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Archive for April, 2014

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I love order!

I love cleanliness!

I love for everything to have a place, and be in it!

(not that one could always know that by entering my home).

I also know that, often, progress happens by making a mess.

That plate of homemade brownies can cost a flour-dusted kitchen.

That visit from friends with little ones or grandchildren can cost a messy living room.

That hoard of teen girls preparing for the school dance can leave the bathroom looking like the ‘samples’ counter of Cover Girl.

That group of students over for a swim party can leave the pool deck looking like Free Willy had landed in your pool.

Years ago, while planning an event for women it was suggested having popcorn to nibble on, while watching the movie in the sanctuary. To which another woman replied, “in the sanctuary? We can’t have that mess in the sanctuary.”

This was not a comment from a fuddy duddy, or an older lady, or even the church custodian … this was a comment from a mom of young kids!

Over the years, as that scene from the past has played out in my head, I have realized that I was not shocked that a young woman would struggle so much with the idea of popcorn, as

mess

in the church sanctuary.

You see, there are times when we enter the sanctuary of church, and we are a mess.

We bring our doubts, our fears, our heartaches, our losses

and we top those off with a drizzling of sin

every time we enter into the church sanctuary.

And it is the responsibility of the believers around us, to help lead us to the one who can clean up our mess.

The Bible is full of people who were a mess. The Psalms are full of David’s cries out to God for help. Job sat on a dung pile trying to scrape the scabs from his skin. Jonah ran away from God’s will and ended up in a whale. Mary was an unwed teen. Paul spent time in prison. And Jesus … well, His cross would not be acceptable in very many (any?) sanctuaries that I know of … too messy!

Life isn’t clean, and neat and tidy …

life is a mess,

and we need to be prepared that either we will be cleaning up the mess of others,

or our own.

Charles Colton said so well,

“Life isn’t like a book.
Life isn’t logical or sensible or orderly.
Life is a mess most of the time.
And theology must be lived in the midst of that mess.”

For progress to take place, we need to be prepared for the mess in the process of life … even in the sanctuary.

 

 

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When I was first pregnant, over two decades ago, I read every book I could find on pregnancy and parenting. I was certain that I could read how to do it, and that if I followed whatever these books prescribed, my child bearing and rearing would be perfectly flawless.

Though there are many great books at the local bookstores and online, it didn’t take too long to realize that raising a child is not something that you can learn from a book, nor is there a prescribed parenting style that can properly raise every child, by every parent.

It seems thatcwe simply need to acknowledge that we will do much of our ‘how to parent’ education on our feet.

As I look back over the parenting years, I am also forced to look forward.

In one year, our eldest daughter will complete her undergrad program in university.

In one year, our youngest daughter will complete high school.

In three years, our son and youngest child, will also graduate high school.

The ‘active’ parenting season is coming to a close.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish them babies again as I love the novelties and adventures that the teen and young adult stages of life bring to them, and then to us.

It’s just that …

as I look back three years …

  • our faux son (and his sister) from China, came to live with us as an International Student, and he will graduate, and move on to university in the months to come.
  • I made the change from part time work to full time.
  • my youngest daughter was entering high school.
  • only one child in the house was taller than me, and now I am the shortest.

Three years goes fast!

And the living and life of today, with our kids, will not return again.

And so, as I look back, and look ahead, I am learning a new lesson (one the parenting books failed to mention).

My choices and decisions for the next three years will be considered through a new lens …

one that reminds me of the time I have left with my kids under my roof.

Each question, each opportunity to do something with them (even when I am so very busy with my ‘important’ life), each invitation from them to join them in their desired activities, will be first viewed through the question of :

there are only about ___ days, months, weeks with this child …

will I regret having said “no” when they are gone?

“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12

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“Where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?”

The other night I was repeatedly listening to a song, when I noticed a friend who lives not too far away, posted that she had just felt what she was certain must have been an earthquake.

