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Archive for April, 2012

It was a beautiful day for a walk on my favorite trail, with my beast. A little podalic (things pertaining to feet 😉 ) therapy!

I felt as though it had been forever since we had the freedom for this most favorite activity, and that my fuzzy brain cells were calling out for it.

For a change, we did not speed walk. Instead it was a leisurely wander through the trails, taking in all of the details of change that spring brings along the path. Even my beast seemed unbothered by the change in pace.

As I started to walk, I exhaled. The kind of exhale that says, I need to purge my mind of all that is within it, of all that is overloading it. To purge it, though, means to first acknowledge all that is being, mentally, held on to.

I had been preoccupied about my husbands job security, and how that affects everything about our family’s life. I had been thinking about what I want my professional future to look like. About our eldest daughter’s plans to move away in the fall. About my other daughter’s summer. Wondering if we were being intentional enough with our son to build a firm foundation for the teen years to come. If we were meeting the needs of our International students , and if their presence was coming between ourselves and our own kids. Wondering about the future, about homes, and money and travel, and where our future would take us.

I was allowing my insecurities, and lack of vision of the future to hinder my ability to enjoy the present.

I stopped, and sat on a bench to enjoy the river. I thought of how the rising river made it fit it’s banks so much better than it had a couple of weeks earlier. On the other hand, the rising river could also mean impending doom for people whose homes or businesses are near the river. The future of the rising river is unseen.

Then I thought of my Magnolia tree, that is ready to burst into full flower. It will not bloom, though, until those hard, ugly shells open up with the pressure of the petals to burst free. Those hard, boring, ugly shells have kept the beauty hidden and safe, while they grew and prepared to show themselves in spring. If I did not know what is unseen, I might pluck those ugly shells off of them. But, because I know of the beauty that is currently out of sight, I wait for the beauty within to open up.

Then I looked at my beast, who had just plopped herself down on a bunch of dandelions. She has no insecurities in this world. She looks to me, as her co-master, and trusts that, although her bowl might get empty, it will be refilled again. She is not worried about much of anything (other than an intruder on the property, like a cat, or squirrel, or stray leaf blowing in the wind), because she trusts that as long as her masters are near, her needs will be met, because her masters care for her.

I realized that true beauty and true security do not come from what we know, or from what we can see. I remembered the words of 2 Corinthians 4:18, “so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

My brain cells are still a bit fuzzy, and I am still concerned about some of the aspects of life that endanger my understanding of security, but, I know that what is unseen might just be the most beautiful thing to come, and that I can be confident of how much my master cares for me, and this gives me fresh air to inhale.

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This is another post in a series, about a woman named Amara. Every Friday I will post another segment in this story.

When Dr. Lewis left Joy, she started feeling the weight of all that was going on in her life.

Her mother would appear to have just had a stroke, on top of Alzheimers Disease. Her husband would appear to be having an affair with a business colleague.

“I just cannot do this. I do not know where to turn. I have no hope,” Joy said under her breath.

“Momma! Momma! I missed you. Did you miss me?” Jessica’s joyful voice echoed in the hospital hallway. Everything within Joy was so out of energy to give, that she really had nothing left to offer her little girl. She felt lower than she ever remembered feeling. She had no vision of the future, and could not imagine things getting worse. She was hopeless.

Then, as Jessica’s arms wrapped tightly around her mother’s neck, a feeling of deja vu surrounded Joy. All of a sudden, Joy was in the place of her mother, so many years ago, when she had to deal with the deaths of both of her parents and her son. Joy, for the first time, understood why her mother had not … could not return her little daughter’s embrace. All of a sudden, Joy, for the first time in her life, understood that her mother had not rejected her, but that she had nothing to give her little girl, because she was hopeless.

Joy knew that she had to respond differently to her daughter than her own mother had responded to her. She knew that it would be an act of extraordinary strength, coming from a place within her, that even she did not know existed. Joy forced her arms around her daughter, and held on for dear life. As she held Jessica, and Jessica held her, Jessica’s head lifted, so that she was staring into the closed eyed face of her mother.

“Momma, why are you crying? Are you sad, Momma?”

