Sunday, January 11, 2015

2014 - Year in Review

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions, but each year I choose some character trait, quality, or practice to focus on for the year.  I've done this now for almost 20 years believe it or not and I've focused on such things as love, hope, Bible reading, integrity,'s a long list.  2014 was a year dedicated to prayer. 

Let me begin by saying that 2014 was a hell of a year.  I suppose prayer was a good thing to choose knowing how difficult the year proved.  It was a year filled with struggle and heartbreak, trials and tribulations, disappointments and many many tears.  It certainly holds as a top contender for hardest year ever.  I was not sad to see 2014 walk out of my life forever. 

If there is one thing I have learned this past year, its that when tribulations come, it is easy to find yourself on your knees crying out to God.  This was not the picture I had in mind last January.  I anticipated a year of waking up a little earlier to commune with the Creator - listening and contemplating.  I was not prepared for the long hard ride.

I was reminded of some Truths over the past 12 months.  God is always with me; I am not alone.  God is more powerful than any circumstance I am drowning in.  God knows how all the puzzle pieces of life fit together.  I do not, and that's okay.  I can trust that He is in control.  I am surrounded by amazing people that love and support me (A special shout out and thanks to the members of my small group who sat next to me so patiently as I often cried myself through our weekly study - they are truly a blessing from God and very dear to my heart). 

I also became more intentional with my prayers - see my "7 Sacred Pauses" post for more.  I began reading how people prayed in the Bible and mimicking many of those prayers - specifically the persistent widow.  Part of me is still in that phase of not relenting - asking God over and over and hoping that my persistence pays off.  I have always been so impressed of people that have prayed for someone or something for years and years and years.  I often wonder how they continue without losing hope...which leads me to 2015.

As I contemplated what to concentrate on this year, the verse that kept coming to mind was Mark 9:24.  The verse reads, "...I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"  The context is a story of a father bringing his tortured son to Jesus for healing.  The father says "If you can do anything to help him, take pity on us..." And Jesus responds, "If you can?! Everything is possible for one who believes."

I have entered 2015 hopeful that it is going to be a good year.  Hope is a terrifying thing for a realist/pessimist.  I know I know - all you optimists out there don't understand, but it's true.  So maybe my theme for the year is a bit ambiguous.  How does hope relate to "I believe, help my unbelief"?  I'm anticipating a year of God revealing Himself to me in new and exciting ways.  I am focusing on faithfully believing in God's power and promises and humbly asking for aid to overcome my unbelief.

Tell me, what are you searching for in 2015?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ears to hear...

These words have been on my mind a lot lately.  Two months ago my daughter contracted some sort of rare virus that ended up attacking her left ear and leaving her significantly impaired.  We have been told by several professionals that nothing can be done.  However, yesterday we saw a specialist from in LA.  This doctor said that there is a possibility of her regaining some of her hearing with a heavy round of steroid treatments.  She was honest and said we should not get our hopes up, but, we are giving it a go...

It is so difficult when there is something wrong with your child.  As parents, we want to fix all their hurts and give them the best life possible.  And we grasp at straws when there is nothing we can do.  We pray, plead, beg, & tarry over and over again on their behalf.  We search for answers.

Something God has taught me this year is that although we only see time linearly and understand it through our perspective of here and now, He sees the time continuum and how all the pieces will fit beautifully together years down the road.  He sees the final masterpiece of our lives and all we see are two pieces that don't even fit together.

We've struggled with how to communicate to a 7 year old that we think she is perfect just the way she is - hearing or not, yet we continue to drag her to medical appointments and through tests that possibly make her feel less.  Is she seeing or believing a mixed message?  When the doctor says "nothing can be done" and she sees our faces fall despite how hard we are trying to keep a poker face - what does she think?  Does she think, "I am less?"  We desperately hope not.

