Monday, December 30, 2019

Just good...

Anyone who has read my blog over the years knows that each new year I choose a "word" that becomes my focus for the year. I'm no good at keeping resolutions, so having one word that becomes the focus of my year works so much better for me. 

In years past, I've chosen a variety of words and each one has proved to be perfect for that particular year. There was the year I chose the word "Hope" and that was the year that Dale lost his job when the company closed down and hope was all that carried us through. There was the year I chose the word "move" thinking it meant one thing and by the end of the year, I had moved from my teaching position at one school to a different one I had barely even heard of. 

With "words" like these in mind, I don't just choose willy-nilly. In fact, I really do try to let the words choose me. I've been pondering all this and wondering what this year's word would be when a surprising one came to mind. Not one I'd have chosen on my own, I don't think. The word is good. No, seriously. The word is "good."

Now I'm not one who is known to live my life in moderation when it comes to language or anything else. Things are "awesome" and "great" and even sometimes "audacious!" but "good" is just so..."meh". At least was my opinion until the random thoughts wheel started spinning and I thought about a Bible verse almost everyone knows. It's from Genesis when God looked at His creation and said that it was good. Every animal and plant that I can imagine and more - good? The mountains and the sea and forests and the sky filled with light and clouds and colors - good? Literally everything - good? Okay, for everything He said "very good" but still.

Maybe the word "good" is more than just good. Maybe it's time for me to stop trying to be spectacular or stupendous, or remarkable or amazing or noteworthy and simply be good. What if I live my life simply to hear my Father say, "Good"?

There are lots of other verses about being "good". The Bible is full of them! Like these:

Galatians 6:10 New International Version (NIV)

10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

2 Thessalonians 3:13 New International Version (NIV)

13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
Honestly, there are probably enough verses about doing "good" that I could study a different one every day this year and still not get to them all. 
So, I guess this year's word has found me and it is "good". What about you? Have you found your word for the year...or has it found you? Whatever the word is, I'm sure it will be good.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

And I smile...

A resting face can say a lot. There are actually "funny" memes about different kinds of resting faces. Recently I looked at the resting face of an older friend and saw a frown etched deep into his brow, almost to the point of wondering what was he angry about. I know he wasn't. That was just the expression that had carved itself into his face over the years. 

You can see a lot in a resting face. Maybe that is why we are so drawn to the faces of sleeping infants. There is no worry, no stress, no anger - only peace.

I remember many, many, many years ago when I was reading one of those "Teen Beat" magazines that were so popular in the 70's about what my "teen idol" looked for in a girl. It might have been Davy Jones, or Donny Osmond, or David Cassidy - who remembers which one I was most in love with that week. But something from that article stuck with me ever since that day. Whichever "D" it was, he said he looked for a girl who had a smile on her face even when it was resting. 

Now mind you, most people do NOT have a smile on their face all the time. (Resist the temptation to go look in the mirror to see what your own resting face looks like. Or if you do, don't forget to come back and finish reading.) A resting face tends to be kind of...frowny. The only way to have a resting face with a smile is for you to have recently, as in the past couple of minutes, been smiling. 

Anyway, since I read that article as an impressionable teenager, I have become very aware of what my face is "saying." And, as I have gotten older, I find myself looking for more reasons to smile. It tends to hide some of the wrinkles time has etched into my visage. At least that's what I tell myself. 

Maybe that's one reason I like facebook. I watch a funny video or read a sweet story or one of those Christmas commercials from Folgers or Budweiser, and I find that I'm sitting there with a smile on my face. It's not some laugh out loud smile, but just a reminder that life is filled with little moments of happiness and hope...and the resulting smile feels good. 

I've had students ask me, "Why are you always smiling?" To be honest, sometimes it's so I won't cry in frustration, but mostly it's because I am blessed. There is Hope within me. To quote an old hymn, "I know Who holds the future, and He's watching over me." Shouldn't my face reflect that?

I'm not saying I always succeed with the smile, but as I get older I find I am more and more aware of what my face is doing. Since my face seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to aging, I can at least control how my wrinkles are arranged. Smiling is much better than makeup for hiding the ravages of time. And as Buddy the Elf says, I love smiling - smiling is my favorite!

Today, I hope you have moments that bring that sweet smile to your face, moments that bring the "laugh out loud" smile to your face, and moments that you find you are, for no particular reason, wearing a peaceful smile. Do whatever you need to do to find your smile. You'll be surprised at how good it makes you well as those around you. 

We could start a "smiling epidemic" that could take the next decade by storm...or at the very least leave our own lives feeling a little more hopeful. 

My story ends with a good note - perhaps one that will make you smile. My friend had a little child approach him with a hug and suddenly all the worry and frown that had been there vanished in an instant as a smile took its place. "And a little child shall lead them..."

