Sunday, December 20, 2015

God and Girl's Basketball

I’ve never really been a “sports mom”.  My kids played some sports in their early high school years, but found that focusing their attention on other things better suited them.  Then I married a family of competitors.  Whether it’s on the wrestling mat, the baseball/softball field, basketball court, or out in the woods, sports play a prominent role in their lives and subsequently mine.  I suddenly find myself spending many hours watching games, participating in pasta feeds with the other moms, traveling to games, scrounging up cash as Gracei gets on the bus, and holding my breath when the game is close.  I got to watch Dakota wrestle, Hunter play baseball and Gracei play softball.  Now I am enjoying the world of Coyote Girls Basketball.  But, as much as I enjoy watching Gracei play, I find myself making other observations and as is usually the case, God speaks to me in some unusual ways. 
Let me start with the pasta feed.  When the girls have games on the weekend, some of the moms (and dads) provide a carbohydrate rich meal to fuel them up for the task before them.  The girls are provided with a variety of pastas, salads, desserts and beverages.  Having never been to one of these events before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  The girls started arriving and filling their plates.  They brought tables together so they could eat as a family.  Then it happened.  One of the girls suggested that they pray.  My heart soared.  This wasn’t a canned prayer, but a heartfelt request for safety on the court and thankfulness for the meal.  There was no asking God for a win or success in any way….just His protection, both for our team and the competition. 
I see the pasta feed as our Christian community, whatever that may look like.  It might be the church that you attend, a Bible study that you belong to, or even a friend that you get together with and have Jesus in common.  It is in those environments that we get fueled for the task ahead of us.  It is there that we pray for God’s grace.  It is there that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.  It is there that we can approach the cross as a team and worship Him.
Before the game, the girls have established a tradition.  Before they come onto the court, they huddle together and pray, pointing to God as a reminder of who receives the praise.  I won’t lie. When I first saw this, I teared up.  What an amazing habit to establish!!  Friday night’s game didn’t end with the Coyotes winning.  In fact, they lost by several points.  When they came on to the court on Saturday, every player was still there, ready to try again.  God doesn’t promise us a success only journey.  In those times when success is out of reach, He wants us to stay in the game, learn from our mistakes and keep trying.
I think the biggest observation that I made during the games was what the girls did every time there was a break in the action or even at times during the action.  They looked at the coach.  Sometimes he made comments to give them direction.  Sometimes, he just gave them “the look”. They seemed to be so tuned into him that he didn’t have to say much during those times, but it refocused them and gave them confidence and direction.
We need to have the same coachability when it comes to the things of God.  We should be spending so much energy and focus during “practice” getting to know Him and what He expects from us, that when we are trying to figure out our next “play” in the game, it only takes a glance in His direction to know what to do.   This isn’t a one-time occurrence.  We should be constantly looking to Him and listening for His voice.

There are more games to be played, more relationships to establish, and more skills to develop.  Through pasta feeds, prayer and playing the game, God will continue to work in and through this team and when I am able, I’ll be there holding my breath and cheering them on….because that’s my role in the game.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

