Monthly Archives: November 2016

For my Teacher Friends

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We are entering the sometimes difficult weeks between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break. Hopefully we are refreshed from a few days off. But maybe we are dreading going back into the difficulties of our classrooms. Some of us need to hear this tonight: You matter more than you think you do. You are doing more than you think you are.

A couple weeks back I sat observing my “at risk” students during their dinner hour at school. Their social behavior and their deplorable language provides a good glimpse into the immense dysfunction of their world. As I watched them, I felt the depth of their pit, for lack of a better word. Many of them are already felons at just 14 or 15 years old. I thought to myself, they are in such a deep pit, how will I ever provide a way out, let alone the first rung in the ladder leading out? How can I ever help fix their lives? It seems impossible.

I want this for my kids though. Because in the short time I’ve known them, I’ve grown to love them. I’ve seen the ways that life has mistreated them. And while that doesn’t excuse their behaviors and choices, it certainly gives me understanding, rather than judgment, for their choices. I want them out of the pit.

So I show up. I push them. I help them. I celebrate them. I know them and I let them know me. I give them the unconditional love of Jesus, in hopes of pointing them to him. He is the ladder. He is the fix. It will never be me.

After a “productive” night of class one evening, after helping these students experience some of the first academic successes they’ve had in a long time, on a night where I felt like I actually did do some good, I sat pondering my own educational career. Curiosity led me to recall my teachers over the years. At 33 years of age, I can remember the names of every single teacher who taught me from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Every. Single. One.

Why is that? Because they impacted me. They made a difference in my life. Some of them loved me through my mom’s cancer. Others called me on to be a leader. Many prayed with me and for me. They counseled me. They challenged me. They celebrated me. Few people in my life have impacted me the way that my teachers have. I don’t claim that all of my students will remember me by name and feel that I impacted their lives, but some might. And that’s enough to keep me doing what I’m doing.

If you are a teacher, as you head into the trenches tomorrow remember: You matter more than you think you do. You are doing more than you think you are.

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70 Notes of Thanks

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My Dear Sweet Mom,

You are turning 70 years old today, and I celebrate all that you are! As I try to contemplate all the ways that I am thankful for you, I’m simply overwhelmed. On this Thanksgiving Day, your 70th birthday, I say thank you.

1. Thank you for loving me. While it seems that a mother’s love is always a given, as an educator, I have seen that this is not the case. There are many mothers who do not love their children. Or their form of love for their children is selfish, weak, or conditional. Yours has been the unconditional agape love of our Father God. Yours has been a love that chooses to do what is best for the beholden, regardless of difficulty.

2. Thank you for living loyalty. In our world today, friendships and even family relationships can change in the blink of an eye. You have shown me how to live loyally. You have never forsaken a friend. You have seldom failed to be there for a friend in a time of need.

3. Thank you for DOing your faith. You are not just talk; you are action. How many meals have I watched you prepare for friends in times of need? How many times have you fed the church work day? The Japanese teachers? The entire youth group? You have shown me that love and faith are not just words or feelings; they are action. They require DOing.

4. Thank you for teaching me that some thoughts don’t need to be spoken. This is an invaluable lesson to me. I learned self-control in an area where I had none.

5. Thank you for committing your life to my dad. Our society has so cheapened marriage and romantic love. Every day for my 33 years I have watched you live out the definition of a committed and loving marriage. Times may not have been easy, but you never wavered in your commitment.

6. Thank you for listening to me. Man, I could talk to leg off a brass horse, and I know it! But you always listen to every word. Although I love to talk, you have also taught me how to listen.

7. Thank you for forgiving me. Now that I’m a mom, I can see exactly how offensive children can be to their parents. I’m sure there were no shortage of offenses as I grew up. Spoken or unspoken, I know that you have always offered forgiveness.

8. Thank you for making me keep my priorities. It’s easy to be selfish, especially as a teenager, but you always helped me to see that it was important to keep my priorities in order. If I was committed to something at church, it was important to show up. If I needed to do schoolwork, then that ought to come before fun. Chores had to be done before TV time.

