Find Your Passion. Discover Your Purpose.

Politics and Religion. I’ve heard you shouldn’t talk about those things if you want to keep friends. It’s a wonder I have any left.

There are always a million things going on in my mind at once. And 99% of my time is spent pondering thoughts I want to write about. Writing, for me, is such a release. A release of tensions…of stress…of joys… of sorrows. I write to release these things and in the midst of that release I often pray that my words will catch someone off guard and encourage sharing. The sharing of emotions is what I treasure most.

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We were made to be courageous is a concept that I think about a lot. There are so many times when I share my thoughts and then immediately think, “Maybe that wasn’t worth sharing…Maybe I’ll offend someone…Maybe someone wont like me after reading that.” But then I remind myself that we were made to be courageous. I am an idealist in every sense of the word. I believe that people can make a difference in this world and I want to be a difference maker. I want to be used by the Holy Spirit to help, comfort, uplift, encourage, inform, or motivate someone. It is why I became a teacher. It is why I am so unabashedly passionate in my pursuits. We are all missionaries. We all have a mission. Whether we are in Christ or not, we all have a mission. You can look on Facebook any day at any time and see what people are passionate about. Facebook has become a mission field. Whether we are in pursuit to convince people to take better care of their skin, or add more exercise to their lives, or follow a certain political candidate, or trust in the power of prayer, or go read a book, or believe that a certain profession is the best, or that some particular group should be banned or boycotted, etc. etc. etc. The list is long and the pursuits are heavy. I am one of those pursuers. I can’t help myself. I get why there are so many bloggers. I get why so many people are posting  photos of miraculous before and after transformations. I get why people are boycotting businesses. I get why people get on their soapboxes.  I get why there are a million articles on Facebook everyday being shared and liked thousands of times. All of those pursuers have one thing in common. They We believe that their our mission is worth fighting for..that someone can benefit from it…that there is something magical or special or emotional or awe inspiring that others would benefit from. I get it. We boldly post our passions! We were made to be courageous. But we were also made to be together, to love one another, to encourage one another, to share in each others’ burdens and joys. And again for those reasons, we post, we blog, we photograph… It’s modern day evangelizing :)

So all of you who are passionate in your pursuits, carry on my friends. I appreciate your passion. It is contagious. I also appreciate  when those passions are shared and discussed and pondered and stirred. Inspire me. Be inspired by others.

I look for inspiration and encouragement daily. Whether it comes from a book or interaction with a friend or even from Facebook. It stirs something in me when I see or hear or feel beauty through words on a page, or a smile from a friend, or a picture on Facebook. Seek out the beauty. Find your mission. Encourage others. Share in sorrows and in joys. Be someone’s inspiration.

This is my challenge today: Think about this…When people think about you, what is it that they can say you are passionate about? Where is your mission field? What are your pursuits?

And this is my prayer today: …that in those pursuits and on those mission fields, we are completely immersed in the ultimate reason for our passions. …that we would see and feel the love of Christ in us so that we can release that to others. …that we would remember that there is a purposeful life meant to be lived in a way that honors the Maker. This prayer is for me. It is for my friends who know a Savior. It is for my friends who do not. It is for my church leaders. It is for my children’s teachers. It is for my husband. It is for my children. It is for my nation’s leaders. It is for the world’s leaders. Nothing is too big for God. Dream big…Pray big…Do big!

Love you all!

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

Acts 28:31 Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Ephesians 3:12In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Proverbs 28:1 The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Acts 4:31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:29And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,

Acts 4:13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Ephesians 6:19And also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,

Philemon 1:8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required,

Romans 12:1-2I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Hebrews 13:6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 10:19-25Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

You Mean I Have to Wait 13 Years to Give This Gift?

photo 1Here is an idea I got from Pinterest three years ago, that I am passing along to those interested. It’s the end of the school year and the perfect time to put this plan for your children into action. If you are not a fan of delayed gratification, this isn’t for you. It is a gift you will not be able to give to your child until they graduate from high school. But it is one that I believe will hold such special meaning for them well into adulthood. I got mine out of their hiding place today so that I could take to the school. As I opened the pages and read the notes and reviewed their awards and report cards over the last two years, it warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. A collection of well wishes and kudos that your children will cherish, is just a book away.