Joy opened her eyes to see the most beautiful, innocent, loving eyes. As she looked into Jessica’s eyes, she saw the eyes of her mother staring back at her. “Oh Jessica, I just feel so loved by you,” she finally was able to say.

“I have the best Momma in the big, wide wold,” Jessica said, with the pronunciation of a New Englander, as she held on to her mother, even tighter.

“Is it okay for Jilly to go into Amara’s room?” Joe’s voice cut deep into Joy’s heart. Just moments before she was in the midst of the sweetest momma moment with Jessica, but with the sound of Joe’s voice, Joy was reminded of the hurt associated with Joe and the text message she had read on his phone.

“Go with her. Mom may not recognize her” was all Joy could say to Joe.

Joe seemed oblivious to the heartache that Joy was feeling. That was exactly Joy’s intent. The last thing she wanted was to allow tension and stress to take over in front of their daughters.

As they walked to Amara’s room, Joy prayed that her mother would at least recognize Jilly. All of a sudden screaming and yelling, followed by Jilly running out of the room to her mother. Her wide-eyed appearance told Joy that indeed her mother did not recognize her first granddaughter.

“Mom, what is wrong with her? Why did she not know me? What did I do wrong?” Jilly was trembling with fright.

Joy reached out for her daughter, and embraced her, as Jessica moved to allow her big sister to be comforted by their mother.

“Please do not take it personally, Jilly. She has moved into a new stage of Alzheimers and she is confused. I promise that the Nanna you know is still in there somewhere, and she knows and loves you.” They held on to each other, as Joy tried to help Jilly relax, and return to calm.

“Oh Joy, did you get to speak to a doctor this morning? What is going on with your mother?” Joe’s concern was heard as acid to Joy’s ears.

“Jilly, are you okay for me to tell you what the doctor said earlier? Or would you rather not hear until we get home?” Joy asked Jilly in a manner that indicated that she was speaking to her as an adult.

Jilly nodded.

“Dr. Lewis, who was so kind, spoke to me this morning … ” Joy sighed, “after my mother yelled and screamed at me the same way she did at you Jilly. She did not recognize me …”

“Mom, Nanna didn’t know you either?” Jilly asked in wide-eyed amazement.

“No, she didn’t, Jilly, and she was even more terrified by my being in her room.”

“Is that the Alzheimers then?” Joe asked, concerned. His concern was grating on Joy’s nerves. She just wished there was a way that she could tell him to leave … for good.

“Dr. Lewis said that she has had a stroke. They are unsure of the severity of it, but it has affected her speech. The not knowing us is probably related to the Alzheimers, which is unpredictable as to how it will affect her from day to day, and person to person.” Joy was relating all of this information as she held perfect eye contact with Jilly. She was determined to not lose her daughters during this time of struggle.

“The biggest battle is that she also has pneumonia …” Joy began to fade, as her ears, her mind, her heart was re-hearing the doctor’s words.

“That is treatable, right?” Joe’s voice was really causing a rise in blood pressure for Joy. It took a significant amount of self-talk for Joy to not scream at him.

“The doctor said that mother may never go home again,” and then the tears fell like a river down her face, as Jilly held her mother. Joe knelt down on the floor in front of Joy, and wrapped her arms around she and Jilly. Joy’s body tensed immediately. She reached into her pocket, pulled out Joe’s cell phone, and handed it to him, with the text opened for him to read …

“call me, I NEED to talk with you about a ‘business trip’ I am proposing. You owe me big time for leaving just when we were so close 😉 .” Roxanne

As Joe read then bowed his head, Jilly shouted out, “where is Jessica?”

Unfading – Part 1

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One of the blessings of not growing up in a family that went to church, is that I have never felt bound to a certain denomination, or style of worship service, or any of the other hang ups that we can be prone to as groups of people (not to say I have not attained my own hang ups over the years).

I remember clearly a conversation I had once with a teenager from hubby’s youth group, and her response to doing something ‘new’ was “but, we’ve never done it that way.” Yikes! When a teenager, at a time of life of questioning and challenging status quo, is stuck in “but that’s how we always do it” our churches have a problem.

Now, I have to say that I am a bit of a traditionalist. I love forms that have rational behind them. I agree that we need to honor the rites and rituals that are based on Biblical teaching. I do not, though, believe we should do things just because it is our tradition (ever seen Fiddler on the Roof? I am hearing the song “Tradition” in my head right now).