So, last night I had a pretty amazing conversation with my daughter.  It was something we both needed to hear.  I credit only God for any wisdom or encouragement that came out of it, but feel a deep desire to share it with you.  It went like this:

"You know, I absolutely, 100% believe that God can heal you.  I've seen Him heal people before and I have no doubt in my mind that He can heal you too.  I pray every day that He will decide to use you as an example of a miraculous healing...but that may not be His story for your life.  He may choose to not heal you and use you as an example of someone who overcame great things in spite of adversity.  He may want you to become someone of great strength that goes on to make the world better in spite of something bad that happened to them.  I just don't know what His story is for you.  But we have to trust that He knows what's best for you.  He sees your whole life and we only see right now."

This lead us to a great discussion of some heroes that overcame great struggles and contributed wonderful things to our world.  We talked about Helen Keller and Martin Luther King Jr., and how maybe her name could be on a list of heroes too.  It was cathartic for both of us I think.  We both felt better after, more settled.

So, where am I now?  Well...I'm still praying, pleading, begging, and tarrying incessantly to God to heal her, to use her as a vessel of His healing powers.  And I won't stop doing that.  But, if God chooses a different route for my sweet one, we will be okay.  And we will know that she is meant to accomplish great things.

Would you join me in prayer?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Seven Sacred Pauses

I've spent much of the past year reading, contemplating, and researching topics regarding living a simpler, more intentional life.  In the midst of all that reading I came upon something that has been penetrating my heart for about a month now.  It is the idea of intentional prayer several times throughout the day.  The purpose is two-fold: to commune more deeply with God Almighty and to hinder the much too common reality at the end of the day -- "Where did my day go?  What do I have to show for it?"  Have you been there?  I have spent too many days sinking in to my bed at night just to wake up and repeat again and again and again feeling like a robot with no off switch. 

So, I'm going to embark on something this upcoming school year.  I can't stake claim to the idea - it's not mine.  I totally stole it from others who are older and wiser and more published.  But I have adapted it to fit my own life as a working mama and public school teacher.  My hope and prayer is that this will become a ritual for me that will make my days more purposeful and inspired.

Here's the gist:
Seven specific times a day I stop and pray.  Each prayer has a theme.  If I have time I read a specific passage in the Bible (also stolen from others mind you).  My timeline doesn't follow the original prayer schedule - I tailored it to fit my workday.  I also wrote out specific prayers so that if my brain is fried I have something to read and meditate on in spite of myself. 

I'm posting my prayers and findings below.  If you deem them interesting or feasible for your life feel free to copy, paste, and print them for yourself or others.  If you know me, ask me sometime how its going.  It will keep me accountable.  I'm excited to see what God has to reveal to me through this!

Seven Sacred Pauses

1.     The Awakening Hour (5:45 a.m.)
Reading: Psalm 19, 95, 147

Prayer: This day is Yours, Jesus. Awaken love in my heart so that I am a vessel of light today.

Insight: A time to remember God’s goodness and begin the day in glory. “What needs to rise in me today? Do I need to awaken to joy? Forgiveness? Should I pray for resurrection of love in my heart for my spouse and children? Ask for a dawning in my soul”

We begin a new day where our lives can become a living praise. It is a time to celebrate.  A time to celebrate reform, healing, transformation.

2.     The Blessing Hour (10:00 – recess)
Reading: Psalm 67, 84, 121

Prayer: Lord, help me to approach my work mindfully with love in my heart.  Grant me creativity, composure, inspiration, and love as I continue in my workday.  May Your love be evident to my students and all those I interact with today.  Stir my soul and inspire me to do good work.  Help me to be intentional in my words and actions and show me how to inspire and bless others. 

Insight: This mid-morning pause has two emphases.   Mindfulness of the Spirit’s abiding presence and the sacredness of our hands and work.

It is a time to invite the Spirit to stir our souls. “This pause can redirect our morning trajectory from efficient to inspired.”  We invite a deeper connection before the day gets away from us.

3.     The Hour of Illumination (Beginning of lunch break)
Reading: Psalm 24, 33, 34

Prayer: Oh Lord, Your light is beautiful.  You are the perfect example of a servant.  As I finish my workday, help me to serve those around me.  The day has already been filled with many challenges.  Search my heart and teach me new things as the day continues.  Give me a teachable spirit, eyes to see and ears to hear your Truth.  Grant me peace and  remind me that I am a vessel being used by You to reveal Your beauty and light to those in my realm of influence.