First, choose a great book that will mean something upon graduation day. Second, send a note to your child’s teacher asking if they will write a brief message inside for your child (you’ll have to find a way to get the book to your child’s teacher in secret). Third, collect only the most important milestone papers (such as thank you notes, report cards, awards) to keep in the back of the book. Fourth, keep hidden until the end of the next school year. Rinse, Repeat!

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Four easy peasy steps, right? Off you go!

Transformation

I stumbled upon my journal that I kept during Reed’s accident a few nights ago as I was cleaning. As I sat and read it, I was reminded that God does not promise tomorrow, but does promise He will be with us. So often, I let fear and worry take over. Our family knows way more of cancer than we want to. We know more about traumatic brain injury than we should. We know more about death and sorrow than we care to know. But our hope has always been, and always will be, in the one true healer… the only one who can offer perfect life, everlasting life. As I transfer my journal from paper to computer this morning, I praise God for the mercies He has bestowed upon my family during trials. I am so thankful for parents who continue to teach me well into adulthood that I can rest my weary and worrisome heart in the hands of Jesus.

Below is my account of the days leading up to Reed waking from his coma. The doctor’s gave him a 10% chance of living, and an even slimmer chance of living a productive life if he survived. People question whether miracles happen. I do not!

Days 1 and 2:

Reed, When Shannon called and told me you were in a car accident I was immediately overcome with grief… deep fear. Fear like I’ve never known. Dustin wasn’t home. I had just put Emerson and Reese to bed. I screamed out to God and said, “No!” I fell to the floor and told God this could not happen. I rushed down to a neighbor to get a babysitter and took off towards mom and dad’s house. We drove through the night to get to you. Every time Matt or Shannon would call Dad with an update I would watch his face. It didn’t look good – even though he kept telling mom and me that everything was going to be fine. When we got to the hospital Matt met us outside and showed us up to your room. Mom was afraid of what she would see – so it was just dad and me that went in to see you. Oh Reed! It was then that I realized just how critical this was. I hated seeing you lying there unable to respond. I held your hand and told you that I loved you. We stayed through the night and the rest of the next day in the hospital. There will be so many people telling you what went on during that time, but all I want to tell you is that I can’t lose my brother. I am scared right now because my mind always goes to the worst. I am scared you wont come back. I want to scream at you and tell you to fight. I know it is tough because your body and mind are under so much right now. But you have to fight through this. You have to even if you don’t want to, because we all need you.

Day 2:

Suzie, Jimmy, and Billy Burge just got here Reed. They came to see you and tell you how much they love you. You are going in to surgery right now. They are cleaning your arm. It was mangled pretty badly. We are all in the waiting room telling funny stories about you. … (Later) Mom, Suzie, Jimmy, and I just went in to see you. When we came out Alan Valkenburg was here to see you. He said he had heard about your wreck. He said he wanted to come not to see you but to tell us that you had had such an impact on his younger brother who is now sober after a long bout of alcoholism. What a godsend you were to him, he said. God has used you to bless others. Now we are here to care for you. We love you. … (Later) The orthopedic surgeon just told us that although he can’t speak on behalf of the neurological physicians, as far as your arm is concerned, you can play golf again with much therapy! That was the hope we needed for today. Golf again! … (Later) They are going to start giving you nutrients now. Praise God! They will have to put a tracheotomy in your throat so that if you aspirate it will come through that rather than your lungs. They say they will leave that in until you wake up. Wake up!

Day 3:

It’s Thursday and I have to go home to take care of the girls on Sunday. I am praying you will show progress by then. … (Later) Forgive me for giving up hope today. Everything on this earth tells us you will not survive. But right now I choose to believe you will live and live wholly! … (Later) The neurologist came in tonight before we left to give a report. He sounded pretty bleak and laid out worst case scenario. It is so hard to stay strong. It is so hard to believe you will be Reed again when the doctors are so solemn. But we serve the God of Healing. Through Him ALL things are possible. He IS a God of miracles. Please God have mercy on us and restore Reed. Shannon has been so strong, Reed. You married a good woman. She is so great when she is in your room… just talks to you like everything is normal. You have a lot to live for. Emerson and Reese are ready for those cousins you promised them! My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and his righteousness!

Day 4:

We are going to see great things today! I claim that! I believe you will show us something awesome today. We are in the hotel about to leave for the hospital. I am praying that your spirit is at peace right now. Hang in there… (Later) Reed! You are a fighter! You are trying to “wake up.” the neurologist is camping out at your bedside because of what you are showing him. He is surprised. We can tell that he wasn’t expecting this. God is revealing Himself! Praise God for tangible evidence today. Thank God for hope. … (Later) It’s almost the end of the day. They will close your room soon. You have been moving a lot today and your eyes are fluttering. I am so proud of you. I know it’s hard to keep fighting, but keep fighting. Tippy called and made us put the phone by your ear. He said (in his best Harry Carry voice), “Hey, if you were a hotdog would you eat yourself?”