Traditions are not bad, they just need to be authentic.

For instance, there was the story of the handed down method of cooking a roast in one particular family. As the granddaughter was learning from her mother how to properly prepare it, like great grandma used to, the mother instructed her to cut about three inches of the roast off, before placing it in the pan. When the granddaughter asked why, the grandmother said, “it’s tradition.” The granddaughter persisted in wanting to know why. Just then the great grandmother walked into the room, and so, the question was asked, ‘why do we cut the end of the roast off?’ To which the great grandmother replied, ‘I do not know why you cut it off, but I had to because my roasting pan was too small.’ Authentic tradition? Not!

It is so easy to get into habits, that become traditions, that become a part of the fabric of who we are. If who we are is just a people of tradition followers, then our life is formed only by the past. But, if who we are is a people of only what is new, then our life is formed only by the present. To move into the future, we need to bring with us the traditions that are authentic, along with fresh perspectives and a willingness to be open to creating new, equally authentic traditions.

“The most damaging phrase in the language is:
“It’s always been done that way.”
Grace Hopper
(US Navy officer and American computer scientist, known as a pioneer in the field)

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This one has been coming for a long time … a rant about traffic controllers (aka ‘flaggers’) …

Before I rant, let me just say that I do respect the individuals, and the dangerous work that they perform on a daily basis, with little thanks and far too many close calls.

So, there is a bit of roadwork being done in my area of the woods, and the place is crawling (well, the cars are crawling … slowly) with people dressed as aliens from some 1980’s neon world. Their attire is very eye catching, in shades of neon yellow and green, and safety vests in a shade of red that is so bright, it could be identified as orange, with a reflective ‘X’ in the middle.

I remember  w  a  y  back when I was a kid, and all that distinguished them was a yellow hard hat on their head and a stop sign in their hand (and often a cigarette in the other hand … and, come to think of it, short shorts, and a shirt tied up much higher than their waist … kind of Daisy Duke style … ).

As I have been driving this road construction route, and others over the past few years, I always seem to end up pondering the same question, ‘what the heck is taught to these poor people in traffic control courses?’

When I was a new, teenage driver, I do not ever remember being confused when directed by the person holding the stop sign. The worker was usually a homemaker, looking to make a few bucks while the kids were in school, or a teenager who was smart enough to realize that there was much better money, and a better summer tan, in directing traffic, than working at a fast food establishment.

There were no courses to successfully complete, and be given certification, before being allowed to hold the stop sign. You just had to be available, and (literally) street smart.

Today there are traffic control certification programs. They include in class as well as practical training, and a final exam.

I am afraid that whoever established these courses forgot to educate the drivers on what form of sign language they are trying to communicate with.

I just cannot tell, when a flagger hold their ‘slow’ sigh up and kind of keeps pumping it up continually, if they just want to be seen, or they want me to drive slow, but not as slow as I am going.

Then there are the hand motions … was that a motion forward, or a motion to stop?

And when they are in the middle of an intersection it would seem very clear that not one of any four drivers understands what the flagger is, non verbally, trying to communicate, because all four are constantly looking from the flagger to each of the other four drivers to try to figure out what to do.

I remember a particular time when I was driving along with my kids on a country road, and we came to a lone flagger. He was holding a stop sign and pumping it up to the sky, so I figured he thought I was not going to stop, so I stopped immediately. He then pumped it higher and harder, with an angry frown on his face. As a people pleasing person (I love alliteration) I knew I had blown it, so I started to motion forward again. Then he yelled and pushed his stop sign towards my vehicle. I knew I had done wrong, so I halted immediately … and felt the frustration rise in my face. Finally Mr. Flagger seemed to be motioning me forward. I was nervous, and did my own hand signal to ensure that my moving forward was not going to cause him duress, he nodded affirmation. Since my natural (and chemically enhanced) hair color is blond, I decided to pause when I got to him. I rolled the window down, and apologized profusely for my negligence. I wanted to ensure that I said it all in my sugary sweetest voice possible. He seemed to be empowered by my humility. Then I rolled my window up, and slowly, cautiously, moved forward … then my kids heard a word they do not often hear from their mother’s mouth. GRRR!