25 Years of Wondering

In about a month, I will be finishing up my 25th year of teaching.  My husband talks about retirement, but I honestly can't envision that.  I love what I do. It hasn't always been a joy, but I am so glad that I persevered when met with obstacles that tried to derail me.  I will be the first to admit that I wasn't always the best teacher and mistakes that I made along the way sometimes pop into my head. I sometimes wish that the teacher I am now could go back and help the teacher that I was 25 years ago.  
I wish I had kept track of the number of students that I have seen come and go from my classroom over the years.  I would guess that there have been about 2500 of them.  The problem with being a teacher is that more often than not, at the end of the year, when seniors graduate, students move, or if you're in a large school, it's difficult to keep contact with students that were in your class, you are left wondering what happened to them.  I am wondering today.  
I wonder what happened to Jennifer.  In a school of over 1,800 students, she ended up in 3 of my classes one semester.  We got to know each other pretty well that year.  I remember her telling me that she had broken up with her boyfriend.  He was abusive to her, but they had a child together so cutting the ties was very difficult.  He had threatened to have her killed.  I also remember the days when she would come in to class and not make eye contact with me.  I knew that she had gone back to him and didn't want to tell me.  I think about the students that went home every day to situations that were horrific. I remember wishing that I could scoop them up and take them home so I could protect them.  Were they able to rise above?  I wonder about the student who aspired to be a fashion designer and kept me on my toes in sewing class with her ideas.  I wonder about the students who struggled with addictions. I wonder about the students who became parents.  Did I equip them to be successful?  I wonder about the students who fought me.  Do they look back now and understand that I was doing my best to help them find success in life?  I wonder about the students who seemed to find school easy for them.  Did they challenge themselves?  I wonder about the students who often blended in and sometimes fell through the cracks because they were seen as average.  Did they find a place in the world where they were valued for who they were and the uniqueness that unfortunately went unrecognized by many?
I have been blessed with phenomenal students this year, especially my seniors.  They may not all excel with their grades or always get their work turned in, but overall they have been wonderful to work with in the classroom and FCCLA.  I will miss them.  I thought of them this morning and my heart broke a little.  I know that they will graduate soon and venture into the world that is waiting for them.  Over the last few years, I have traveled with some of them and heard their hopes and dreams on those long trips and layovers in the airport.  The young man who wants to use his story to touch others through ministry and motivational speaking.  The young lady who is excited about attending a culinary arts academy to become a chef.  The FCCLA members who I have seen grow in their confidence and leadership. The list could on and on.  
Every once in awhile, I am fortunate and a student from days gone by will pop back into my life. A student that I shared a classroom with 25 years ago and 500 miles away will recognize me in a parking lot and we will be able to reconnect.  A student will find me on Facebook and I will get the joy of seeing that they not only survived, but are thriving.  A student may come to school and drop by my classroom when they are back in town, just to say "hi".  If I'm honest, I may not always remember the name, but each one of them is in my heart.
Today I am wondering.  I am wondering what happened to all those kids that wandered through my doors, never by chance or random scheduling, but because one or both of us had something to learn and offer each other.  I am wondering what the future holds for the ones that wander through my doors for just a few more weeks, whether it's to be in class or to choose from the basket of lotions that I keep on my desk just for them, knowing that sometimes it's not about the lotion, but about touching base with someone they know truly cares about them.  I wonder who God will put in my classroom next year and I am excited!!!  Whether you were one of the thousands that were already there or the many that I hope are to come, know that I love you, I care about you, I pray for you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Praying Waiter

I had a dream last night.  In this dream, I was going to a restaurant.  After being seated at the table, the waiter came over and did something that I wasn’t expecting.  He started praying.  It appeared that this was standard procedure in this restaurant.  He started the prayer with, “Thank you, God, for allowing me to be a server in your service.”  The rest of the prayer included asking God to bless us and our food.  He ended the prayer with, “If it’s okay with you, God, I’d like a little more time.”
I woke up thinking about the dream and the message it contained.  I believe that God was reminding me (and now you) of a couple of things.  I am a teacher.  I am employed by a school district, but I don’t work for them.  Colossians 3:23 says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.  I work for the Lord.  I am a teacher in His Service.  No matter what you do with your time, it should be as working for the Lord.  You may be a secretary, a pipeliner, a student, a grocery store clerk, a pastor, a stay-at-home mom, a barista, a contractor, a salesman…the list could go on forever.  Whatever it is that defines your daily activity, you are to be in service to the Lord.  You are a secretary in His service.  You are a pipeliner in His service.  You are a student in His service.  You are grocery store clerk in His service.  You are a pastor in His service.  You are a stay-at-home mom in His service.  You are a barista in His service.  You are a contractor in His service.  You are a salesman in His service. 
I am a teacher in His service.  I love my job and look forward to being with my students every day.  The thought of not getting to teach anymore makes me sad, but I know there will come a time when I will need to retire and hand the reins over to a new generation.  For now, I will do what I can to prepare young people for the next stage of their life.  There is still so much to do, so much to learn along the journey, and so many joys to experience.  It’s vital that I don’t waste the precious time that God has given me to live in His service.

