Monday, October 26, 2009

Have you lived today?

For the past few weeks, I have had the joy of having a student teacher in my room. I love having student teachers because not only do they learn from me, I also learn so much from them. Of course, there's the usual new ideas of how to teach, but there's also so much more.

To begin with, I finally get to "take care" of some things I usually put putting away my files. There is an amazing amount of paperwork that goes along with being a teacher and to finally have time to get it all done is such a blessing. I will miss that, but I have learned how much better each evening feels with my family when I know that my desk at work isn't piled high with unfinished odds and ends. Now that I realize that, my next task will be to figure out how to keep up with the paperwork once my student teacher is gone.

I also learned what it's like to be a student again. I sit at my desk, observing for the entire day....and get very sleepy. No wonder my students act out at times. They are BORED!!! It was such a gift to be able to see things from the other person's point of view for a change. Keeping that in mind may help me be more patient and hopefully more creative with my lessons. School is the only place in the world I know of where you are required to sit, listen, and not get up without permission. That's asking a lot from anyone, much less from someone who has the energy of a small nuclear plant bottled up inside them!

In watching my student teacher, I learned there are other ways to do what I am doing. Perhaps they are very different from my way, but they work just the same. Sometimes it can be difficult to let go of the reins and allow someone else to take charge. Growing means allowing others to shine sometimes. I'll be honest, letting go is very difficult for me. Difficult can be good for you if it allows you to grow.

Mostly, I've learned how much I miss doing what I was created to do. When I finally got the chance to get back in front of my students, the rush was unbelievable! I absolutely LOVE what I do. Oh, I hate the paperwork and having to deal with discipline issues, but I LOVE TEACHING!!!! I think that is because it is what God created me for. When a person operates in their gifts, there is such a rush and a joy! I know when I am simply going through the motions, but when it flows....oh my!

For years, I ran from the idea of becoming a was the last place on earth I thought I wanted to be. I was amazed when the road of life finally led me into the classroom to discover this is where I was meant to be all along. I wonder how many others have run from the gifts of God because they thought those gifts would shackle them, or create a miserable life for them? When I was in my 20's, I was certain I knew what God had for I realize I'm just barely beginning to understand how the paths of life lead us to where He wants us to be.

Yes, I'm learning a lot from my student teacher....I'm learning to keep up with the little daily items that threaten to overwhelm my life...the paperwork and tiny irritants that if I allow them to stack up will steal my peace. I'm learning to get them out of the way as soon as possible. I'm learning to look at things from the view of the student once again. Living life in the other person's shoes isn't always what I imagined it might be. In that, I'm learning empathy. Mostly, I'm learning that I want to live my life with that sense of being used by God for what I was created for. I know that not everyone has the same gifts...what a boring world that would be. But what if we all allowed God to use us in our area of gifting every day? What if I allowed Him to use me to encourage others no matter what I was doing? What if I remembered that my job is so much more than just a job? It's the place where God has allowed me to use my gifts for Him!

God has promised that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly...have you lived abundantly today?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What did you learn today?

Remember when you were a kid and you would come home from school and your parents would ask "What did you learn today?" When we were very small, we'd rattle off a hundred things about our day, but as we got older, the response was usually, "Nothing," or "I don't know." Neither of these were the answer our parents were hoping for.

I know when I ask my kids that question, I'm hoping to hear about their day...what is going on in their lives....who their friends are and maybe a little encouragement that they are actually LEARNING something while they are at school. I also know that when they are able to tell me what they are learning, it goes down deeper into their understanding and perhaps helps them retain the information. Still, when I ask, I get the same response we gave our parents, "Nothing."

Today I got to wondering, what if our kids could ask us the same questions? What would our response be? More importantly, if our Heavenly Father asked us, "What did you learn today?", what would our answer be? I'm afraid too often my answer would be "nothin'." Now of course we know that we are learning something all the time, or at least we should be.

When we first are saved, everyday is so filled with the wonder of God's love, we could rattle off for hours what God was showing us...but after we've walked with the Lord for a while, our response becomes more like a child in Jr. High. Like our own children, the problem isn't that we aren't learning, but that we aren't paying attention to what we are learning. It's not getting the chance to really sink in because we are on auto-pilot, not really trying to get the most out of life's lessons. Perhaps our minds are on what's for lunch, or on our friends, or on some problem that in a few weeks we won't even remember, but for whatever reason, we just aren't paying attention. Some of it sinks in...but we don't really know WHAT we are learning. It's all just "stuff."