Check your face - what is it doing right now? As for me, I'm smiling.

1 Peter 3:15
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

Friday, August 9, 2019

I just realized something...

Okay, people, I have come to a realization. 
I. Am. Loud.

I know! I am as shocked as you are! Who would have guessed? 

Just kidding. Of course, I know I'm loud. What has changed, is that I have now come to realize this is simply a part of who I am. I don't always like it, but it's not something I can really change. You wouldn't go up to someone who was over 6 feet tall and tell them they should really try to be shorter, would you? But we tell people who are loud that they should be quieter all the time. Or less animated...or less them.

The thing is I now believe that my loudness is a part of who God created me to be. I know that I have been loud my entire life. For years I have tried to be "quieter" or "better" or "less" - and when I do, I am miserable. It takes constant work and before I know it I fail and once again I am, well, loud! 

As I have grown older (much older) I find that I can, at times, be appropriately quiet. I'm learning to control the gift of volume that I have been given. But sometimes, like when I am teaching, well - then I can be kind of loud! The difference is, now I have learned to accept that loud is a part of how God made me. As I reach the final years of my career, I've discovered that it might be one of my stronger gifts. It does, after all, have a way of capturing kids' attention. But, it's not always an acceptable characteristic to have.

I'm starting to understand that while the world may not accept the gifts God gives, He does so without repentance. That means He doesn't regret making you the way you are. Are you shy, or loud, or argumentative, or dramatic, or introverted, or extroverted, or an INFP, INFJ, ME or whatever the latest personality test reveals you to be? It is a part of who God created you to be. You have strengths and weaknesses that when turned over to Him can reach the lost. No matter what the world tells you, you were created for a purpose - flaws, gifts, and everything in between.

So, as I have learned to accept, if not embrace, my personality quirks, I implore others to do the same. If we believe we serve a God of purpose, then even the things about us that we consider to be a flaw are not a mistake.

I will continue to live my life out loud. I will also work to accept those who are different than me. I won't go around asking tall people to be shorter, or short people to try to be taller, or anyone to be anything other than what God created them to be.

It's a process and I'm learning. Feel free to join me on the journey.

Psalm 139:13-16 The Message (MSG)

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—You’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

Ephesians 2:10 New International Version (NIV)

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

It's about so much more...

Every time I open my facebook feed, I see another story on teacher shortages in Mississippi or how teachers are underpaid in our state. You could probably insert the name of just about any state and see the same type of story trending. Recently our state superintendent was quoted as telling a group of teachers that they needed to get behind recruiting new teachers. I read and I nod and I shake my head.

Why don't they get it? It's not about the money. It has never been about the money.

Go to any college and talk to those entering education, you won't hear any of them saying they are entering the field for the money, the lavish lifestyle, the prestige or the recognition. They certainly aren't doing it for the free time, long lunches, bathroom breaks, or test scores! Teachers enter this profession because they care. They foolishly believe in children and families and the future. 

Teachers are on the mission field. Most feel called by God to do what they do. (I'm not sure how those who don't believe in God survive the first year.) Teachers want to bridge the gap and reach every child that enters their classroom...and they beat themselves up when they find they won't reach every single one...that some will slip through their fingers and they will feel they have failed. They are human. 

When they hear of a child who moves away and they are unsure of that child's fate in the future - they lose sleep...and they pray. When they hear of a child who is going through sickness or the loss of a parent either through divorce or death, they lose sleep and they pray. When they see a child struggle to understand, they rework their lessons and try to find new ways to reach that child...and they pray. When they see a child dealing with anger or shyness or a first crush or just about any emotion that they know is painful, they pray. And yes, when test time comes, they pray. They pray they have done enough. 

The test. It's what the world seems to see. The world doesn't see that child who hated school but now comes into class with a smile because they finally feel successful. It doesn't see the timid speak, the angry reach out in compassion, or the child who had lost all hope finally look toward the future with anticipation. It only sees a number... a test score that can be influenced by lack of sleep, a poor breakfast, a headache, a fight in the car, a broken romance, a baseball tournament, or a lost friend. Just a number. 

Teachers everywhere wait on those numbers because it tells them whether or not they were a success - or a failure. The state department doesn't see little Johnny who was dealing with the news that they would be moving...again. It doesn't seem to see that little girl who wonders why she isn't as "pretty" as the world says she should be. It doesn't see the child who stayed up late listening to parents fight over money troubles...again. But teachers do. And we try to calm their fears, anxieties, worries and reassure them that they are enough, not to worry, just do their best...all the while dealing with our own fears, anxieties, and worries about the "test."