I am thankful for the ways that God speaks to me….this time through a dream.  I am thankful that I can be a teacher in His service.  And if it’s ok with Him, I hope He gives me a little more time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I'm Not Sorry

I find myself apologizing lately, but I don't know why. Maybe it's my desire to avoid conflict. It just becomes easier to apologize. Well, that needs to change. So here is a list of things that I am not sorry for.
1. I am not sorry that I have a relationship with God. I am not sorry that this relationship shapes my thoughts, actions, and how I interact with others. I am sorry for those times that I don't live up to what He expects of me. Fortunately, God is gracious and merciful to me and forgives.
2. I am not sorry for how I was raised. I grew up in a two-parent household where divorce was never considered an option. My parents created an environment of support. We had discipline and boundaries which were expresed without a raised voice or hand. It wasn't perfect. Every family has its own struggles, but I knew and still know that I have a soft place to fall. It is the kind of environment that I endeavor to create in my home. I fail at times, but it is my goal for anyone in my home to leave being better equipped to face the world. This doesn't make my upbringing better or worse than anyone else's. It is my history and I'm entitled to be thankful for it.
3. I am not sorry that I have my own values and opinions. I choose to not always share them. It's not my job to convince everyone that I'm right. I would rather have people see how those things cause me to show compassion and love rather than beat people over the head trying to get them to profess that my way of thinking is the only right way.
4. I'm not sorry for being educated. I worked very hard to earn the education that I have. That work has enabled me to have a career that I am passionate about. My choice to go this route was just choice. I shouldn't have to downplay my success just because someone else made other choices...ones that were right for them.
5. I am not sorry that I chose early in my life to abstain from activities that could be harmful to my health and well-being. I've never knowingly consumed alcohol, used tobacco products,or used recreational drugs. I saw that those things would interfere with the life that I wanted and wanted no part of them. The wisdom of that decision has been reenforced many times throughout the years and I am thankful.
I guess to sum it up, I'm thankful for the life I have. I have been far from perfect and things in my life have brought me to my knees before God. That's where I belong anyway. That's where I find peace from the chaos that can surround me at times and shelter from attacks. It lets me be an extension of God to those who cross my path. No apologies. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014


“Only a boy named David.  Only a little sling.  Only a boy named David, but he could pray and sing.”  Only….I don’t like that word.  There’s a certain sense of defeat or condescension that comes with that word.  It’s almost like we are making excuses for not attempting great things.  I’m only a mom.  I’m only a teacher.  I’m only a ______.  I can’t accomplish anything.   Great things are accomplished by people who are ___________.  Just imagine what you could do if you didn’t believe in the word, “only”. 

I recently celebrated graduation with the seniors at my high school.  Every year, I choose a senior who I know may have trouble paying their fees. If the fees aren’t paid, the student isn’t able to participate in graduation exercises.  This year the recipient was called into the office, told his fees were paid and handed a cap and gown.  He asked the question, “why would someone do this for me?”  He was told it was because someone cared and wanted him to be able to celebrate his accomplishments.  I saw that student at graduation.  He didn’t know that it was me who helped him out.  The smile on his face was unforgettable.  I am so glad that I followed God’s leading with this tradition.  He will leave high school knowing that someone believed in him and cared for him.  I’m just a teacher trying to prepare kids for life.  I’m not core academics.  I’m not a coach.  Sometimes, my curriculum is viewed as blow-off classes or easy A’s. (until the second week anyway)  Beyond the sometimes seemingly insignificant things that I do in my day, God is using me to reach the hearts of kids who just need someone to care.  What I do matters because God has asked me to do it.  God takes away the word, “only”, and turns it into something amazing for His glory.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Gift

