do, but they are buying the why you do it. Let me explain.

The presenter drew one circle and labeled it “why.” He then drew another circle encasing this circle and labeled it the “how.” The final circle that encased both of the previous circles was called the “what.” Now, the what circle, which lies on the outside is the what we so. It is the rational part of our brain. It is the what I do everyday such as plan lessons, implement ideas, and assess data. Certainly a look into my daily life won’t inspire most to take up the cause of public education and fight alongside of me. The middle circle is the how. How am I teaching? How do I get the job done?

Finally the middle circle-the WHY- is in the center. A very symbolic place for it to land. The why is the part of the brain in which lies the feelings center. This is where trust and loyalty lie. Science has proven that this is the part of the brain that drives behavior. My “why” is my purpose, my call, or my belief system. This is how I explain why someone should care. People won’t buy the what you are doing until they know why you are doing it.

The speaker told of the tale of Martin Luther King Jr. Why did so many years ago, gather on the lawn of the white house to hear him speak? It wasn’t for him. It was to hear what he believed. He did not call out “I have a plan….” He did not tell them what he was going to do or how he was going to do it. No. He cried out “I believe….” And then so did we. We hear why he believed that all men were endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. They didn’t show up to hear Dr. King. They showed up in a place with a common belief.
We follow those who inspire not because we have to, but rather because we want to. Because we come to a place with a common belief system and want to shout Amen! Often times, we ourselves can’t put it into words, but when we hear it-we know it. So here is my question. Why public education? Why am I a teacher? Why do my children attend public education? Why do I believe that this system of education is so critical to the development of our nation’s most valuable resource- the child?

I believe that each child has been blessed by God with a destiny and God given purpose. I believe it is essential to each little soul to have people cheering for them, working with them, and pushing them beyond what they thought possible. I believe someone has to carry a vision for them. I believe sometimes I may be the only voice that child hears. And even if my voice is part of a chorus rather than a solo, I believe my voice has a role to play.

I believe that the building of a community full of respect for all people starts with me and my classroom. I believe that it is my responsibility to foster attitudes of kindness, respect, trustworthiness, and cooperation among peers. I believe that it is my place to challenge preconceived notions or misguided assumptions and present my students with real life solutions.

I believe it is my responsibility to challenge my problem solvers of today with ideas and discoveries that will expand their world. That the children I teach will someday solve our disasters and diseases of tomorrow. It is my responsibility to encourage innovative thinking, responsibility for oneself, and a compassion for those less fortunate.

I believe that each and every child will bring with him or her a future. Their lives will touch many other lives. It is the domino effect. Who knows why I am handed this group of children this year? Perhaps, for a time such as this. Each child I touch, mentor, guide, and teach is no accident. It is a divine appointment set by the one who knows better than I the needs of each soul I blessed to come into contact with.

Why do I teach? Because I believe in a better future. Because I believe that the future oak trees of tomorrow are being planted in my classroom today. I teach because I believe every child, regardless of his/her circumstance deserves a chance at a bright future filled with promise and hope. I am proud to do what I do. I am even prouder to share why I do what I do.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Collecting manna