9. Thank you for teaching me about Jesus. Jesus was in everything we did, from our Advent Calendar at Christmas, to our Bible promise cards each morning, from our prayers before every meal, to the songs we sang as children and the music you played as we grew up. Jesus is the center, and as a mom this is something I strive to keep at the center of my family as well.

10. Thank you for blowing bubbles in the milk with me and Andrew when life was just getting too serious. I try to remember to exhibit the same lightheartedness with my kids.

11. Thank you for thinking of me. From care packages in college, to special outfits when I was growing up, to notes in the mail, you’ve always reminded me that I’m never outside your thoughts. You always go the extra distance to be thoughtful.

12. Thank you for taking me camping. I have some of my fondest childhood memories rooted in our annual camping trips. Now that I am the mom, I realize how much work it is to go camping. You did it tirelessly and never complained.

13. Thank you for praying with me and for me. Prayers at bedtime. Prayers at meals. Prayers at DTS. Prayers before long car rides back to college. Prayers in times of trial and sadness. Prayers for health. Prayers for my babies. Prayers on the phone. So many prayers. When you don’t know what to say or do, you’ve taught me that prayer is always the answer.

14. Thank you for teaching me how to be a servant. When I think of the ways you’ve spent your time, I see servanthood everywhere. You’ve served our family. You’ve served your church. You’ve served your friends. You’ve served people who you don’t like very much. You’ve served Daddy. From meal-making and cleaning, to car rides and mentoring, your life has been one of service.

15. Thank you for helping me learn to make healthy choices. Your dedication to exercise and to cooking healthy food stands out when I think of my time at home. I know you did this because you wanted to stay healthy for our family. You showed me that good health in the long term is more important than a tasty treat had too often.

16. Thank you for fighting cancer. You took up that cross and you bore that sucker with the utmost humility and grace, if such a thing is possible. You could have given up so many times. Thank you for not doing that.

17. Thank you for always giving me your time. So. Much. Time. I’m sure as a baby I required infinitely more time than I did as I grew up. But I don’t remember that. What I do remember is how you showed up for everything. You came to every sporting event. You took me shopping for prom dresses. You came to all my wedding planning appointments. You waiting anxiously as I had my babies. You gave your time at my house to care for my family when we had those new babies. You have always been generous with your time.

18. Thank you for so many yummy recipes. Nobody makes veggie soup, spaghetti sauce, or chocolate chip cookies like you! Not to mention chicken pot pie, apple crisp, potato quiche, pancakes or waffles. It never tastes quiet as good as when you make it, but when I cook your recipes, I’m always reminded of the loving home you provided and the many meals we shared.

19. Thank you for family meal times. Our schedule was often crazy because of sports or Dad’s work schedule, but you always made sure that we had a family meal each day, even if it was a noon or at 4:30. We even had breakfast together so many mornings! Those family times helped create support and stability in our home.

20. Thank you for never giving up on your dream of having children. I know you waited a long time. I know there were many tears. I know you went to baby shower after baby shower. But you never gave up on the children you knew God had for you. I know it was hard to wait, but I’m thankful for God’s perfect timing.

21. Thank you for all the many hand-sew and hand-crocheted items you have made for me and now for my children. I remember (and still have) many Easter outfits and special quilts. Now there are the baby sweaters, the NiNis, the blankets. So many precious items that will forever be treasured.

22. Thank you for giving me chores. I learned early on that the dishes won’t clean themselves, the clothes won’t fold themselves, the dust won’t magically blow away. I also learned that each member of the family, no matter what age, can help and contribute to the success of the home.

23. Thank you for letting me “help” with baking. Now that I have a little girl who likes to “help” with my baking, I realize what patience it takes. I’m sure I made a mess. I’m sure it took three times as long to do it with me as it would have to do it on your own. I treasure those memories, some of my earliest memories of you and I together.