Indeed it was an earthquake on the Northwest Coast. Another physical reminder that ‘the big one’ is anticipated … some day …

I thought it ironic that I was hearing about an earthquake, while listening to the song called Pompeii, by the English band, Bastille. Pompeii, of course, being the Roman city which, in 79AD, was covered by up to over twenty feet of volcanic ash, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, decimating the community. Although the name of the song, and even it’s ‘story’ is a reminder of death and destruction, the song has a fantastic beat that beckons the listeners feet to tap (at a minimum).

When the city of Pompeii was re-discovered, almost two hundred years after it’s burial, people were found entombed by solidified ash, in the very positions they were when they died.

According to lead singer Dan Smith, the song’s lyrics are his imaginings of a conversation between two individuals as they were living and breathing their last in that city of great tragedy.

One line in the song is :

“Where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?”

Those lines seem so fitting to be contemplating as one is potentially facing eternity (and aren’t we all?).

Genesis 2:7 tells us,

“ … the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”

Clearly, our beginning comes when God breaths life into us … we are not a body, we are a soul.

Then Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us of our Earthly ending,

 “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it”

Our dusty human bodies will, like the people of Pompeii, return to their earthly beginnings, and our spirit back to the hands of the one who gave it.

The end.

NOT!

John 11:25 provides something

beyond death …

“I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in Me,
though he may die,
he shall live.”

Beyond the rubble, beyond the sin we begin with believing in our Creator.

 

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Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.

1 Corinthians 29:11

I love wonder!
(like you didn’t know that!)

Yesterday morning I was introduced with the guest post of today, and it is FULL of wonder!

A few years back the band Starfield produced a song called Filled with Your Glory (written by Tim and Jon Neufeld), which expresses the realization of how great the Creator of the heavens and the Earth is, in a manner similar to David in Psalm 8. The wonder of God’s ordered creation is expressed in the following lyrics :

“From the ends of the earth
To the heights of Heaven
Your glory, Lord, is far and wide
Through history You reign on high

From the depths of the sea
To the mountain’s summit
Your power, Lord, it knows no bounds
A higher love cannot be found

So let the universe proclaim
Your great power and Your great name
The whole earth
Is filled with Your glory, Lord
Angels and men adore
(Mountains bow and oceans roar)
Creation longs for what’s in store
May You be
Honored and glorified
Exalted and lifted high
Here at Your feet I lay my life”

In a similar way, the extreme photographic skills shared in the following TED talk, by Louie Schwartzberg, depict the power, the majesty, the glory and the intricacy of detail and order that our world holds.

How GREAT the Father’s love for us … that He would provide wonders anew every morning!

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The week after a holiday can sometimes be one of being revived, or it can be one of let down.

Whichever week you have had, it is now the weekend, and whether the sun shines it’s face upon us or not, we have this time to renew, rest and enjoy recreation that the Monday to Friday routine might not avail to us.

The most viewed post of this past week was The First Week After Lent.

Also this week were :

A Good Teacher
(a teacher who motivates me to be better)

Mother Heart Thankfulness
(some days the sun shines so brightly upon our children through the people in their lives)

How to Parent from our Knees
(is there any other way to parent? really?)

A Day of Blessing
(a good reminder that we are loved)

Blessings to you this day,
Carole

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Good morning!

We have made it to the end of the week, having accomplished, messed up, rested or lay awake and saw each hour on the clock at night.

Today, I just want to leave a message that I read on the blog of Susie Larson. Check out her blog … you will leave it feeling as though she has encouraged, supported and affirmed you!

May this be a day of blessing!
Carole

Start a Day Blessing:

May you begin to see your disappointments
as divine appointments.

May your spirit-eyes
open up to God’s invitation to something better,
something deeper,
something profoundly fitted for you.

May you lift your eyes
and see how your whole story
fits in the bigger story God is writing
for His Namesake.