Insight: At midday, the brightest moment of the day, we recommit to being a light.   We pledge to serve, practice peace, give hope to the hopeless and provide light in the darkness. We ask the Spirit to send light, to open our hearts, to change deception to truth, despair to hope, hate to love. We search ourselves and ask for light where we are harboring anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness. We pray to bring joy to a dark world and offer our hands and words as agents of change and justice.

4.     The Wisdom Hour (2:00 p.m.)
Reading: Psalm 71, 90, 138

Prayer: Forgive me Lord for my failings.  Place wise people around me and let me learn from them.  Take away my anxiety, bitterness, anger, and frustration and renew my soul.  As I reflect upon my workday grant me perspective for the day, the week, the school year, and the years to come.  Show me how and where to improve myself and give me obedience to follow through.  Release any darkness in me and cover me with your grace.

Insight: At midafternoon we embrace the themes of surrender, forgiveness and wisdom.  We recognize the impermanence of life and acknowledge that all things are passing. This hour we pray for wisdom to help us live fully. With such wisdom we could live more courageously, compassionately, free from bitterness and anxiety. We ask for perspective of the short, fleeting day, the short passing life, release our grudges, offer our gifts and embrace our time on earth.

5.     The Twilight Hour (3:00ish - the drive home)
Reading: Psalm 34, 139, 145

Prayer: Lord God, calm my heart and mind.  As I journey home to my family bring peace into my soul.  Remind me of the many blessings in my life and help me to recall specific joys of today. As I arrive home to my family help me to leave my work day behind me and fully enjoy the time You have given me with my family.  Shower me with grace as I may walk into a busy and chaotic home.  And please Lord, keep me mindful of the wonderful blessings I have in my children and spouse.

Insight: Also called vespers, the theme of this hour is gratitude and serenity. This hour provides a chance to calm our minds. We invite God’s peace as we transition from our work day into dinner time and evening.  We ask ourselves what the greatest blessing of the day was?  What was a lovely accomplishment?  What can I lay to rest until tomorrow? Who do I need to make peace with?

A major focus of the twilight hour is gratitude.  We practice being thankful of our blessings, of the season of life we are in.  Even when this hour may typically be frenzied, we say ‘thank you’. “We say thank you for tomorrow, a perfect landing spot for unfinished tasks.  We say thank you for hands to labor and love with and ask for grace for the work of the approaching evening.”

6.     The Great Silence (children’s bedtime)
Reading: Psalm 23, 91, 134.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for today.  Place your shield of protection over us all tonight.  Bless and keep my little ones.  Surround them with angels to guard against hurt, cruelty, and loss of innocence.  Help us all to live a life mindful of You and Your ways.  *Include specific prayers for family and friends here.*  Grant us rest Lord so that we can begin tomorrow renewed and ready to accomplish what You have set before us.

Insight: A prayer to conclude the day.  It begins with a gentle evaluation of the day, a beautiful prayer to do with children, a spouse or a friend.  The focus is on awareness, weaknesses, strengths and accomplishments of the day. “We learn to live with more integrity and obedience than the day before, as together in prayer we examine the day.”

We pray for protection of darkness, for our children to be sheltered under God’s wings, for chains to be broken in areas we are stuck.  We intervene for those who are suffering sick, lost and hurting.

We welcome the darkness as well, a time to heal and restore our minds and bodies. It is time to let go of the day and enter into silence.

7.     The Night Watch (10:00/bedtime)
Reading: Psalm 42, 63, 119:145-152

Prayer: God, my heart is heavy just thinking about all the suffering in the world.  Please Lord, ease the pain of those suffering in the midst of poverty and injustice.  Grant courage and endurance to those going through difficult times.  Restore these people in mighty ways and reveal Your love for them. 

Insight: Also called vigils, this pause occurs around midnight. This is a deep prayer, interceding, keeping a vigil with Christ who never sleeps and guards us in our darkest hours.  We advocate for others that are suffering, abandoned, oppressed and lonely.  If you sponsor a child in poverty this is a good moment to bring them before the Lord.  “Perhaps some night when you get up to pray, something will turn over in someone’s heart and find its voice all because of your small prayer.  Perhaps our very waiting in the darkness gives some struggling unknown pilgrim in the hour’s hope.”