24. Thank you for worshipping visibly. Any time you were in the kitchen, you had the worship music going. And I know that as you worked and sang, you also worshipped. In church you never held back from kneeling before the Lord or raising your hands in worship. This has been a powerful example to me.

25. Thank you for passing me the ability to write. Writing is like breathing to me. And, while I know it was God who chose to bless me with that skill, it also comes from your genes. Maybe someday I’ll be able to write a book like you have.

26. Thank you for going on adventures with me. I’m thinking of the boy-band era here. We had some exciting car trips so that me and my friends could go see these heartthrobs in concert. While I remember the thrill of those concerts, I also remember that it was you who piled us all in the minivan and put up with our craziness, even driving to other states, paying money, buying us food, and going to a concert with a bunch of crazy teenage girls. Stephanie, Jessica, Katie K and Nikki thank you as well. 🙂

27. Thank you for teaching me to read and instilling in me a love for it. Some of my other earliest memories with you are of trips to the library. Again, now that I take my little ones there, I know that it’s almost more of a headache than it’s worth sometimes! But I treasure those memories.

28. Thank you for reading to me. There’s something special about time spent reading before bed. We did it for years. I know that’s why I love to read so much now.

29. Thank you for telling me “no.” Sometimes “yes” is a far easier answer with children, but it’s no that teaches us that we’re not the center of the universe, and that we can’t always have our way. It’s no that teaches us self-discipline and respect for authority.

30. Thank you for making time with grandparents a priority. You knew that we would have far less time with our grandparents than most kids did, and you made it a point to go and visit them. I am thankful that I got to know them as well as I did at a young age. I wouldn’t have if you’d not made them a priority.

31. Thank you for family game nights. I learned to laugh with my family and to like my family because we played together.

32. Thank you for doing the laundry. There is always so. much. laundry. You washed load after load of my clothing, even when I came home from college! That was truly above and beyond.

33. Thank you for packing my lunch, every night, for 12 years. That’s a lot of lunches. Somewhere in the vicinity of 2,160 lunches, give or take a few snow days and sick days.

34. Thank you for disciplining me. Another unpleasant task of motherhood. You trained me in the way that I should go, and I can never say thank you enough for that.

35. Thank you for the birthday parties, cakes, presents and special times celebrating my life.

36. Thank you for being generous. I’ve lost count of how much money I owe you. I’m sure you haven’t. BUT you never cease to be generous. Whenever we have a need, I know you are there. You always have been.

37. Thank you for sacrificing your sleep at night when I was afraid. I’ve lost quite a few hours of sleep now with babies who can’t sleep. I know you must have been tired, but you always came and laid down with me anyways.

38. Thank you for the backbreaking work of gardening and canning so that our family could enjoy fresh, healthy food all year long. I know there’s nothing better than fresh corn on the cob, fresh tomatoes, and homemade applesauce.

39. Thank you for making financial sacrifices so that I could go to a private Christian school. I am so thankful for the education that I received. The teachers supported me through each stage of my academic and spiritual growth.

40. Thank you for teaching me about modesty and purity as a woman. I learned self-respect and how to look like the woman God created me to be.

41. Thank you for indoor picnics on the green blanket, and for never crying over spilled milk. You made mealtimes fun and never took life too seriously.

42. Thank you for no-thank-you helpings. Although I still don’t like green trees, I did learn to like a lot of other foods! And I learned that sometimes we have to eat things we don’t like that much because they are good for us.

43. Thank you for always making church a priority for our family. We went to everything, and so we were woven into the tapestry of the church body. Our church became our family in so many ways.

44. Thank you for allowing and funding so many amazing opportunities, from camps and DTS, to missions trips and school trips. I’ve seen more of the states and the world than many. Now that I’m a mom, I have a panic attack when I think about sending my children overseas without me. But you opened your hands and let me go where God was taking me.

45. Thank you for teaching me never to make negative confessions. There is so much more power in the words we say than we realize. You taught me never to open the door to let Satan work or to give him any opportunities. I have learned to speak positively and take my fears to the Lord instead.