The state department seems to think that the way to raise test scores is to make it more difficult to become a teacher and all the while bemoaning the fact that we don't have enough teachers to fill the empty positions. And I won't even go into the whole teacher pay question. Because it's really about so much more than money.  Stop and recognize that teachers are pouring out their lives for their students. Ask us about our kids, not our scores. See our faces glow when we tell stories of the lives of children where we know we made a difference, watch our eyes tear up when we think of those we couldn't quite reach, and join us in laughter as we remember moments that only a teacher can understand. But please...please...don't judge us by our test scores because it makes everything else we do seem...insignificant.

So dear Department of Education, know that I have already looked over my scores...wondering what more I could have done to reach these children in the 180 days we had together. I've looked at each and every child and celebrated over those who grew and worried over those who did not. I see their faces. I know their lives...and what you are looking at is a test, only a test. I'm looking at so much more.

Proverbs 22:6 
Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost.

For those looking at becoming teachers...fair warning. It's the toughest job you'll ever love.

James 3 The Message (MSG)

1-2 Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Lessons from Kid's Church for the teacher...

Sometimes it can be a challenge to teach in Kid's Church - especially if it's a story the kids "think" they know. They want to tell the story and never slow down long enough to hear I was challenged with teaching the story of the conversion of Saul, a story most of us know very well. 

In an effort to find a way to help my kids understand this story in a fresh way, I learned something that is worth sharing.

We all know in our head that no one is so bad that God can't change them, right? But as I studied today, a phrase struck me. Saul was raised in the Jewish faith and "knew" it better than anyone. I bet when they ate around the table at night, he recounted on how he had "shown those stupid Christians a thing or two." They probably laughed and toasted over each perceived victory. 

Yep, it's pretty hard to change someone who goes home each night to a reinforcement of wrong...that's when it hit me...but it's NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

As a teacher, at times we grieve over our students who go home each night to rest their heads in a place where rest is not to be found. Sometimes it's a place of sadness, heartbreak, need, anger and even violence we know nothing about. We worry that we can't make a difference when we have them a few hours a day and then they go back into an environment of chaos that to them is "normal" and "right." Much like, I'm sure, the Christians thought there would never be a change in someone the likes of Saul. But there was.

As an educator, a mom, and a child of God, I sometimes I fall into the "I know they can change but it seems impossible with the circumstances they face." But nothing is impossible for God. Nothing
I need to ask God daily to remove the scales from MY eyes so that I can see what He can do in a life, no matter the circumstances. 

So there you have it - thoughts from Kid's Church, where very often the teacher learns as much if not more than the students.

Acts 7: 59-60
As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.” Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”—his last words. Then he died.
Saul was right there, congratulating the killers. (emphasis mine)
Acts 8:3
3-8 And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail.
Acts 9: 1- 19
1-2 All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.
3-4 He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”
5-6 He said, “Who are you, Master?”
“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”
7-9 His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.
10 There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.”
“Yes, Master?” he answered.
11-12 “Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”
13-14 Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”
15-16 But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”
17-19 So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.
Photo by Adrien Taylor on Unsplash

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Waiting for the other shoe to drop...

Today's random thought will be kind of long since it has been on my mind for about 3 weeks now...

As I was growing up, I thought if I did what I was supposed to and was a "good" Christian, then things would go "right" in my didn't take long into adulthood to figure out this was NOT the case. After all, in the Bible, it does say that in this world we will have tribulation...

As I grew in understanding, I realized that not only would I have tribulation, the more I served God the more of a target I would become for the enemy! Even if I did nothing, the fact that God loves me makes the enemy hate me! This resulted in a life of waiting for the other shoe to matter how good things were going, I knew that just around the corner an attack was waiting. Yeah - not really conducive to peace.

But the past few weeks, I've been thinking about the story of Elisha and his servant from 2 Kings 6, beginning at verse 8. You can read this in its entirety at the end of this blog but what follows is a "Donna synopsis" of the story.

In the Bible, it says that Elisha was serving God, doing what God directed him to do and warning the Israelites of the enemy's moves before they happened. This, as you can imagine, did not sit well with King Aram of the Arameans who was at war with Israel. He thought he had a traitor in his own camp, but one of his men let him know that the problem was this guy named Elisha. So, understandably, King Aram decided to "get rid of" the problem and said, (vs 13) “Go, find out where he is, so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” '(Pretty sure this didn't mean Alabama...) (vs 14) "Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city." 
See, the plan was to stop Elisha.

Early the next morning, Elisha's servant got up and went out of the tent, I'm guessing to make coffee. What he saw terrified him! He ran back in and woke up Elisha (notice that Elisha was so at peace that he was asleep!) and in a panic told him they were surrounded and asked, "What shall we do?" ( think it probably had a few extra exclamation points...more like, "WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?!?!?!?!?!?!")