How different could my life be if I paid attention? What if I asked God each day to help me see what He was trying to teach me that day? What if I was consciously aware that even in the daily grind of life, there were lessons to be learned? I might be learning how to be patient, or how to experience joy, or how to keep my mouth shut and LISTEN (yes, I admit again this one is difficult for me.) The point is, if we're alive then each day brings SOMETHING we can learn...even if it's just how to listen. We're not supposed to be here just taking up space...everyday brings a new opportunity to grow and learn. Life isn't just some random series of events....there is a purpose to each day.

Okay, so the question remains...."What did you learn today?" Maybe by asking ourselves that each day, life's lessons will really make the connection. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Do I really believe it?

Last night I was watching a middle school football game and the "Random thoughts" started to flow. There on the field and the sidelines were 30 plus players giving it all they had trying to win the game. In the distance, you could see lightning filling the sky and the rain poured down. A few loyal parents spotted the metal stands wishing they would call the game so we could all go home. The scoreboard did not completely reveal the battle that was taking place, since only the other team had a score. The faces of the players, however, showed the anguish as play after play failed to provide needed points. The players slid around on the field, slipped as they tried to get traction, and watched as passes intended for their hands fell short or slipped from their grasp. One player in particular was so frustrated with having to play a position he felt he wasn't good at that he wanted to give up completely. I can relate. We've all been there....feeling like what we were doing wasn't making any difference at all in the "game". Like we're in over our head doing something we AREN'T comfortable with and watching someone else play the "position" we feel is rightfully ours.

That's what got me to I really believe what I say I believe? Do I really believe the promise of God that He works ALL things for my good and His glory? If I do, it should make a difference in the way I deal with every situation....even the ones where I feel like life just isn't being fair. For if I do believe this to be true, then I must realize that no matter what is before me, God has allowed me to deal with this for a reason....and it ultimately will be for my good and His glory. I may not like it, but then again, I don't always like exercise and that's good for me. I know that's not nearly the same, but it helps me to put things into context. The question is, can I work willingly and wholeheartedly at whatever I do, as though I was working for the Lord rather than people? (Col. 3:23) It can become my act of worship when I "deal" with unfair or difficult situations by giving my all and doing things with a cheerful attitude - without grumbling and complaining. Okay, I admit, I have trouble with that one too.

As I watched that young man on the sidelines throwing his helmet down in frustration, I wondered how many times have I "pitched a 5 year old fit" because I didn't like my current lot in life? Can I instead learn to look at what is directly in front of me as an opportunity to worship? Can I approach every situation remembering that there is something I can learn from it? Do I truly believe?

I have experienced times in my life when I wasn't so sure of what I believed. Times when I questioned if perhaps God had forgotten me or if maybe He had "missed it" this time. Yes, I admit it, and I think if we are all honest, we've all been there at some time or another. The good news is that with time, I've been allowed to realize that YES, God will work things for my good and His glory if I allow Him to. Would I actually CHOOSE to go through these trials again? Probably not, but I'm learning that I don't always choose what is best for me. Guess I've got to trust the One who knows me better than I know myself, and the One who knows the plan and purpose for my life. Do I believe that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it? (Philippians 1:6)

Do I really believe?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One of a kind

You know, I could probably fill a library with books full of Levi stories. Levi is my son. This past weekend, Levi provided us with yet another story for the books.

We were visiting my family in Alabama and most everyone was at the pond drowning plastic worms. As I watched from the kitchen window, the peaceful scene that lay before me was right out of a Norman Rockwell picture. Pawpaw was there, along with his sons and their daughters and then there was Levi.....standing under a tree....looking straight up.

I knew something was up, pardon the pun. That's when I saw Levi take his rod and reel and throw them up into the tree....and they got stuck. It was obviously time to go and see what was going on.

When I got out there, Levi's dad - my husband - was continuing to fish, his uncle was shaking his head in disbelief, and his sister was ignoring the entire situation. The rod and reel had fallen from the tree by now and I could see why Levi had been staring up. His lure, the second one that day, had gotten hung in the tree. There in the middle of the pecan leaves was a small blue and white fish with a bright green tail. How it got into the tree I still have no idea. Maybe he was trying his hand at "fly" fishing.

It took a while, but I finally got the lure out of the tree. All the while, all I could think of was "only Levi". There's no doubt - Levi is one of a kind. Levi loves life. Levi LIVES life! It's almost as if he is constantly trying to fit as much into every minute of every day as possible, and in the process he often winds up in the middle of some hilarious situations. As my husband puts it - with Levi, at least it's never dull.

