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Archive for October, 2016

thank-you-for-being-a-wonderful-teacher-to-my-child-greeting-card

As I drove my son home from youth, he inquired about how my last Parent-Teacher conference had gone.

For nineteen years I have attended these meetings. Depending on the year, and the child who I was inquiring about, I have attended these meetings with a variety of emotions from joy, to dread, to surprise. I have left these meetings with thanks.

After hashing out the conversations and comments with my son, I found myself reflecting on the end of this era.

I work in a high school as an Educational Assistant, and take great pride in the work I do. But, I am not a teacher. Working in the school system, alongside of professional teachers has given me immense respect for those who teach our children.

Their job is an impossible task!

They are required to become experts in their fields, imparting their knowledge equally upon the eager, the disinterested, and the antagonistic.

They are expected to teach information that is advanced and relevant in our technological world, with antiquated tools and self-taught skills.

They have to fill the roles of disciplinarian, counsellor, parent, physician, and educator.

They are expected to regularly take courses to upgrade their knowledge, deal with curricular changes, attend meetings (often not within a regular work day), coach, mentor and facilitate extracurricular activities, along with the pressure of expectations of administration and the parent community.

Having had our children in private, Christian schools, means that their teachers, though still expected to have the same (or greater as Christian perspective courses are regularly being upgraded) education, training and professional development, do not earn incomes as high as their professional counterparts.

Though there are challenges, struggles, high expectations and low renumeration, they show up,

every

single

day,

and they teach.

I have had the joy of watching these committed professionals laugh, challenge, teach and even pray for my kids and their friends. I have heard them voice concern, share heart-warming stories and agonize over students who work so hard, yet still do not pass tests. I have seen their faces, their smiles, heard their genuine welcome when a student from years gone by stops in for a visit.

There is little left to say, other than

thanks, we noticed your efforts.

“A teacher affects eternity;
he can never tell where his influence stops.”
Henry Adams

 

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A while back a teen shared with me some words that, obviously, hurt to her core.

She shared with me that someone said to her, “you don’t appear to want to be here. Did your parents make you come here? Are you even a Christian?”

Now, I don’t know if she is an active follower of Christ, nor do I know if her presence was by her choice, or that of her parents. I do know that her actions are not what I am responsible for, but my responses to her, are how I speak of Christ to her.

I mulled over her words for a bit, then pulled her aside, and got more direct with her than I usually would … for I felt I needed to do some restorative action in her life.

I told her I was sorry for what had been said to her. I also assured her that God loves her, as she is, not as she should be. Just as he loves the person who said those things to her, just as he loves me. Then I told her what we all need to be reminded of,

that she, that we, are good enough for God. We cannot do anything, but it is he who loves us, who makes us enough …

She smiled, through tear-filled eyes, and said thanks.

I told her that if she ever hears that message again, making her feel like she is not good enough for Christ, to remember my words to her. That there is no amount of mess in her life that God cannot love us through.

And I found a quiet corner, and I sobbed. For I felt as though I had just tried to save a life.

People all around us are dying.

They are the walking wounded, stumbling thorough life. They have been fed the message that they cannot dip their toes into the sandals of their Creator, until they have been purified of every flaw and sin.

They need the great physician, but they have been told that he won’t see them until they say and do the right things … until they are healthy.

Not long ago, fellow Christ followers, if was you and I who were staggering to Christ for treatment. Let us be open doors to the injured, the struggling, the bleeding.

“Jesus said to them,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

 

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Happy birthday to my first born!

It’s been another year of what we take most for granted … life and breath.

Life and breath. They go together, they need each other, yet, we easily forget the blessing that they are, until we risk losing them.

I remember well your first breath, and the cries that followed. They were the best sounds I had ever heard. They proceeded tears and smiles and laughter from your dad and I.

I had waited and worked hard for that moment, and not just in pushing you out and into this world. From your conception, there was the threat of loss (as had happened before you) that I was determined would not occur.

As if we are able to will our days, our breath, let alone will it for another.

“For the Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
Job 33:4

And here you are, all these years later.

You have an education, and you are ready to break out onto your own … if only the one right job would come along (as opposed to the three that are paying the bills).

It is hard to be in a place of waiting, especially when you have been waiting all throughout your years of study. You are ready to go, to do, to really, finally live the life.