Personally, I think that since ‘flagger’ schools have opened, their ability to communicate effectively has deteriorated immensely.

Glad I got that off my chest!

 

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Since the start of the new year, I have been overcome with light.

The topic of light has been everywhere. It has been in the music I listen to, the ‘pins’ I see (on Pinterest) , the conversations I have had, the classes I assist in, the sermons I have heard. Light has been shining brightly in my eyes!

Now, as spring is progressing, I get to awaken to lightened skies, as the light of the sun push the darkness away, even on the gray and dreary days.

That is what light does … it pushes the darkness away.

As someone who finds the monsoon-like dark winters, where I live, to be rather depressing, I really like how light can push away the darkness. I have even known a certain hubby to try to woo me with moving to places like San Diego, where they get about two hundred and sixty-six days of sun a year (compared with Vancouver, BC’s miserable daily averages of 1.8 and 2.0 hours a day of sunlight in December and January).

When I awaken to even a speck of sun through the clouds, my day looks brighter. When I awaken to dark, gray and rain, I can feel my spirit drop. Light can set the stage for things to come.

I am learning to take joy in the little glimmers of light that I get in the dark months of the wet West Coast. I am gradually understanding that to get outside when the sun does shine, and to speak of the little bits of sun when it does show it’s face, is to store up the positive effects of light, for times when it is hidden by gray clouds.

Really, though, the sun is always there, even though it might be above the clouds. The many shades of gray are only visible because of the presence of light. Without light, there would be no gray, there would be no shadows. Light, cast into the darkness, causes shadows where it cannot reach directly. But, when light is cast into the darkness, our eyes need only to be focused on the light. The light draws our eyes from the darkness, and they follow it’s path.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). He also said that we (who follow him) are like a city built on a hill, visible to all, and if we live in His light, others can see it, and also choose to live in His light. (Matthew 5:14-16 … Carole Wheaton translation 😉 ).

The light is there … even if all we can see are the shadows.

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” ~ C. S. Lewis

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What is genuine worship, and how can we achieve it in our church? That was the final question to discuss at our church retreat this past weekend.

As our small group, among other small groups, discussed these questions I found myself needing to ponder more than to respond. So, I came home, and searched for what the Bible says about worship:

Psalms 29:2 “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.”

Psalms 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!”

Psalms 99:5 “Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!

Psalms 66:4 “All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.”

John 4:23-24 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

Mark 12 tells the story of the offerings being made at the temple. The wealthy gave large amounts, but a poor widow only gave two small coins. Jesus response to seeing this was “truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Her act of worship was one of faithfulness, and of sacrifice.

King David is remembered in 2 Samuel 6 for his leaping and dancing, animal sacrifices, and celebrating (possibly even naked) as the ark was brought into Jerusalem. When he was confronted by Michal, daughter of Saul, for his embarrassing public acts as a monarch, he said, “it was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6:21-22) His act of worship had nothing to do with special clothes, it had nothing to do with “tradition”, it had nothing to do with what others thought. His act of worship was for and before his Lord. He humbled himself, as King of Jerusalem, to acknowledge and worship the king who put him on the throne.

Worship is such a foundational part of my Christian life. It is not just a Sunday thing. It is not just a music thing. It is not just a corporate thing.

For me, worship is similar to how C. S. Lewis described his reason for prayer, “I pray worship because I can’t help myself. I pray worship because I’m helpless. I pray worship because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.” I do not believe God needs my worship, but He does require it of me, and I fade when I do not acknowledge and worship my Creator and Redeemer.

Alexander MacLaren said, “fruitful and acceptable worship begins before it begins.” I believe that for us to worship, corporately, and for it to be genuine, our worship of God must enter our churches with us. Corporate, church worship is not entertainment, it is the joining of individual worshipers in a common place, to worship a common God. For it to be genuine, corporately, it must be genuine, individually.

There is the true story of a church in England whose pastor believed that they had lost their way in worship, and “the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.” So, this (brave) pastor asked the worship leadership to take a break. He then taught about worship, genuine worship. He taught them that they are not simply consumers of worship, but that they are the creators, the producers of it. Then he (Mike Pilavachi) asked, “when you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”

Then, he waited,
and waited,
and waited.