     When I was a kid, I was convinced that I was going to die of cancer. For one thing, I was born in July. Do you know the "sign" for July is cancer. Certainly a sign from above. Also, I had bumps (tumors) everywhere. I thought that my bruises were come more regularly than they should and staying longer. My elementary school diagnosis- cancer. I of course couldn't tell my mom. She would be devastated that her first born child was dying so young. I knew she would take me to the doctor which would only confirm it for me. True Story.
As I got older I would focus on other things to worry about. I was like chicken little with the sky always falling. Worse case scenarios were a way of life and I was certain disaster was around the bend. Life moved on and gave me more to add to my worrying list. A husband, children, and other responsibilities. Then when my dad was so quickly taken away due to a massive heart attack, I was sure everyone around me was dying.
     I was terrified my mom would be next. I remember trying to call her one morning and not being able to get ahold of her. After 25 calls later, I was getting the kids dressed and packed up to drive to her house. Trying to talk myself in being strong if we found her gone. Thankfully, she called before we left the house. She was grocery shopping. I frantically informed her that if she is leaving the house she had to call me! Ahem. I remember pulling over one day in the van when Scott was following me in the truck. I was sobbing and he quickly came to the front of the van. "What am I going to so when something happens to her (mom)?" I said. Scott of course tried to tell me that my mom was fine. Everything is ok.
But what am I going to do when something happens to her?
     Because this world is filled with trouble and cares. Things happen we could never see or plan for. Our plans become side railed and we are taken on a journey we never anticipated.
When I read the quote from above, I think it certainly spoke to me. I can't carry around what might be tomorrow in today. It makes me think of that story from the old testament when God told the people he would provide for them everyday with manna from heaven. And every morning He would provide. Yet, some STILL tried to gather what was left and store it...just in case. And it would mold and have maggots every night. I would have been one of those gathering with a basket.
     This certainly isn't a story as to how I have over come my struggle with worry or anxiety. But it is a story of how today when my mind wondered ...over there....and I began to struggle with "what ifs.." I stopped it. I prayed. All I said was "God, I know you love me. I know you have a plan. Holy Spirit, please help my focus."
     That doesn't mean the war is over. My struggle continues. But I do know truly who holds tomorrow. I know that the Bible says today has enough worry of its own. I know that today I have a choice.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen earnestly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them it has always been big stuff. - Catherine Wallace

Today my children and I talked about what makes the perfect bubble, why you can't go into the Bakerton dam, why sticking your feet in the creek is not an acceptable shower, hide and seek, flowers, cartwheels, and avoiding cat attacks. That is a good day. And someday when they need to talk about girls or boys, big faith questions, hurting hearts, happy surprises, and life's joys and sorrows, I pray that we talk then to. But for now, a conversation on how the high grass tickles our feet is good for me.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Once upon a time

Once upon a time….in the land of make believe….there was a fresh faced young girl who knew her life was going to be perfect. First, she would conquer the world in her career. She was choosing to work with children and was going to change the world one kid at a time. Her shining stars would grow brighter; her struggling ones would excel under her tutoring. It would be amazing. In the land of make believe.

Her marriage would be a fairytale. Her prince would come and fulfill her every wish and desire. He would be strong and handsome. Trustworthy and dedicated. No disappointment would grace her door. He would love her sacrificially and make sure all of her needs were met. And she would be the picture perfect wife. In the land of make believe.

Her children would rise up and call her blessed. They too would be a step above the rest. After all, mom and dad are perfect. Dinner on the table every night, homework completed without a fight or mess, socks all matched in the drawers, and a goodnight story and kiss to end every night. In the land of make believe.

Her house would be breath taking. But not in a huge overstated way. A comfortably, always clean way. Where people felt welcomed and refreshed. She would be the perfect host. Floor spotless and dishes done. Pictures of her perfect marriage and perfect children graced the walls. In the land of make believe.

However, the land of make believe was not to be. The funny thing about perfect is that the more you try to move towards it, the further it seems to get. It is like the end of the rainbow. Just when it seems in sight, it moves. It vanishes, or suddenly becomes something different.

The girl discovered that not all things are perfect. One of the most shocking discoveries was how selfish she herself was. Love didn’t seem to flow like it should but in silly childish starts and stops. Her frustrations continued as her laundry piles grew, the children fought and cried, her husband had his own priorities, and life seemed to spin out of control.  The dishearted girl….in the land of reality…..cried, “I can’t do it. This is not what I thought it would be.” And this is where her story turned.

In all reality, would perfect be all that wonderful. If I had perfect, would I know the feeling of triumph after so many failures? Would I know the feeling of hope and courage after rising after so many falls? Would I know the joy of sacrificial and unconditional love that flows from one imperfect person to another?

But most importantly, it is in my weakness where Christ can be my strength. In the surrender of myself and all my perfect dreams where freedom can come. The Bible tells me “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:9-10

We often think of strength as in being in control. Of following your plan. But even on my strongest day, I am nothing but a vapor compared to the goodness and strength of my God. Why then do we carry it alone? Why must we stick to the plan? Lasting purpose and strength come from God alone. Transformation of my mind, body, and spirit are best left in His perfect hands. Certainly not mine. What I thought as perfect was fake. What I know as good and right is the path He has set out and that He oversees.