Even in this valley, that seems so shadowed, there is life and breath:

God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

You have worked hard, and you are waiting. But, you are being nourished and cared for even in the waiting.

As I waited for you, I also waited in the valley. It was not where I wanted to be, yet it was where I needed to be, to repair and prepare. To breath, to re-learn how to live again.

You were so worth waiting for, and your breath took mine away.

 

 

 

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Dear Moms …

It’s been a rough week.

You are tired … tired from the inside out. Tired from the pressures at work, tired because of the lessons, the practises, the hours in the minivan. You are tired because of the mountain of laundry, tired because you have so much you want to do as a mom, but there is so little time.

You are discouraged … discouraged by the world you see your kids growing up in. Discouraged by the instabilities, the lack of morals, the inconsistent lives of those in our world who we call leaders (both those on the big stage, and those who parent the peers of our kids).

It is Friday, Moms,

and the weekend is still looking … tiring … discouraging.

It is Friday, Moms,

but,

Sunday IS coming.

That old sermon, popularized by LM Lockridge and Tony Campelo, is based on the Easter story. The story of the darkness of the Friday we call Good, followed by the Sunday when we celebrate Christ’s victory over death.

Moms, let me tell you a secret,

it’s   not   just   an   Easter   story.

Christ did not overcome the one-way road to hell and death, for one day of celebration. He came, he died, he rose again so that everyday might be like Easter Sunday.

He redeemed death, through death, to life everlasting … every day.

Moms,

Do not be discouraged!

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

“Do not be afraid or discouraged,
for the LORD will personally go ahead of you.
He will be with you;
he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Deuteronomy 31:8

Moms,

He can give you the rest your need!

“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him”
Psalm 37:7a

“”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

It us Friday, Moms,

but,

Sunday IS coming!

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart
and with the full assurance that faith brings,
having our hearts sprinkled
to cleanse us from a guilty conscience
and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22

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Somewhere between the late 1970s and the year 2000 a distinct generation was born, and they have come to be known as Millenials.

The fact that the ‘experts’ cannot define specific dates, is one indicator that, perhaps like Autism, there is a spectrum of ‘symptoms’ and ‘indicators’ for this group of individuals (a generation is usually viewed as being a fifteen to twenty year time span).

Whatever the case, I am surrounded by them.

My three children, co-workers and those who I work alongside in our church youth program all belong to this demographic.

Millennial have been, largely, raised by helicopter parents, and are known to be more confident about the future, than the past. They are highly educated, and underemployed. They are amazing team players, who value versatility and flexibility in their places of work.  They greatly desire wealth, but do not live for their jobs, and they are expected to make more job changes than any other generation. They are socially liberals. They desire to be the change in our world, but don’t expect them to go about it through traditional means, or institutions.

About a year or so ago I came to a realization about myself, I did not understand the minds or motivations of this generation, and my lack of understanding was making me feel old … really old!

Whenever I come to such a realization, God floods my life with whatever (whoever) is frustrating me, and he forces me to look and listen.

So, I obeyed his prompts, and started listening …

Listening to my Millennial kids.

Listening to my Millennial co-workers.

Listening to the Millennials who also work with youth at our church.

And here is what I have been learning:

  • listening is much harder than speaking! (and I think I have been speaking far too much … after all, we have ONE mouth and TWO ears … use them according to provision)
  • Millennials are hard workers … they are more willing to invest in a wide range of relationships, and more deeply (than Gen X’ers like me, who tend to categorize relationships).
  • Millennials still believe they can make a difference! I had started to realize that, whenever people would be introducing a way to help others, I would start my mental list of why it wouldn’t work. I need more of a do than a don’t approach to being change in my world.
  • Millennials have a more balanced view of work. They want to use their gifts and passions, but they don’t just want to use them in their workplaces. They see life goals as bigger than a job, they do not see their identity as closely tied to their professions. Hum … maybe growing up with stressed out parents is sending the pendulum swinging from the fast-paced world.
  • Millennials won’t just do things because that is the way it’s always been done. They want rational for what they do, what they believe. If oldies like myself can’t rationalize what we do, what we believe, in a meaningful way, we might lose the ears of  this important generation, in a time in history when change is in the air.
  • Millennials know how to work together. They have grown up with the (despised and contrived) group projects instigated by my and previous generations, who had no idea what healthy, beneficial, meaningful group work should be. They have, fortunately, taken the general concept of team working, and made it into something that works … not because it’s multiple people, but because it is a group of individuals who come together with a common purpose, rather than the purpose be to work together.