46. Thank you for always keeping homemade sweets on hand, particularly your famous cookies, which I am now craving. Many of my friends stopped at the cookie jar before coming to locate me in the house. A true testament to the goodness of the cookie. I know it took time and effort to keep home-baked goodies around, but you always made sure it happened.

47. Thank you for imposing limits, from TV and video games, to treats and bedtimes. I learned self-discipline and delayed gratification, among other things.

48. Thank you for choosing to parent rather than to be my friend as I grew up. I needed parental guidance to learn how to be a decent person.

49. Thank you for becoming my best friend now that I am grown. There is literally no friend dearer to my heart, nor more cherished.

50. Thank you for Boston Brown Bread. MMMMMMMMM.

51. Thank you for trusting the Lord at every turn. No matter whether the need was financial, or for healing, or direction, you always placed your trust in God’s goodness and believed that he was in control. Your example has helped me to place my trust in him even through life’s most frightening moments.

52. Thank you for living with compassion. You were and are the kindest mother, not a push-over, by any means, but so kind. Beyond our home you have showed compassion to countless other women who have needed it the most. I strive to live with your compassion for my children and for the friends in my life.

53. Thank you for living a life of peace that provided a peaceful life for me. Ours was never a home of strife. Even in tense circumstances, you rarely seemed ruffled. I’m sure that inwardly you were, but outwardly you maintained a peaceful demeanor. This protected me from much, and it also pointed me at the Source of our peace.

54. Thank you for exhibiting patience. It is easy as a mom to lose your cool with the kids. I rarely remember this happening. Beyond the home, you have always been patient in difficult situations and with difficult people.

55. Thank you for teaching me by example how to honor and protect my spouse. You taught me how important it is to always speak well of my husband, to keep his name as safe in my mouth.

56. Thank you for teaching me the truth of I Peter 3:3-4 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” You not only taught this, but you lived it as well!

57. Thank you for living a life of self-sacrifice. I know that you always put everyone else’s needs above your own.

58. Thank you for dealing with all the bodily fluids. They can be so overwhelming.

59. Thank you for tapping on the bathroom wall, and years later, the bathroom door. This is one of my earliest memories, and one of the fondest.

60. Thank you for always calling me your “favorite girl in all the world.” It made me feel so special, and it still does.

61. Thank you for teaching me that I don’t have to be perfect. I just need to do my best and trust in God’s grace for the rest.

62. Thank you for pointing me back to the Scripture whenever I have a concern or a need. You’ve always been able to give me a verse that helps with anything I am dealing with.

63. Thank you for praying a love of Scripture over my life. That prayer opened a door for me that has changed my life forever. I have never forgotten that moment.

64. Thank you for introducing me to Dove dark chocolate. There’s just nothing quite like it.

65. Thank you for so many trips to the DQ. Another treasured family memory for me.

66. Thank you for believing in me in a way that helped me realize my unique gifts and talents. You instilled self-confidence in me by allowing me to try different things, and encouraging me when I did well.

67. Thank you for making me apologize when I did something wrong. Saying “I’m sorry” is not an easy thing to do, but it is so important, as is saying “I forgive you.” Early on you taught me this vital process in keeping my heart free from bitterness.

68. Thank you for keeping a sense of humor. From hidden asparagus to food-colored milk, and contagious laughter during family card games and meals. I caught your contagious laughter, and it strikes now and then, till the tears run down my cheeks. And I always think of you.

69. Thank you for retail therapy. I wish we still lived close enough that we could just take off for an afternoon and go shopping together like we used to. I cherish those memories of time spent just you and me.

70. Thank you for your amazing example of motherhood. Although we are different in our temperaments, I strive to be like you as a mom in every way that I can (actually probably because of my temperament…). I know I’m not perfect, but I try to love my kids and point them to Jesus, and trust that his grace is more than enough for my weaknesses. This I learned from you.