When you’re tempted to look down in angst,
may you instead look up and pray,
not only for yourself,
but for the many who struggle
in ways similar to you,
but who don’t know how to pray like you do!

God intends to solve some of the world’s problems
through you.

Trust Him
and let Him
use you in ways that are beyond you!

Have a great day.

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One of our kids was maxed out! You know, more assignments than time, more bills than money, more work than hours to rest. This child was down, discouraged and dreading the next day to come.

I was left feeling powerless. There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances. There was nothing I could do to tangibly assist with all that was needing to be done, without acting as a rescuer … and we all know that, that does not help long-term. There was nothing I could remember from all of those parenting books. I was feeling powerless, and yet I felt such a desire to lessen the load for this child.

So I did all that I could do.

I prayed.

I prayed that this child would sense God’s presence.

I prayed that this child would put all trust and faith in Him (because we all tend to grab the steering wheel of life at times).

I prayed that this child would find a way in the busyness of life to take a Sabbath rest (don’t we all need that reminder?).

And I prayed more specific things for this child.

And I prayed every day, multiple times a day. It seemed that the more I prayed, the more this child was in my consciousness to remember to pray.

And just a few days later, this child came home telling me stories … stories of answered prayers.

This child did not know that these stories were ones of answered prayer, until I shared that. But, this child did not know the weight of that reality like I did.

You see, I pray for my kids each and every day. Most days, I admit, I do so out of robotic habit. And most days it seems the answer is

“wait”

But, this time I prayed differently, I prayed out of the desperation of a mother’s heart. There was simply nothing I had any earthly power to do to change the circumstances, and so I bowed to the One who I knew was the ONLY one who loved this child more than I do. I humbled myself, and offered my child up to God, in desperation.

God’s answers do not always come this quickly, or this joyfully, but we do need to remember that, on our knees (physically, or mentally) is the best way to parent.

And the prayer offered in faith
will make the sick person well;
the Lord will raise them up.
If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

James 5:15

 

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I went to bed Saturday night with the excitement and anticipation of a child awaiting the arrival of the Easter Bunny!

I knew, that when I awoke on Easter Sunday, coffee with

cream

awaited my taste buds!

For the first time since before the season of Lent I would not just have the habit of my morning hot and steaming cup, but also the enjoyment of the taste!

Hubby was making the coffee that morning, and asked how many cups I wanted. The anticipation was so great that I knew one cup would not do. He decided to double his regular amount as well. Of course this meant that the waiting for it to brew also took double the normal amount of time!

You know how they say that a watched kettle never boils? Well, let me tell you, the same goes for a watched coffee maker!

Once I was pouring the hot, steaming dark into my cup of cream, the rest of my senses awakened with delight. The marriage of the white and black into a caramel cup of visual wonderland. The steam was beckoning my inhaling of nasal delights. And my hands sought the warmth pushing through the ceramic mug. All that was left was to lift it to my lips and enjoy.

And enjoy I did! It was such a treat for my senses.

I also made a realization … this Easter Sunday treat created such a delightful start to my Sunday.

I feel embarrassed to admit that I had not looked forward to Sunday like this in … too long.

This omission of cream in my every day morning coffee, although such a miniscule sacrifice, did give me a fresh appreciation of what Jesus sacrificed. Everything about the Easter story was clearer, more meaningful to me. Not because I had omitted cream from my coffee, but because I had participated in sacrifice. In a sense I awoke on Easter Sunday feeling as though I had gone to the tomb and found it empty.

I had participated in walking the final steps with my Lord, and that was even sweeter than cream in my Sunday coffee. It has made the six to seven week walk to the cross, to the tomb and out …

my walk.

” … stay here and keep watch with me.”
Luke 22:38b

“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:13

 

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Ever have a day when thankfulness seems to be spilling from every pore in your body?

Recently I had such a day, in the area of mothering.