I love the idealism of my kids.

I adore my co-workers who teach me from their fresh approach, rather than the way it has always been done.

This weekend, as youth leaders met, we took time to pray for each other leader, individually. It was terribly uncomfortable, humbling and honouring, to be prayed for sincerely, by my fellow, Millennial, leaders.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers
in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
1 Timothy 4:12

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Sometimes thankfulness is big, and loud and proud. It might be accompanied by cards, flowers and public proclamation. It might make our chests expand with pride, and our cheeks redden with humble acceptance.

Then, there are the other times when it’s barely a whisper, said under an autumn sky, with  only the company of leaves blowing from the trees and across the grass.

The later was my experience of giving thanks this past Thanksgiving Monday.

At almost 3:00 in the afternoon, I was still wearing my pyjamas, but the scent of the turkey in my oven was beginning to waft out and into the house. The table was set for seven. Vegetables were ready to be cooked, appys were ready to be heated and the house was cleaned.

All that was left to do was … plant the bulbs that had been sitting in a container on my counter for about two months (who does this in the midst of preparing a turkey dinner?).

So outside I went (in my pjs), sat down on the steps, and proceeded to plant the bulbs in an awaiting planter.

Then I looked up.

And the cloudless, indigo sky took my breath away.

And the sun was shining on my face.

And the leaves were floating through the air.

And the wind lightly caressed my face.

And,

I gave thanks.

No announcements, no microphone, no eloquent words, or poetic reference,

I. just. gave. thanks.

From, not just the bottom, but the entirety of my heart.

The beauty of the Creator, reflected in the beauty of his creation.

The blessing of my senses, intended to draw my focus back to him.

The simplest, most mundane and undervalued of life, took the breath of life from my lungs momentarily, only to refill them with the freshest, most life-giving, soul-feeding inhalation.

just. give. thanks.

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

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Happy birthday baby boy!

Okay, I’m a day late, but roasting the Thanksgiving turkey kinda kept me away from writing … ironic, since seventeen years ago, it was your birth that kinds kept me away from roasting the Thanksgiving turkey!

clockI remember well the day you were born … my heart was aching, hands shaking, and I thought (think): Ohh  I don’t wanna let you down. I’d die for you, that’s easy to say

With you I share a similar taste in music. Our drives to and from school often have the volume turned up (until we reach school, or our neighbourhood … cause we don’t want anyone to think that your old mom could be cool like that), and air drums being played. I often try to get you to sing along, and you get a lump in your throat cause I’m gonna sing the words wrong”!

Though much of our shared music is simply enjoying the beat, there is actually wisdom in a few of our favorites:

“Wish we could turn back time,to the good ol’ days.
When our mama sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out.”

I admit, I do sometimes wish we could turn back time. Seeing you and your sisters enter into adulthood, with all it’s stresses landing on your shoulders, makes me nostalgic for ‘simpler’ times. That said, the independence that you are all heading towards is exciting and I look forward to see where you will go in your lives. You can look back with joy, but don’t stay there … move forward.

its always darkest before the dawn
There will be days that will be dark … really dark. Remember that childhood book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? You will have days when you will be able to write the sequel. Don’t throw in the towel, it IS always darkest before the dawn. Give thanks … “thanksgiving preceded the blessing” (Voskamp). so keep your head up, my love.

we’re all strange and baby we don’t wanna change
Ever feel like a square peg in a round hole? Kinda like you just don’t ‘fit’? Honey, that is a common human experience. Keep looking for where you fit like you were made for it … that is the place you will thrive … not every day, but over a lifetime. So go forth and have no fear.

please don’t make any sudden moves
Think before you make choices … from that bag of chips, to the homework on your desk, to that girl that smiled at you, to the career choice, to the video game (into hour number three). Every choice toward one thing is a choice away from another. Choose wisely, good and bad consequences are attached to all choices.