Day 5:

Dustin, Emerson, and Reese just arrived. It was good to see them. I am feeling so torn. I need to take care of my family, but I want to be here for you every step of the way. I have to leave tomorrow to go back to Mississippi. Dad went into your room this morning and told you he’d be back in a bit. You lifted your leg as if to tell him not to leave. God is working miracles in you. We know this because you shouldn’t have even made it this far. Rest your weary soul in Jesus and He will make you WHOLE.

Day 6:

I said goodbye to you today and it was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I’ll be back on the weekends. I am getting updates via phone now. Shannon called to say your fever is going down. They are prepping your arm for surgery. I continue to pray that God will restore you completely. Hang in there. God is with you.

Day 7:

Today I pray that this will be a day of great rejoicing. … (Later) I just talked to Shannon. She said she asked you to blink. You blinked! How awesome to hear that. …(Later) Dad just called. He said he asked you to blink, move your toes, and squeeze his hand. You did it all! Love you brother! You are doing great! To God be the glory!

Day 10:

Love over fear. I am sitting at the airport waiting on my flight to Dallas. I can’t wait to see you. I am praying you will wake up this weekend. Dad and Shannon keep telling me you have made great progress. See you soon.

Day 11:

I saw you this morning for the first time since last Sunday. You look good. You moved your leg and shoulders. The doctors said they found the source of the infection. It was in your lungs from the pneumonia. There is talk about moving you to a private room. … (Later) I just visited your room. The nurse was giving you a breathing treatment. It was so hard to watch. It just hurts my heart to see you like this. You looked uncomfortable but the nurse assured me that you will not remember this stage of the process. It is going to be so hard… this road to recovery. We don’t want you to hurt, or be scared or confused. We just want our Reed back. I know God is walking with you every step of the way. Mom and Dad seem to have a better handle on this trust thing. I’m more of a “I need some evidence” type of girl. Kinda like those ol boys in the boat with Jesus, huh? … (Later) We are all living a nightmare. We want to communicate with you so badly. Poor Shannon, what she must be going through. I pray for strength for Shannon, Mom, and Dad. I pray for the fever to disappear. I pray for your arm to be restored. I pray for the swelling in your brain to cease. I pray for you to wake up. I pray that God will perfectly restore and heal your brain and your body from the inside out. For with God ALL things are possible. “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be reached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the Heavens, Jesus the son of God let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “But without faith it is impossible to please Him. For He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Day 12:

How awesome is our God! Your eyes are wide open today. You are moving them. You are moving your head from side to side. Thank God for today. Come back to us Reed. … (Later) Rollercoaster of emotions. I have learned today that “waking up” in medical terms doesn’t really mean you are awake as we know it. You are “waking up” but you are still so far from us.reed4

Day 13:

Just left the hospital. Didn’t see much action from you today. I think yesterday wore you out. They changed your arm bandage today and said it looks great. Praise God! It was such a dirty wound when you were brought in. glass, and rocks all in it. You had no skin left on it. They call it “degloved.” Oh this is hard. Hang in there. Keep fighting. I am praying without ceasing that you will be wholly restored.

Day 14:

Heavenly Father, I consider today the path of life laid out for those who are wise. It certainly isn’t the shortest, most traveled, or least difficult trail. There are times when the incline may be so steep it forces me on all fours, but that is a posture in which I am most humbled. It forces me to kneel down before You, the Lord my Maker. Your strength is perfect when mine is fleeting. It is a place where I realize it is no longer mine but in your perfect strength I walk. It is no longer my plan but your perfect plan that I follow. It is no longer my wisdom but your perfect wisdom that instructs me. You give perfect direction and adequate strength to walk the upward path that leads to life everlasting. Thank you that I will never walk to path of life alone, for You lead the way as You make my feet like hind’s feet on high places. We look to you for hope that renews our faith and restores our strength. In the midst of situations that challenge and weary us, Your power and strength never diminish. You never tire of us coming to you, but rather expect it. The promise of Your strength helps us rise above life’s detours and difficulties. We place our confidence in You, unchanging God, and develop the fruit of patience as we wait on You to fulfill Your promises. Amen

Day 29:

You still haven’t woken up from your coma but you are getting there. You are out of ICU and Dad and Shannon have entered “coach” mode. They are working you physically and mentally to try to arouse you from this deep place you are in. My heart literally hurts all day long. I want you back with us so badly. I hurt for Mom and Dad too. They are being so strong but I can see it in their eyes. They are in pain. Emerson keeps asking why she can’t see you.