My son came home from school puffed up bigger than the Magic Dragon.

He had had three interactions that day, that reminded me that, as parents, we are not raising our children all alone. It also reminded me that God, in His infinite wisdom, places people in the lives of our kids.

Our son had visited a past teacher that day. One who had nurtured his soul, and encouraged him that who he is, is valuable. My son still visits this teacher periodically, because in the presence of this teacher, my son knows he is accepted. In the presence of this teacher my son is valued.

That day our son had also conversed with another teacher, one whose opinion of how our son did in the school play, meant more than any other opinion. Why? Because our son respects this teacher, and thus the opinion of this man matters to him. This man continually, indirectly, reminds our son that they are brothers … brothers in Christ.

There is another man who has encouraged our son, one who has surprised me (oh, how I love to be proven wrong in these things). This man instilled confidence in my man-child, that he could learn his lines for the school play, when others may have doubted. And this man affirmed his efforts and results.

As I prepared dinner that night, I lifted my thanks to God for the men of good examples that He has placed in the life of my son.

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“I always say
they have to think that you care
before they care what you think.”
Jeni Rogers

When I read this article faces and names and memories came flooding back to my memory.

There was that grade one teacher who always seemed excited to see us enter her classroom.

That grade four teacher who made every … every student feel like she loved us, whether we passed the test, or failed miserably.

That grade six PE teacher who made me feel like even I could learn to throw a baseball.

That high school Social Studies teacher who made history interesting.

That high school Math teacher who loved practical jokes, to play them and to have them played on him.

We all have memories of teachers who taught us well … heart, mind, soul and body.

And that would seem to be the type of grade five teacher, Jeni Rogers, is for her students.

The story of Ms. Roger’s good teaching were focused in an article in the Daily Herald. And, I have included it below.

“Jeni Rogers was dragging.

This was several weeks ago and she was coming off the flu and the level in her normally endless reserve of energy and general peppiness was hovering near empty as she entered her fifth-grade classroom at Prairie Elementary School in Naperville.

After several minutes, one of her 24 students, a boy, eased up to her the way fifth-grade boys do, looked her in the face and said, “I’m so glad you’re here. I love you so much.”

And suddenly Jeni Rogers, a teacher known throughout her school community for her ability to build connections based on mutual respect with her students, their parents and her peers, felt it all pay off.

The teacher who has built a career by building confidence in others, by knowing exactly what motivates them and how to push them to excel, by demonstrating the importance of caring, had come face to face with a student who not only learned those lessons, but instinctively knew how to apply them.

“It was,” she says now, “like a gift from God.”

Funny she should say that, because after almost 30 years in Prairie classrooms, many of the folks she has come in contact with feel Rogers is something of a gift herself.

“I cannot do justice in words to express my gratitude for the passion, commitment and excellence of Jeni Rogers,” parent Jennifer Curtin wrote in one of many emails the Daily Herald received nominating Rogers as a teacher worth celebrating.

Curtain said her son was in Rogers’ class and she hopes her daughter will be, too.

“She changed my child for the better, and we feel absolutely blessed to have had her in our lives,” Curtain wrote. “Jeni Rogers is a diamond among gems in our Naperville Unit District 203 school district team.”

This is Tracy Dvorchak’s first year as principal at Prairie, but she sees it, too.

She talks about how Rogers strives from the first day of school to the last to treat each student as an individual, to find out what drives and interests them, and to build upon their attributes.

She talks about how Rogers sets goals for her classroom and how she’s a serious educator who makes learning fun.

Walk into Rogers’ classroom, she says, and you’ll see kids learning in many different ways but, “inevitably there’s laughter and joy.”

Better still, Rogers is the same way with parents and staff.

“She makes you feel special,” Dvorchak says. “She takes time to laugh and celebrate.”

“In a lot of ways,” Dvorchak says, “Jeni is the heart and soul of this school.”