Time is a valuable thing, watch it fly by as the pendulum swings. Watch it count down to the end of the day. The clock ticks life away. It’s so unreal.
It is said that the days are long, and the years short. If you close your eyes does it almost feel like nothing changed at all. Live fully each day, love fully every day. The only guarantee is right now. Live with the goal of few regrets. These days of dust which we’ve known, will blow away with this new sun.

I can’t wait to kick off my work shoes
Choose work you will love, and love the work you do but … your work is not your life! Don’t sell your soul for a pay check! Have a life full of family, friends and activities, outside of work, so that you can look forward to both the beginning and end of your workdays.

though the truth may vary this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
but we all know, if there’s hope, then we’ll be okay

There are so many unknowns in life, especially when, like seventeen year old you, change is so close you can almost touch it. But, you have within your grasp someone who will direct your life, filling you with hope. Continue to allow God to direct you. He is your rock, your life’s foundation.

every minute and every hour, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you more
you can call me up from a pay phone
it may be hard for you to stop and believe but for you I’d leave it all

I am always your mom, and though I do like to remind you that I too have a life, I will miss you when you venture out into your own life. I’d stop whatever I am doing, for you … always here, just a phone call away.

you’re such a big mess, and I love you
honey I love you, that’s all she wrote

 

 

 

 

 

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Twenty-seven years!icon_househeart_red_750x5002

Twenty-seven years!

Last weekend hubby and I celebrated our 27th anniversary.

Twenty-seven years is 57.4% of my life!

I kept repeating it over and over again, as if awaiting some explanation for the passage of time.

As I look back on our wedding day, my most keen memory is who we were then. We were young (just twenty and twenty-three), naive, idealistic and so ‘in love’ with each other (with love).

It (marriage) was going to be so easy, because we were so in love. We were ready to face whatever would come our way, because we were together.

gag!

I wonder, if we knew then what we know now, would we?

Here’s the twenty-seven year reality check …

marriage is hard! 

and just when we think it is getting easier … it gets difficult all over again!

What I/we have learned most in twenty-seven years of marriage, is that being in love is not enough, because being in love is all about how the relationship feels, and feelings are fleeting, inconsistent, conditional and changing.

There have been (many) times in our marriage when we felt anything but in love towards each other. As a matter of fact, there have been many times when one or both of us has been pretty certain that we had made a mistake in marrying the other, and maybe even sought an escape clause.

Yet, here we are, but the long-lasting adhesive has not been love. The glue is far less romantic, but far more effective.

Our vows to each other, the license we signed, the promises we made, were really more like the legal contract for a mortgage.

Last weekend I heard hubby explain the meaning of the word, mortgage, to a fellow traveller. Mortgage is a french word which means slow death. It is a legal obligation to make payments either until it is paid off, or until foreclosure occurs.

Twenty-seven years ago we signed a mortgage-like license, promising to stay together, until it is paid off, or until death. It was a commitment to make regular payments, on the investment, and those payments are due whether the roof is leaking or the foundation crumbling … whether we feel like making the payments, or not.

If we chose to not make a payment, we then put ourselves in a position of threatened foreclosure … and we might lose all investment that we have made.

This is so not the romantic love that was the driving force behind our walk down the aisle. Yet, it is the only thing that can guarantee that there will be anything left of the original structure when debt is paid.

Twenty-seven years!

I am thankful for these years …

though some payments came up short, or were late …

though I resented the times when I had to pay more than my share …

though I am embarrassed when I didn’t contribute at all …

though our roof leaks …

and the maintenance seems impossible …

with God’s help our investments pay off,

every day we have together.

And some days, the sun shines in, illuminating each other, reminding us of the delights of feeling in love, and leaving us thankful for not foreclosing.

May it be a slow, slow death …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As I glanced up the washroom door, I could see graffiti.

“Seriously, are people really that bored?” was my initial thought … then I looked more closely.

When I read what had been written there (in the image above), a smile began to form across my face.

Then I wondered,

how many other females have read that sentence and smiled as well?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 declares,

” … encourage one another and build each other up …”

Though I would not necessarily encourage the defacing of other’s property, it was delightful to see that the author of this graffiti understood the power of encouraging words, even to unknown recipients.

In a time when it seems that everything from social media, to the news, to water cooler conversation is negative in character, may we all be reminded that the power of our words is great, and that encouragement is a better way.

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