This is a moment spent in silence to shoulder the suffering.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My teaching year in retrospect...

So, the school year ended about 3 weeks ago and I finally think I’m ready to blog about it.  Actually there were many moments throughout the year that I wanted to just sit down and write, but I opted out mainly because I am always conflicted about the ethics of writing about my students while they are still my students.  Is it moral?  Is it ethical?  Is it safe?  Honestly, I don’t know any of those answers so I just don’t do it.  Sadly, this often means my poor husband hears my stories probably more often that he would like.  He indulges me though.

I just finished my 13th year of teaching and it has been the most challenging and difficult professional year of my teaching career.  Coincidence on the 13th year thing?  I’m not really superstitious so I’ll say yes.  Anywho, why was this year so difficult?  Sadly it solely had to do with the terrible home lives these kids had.  I am used to having a couple of kids with hard lives at home each year.  They are the ones who get more of my attention, patience, and prayers and this is normal…however this past year there were just too many.  I had students with both parents and siblings in prison, drugged out moms, suicidal moms, violent moms, and even a couple with thoughts of ending their lives because things seemed too hopeless for them at the young age of 10.  I witnessed the most horrific swollen black eye I have ever seen in my life – including anything I’ve seen in the movies, and I saw the horror in 30 something ten year olds when they too saw the injustice of such violence and had to process how in the world something like that happens.  Several of them already knew.

My heart is heavy just recounting the memories!  Most days I was filled with exhaustion and although I wanted to cry my eyes out, I pulled myself together for the sake whatever learning was to happen that day.  And some days, to my surprise, we learned. 

Through all of this God taught me some valuable lessons. 

Lesson 1: Although the world calls me a teacher, I am really a missionary.  I am a light in a dark place and quite often the only light those little lives see.  Because of this I need to make sure my words are kind and my tone is compassionate.  I have to come in to work fully equipped with all that is in me so that I can be teacher/parent/nurse/psychologist/mentor/encourager/whatever it is I will need to be that day.  I need to show Jesus in my actions and preach a message of hope that says, “You can rise above this!  Whatever life is like at home, that does not have to define who you are or who you will become.”

Lesson 2: I believe in a God who is mighty and powerful and in control of the world around me.  I have seen God do amazing things and have faith that he will continue to do those things.  Because of this, I have faith that He is watching over these kids – He is ultimately in control and I can find comfort in that.  I am not expected to fix every life – but I can plant seeds of hope and offer words of encouragement.  I have to give the rest to Him.

Lesson 3: My work place is my mission field.   I should not feel guilty if I don’t have the energy to help out in other mission fields.  If I can – great; if I can’t, it is okay to say no (Why is it so hard to say “no?”).

So, why am I telling you all of this?  I’m not writing this for you to impart sympathy toward me – in reality, my classroom is one room, in one school, in one city, in one county, in one state, in one very well-off country of the world.  Can you imagine what it must be like in other places?   How many children are suffering in the world?  I’m afraid we cannot begin to imagine.  I am writing this to encourage you to do a couple of things though.  First off, if you know a teacher, pray for him/her.  A lot.  Like every day.  Sometimes our work days are overwhelmed with the ugliness of the world and quite frankly we could use the support.  Second, if you not only know a teacher, but are related to one or close friends, ask him/her for specific students that you can pray for.  Those kids need lots of prayers for lots of different reasons.  Commit to praying for just one student in one classroom in one school in your city.  Maybe that one kid is the one who will change the world. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An Amazing Moment in Ghana, West Africa

The time: August, 2002
The location: Ghana, West Africa
The mission: Deliver & fit wheelchairs to disabled individuals of the country; equip & train the individuals and their families in manipulating & maneuvering the wheelchairs; share God’s love & hope with those we encounter.