Always a teacher

“Mrs. Rogers was an absolutely fantastic role model for my son. She brought out the best in him and helped him to become a confident and strong young man. … She is also a wonderful motivator … funny, charismatic, smart, witty and loving.” — parent Yvette Pelicot.

Jeni Rogers grew up in Naperville, went to school here, and knew early on she wanted to be a teacher. As a young girl she was always “playing school,” and by the time she reached Jefferson Junior High she found she loved everything around her. Loved the classroom. Loved the teachers. Even loved the principal.

She started out teaching first grade at Prairie for about 14 years, then spent four years as a second-grade teacher and finally settled into her fifth-grade classroom.

Ask around about what makes her so effective and almost everybody will settle on a common theme: She seems to know what makes kids tick. And they know what makes her tick, too.

Fifth-graders challenge her, she says. They make her laugh. “They’re funny, inquisitive and I love to see the growth,” she says.

On a recent morning, Rogers gives her students a group assignment that will take maybe 10 minutes and sits down with a visitor. During that conversation students approach her with questions, oh, every minute or so. And every one of them says “excuse me” or waits to be acknowledged. And Rogers thanks each of them by name for their courtesy, patiently answers their questions and sends them off with some simple encouragement.

That process of mutual respect starts the first time a student walks into a classroom and, as we shall see, never really ends. Parents marvel at how quickly she connects with their children, how quickly she builds trust.

She calls it “emotional intelligence.”

“I try to get to know them individually as people before I try to teach them,” she says. “I get to know what they like and what they’re afraid of.

“I always say they have to think that you care before they care what you think.”

It doesn’t happen overnight. She starts each school year with roughly two dozen new students, each with a different personality, background and skill set, and begins the process of preparing them both scholastically and emotionally for the coming jump to middle school.

Dvorchak says Rogers starts by working with her students to build expectations. That, she says, gives the students a sense of ownership and that sense of buy-in is key to Rogers’ success.

Rogers strives to make learning fun, but she can be firm when she needs to. Earlier this year, for example, a problem was developing with cellphone use in her class.

“Your job here is to learn,” she told students, “and your cellphones aren’t helping.”

At the same time, Rogers doesn’t dwell on the negative.

“If a child makes a mistake, that’s how she looks at it — as a mistake,” Dvorchak says. “She addresses it and then says, ‘How do we move forward?'”

“She’s a great teacher because when we don’t understand something … she goes back again and again until we understand,” student Ellie Stanich says.

Rogers says she strives to be flexible, patient, aware of individual differences and forgiving. It’s not a bad approach for her students to take, too.

“In this classroom, we have each other’s backs,” she says. “We try to forgive people and be able to apologize. I tell kids, ‘If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up.'”

Role model

“My daughter sees Mrs. Rogers almost every morning as she waits for the bus to pick her up for middle school. It’s fun to walk to the bus stop and see all of the former students smile and wave at Mrs. Rogers.” — parent Amy Lieberman.

If you’re going to be a great teacher, you have to have a passion for what you do and you’ve got to understand that it’s just possible your influence is going to last long beyond the end of the school year.

Jeni Rogers knows that, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded, and that happened over winter break when a former student, now about 30 years old, returned to Prairie to look up his former teacher.

The two chatted for a while and he recounted stories from his first-grade year, things Rogers had said and done, and she smiled and nodded and thought something like, “Jeez, I don’t remember all that.”

But her former student did, and ultimately that’s what counts.

“You have to realize how important this job is,” Rogers says. “What we do, what we say, how we act, is something these kids will never forget.”

For Rogers, that sometimes means engaging in a little self-deprecating humor.

On a recent morning she turned to her students and asked, “What’s my favorite joke?” and many of them shouted back “Your hair!”

She laughs because, truth be told, Rogers has lots of hair. Lots and lots of hair. Enough to make a bald reporter think to himself, “Hey, could you lend me some of that? Nobody would notice.”