Day 30:

You are amazing, Reed! We see you fighting! Keep it up!  Dad called to share today’s praise! You are moving about and we can tell you want to come back to us. Come on, brother! Come on. We are waiting for you. We will help you on your road to recovery.

Day 31:

Dad just asked you to blink if you were in pain. You blinked and then a tear rolled out of your eye. Oh my heart. We do not want you in this pain. Today I pray that God will envelope you in the fold of His wings and soothe your pain as only He can. God is good. God does good. Therefore this must be good. I can’t wait to find out why and how!

Day 32:

I just got to the hospital. You just seem more “there” when I look at you today. I can tell you hear me. So much praise, and yet still in this nightmare.

Day 35:

Dad says you are starting to become more confused as you try to wake up. He said you are hitting everyone. Oh gosh! Bless you! It must be scary. I am scared for you.

Day 37-38

Fasting today. Praying without ceasing.

Day 39: Reed!!!!! you said happy birthday to me today!!!!! Best gift ever.

Day 40:
I saw you at Baylor today. They have moved you there to begin rehabilitation. I played cards with you. It was painful to experience. You are trying so hard. You told us today that you want to move back to Mississippi. Oh how we love our Mississippi, don’t we? In spite of all that you are going through right now, you are being so polite, and respectful, and thoughtful, and funny. You have a great attitude and a heart of a champion. It is apparent to all of us that God has transformed you in a mighty way. You are coming back to us with so much spiritual clarity. So much wisdom of who God is. Did you see Him? I believe you did!

Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!reed3

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My Bucket Runneth Over

indexMrs. Klenke read “How Full is Your Bucket” today. If her intention was to inspire and motivate her learners to go forth and emulate, it worked. Emerson was so full of joy this afternoon telling me how we have GOT to start “filling people’s buckets.” What do we fill them with, I asked her. “Oh we have to fill them with love and kindness and encouragement. Some kids need to feel those things,” was her beautifully perfect reply. All this because of a teacher and a moment and a book.

Yall know I’m a sucker for a great teacher. At the end of the day, what I’m most concerned with, is NOT curriculum or state tests. I am most concerned with the life lessons my children learn. I am most concerned with the lasting effects my children are left with because of the love given to them from a teacher. I write this so that one day, we will remember, after we have forgotten.

Now, that Mrs. Klenke…. She’s a missionary!

 

Where is Your Mission Field?

Dustin and I are so blessed to have found an amazing church home here in Katy. One thing I appreciate about our pastor is that he is a true shepherd of his flock. He encourages his congregation to find their gifts, and then here’s where he differs from most… He actually fosters those gifts and passions. Matt Powell knew early on that my passion is to engage children through literature. I believe the first thing he said to me was, “So, is it safe to say you miss teaching?” He has asked me twice now to share my thoughts on his blog. I am grateful for his leadership and encouragement.

We meet in a school each Sunday. This past Sunday, he began worship calling for prayer and asking us to take a moment to pray for the teachers, administrators, and students that move through that building each day. One thing he prayed brought me to tears. He asked God to allow those teachers to see their job as a missionary. Teachers who are believers are missionaries… called to spread the love of God to the children sitting in front of them daily. I always considered myself in my mission field while I was teaching, but it never occurred to me to pray that other teachers would feel this way too. My prayers concerning teachers will be forever altered because of the prayers of my pastor.

Feeling blessed today. Sharing my thoughts via Matt’s blog today.

http://suburbiauncovered.com/leveraging-literature/

 

Reading, Writing, and Grammar: They’re ALL Important

For those of you who think Common Core isn’t affecting students, here you go. I have actually heard highly respected educators say that because the new standardized test isn’t focusing on grammar, then we as teachers don’t need to focus on it as much. It’s that “just do enough to get by” perspective. But, here is a different perspective. This woman took a stand. A big stand. And thank goodness there are teachers out there like her. Below are her words. She says so much throughout her blog that I’ve said before. I believe she and I would be fast friends if we were to meet.