A dear friend encouraged my husband and I (and several others) to go on this trip to Ghana with the organization Wheels for the World, and despite a list of reasons not to go we took a leap of faith and went.  My biggest fear in going?  I asked, “What if one of us gets hurt there?”  The response: “You hope and pray a doctor from the Peace Corp happens to be in the country.”  I’m not gonna lie – I had certain reservations about going.  What would I eat?  Would I get sick?  Where would I sleep?  What would the bathrooms/toilets be like?  Questions we all have, but don’t want to say out loud.

I have funny stories to go with each of those questions that were floating around in my mind back then, but those are not for this writing.  Let’s just say God extended His mercies and grace to me in all sorts of ways during this trip.

This trip was filled with so many amazing experiences.  There is one in particular you need to hear today. 

Let me set the stage for you.  The majority of Ghana functions as a third world country.  The villages are constructed of mud huts and locals sell bananas from baskets they carry on their heads.  In 2002 (Sadly, I have not kept up enough to know if things are different now.) there was no Polio vaccine in the country which meant that many citizens would become infected and lose mobility of one or more limbs.  In addition, the disabled in Ghana are greatly looked down upon.  If you cannot be mobile, you cannot work.  You are considered a second class citizen.  Wheelchairs are almost nonexistent there, unless brought over by some type of humanitarian organization.  So, people crawl, scoot, and are carried places.  The disabled become beggars.  I remember the first drive through Ghana.  There were disabled people everywhere begging for money.  People lying on the ground, crawling on all fours -- it was unbelievable to me.

When a wheelchair distribution happens, the government announces it over the public radio weeks in advance with the time and location.  This is done so that people have enough time to get there.  It sounds unreal, but many crawled for over three weeks to get to the distribution location!  Others had family members that would carry them for miles and miles to get there in hopes of getting a wheelchair.  Having a wheelchair in Ghana immediately changes a person’s social status.  They go from immobile to mobile; unworthy to worthy; shunned to part of society.

So here we are at our second distribution.  Miraculously the previous days work left exactly as many people as wheelchairs.  We were on a spiritual high for sure.  The logistics worked like this: There were roughly a dozen Americans.  Two worked registration.  Two were physical therapists that performed the physical examinations.  Another two to three worked on customizing the chairs to the recipients.  Four trained the family members and recipients in how to move around in the chair – turning, braking, etc.  The remaining played with the kids and visited with others that came out to see commotion.  There were also local preachers there.  Once an individual received an examination, a chair, and training – they were taken to the Reverend.  He prayed over each person and gave them Bibles.

Well, the day went on and we all assumed that again, we would miraculously end up with the same number of people needing chairs as chairs that we had to give.  It was so close to the end of the day that all of us Americans were sitting in the van ready to crash.  Our days consisted of breakfast and dinner only so we were ready to find food and sleep. 

We heard some commotion.  “What are they saying?  What’s going on?” we all asked.  Our driver said, “This man has come and was not given a chair.  There is not chair for him.  Even so, the doctors told him that a chair would bring him too much pain.  He cannot sit in one.”  We were crushed!  How could this be?  This man…was devastated.

The sweet Reverend Newton would not let this man leave.  He beckoned for him to come and talk with him.  (Mind you we are all watching this from the van.)  They prayed together.  The Reverend says – well we don’t know what he says, but the man…GETS UP AND WALKS AWAY!  Can I say that again?  The man.  Got up.  And. WALKED away.

We went crazy!  There were shouts of “NO WAY!” and screams.  We were moving so much the van was rocking non stop.  We might have high fived.  We definitely threw our hands up in the air.  “What just happened?!” we shouted.  Reverend Newton very calmly came over and said, “God told me He would heal this man.  There was no chair for him because he would not need a chair.  I told him that he was healed and that he could get up, and walk home.”

None of us had seen anything like this before!  It was truly amazing.  We had witnessed something right out of the Bible.  It was incredible.  A moment I will never forget.  A moment I look back to whenever my faith wavers.  “Our God is healer, awesome in power.”

Luke 5:17-26
John 5:1-15

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Show Me Your Glory

The first time I heard the song "Show Me Your Glory" by Third Day I cried.  The beginning lyrics were so similar to my own experience.  I just love this song.  Listen to it with lyrics here.  Please read my last 2 blog postings if you haven't yet to know what in the world I'm referencing.  And if you haven't checked out Third Day before you should!  You can learn more about them here.  They are awesome.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


The year was 1995.  It was a Saturday night in October.  I was a freshman in college, working nights at the new movie theatre across town.  I was the box office closer which meant late nights counting cash and closing out all the computer systems.  I loved it!