So I must let go. Leaving the world of make believe behind to face my world of reality. But in knowing that my reality with my God is better than a thousand days of "perfect."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Who want to go to the circus?

Not I said the Mommy! I wanted to curl up in bed with my Kindle and go to sleep. It has been a long week. But we did promise. Too bad our kiddos are old enough to remember promises. Glad we went though. The kids had a blast. Luke said that the motorcycles guys had super powers. Bella was thrilled with all the animals, but did not like it when the people went too high! Will of course laughed through the whole thing. Go and ask him what his favorite part was....EVERYTHING. Rachel thought the whole thing was awesome too. Except a costume a girl was wearing that Rachel though was too revealing. She said "Mommy, that girl looks ridiculous. You can see her butt." Keep that thought sweet heart. Showing butt=ridiculous.
 saying cheese
 Good idea at the time...buying the boys cotton candy. Seems like a bad idea 20 minutes later....buying the boys cotton candy.
 My Princess.
 We bring the circus with us. Wonder if I could get my dog to jump through hoops of fire? hhmmmm... j/k Patty! Maybe....
 I wouldn't let her ride the slide for SIX dollars. I told her I would take her to the FREE park tomorrow where she could go down all she wanted. Of course daddy would have.... Daddy- 1,000 Mommy-0
 Llama petting zoo at the circus. And Luke was thrilled. Really?
This child is just too much. And see, she got over the slide thing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A fickle kind of people

My favorite holiday has always been Easter. Even as a small child I remember going to church during Holy Week. We grew up Catholic and would attend Stations of the Cross at least once. I was young but listened to the story of betrayal and pain. I would say the prayers and I remember tears in my eyes. I would get so mad at those people yelling "Crucify him" at my Jesus. How could they? When just a week ago they cried out His praises? Terrible people.

I am a few years older and just a few wiser. My perspective has changed. I still listen to the story in awe. Tear still spring to my eyes and my throat closes. But terrible people? No. Fickle? Yes. Fickle meaning likely to change or not constant or loyal in affection. So familiar.

We as a people tend to sway. This way and that. Whatever way the "wind" takes us. We believe this today and that tomorrow. We fight for and believe in a cause until another catches out eyes. Relationships fade in and out. What catches our eye in this instant may not the next.

As I turn to those people who shouted Hosanna on Psalm Sunday, I also look to the same group who would cry for His blood less that a week later. What happened in a week? One of my theories is in relationship. It is much easier to walk away from an idea than a person. Those who called for the King that day, did they know Him? Or were they just swept in the excitement of an idea? Did they know the person, the heart of Christ or just who he claimed to be? No. They couldn't have.

But then there is also those who did know him. And while they were not crying out for so called justice, they were not exactly fighting for His freedom either. The Bible tells us that Jesus began this journey alone with tearful prayer in the garden. Although Peter strikes out at the soldier when he is first confronted, hours later he denies even knowing Him. All are silent. Silent by fear? Silent by lack of trust? Silent by uncertainty and lack of conviction. How could you be so wrong about something that looked so right?

Two groups of people. Those who never really knew Him, but rather shouted His praises one day and clamored for His death the next. The majority of the people. Content with religion bot relationship. More interested in the comfort of day to day and certainly not into fighting for justice.

But the second group does give me pause. The ones who sat at His feet. Easy enough for us to read the Easter Story and ask how? To claim that I would never. But do the doubts of the disciples plague us  today? Would fear stop us? Unmet expectations have us sitting silently as they lead our Savior away? Sometimes it is easy to sit in judgement of situations we have not yet found ourselves in.

Every year I ponder the Easter Story again. Such an amazing story of love. Relentless love on the part of our God. Willing to go to the very end for people who never deserved any of it to begin with. Psalm Sunday is a day I love. A day of praise. A day where we all gathered to say Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

But then I remember the rest of the story. And pray. Pray that when the darkness comes, as it always does, I will remember the days of praise. That I will run back to His faithfulness. To His unfailing compassion, love mercy...and ultimately...His sacrifice.