At this point, I imagine Elisha yawning before saying, "Don't worry. Those who are with us are greater than those against us." He then prayed that God would open the servant's eyes so that he could see what Elisha already knew was there. When he went back outside, what the servant saw was fiery chariots surrounding them, basically standing between them and the enemy. The rest of the story is equally amazing, but I wanted to focus on this part - Elisha was at perfect peace because he knew that he was surrounded by God. He didn't deny the army that was there, he simply trusted that God had a plan and would protect him.

So there it is - the other shoe drop. In life it's not that I have to worry because there will be trouble, it's that I can be at perfect peace and enjoy each day because when the trouble comes, God already has me surrounded. I know...amazingly simple, but it took God opening my eyes to see the truth. 

He's got you covered...enjoy each day and do as He directs without fear.

2 Kings 6: 8-23 
Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”
The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.
11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”
12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.
19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.
20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.
21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”
22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Sunday, January 6, 2019

My views on exercise have changed...

"Target your thighs", "get rid of belly fat," "lose x pounds in 30 days..." seems like this type of headline appears on a regular basis in my newsfeed, especially right after the new year begins. I know that a lot of that is thanks to articles I have previously visited, but lately, I've noticed that my reaction to them has changed. Maybe it's age, maybe it's fatigue, maybe it's even contentment - all I know is that most of these headlines mean very little to me anymore. My views on exercise have definitely changed.

Now, the one on belly fat does catch my eye because I'm too cheap to buy new clothes so I really need to work on this one, but my reasoning for reading the other articles on exercise has definitely taken a different turn. 

No longer do I care so much what I "look" I just want to be able to move. Age seems determined to slow me down, inhibit my movement, and keep me from doing all that I feel like God has for me to do, and that is NOT okay. I don't really care if I look good in a swimsuit (okay, so I care a little) but I do care a LOT if I can't sing and dance through a session of Children's Church without getting winded. I care if my knees won't allow me to kneel by a student's desk to help them with a problem. I care that it's hard to sit down and then get up off the floor so playing with children is limited. I care that I walk like I'm in pain (because I am) and it slows me down. I care that lifting groceries into that old lady's car at Walmart makes my back hurt a bit. I care because I know God's not finished with me yet - I know that because I'm still here!

Lately, I've been working on getting back to exercise but now I have a different reason than in the past. Before I may have said it was for "health" purposes, but honestly, I cared a LOT about how I looked and I think I had something to "prove." Now I think I'm a bit more concerned that I can simply get around.

The other day I saw an older woman, (honestly, she was probably about my age!) at Walmart and she was having difficulty getting her groceries into her car. I stopped and asked to help and she graciously accepted. I lifted the rather large container filled with groceries she had just purchased into her back seat - I noticed how heavy it was and wondered how she'd get it into her house. I held out my arm for her to balance so she could get off the electric cart and slowly move into the driver's seat. I waited as she maneuvered herself behind the wheel and then offered to put the cart up so that she could back out of the parking space. (Let's be honest - I've always wanted to ride on one of those carts!) She had to instruct me on how to make the cart move and after a couple of tries, I managed to "hot-wheel" it into the store. It was one of the most frustrating experiences I've had in a while. I had NO IDEA that those carts move so slow!

Now, I have nothing against those who need to use these carts for assistance - I just realize even more that I really do NOT want to be one of them, so now exercise has taken on a new meaning! I even noticed a change in my thinking...I used to say I wanted to retire in the next five years, but I'm thinking that may stretch out a bit. Who says at 65 you have to slow down? I want to RUN the race God has set out for me. I want to run all the way across the finish line...or at the very least, walk at a fast clip! 

So yeah, now I see exercise in a very different way. I don't care if my "thighs look good" - I want to be sure my legs are strong enough for the days ahead. I don't care how my back looks or if I have "shapely shoulders" - I want them to be strong enough to help others. I don't care if I finish first in a 5k - I just want to be able to participate in life! Wrinkles - yeah, I have those too but hopefully, the light of Jesus shines in my eyes enough that people don't really notice those.

I guess what I'm saying is that now exercise isn't so much about me's more about helping those around me. I doubt anyone will ever write books about my "wisdom" or "spirituality" but I can at least help lift a few groceries or play with my students a bit. I want to be "in on" all that God has for me every single day till the day He says I'm done.'s time to get out of my recliner and go for a run...or at least a very vigorous walk - because now I have a reason far greater than me.

1 Corinthians 9:19-27 Message)
19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!
24-25 You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.
26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash - I have no idea why this picture called to me for this blog, but it certainly did!