It got quiet.
It got awkward.
It got uncomfortable.

But, eventually, a most beautiful thing occurred …

spontaneous,
heartfelt,
sincere,

genuine worship.

In the form of prayers,
and scripture,
and a cappella singing,

the people began to BRING worship to the service, and it was genuine.

While this church was learning about worship, their worship leader, went home to the quiet of his bedroom, where he quickly, easily wrote a song of worship to his Lord. Like David dancing in the streets, this songwriter was simply sharing his worship to God, and God alone. It did get shared, and has probably been sung in the streets, as individual worshipers came to understand that genuine worship begins with a heart of worship.

“When the music fades,
all is stripped away, and I simply come
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart…
I’m coming back to the heart of worship,
and it’s all about You, Jesus”
Matt Redman

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This is another post in a series, about a woman named Amara. Every Friday I will post another segment in this story.

Mother and daughter lay on the hospital bed, Joy weeping, while Amara whispered soft encouragements while holding protectively to Joy’s head.

Amara could remember vividly the last time that she and Joy were in each others arms. It was a time when Joy needed her mother so very much, and Amara had nothing left to give. Amara had carried the guilt of that failure with her all these years. It made her so aware that one moment of weakness on her part could change the course of her relationship with her daughter.

As Amara held her daughter an odd realization occurred to her, that she was not holding her young daughter, but an adult woman. This adult woman was laying on her bed, right beside her, and in her arms.

Amara screamed loudly, piercingly, but wordlessly, as her sounds slurred together.

The woman bolted upright in seconds, “Mom, mom, are you in pain? What is wrong?”

Amara screamed again, and again, and again, until someone looking like a medical personal came running in.

“Mrs. Jackson, step aside please,” the nurse said to Joy.

Joy stepped aside as the nurse asked her mother a handful of questions. Every answer was a mumbled mess of sounds. It became apparent to Joy that the recent news that her mother had had a stroke was probably true. It was painful to stand there and hear her mother unable to communicate clearly.

The nurse was able to get Amara settled down, and more relaxed, after having Joy wait outside the room. Joy was pacing, without knowing it, in the hallway, when the doctor, that the nurse had called in, came out of Amara’s room.

“Doctor, how is she? Did she have a stroke? Why was she so upset with my being there? Will she be able to speak again? Can she walk?” The questions in Joy’s head were pouring out all at once.

The doctor, a man in his late fifties, with kind eyes and a relaxed demeanor, waited patiently until Joy’s list of questions had all been aired. Then he said, “Mrs. Jackson, lets sit and chat.”

Once they sat, he spoke, “Mrs. Jackson, I am Dr. Lewis, I work in the same office as Dr. Faw. It does appear that your mother has had a stroke. I am not yet sure of the severity of it, or how long lasting her speech problem will be. We will be doing more testing today. There is more … are you okay to take all of this in with no one else here with you?” Dr. Lewis asked with sincere concern for Joy.

Joy wanted to respond what was on heart, that she had no one, no one, in her life to lean on anymore. Just thinking it caused a tear to slip down her face. She took a deep, lung cleansing breath, wiped the dampness from her cheek, then looked Dr. Lewis in the face and said, with forced confidence, “you can tell me.”

“Mrs. Jackson, your mother would also seem to have pneumonia, probably from her unplanned hiking expedition the other night. This will be her biggest battle,” he looked straight at Joy, “Mrs. Jackson, your mother may not be going home again.”

The words settled on Joy’s ears, but were felt throughout her entire being. In just a short period of time, her mother had gone from a strong and independent woman, in great shape for seventy-two, to a woman who would not be leaving the hospital. Joy’s head began to swirl with the weight of the doctor’s words.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, “Mrs. Jackson, you can ask me anything. There is no rush. This is a lot of information to take in all at once.”

“Dr. Lewis,” Joy was forcing herself to stay alert, “why did my mother respond as though she did not want me in her room?” Really that was the only question Joy had on her heart. The feelings of rejection were greater than any she had ever known … or maybe it was reminiscent of her childhood time when her mother could no longer be available to her?