I remember that it was a very cold day…..January 29, 2008.  My kids and I checked out of the hotel and got in our cars.  We were going home, but not quite yet.  We had to first go to the hospital.  A few days earlier, the surgeon who had been a glimmer of hope for us stood in the room and with tears in his eyes, told us that there would be no more surgeries.  If strength was regained, we could try chemo again, but the reality of the situation was that outside of God intervening, his address was soon going to change to a heavenly mansion.  I went to the room where I had spent many hours and saw him lying there.  My love, my friend, my partner.  He smiled when he saw me and his eyes twinkled the way that they always would.  Then his smile faded a little bit and he told me to have the kids stay in the hall.  He told me to close the door because he had something to tell me.  My mind raced as I wondered what this could be about.  He took my hands and looked into my eyes.  He said, “I want you to get married again.  I think I was just practice so you would know it was ok to love someone and not get hurt.”  Here was this man facing the end of his time on earth and he wanted to make sure I would be ok.  To some it may seem like an awkward conversation, but it was very natural…it was us trying our best to take care of each other as long as we could.  I remember telling him that I wasn’t done loving him yet.  We went home that day and on February 3rd, 2008, he went to his heavenly home.
Here I am six years later.  For so long, I didn’t think I would ever find love again.  Then it happened.  This guy entered my life and swept my heart away.  What I thought was impossible to feel again is alive and well.  God has blessed me with someone who does his best to understand me….not an easy task, someone who supports me, someone who prays for me daily, someone who worships with me, someone who loves me and cherishes me more than I could ever imagine.  This man who I love and support…this man who makes my toes curl….this man who I can walk this life with.  I am so incredibly blessed to love and be loved by this man… husband… hero.

I received a wonderful gift that day in the hospital.  The man that I loved gave me permission to love someone else and blessed my future.  I hope that he can somehow know how grateful I am to him for the love that we shared, for the impact that he made on who I am today, and for showing me the kind of love that I deserved in my life.  I hope my husband can enjoy that gift for many years.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Do What Makes You Happy

Let’s get this out of the way right now……TAURUS FECES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Everywhere I look, there are pretty little signs that say “Do what makes you happy”.  When seeking wise counsel about a decision that needs to be made, people are told, “Do what makes you happy”.  The mindset is that it doesn’t matter what the Bible says or what you know in your heart to be right or wrong as long as you are momentarily happy, God will smile upon everything you do.  Again, I say TAURUS FECES!!  If there is a place in the Bible that tells us to do whatever makes us happy, I sure would like to see it.  God never says that the way to happiness is to do whatever you want.  He addresses many behaviors and attitudes that can cause problems if we don’t follow what he says to do.  You see, God can look past our present behavior and see the train wreck that sin will cause in our lives.  He wants to protect us. We aren’t that bright sometimes and we still choose to do whatever we want for the momentary happiness and then we blame God when our lives are a mess. 

In one of my classes, we are talking about goal setting and how you need to look at the trade-off (what will you have to give up to achieve your goal).  In the practical sense, in order for a person to reach a goal of purchasing an item, they may have to give up that extra coffee drink, trip to the movies, or new pair of shoes to have the money to reach their goal.  What is the trade-off for being “happy”?  If you have to give up your values, your integrity, your reputation, your relationships, your walk with God, to achieve happiness, can you truly say that you are happy?  If you’re really honest with yourself, you would have to admit that “happiness” isn’t worth the trade-off, especially when that brand of happiness is cheap and temporary.  It’s like settling for moldy bologna when there’s filet mignon available.

I know that this will offend those who have bought into the “do whatever makes you happy” lie and that’s ok.  I’ve learned that those who so adamantly oppose the concept that there are things that God says are right and things that God says are wrong already know the truth and have made conscious choices to ignore it and need to somehow justify it.  They are so busy chasing temporary happiness that they have forgotten what can bring them lasting joy. 

As you can probably guess, I’m not the person that you should come to for advice if all you want is someone to tell you to do whatever makes you happy.  I’m more likely to tell you to do whatever makes you holy.  That’s the only way that I can assure that you can experience true joy…..and that beats out cheap happiness every time.