As crazy as all this makes me, I'm a little jealous of my son. He is always searching, always questioning, and yes, always making mistakes....because he's out there living life. It's as if he's already discovered that the only way to live is to not be afraid to make a mistake. I wish I could manage to live for the Lord with the same fervor. What's the worst that can happen? I'll make mistakes and....well, come to think of it that wouldn't be that much different than it is now. The difference is the sense of fun and adventure I see in Levi...the laughter I see in those around him...and the chance to see God at work all around me.

Yep, Levi is one of a kind. What a great way to be.

"Let every detail in your lives - words, actions, whatever - be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way." (Colossians 3:17, Message version)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Time for some cleaning

Today I had the wonderful experience of visiting my brother-in-law and sister-in-law in their new home. I was so excited to see how they had been blessed and get the chance to visit with family. I was also excited for my husband and son to get a chance to fish in their new pond. They had a great time, and perhaps in my next blog I'll get the chance to write about Levi throwing his fishing rod up into a tree, but for now my random thoughts are going in another direction.

While we were there, and the kids were busy drowning plastic worms in the pond, I asked my sister-in-law if perhaps there was something I could do to help. She paused for a moment and said something along the lines of "If you're serious, I could use the help wiping down the insides of the cabinets." Of course I was glad to help! I find that I do my best "visiting" when I have something to do! If I sit too long, I tend to fall asleep. Anyway, we grabbed a couple of pails of water and started to wipe down the cabinets.

Now they haven't moved in most of their "stuff" yet, so wiping down the cabinets was actually a pretty easy job! It was simply a matter of opening the doors, wiping out the little bit of dust that had accumulated, and then moving on to the next one. I was enjoying myself as I visited and cleaned. The job took very little time with the two of us working together and was much more fun than working alone! I then started thinking, I have tomorrow off, I'm going to clean out MY cabinets when I get home.....that's when reality, and the random thoughts hit.

You see, my cabinets won't be nearly as much fun to clean for a couple of reasons. One - my cabinets are full of STUFF...that's a nice generic word for clutter, chaos, and confusion. To clean out my cabinets means pulling everything out, sorting through the mismatched tupperware bowls, tossing butter containers (why DO I have so many empty butter tubs anyway?), and then cleaning dust brought in by children, pets, and time. Hmmmm, maybe I don't want to clean tomorrow. My cabinets are too full to make this chore anything other than hard labor. Not the way I want to spend my day off. So, of course, I'm putting it off.

My cabinets are a lot like my life right now...full of stuff, so cleaning out what shouldn't be there is even more difficult. I only want to deal with the things that are dirty, but the confusion of clutter and too much stuff is slowing down the process! I've got things out of place (as in my priorities have gotten scrambled.) I have cabinets full of empty butter tubs (as in junk in my life that I've held on to for some reason, but it's really still just junk.) I've got the dust that comes from living life (as in the problems that life throws at you on a daily basis - some big, others not so big, but problems all the same.) It's so much easier when you have empty cabinets...when you haven't yet filled them with obligations, regrets, disappointments, and failures.

The good news is that Jesus came to give us life, and life more abundantly. When we give everything to Him, he gives us a fresh start - sort of like those empty cabinets. Keeping those clean is easy! Just a quick wipe and it's done! Of course, dishes will have to eventually go inside...we don't live this life alone. The trick is to NOT fill them with things that shouldn't be there. By keeping a close watch on them, they can stay clutter free and easy to manage.

In life it takes the same kind of thinking. I want to be able to keep my heart and mind clean...and that means letting go of the clutter and misplaced priorities. It means I've got to take the time daily, or at the very least, weekly, to make sure I've cleared out the clutter. In case you haven't noticed, clutter is sneaky! It multiplies when you aren't looking! I'm pretty sure it actually reproduces, but I can't prove it. I do know that like the clutter in my cabinets, the clutter in my mind can become so overwhelming it seems impossible to deal with. The only way to conquer it is a little at a time....clearing out what doesn't belong.

So, tomorrow morning I'll wake up, get my cup of coffee and tackle at least ONE cabinet. I've decided this is the only solution....cause I can't just move. I've found that no matter where I go, there I am....and clutter will follow me there!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What's inside your gumball machine?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was learning to deal with frustration. I know, after 50 years on this earth, it's about time, but seems like there is something new going on here.

I know that a lot of people are feeling the stress of everyday living right now. The economy had shortened our paydays or lengthened our months or something because I always have extra month left at the end of my money. When I look around, I see more and more people who seem to be on edge and I have to wonder if their months have suddenly gotten "longer" too. Let's face it, life can be downright tough sometimes. Seems like everyone is looking for answers. I have been known to mutter that if one more person asks me one more thing I'm liable to just go bouncing off the walls! Yep, life is "shaking" us all. That's where today's random thought comes in.