“The Alzheimers would be the reason for that, would be my best guess. Perhaps, when she awoke, she was not able to recognize you, as her daughter, and it scared her. That would not be uncommon in someone with that disease. To be honest, it is nearly impossible to understand exactly all that one with Alzheimers thinks, so that is just my best guess.” Dr. Lewis smiled an understanding smile.

“What …” Joy’s voice trailed off, feeling heavy with the weight that today had laid upon her shoulders. “What do we do next?” Joy was asking, not just Dr. Lewis, and not just about her mother. Joy was asking herself, and about almost every part of her life.

Unfading – Part 1

Unfading – Part 17

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The other day I became a mother, all over again, and , although a physical labor was not involved (thank goodness) it was energy draining.

The child who I ‘mothered’ is not my own, by DNA or adoption, she is our ‘daughter from another mother’ who has entrusted her to us while she (and her brother) lives here in Canada, and I love her dearly.

One of my ‘own’ daughters told me recently that I do show love to this girl and her brother. She even said that I love them like a mother. She also said I do not discipline them like a loving mother … ouch! Thankfully, she said it all kindly, and so, for a few weeks, I have been mulling our conversation over in my mind.

It is tough to discipline someone who is not your own child. It is more difficult to set boundaries. We do not have a long foundation of relationship. We do not have a foundation of expectations. We do not have a past of being loved before and after discipline. As I have considered the wise words of my daughter, I have been keenly aware that IF I do love this girl, boundaries and correction are necessary expressions of that love.

Correction, or discipline, is a means of making a child aware of not just positive consequences in life, but negative ones as well. I believe that by disciplining small things (ie. requiring a child to apologize to a sibling when they have been mean or rude, or having them pick up every last piece of building blocks that they dumped on the floor when having a temper tantrum), when a child is young, creates a distaste for negative consequences and therefore instills a desire to do what is right, and good as they mature and grow. To not correct or discipline is to force a child to face negative consequences of greater magnitude when they get older (being expelled from school, being arrested).

The Bible speaks significantly of the wisdom of discipline:

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 21:1

“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” Proverbs 15:32

“Discipline your son (daughter), for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” Proverbs 19:18

“A fool spurns his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.” Proverbs 15:5

Recently, a teacher at the school I work, shared a true story, told to him by his daughter:
While waiting in a long lineup at a large store, a woman was hit by the large cart behind her. She smiled politely, to allow the cart handler, a child, know that she felt it. She turned back, and was hit again … and again … and again. The hit upon lady turned to the child and said, “please do not push your cart.” She again turned back, and was, again, hit by the cart. This time she turned to the mother, as others were watching, as said, ” could you please have your child stop pushing the cart, it is hitting me.” To which the mother replied, “I do not believe in giving my child boundaries.”
At this point, you can imagine the heads of spectators, looking towards the woman, looking towards the mother, and back and forth, waiting with bated breath to see what might happen next. Probably many with thoughts of “if I was that woman …”
As all of this was happening one spectator, a man, was nearby, taking in the whole situation, while drinking a yogurt drink. He slowly, leisurely walked over to the child, and poured some of his drink on top of the child’s head. He then poured some on the top of the speechless mother’s head. The mother was aghast! The man looked at her and said, “my mother never believed in teaching me boundaries either.”
The crowd erupted into applause! The mother and child quickly exited the store.

I wish I had been there.

To love is to set boundaries, to correct and to discipline. It is not the easy thing to do, but it is a  most positive and long lasting way to enrich the lives of our children (by birth or circumstance), and to show them that we love them. My daughter by another mother may never thank me for setting boundaries, and correcting her behavior, but I feel certain that it was an act of love on my part.

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W A Y  back in the days of the abacus and slate boards, I was a pretty good student.

Maybe it wasn’t back quite that far (my high school grad class is having a twenty-fifth reunion this summer), but I probably work with a few students who would not blink an eye if I told them it was so.

I had marks in the 80-90% area, I did my homework, was polite to my teachers, and was involved with various school groups and activities. Not to be arrogant, but I was an ‘ideal’ student (although my memories of my parents coming home from parent-teacher interviews, always included, “she talks a lot in class” … okay, maybe not ‘ideal’ 😉 ).