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The Belated Bloom

“He has made everything beautiful in its time…”
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I have a Morning Glory on my fence. It’s one of my favorite plants each year. I love the way it grows and climbs, and the bright blue flowers are exquisite. But this year, day after day, week after week, my Morning Glory didn’t bud or bloom. I was so disappointed. I thought it wasn’t going to bloom at all. After waiting all summer (because it’s a late bloomer), I thought there wasn’t going to be any reward for the wait. Humph. I was disgruntled by the uncooperative nature of my plant.

This unruly plant started my wheels turning, though, and I started seeing how frustrated I become by things that are outside my control. Motherhood has been one big lesson in relaxing for me, in letting go, slowing down. With my return to work this fall, we hit some parenting road blocks that I’ve been really frustrated about.

For instance, while I often use my blog to celebrate Sophie’s amazing progress, there are also many days that my heart is so frustrated over her snail’s pace. She learns things more slowly, and she is naturally a person who moves at a slower pace. My return to work has caused some regression in some of her behaviors as she strives to cope with her changing reality. Little ones can’t control very much about their lives, so when changes shift their worlds, they exert control in the only ways they can. For Micah, this is temper tantrums and emotional spewing. And that is just lovely. For Sophie, it’s regressing in areas of independence in order to achieve more attention by acting more dependent — wanting to be carried around, wanting to be fed, wetting her pants, pulling out her hair. We made so much progress in her independent function this summer, so it is extremely frustrating to see her regressing. And it’s hard knowing that her separation from me is rocking her equilibrium. I fought with Sophie for several weeks in these areas of regression, trying to get her to continue in the positive and independent behaviors we established this summer, but it was like banging my head against a wall. I couldn’t make her do it. I couldn’t force the bloom. When I finally saw what was happening and just let go, and just lavished her with love, she started to come out of her regressions.

Just like that plant — there wasn’t a darn thing I could do to make it bloom. There wasn’t a lot that I could do to move Sophie through this regression. I just had to wait. I got frustrated. I got tired of waiting. It felt like the bloom would never come. I’m guilty of wanting things to just happen right now; waiting is hard when the reward remains out of sight.

But then, in the first week of October, my Morning Glory sent out two beautiful blue flowers. They bloomed all day, revealing the depth of confusion in this plant. I now call it my “All Day Glory,” because it can be found with flowers on it just about any time of day. It’s been blooming for a month now, and more buds appear each day. In spite of the two hard frosts we’ve had, it blooms on.

Sometimes you just have to wait longer than expected for the bloom. But then when it does appear, it is more rewarding and more beautiful than a less anticipated bloom.

We have another bloom coming. It’s not a bloom we planned on or expected … It’s a bloom that I grieved and said goodbye to when I saw my final MRI results, when my neurologist confirmed again, “you’ve definitely suffered a stroke.” We were cautioned to consider carefully growing our family any further when doctors concluded my stroke was a result of pregnancy, and so I worked to envision my family as one of only four. I struggled. I prayed. I waited. And waited. And I accepted life. I grew content. I enjoyed being with my tribe. I loved my two babies. And now I will love a third.

After the mind-blowing shock has worn away, I find that I trust my Father’s timing. I always have. If I had been born when my parents desired me, I’d be a good decade older! For reasons known only to him, God has chosen this babe, and not the one I desired much sooner, the one that I let go of having. My heart feels certain that this has always been the plan. This person is the one God planned on. He or she is eternally significant. In June we will meet this sweet babe, our belated bloom.

Although we had altered our plans because of my health, God has re-orchestrated those plans once again. We trust that he is able to uphold my health throughout this pregnancy, and we ask for your prayers for my health. Each morning when I wake up, I am thankful to have another day. Somehow my heightened awareness of my fragility has bloomed a new gratitude for life in me and a new awareness of what really matters. Every day I’m given with Sophie and Micah and Andrew is a gift, and I am so thankful.

No matter what the next months hold, I have chosen to believe that God is big enough. He is big enough to keep me from another stroke. He is big enough to protect my life. And if he chooses otherwise, then he is big enough to keep my beloved husband and my sweet babies in his care. He is big enough.

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