“What else?” she asks the students.

And one boy shouts back, “You slipped on some yogurt and tore your meniscus.”

Rogers laughs again because, yeah, she did slip on some yogurt and, yeah, she did tear her meniscus.

“If you see me limping around,” she says, “that’s why.”

It’s a natural give-and-take, and it’s the kind of thing that won’t stop when the school year ends.

For just about as long as anyone can remember, Rogers has written emails to her former students that go out a day or two before they start middle school. It’s a note that reminds them how special they are. It’s a note that reminds them she’s still thinking about them. It’s a note that reminds them they’ve done all the necessary work, they’ve learned all the necessary lessons and they’re ready to take this next, sometimes scary step.

“The night before he began junior high, we received a lovely email from Mrs. Rogers reminding my son (and his grade five classmates) that he was ready, that he was able and, more importantly, to remember how special he was,” parent Jennifer Curtin wrote in her email. “He walked tall to the bus that morning and has come home with a smile on his face every day.”

Relationships

“Mrs. Rogers is one of those teachers that you never forget, the one with the poofy hair and nicknames for every student. She truly cares about each and every student. … The best gift Jeni Rogers will receive is the knowledge that … when asked years from now, ‘Tell me a teacher that made an impact on your life,’ many of these students, if not all, will say Mrs. Rogers.” — parents Andrea and Ajay Marwah.

In addition to her classroom work, Dvorchak says Rogers plays a key role on the school’s continuous improvement team, helping plan staff development and working on curriculum.

“It’s a remarkable balance,” she says, “people and curriculum. When you’re able to blend those two things, that’s when magic happens in the classroom.”

Better still, Dvorchak says, Rogers is adept at building the critical three-way relationship that connects the school, parents and children. It’s based on a lot of open dialogue, she says, that allows Rogers to work with parents to identify their child’s potential weaknesses and to formulate effective plans to deal with them.

“She sets high expectations for character and academic success,” the principal says. “Every student comes in at a certain level and her job is to meet them where they are and help them move forward. When you can build a community in your classroom where students aren’t afraid to raise their hands and say, ‘Hey, I don’t get it,’ then you’ve accomplished something.”

You also know you’ve accomplished something when the principal starts getting calls and notes in January from parents of fourth-graders who want their children to be in Mrs. Rogers fifth-grade class next year.

Rogers glances away when you tell her stuff like that. Look, she’s 50 years old and been at this for 28 or 29 years, and she knows she’s good at what she does. But she’s also quick to deflect much of the praise, talking about the importance of parental involvement and the advantages that come with working with “some amazing colleagues, from the administration to the teachers.”

After all these years, she says she’ll occasionally be asked if she’s ready to retire. This is a demanding job, after all, working with 24 fifth-graders, meeting new students and parents every year.

But, for now at least, she scoffs at the idea of stepping down.

Yeah, sometimes the day-to-day planning can be tough, and trying to keep on top of every subject you teach in fifth grade can be a challenge. And, yes, she’s got a husband and four kids of her own — ranging in age from middle school to college — and sometimes it’s hard when you’ve got to take some of your work home or maybe sneak in for an hour or two on weekends.

But retire? Now? With all those kids still out there, kids looking for a teacher who believes in them?

She’d cut her hair first.

“There’s nothing I don’t love about my job,” she says with the same look in her eye that has made hundreds — heck, thousands — of kids believe in her message and believe in her.

Dvorchak knows the look, too. As a rookie principal, she faced some of her own challenges when she arrived at Prairie and one of the first people to welcome her was Jeni Rogers.

Every once in a while, she says, you meet someone who just seems made for the job. Someone with passion and humor and a sense of caring that just fits in perfectly with those around her.

She sees all that in Jeni Rogers, and if she was to tell her what she really, really thinks about her teaching, it would be incredibly simple.

“Wow,” she would say. “You ended up doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.”

 

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