I usually began my trek home around 1:00 a.m.  Normally it was a quiet ride home.  There’s not a lot of traffic at 1:00 a.m. any night of the week – bars don’t close until 2:00, so I had a good hour before late night drivers got on the road.  I would blast whatever new CD I had and sing like a rock star all the way home.  The drive began like any other night.  My route was the cross-town freeway, then through downtown to the Extension.  I made it off of the freeway and was beginning the quick trip through downtown. 

I couldn’t believe I was hitting all the green lights – that never happened.  I saw a small black sports car driving perpendicular to me on one of the cross streets.  I remember thinking, “Whoa, they are driving fast!” …Then I remember thinking, “That car is going to hit me.”  I don’t have any recollection of the next 5 - 7 minutes.  As hard as I try – it’s just…black.  The first thing I remember before coming to was a bright flash of light.  The best I have ever come to putting it in to words is this: Remember Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner?  Well, when the Roadrunner would take off super fast you would see a blur of color/light coming off the back of him.  Sort of like a visual of his speed. 

I saw that streak of light to my left and then I came to.  There was a man at my driver side door.  He was knocking on the window - presumably trying to get me to wake me up.  He opened my driver side door, picked me up, and carried me across the street to a little patch of grass.  He told me to wait there and that everything would be alright.  He asked me about my parents.

My parents received a phone call from this man.  He told my father, that I had been in a car accident, but that I was alive, and okay.  He told him the intersection where I was and that he needed to come and get me.  After the pone call he came back over to me and said, “I have to go now.  Your parents will be here soon.  It’s going to be okay.”  I was in shock.  I was bleeding and shaking and confused.  I thanked him for helping me and asked him his name.  He replied, “Rene” and then…he was gone.

My parents arrived approximately the same time that the police arrived.  My dad worked for the police department, so he knew the officers that were “on scene”.  They asked how he knew I had been in an accident.  He simply said, “One of the witnesses called me.”

Things were chaotic.  The driver of the other car was drunk and stumbling around shouting.  There were police officers everywhere and paramedics surrounding me.  There were a few bystanders and some other cars that had pulled over to offer help.  I was taken to the hospital to check out the damages.

I was lucky, they say.  I suffered burns on my hands and chest, swollen and bruised knees, stomach and neck, and a separated left shoulder – which they had to pop back in to place at the hospital.  It could have been worse though – that’s what they kept saying.

My life went on from there for a few days with no real thought of this “Rene” person.  I had recounted my story to my parents.  We pieced a time line together with the events of the evening.  We were all so thankful that this man had come to my aide.  Being that my dad worked for the police department, we received rather quickly the full reports and witness accounts of the accident.  There were three witnesses.  Each report gave roughly the same account:

“The victim crawled out of the driver’s side window and walked to the southwest corner of the intersection.”  Noted by officer: Driver side door was jammed shut; would not open.

I was speechless.  This was NOT what happened.  No where in the report was “Rene” mentioned.  He was not a witness.  He was not seen by any other individual at the scene.  Each witness claimed that I had, on my own, gotten out of my car and walked (on my own) to the corner.  Most people (my parents included) would probably think that I was in shock and not remembering correctly…except for that phone call.  Who called my parents? 

My dad and I did some investigating, but came up with nothing.  Rene was nowhere to be found.

I believe Rene was an angel, sent by God, to comfort me at a desperate moment in my life with a message of hope:  “It’s going to be okay.”  I had a long road of physical and emotional healing ahead.  I wouldn’t drive again for months.  I frequently woke up terrified in the middle of the night with visions of that black car zooming toward me.  I had months of physical pain and therapy.  But in all of that, I also had hope.  Hope that God must have something more for me to do here.  Hope that in the midst of terrible, there is often awesome.  I was only 18, but this moment would significantly shape my adulthood.

For further reading: Psalm 121