I teach students how to write and how to write well. Grammar is the foundation of my instruction; I love teaching the logic and beauty of the written word. Not only do we analyze sentences for writing instruction, but we discuss authors’ grammatical choices to infuse deeper meaning into their writing. For example, in Oscar Wilde’s  The Picture of Dorian Gray, the sentence “He was brilliant, fantastic, irresponsible” breaks the item-in-a-series grammar rule. Without a conjunction, the three adjectives have equal weight. The man can be all three at once, which adds to the subject’s intrigue. Grammar instruction at this level teaches students that grammar rules can be broken, purposefully, adding depth to their writing.

It truly amazes me that I work with many English teachers who cannot see the connection between grammar knowledge and writing well; therefore, they refuse to teach grammar. If one stops with the parts of speech, the art of communication can never be explored. However, delving into the essence of thought–the two-part structure of subject and predicate–now that creates expert communicators. Yet, students have graduated from high school without knowing what those two things are. Their English teachers have done them a disservice. Who else but an English teacher can teach the beauty and importance of grammar?

I think we’ve all seen the consequence of that kind of thinking: T-shirts being manufactured with “Your the best!” printed on them; journalists confusing it’s and its; news anchors saying that the losers of a contest will receive “a nice constellation prize.” Our country has become functionally illiterate at increasingly higher levels.

To read more:

http://educationreformation32in32.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/to-be-or-not-to-be-a-teacher-the-architecture-of-the-classroom/

 

Mass Produced?

“They said she was timid and shy but had the courage of a lion. They were full of phrases like radical humility and quiet fortitude. What does it mean to be quiet and have fortitude? How could you be shy and courageous? [Rosa] Parks herself seemed aware of this paradox, calling her autobiography Quiet Strength – a title that challenges us to question our assumptions. Why shouldn’t quiet be strong? And what else can quiet do that we don’t give it credit for?”

“Take the partnership of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.: a formidable orator refusing to give up his seat on a segregated bus wouldn’t have had the same effect as a modest woman who’d clearly prefer to keep silent but for the exigencies of the situation. And Parks didn’t have the stuff to thrill a crowd if she’d tried to stand up and announce that she had a dream. But with King’s help, she didn’t have to.” – from  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Take it from a true introvert: finding your voice among all the publicly outspoken, wise, intelligent reformers out there today is intimidating. I do not claim to know it all. In fact, there are so many lines that are blurred for me amidst all of the differing points of view out there today. But I offer my opinions and thoughts as a modest sword to those who do want to take up this battle more loudly. If you are the outspoken voice who finds yourself on the actual steps of this fight,  I am the Rosa Parks to your Martin Luther King Jr.

I offer no profound insight that hasn’t been splashed on every social media outlet available. I only contribute what I have experienced as a mom and educator. A mom for seven years and an educator for twelve.

I believe one of the biggest battles we have on our hands today in regards to education reform is high stakes testing. It’s an issue I find myself wrestling with, simply because things are rarely black and white. The gray areas always confuse me. The devil’s advocate in me propels me to research BOTH sides of this fight. I have read and read and read from both advocates of standardized testing and proponents of the opt out movement. The advocates of high stakes testing would have us believe that we are doing an injustice by opting our children out. That these tests are invaluable to diagnosing the learned from the unlearned. But from my experience as a teacher, more harm than good comes from them. These numbers placed on districts, schools, principals, teachers, and students rarely (if ever) are used to help the child. And isn’t that why we do what we do? If the tests are a measure of student learning, then why are teachers going in their classrooms and shutting the door to do some secret test prep so that the scores favor her in the end? If the tests are a measure of student learning, then why are there students who excelled in the classroom all year but scored low on the standardized test? If the tests are a measure of student learning, then why are we not using the data the next school year to strengthen their individual academic weaknesses?

If you look for synonyms of standardized, you’ll see words such as make uniform, regulate, institutionalize, mass produce. Isn’t that scary? If we are truly meant to be differentiating instruction, how can one uniform standardized test measure successful knowledge? It’s a flawed system to say the least. There has to be a better way. I don’t want my children, or yours for that matter, “mass produced.” I don’t want our teachers feeling the pressured need to teach to a test because such high stakes are at hand. I don’t want our children missing out on the beauty of learning because it’s not a tested item or skill.

I’ll continue to read. I’ll continue to research. There has to be a better way. And by the way, if I hear the word “rigor” one more time…