Imagine that you and I are like huge gumball machines....and life seems to be continually trying to get something out of us. Problem is, the only thing you can get out is whatever we've put in. As long as it's the normal everyday stuff, we're fine. Then along comes that BIG test that grabs you up and shakes you around till your "gumballs" are rattling against the glass. You know you're going to spill out....and whatever is inside you is going to go EVERYWHERE! It won't just be the normal gumballs, but every "prize" inside you will come out.

I'd like to believe that inside me you will find the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.....really having to work on that last one. Instead, I'm afraid that lately when I've been shaken, the yuck prizes have come tumbling out: cheap rings that fall apart the first time you put them on (vanity), temporary tattoos of skulls and crossbones (popular "wisdom" of today's culture), or sometimes something that you can't even recognize or figure out....(guess that would be my incoherent babbling). No matter how you look at it, it's not what you wanted. Like gumballs, whatever is in there comes tumbling out, bouncing and rolling and going all over the place. I so wish that it was the fruit of the spirit that was rolling out, going into new areas and changing lives.

So, how do we fix it....okay, how do I fix it? I can't give out what's not inside. It's time to realize that I can't go non stop and never take time to clean out the old and refill with the refreshing Word of God. No one can. If we don't make a conscious effort to refill with God, life will make sure we are so "busy" that we don't even realize we are no longer filled with the fruit of the spirit but have cheap imitation goods instead....that is until someone "shakes" us really hard. That's when you find what's REALLY inside. If it's not what you hoped, there's still time to refill....cause trust me, life will be sure to shake you again.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

blocking the water's flow

It's been quite a while since I've written anything. I'd like to blame it on the school year starting, but in truth I believe it was something more.

About 9 weeks ago I had one of "those weeks". You know the kind; everywhere you turn it seems like you run into a wall. I had too much month left at the end of my money, the kids needed glasses, shoes, etc, etc. etc. Normally, I do pretty well at the juggling act, but sometimes...well, sometimes I'm just an explosion looking for somewhere to happen.

It was a really HOT day (like we have anything else in South Mississippi), and I had just one too many things go wrong...and I lost it. I got angry at someone and while I was "polite" as all good Southern girls know we should be, I made my displeasure known. It felt good....for about 3 hours. Then, as I had time to cool down, I could hear the unmistakable voice of the Lord telling me I needed to go back and apologise.

Now, I of course worked to "justify" what had happened by going over all the things that had gone wrong and how that person had been in the wrong with what they had done. I could almost picture the Lord sitting there, calmly letting me spout off, and when I was finished those words came back again. You need to apologise. But God! Even as I reasoned my way through it all, I knew that nothing else would do short of that apology.

That's where things started getting tough. School was back in session and I was pretty much "stuck" from early morning till after dark each day and there was no way I could get to the place of business to say I was sorry. They had "normal" hours and as any teacher can tell you, there's no such thing as "normal" hours the first few weeks of school.

I would think of the incident at the weirdest times, knowing what I needed to do. Unfortunately, I could never seem to remember to go on those rare afternoons when I could leave the school before 5. That is until yesterday. Yesterday we had staff development, so I knew I'd be able to leave the school during lunch and make my move. Of course, when lunch time came, about three different things happened to slow me down and it was looking like another opportunity was about to be lost. This time, however, I was DETERMINED to right the wrong. I managed to rush into the business and say my apologies and still get back to the school relatively on time.

Now, like all my blogs, there is a random thought in here. As the weeks crawled by, I noticed that until I obeyed, the creative juices just didn't flow. The "Random Thoughts" that had come so easily had almost dried up. Now, perhaps it was a guilty conscience, or perhaps it was that the gifts just could not flow with this huge unresolved bolder sitting at the mouth of the stream. There was a slight trickle, but I could tell that something was definitely blocking the flow. Once I did what I knew I needed to do, the flow began to slowly return. I don't necessarily feel some great weight lifted, but I can tell that obedience has done some sort of work in me.

In all this, I have hopefully learned a few things. I wish I was better able to handle the daily stress of life, but the truth is - I can't. No one can. Your buttons are going to get pushed in this life, almost like someone going up to a gumball machine and shaking it to see what comes out. The only thing I can do is to make sure that I fill my "gumball machine" with the fruit of the spirit so I'm not embarrassed when it comes spilling out!

To be honest, I'm not doing a really great job of that right now.....but that's for another blog.