I feel bad for the hard working teachers I had, because the pearls (education) that they presented to me, were received by a swine. They gave me what I needed to know, but I had rarely understood that I needed it, beyond test writing. I had learned to put the information in, spit it out for the purpose of assessment (test or exam), then forget I ever knew it. For me the information was only learned for the purpose of regurgitating it back at test time.

As an EA (Educational Assistant), I have learned so much by working in a high school, that I was supposed to have learned when I was a student.

In English I listen to poems that I could never have understood, when I was back in grade nine.

I sit in Math and I can read a word problem, involving algebra that I now understand will be the most practically utilized math skills, after school ends.

In a foods class I learn about different leaveners, and how each works. I cook every day … this is important education!

I watch a PE class and understand that ‘playing games’ is for fitness, and that fitness is something that is of vital importance, as we live and age.

I now understand that knowing about history (including religion) can help to make sense of world events, and can help us to learn from the past and (hopefully) not repeat it.

In science, a student can learn about the physical world we live in, and even if all one ever gets from astronomy is that they can lay on a blanket on the grass, on a summer night, and point out the big dipper to their own kids, it will all be worth it.

When we are school students we learn for no reason other than to just get it done, so that we can move on to the next grade, and so on, and so on. The information has not reached a level of practical importance.

I recently heard an educator say, “if a student can re-teach what they have learned, they understand it.”

Originally, if my child came home with A’s and B’s, I would feel confident that they had done well, and learned what was necessary. As I have worked in schools, and my own kids have gotten older, my perspective on learning has changed.  Now if my child is driving home with me, and tells me the interesting facts about life in the Roman Empire , and even includes what we can learn from their lives and the fall of the Empire, but only gets 70% on a unit test, I am far more pleased in the learning.

From my own experience as a ‘good’ student, and now being in classrooms on a daily basis, I see that a number on a report card does not indicate learning. I also know, from my own experience, that A’s and B’s on a report card do not indicate success in life, and C’s and D’s do not suggest a mediocre existence. And, sometimes, qualifications for life (after high school) have nothing to do with education.

I would rather see a child squirming in their seat, but absorbing the information that is taught, than one who is ‘conforming’ in their seat, able to perform a test.

Just sayin’.

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It was a beautiful painting. As I stood before the gorgeous combination of colors. The vision of mountains and sky. The strokes of the painters brush … the strokes of a painter of passion, a painter of purpose.

It is a pictorial representation of that familiar description of the aura one having a migraine is often known to speak of. So, in the midst of her beautiful painting, is something like a hole. This ‘hole’ makes the painting look flawed to the point of being painful to view.

One of her purposes in creating this painting was to create a visual for her doctor, to show him what it is she experiences. It could be said that her painting is the picture of the pain no one sees, except for her.

Another picture of pain could be an x-ray, to confirm a broken bone. Or an ultrasound to confirm an ectopic pregnancy.

Sometimes the picture of pain can also be vicarious. Just the other morning a friend was telling me of a sports injury that her husband had suffered. He had thought he had broken a bone, but now it looks more like the muscle was torn from the bone. Just hearing about it caused a shiver down my spine, as I vicariously imagined the pain that must cause.

These are pictures that are bright with the colors of pain.

There is other pain that is more difficult to see, more difficult to experience. It is the pain of the emotion, of the heart. This kind of pain is not visible, like fall colors, but it is hidden in the shadows of our heart.

For people to know that you are suffering with this kind of pain, the one in pain needs to share their experience. I refer to his as bleeding publicly. This unseen pain can be the most mentally, spiritually and even physically altering pain.

The only visual that one suffering the ravages of hidden pains, is one of a hand gripped around ones heart, squeezing tighter and tighter, just to the point that would end it’s pulsing, and the relief of final death.

A broken heart rarely does stop beating. It keeps going, and the pain continues. Gradually it subsides, and the pain lessens. But the scar tissue is permanent, and the person carries their scars, like an amputee carries their scars. We may go to our grave concealing our greatest pains, our greatest injuries.

These scars recreate us. Others may never see our heartaches, but they will see the picture that the pain has created in our re-created self.

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain,
but it is more common and also more hard to bear.
The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden:
it is easier to say
“My tooth is aching”
than to say
“My heart is broken.””
C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain 

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