Conspiracy? Or Call to Prayer?

The blogging world is conspiring this morning – but whether it is for or against me I have yet to determine.

One of the devotional blogs I read today discussed how to give our anxiety to God, another discussed the idea of being a living sacrifice, yet a third opened with an image of crime scene tape and encouraged readers to get rid of overflowing problems before something worse could occur.

All of them are applicable in so many ways, but at this point my mind turns to one particular topic: the sabbatical and its continuation or its transformation.

After a year of finding very few opportunities to transition back to the working world, several have appeared like an old newspaper, on my doorstep – covered in day old trimmings and potato peels, but still showing opportunities that do exist.

And I am faced now, with questions:

  1. Why are these the available opportunities?
  2. If I accept these am I settling for less than I wanted, or does God want to teach me something? (Humility, a new perspective, an unseen connection to what I already enjoy?)
  3. Should I redirect those people who have been praying for me so that their prayers are more specific – or is that a rejection?
  4. Do I want to take the step backward that some of these seem to be – is it worth it to face again the stressors that I so flatly rejected when I began this journey – or am I just being intimidated by the memory of them instead of trusting God?

Some opportunities place me squarely back where I came from – which does not seem a good decision for so many reasons – the income is adequate, but I stayed there too long once before, trying to convince myself that I was stronger than the negative, make that toxic, atmosphere.

Others challenge my ideas about where I belong in my field. Really, God, that might be where you want me to be?  (Said with crinkled nose as I pull a smelly potato peel away from the paper.)

Yet others provide opportunities to minister in ways that I could connect to as a woman, a mother, a writer, and a friend, that would allow some flexibility of scheduling, but that would not necessarily have the income level that I was looking for.

Others could provide income, and a modicum of flexibility, but it’s uncertain how much of either.

I can see all of them as beneficial in one way or another, and as detrimental in one way or another.

I know I need to ask more questions about some of these opportunities.

Honestly – I feel like Honi, a Jewish profit whose life is described in the book, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson.  I look at the opportunities, and see that they are sort of what I’ve asked for, but I have to say , “not for this kind of rain have I prayed.”

Honi prayed for rain during an extreme drought. He spoke those words when the drizzle came, when the nice shower came, and even when the downpour came. He continued praying for rain, and letting God know that he wasn’t accepting less than a deluge – and that not just of water, but of God’s own presence as it flooded the land and the hearts of the people.

Life’s circumstances often make it seem important to do something now. But we can forget that praying fervently is something – that crying out to God for his provision and blessing is something more – and drawing our circles in the parched earth demanding the certainty of God’s blessing is something entirely different.

So my bench is shaking today – mainly because I’m bouncing my feet with a nervous kind of tension and excitement.  Can I be like Honi, or am just the little man in the old joke. The one where the floods come and he refuses human help three times because he is certain that God will help. When he drowns and gets to Heaven, he asks God why he didn’t come. God says, I sent a man in a rowboat, the coastguard, and a helicopter pilot  – what more did you want?

I know that God will guide my decisions – and redirect them if necessary. So the biggest decision – is simply to continue to follow Him – no matter where He may lead.

God,  I pray today, not only for an amazing solution, but for your presence, the wisdom that comes only from hearing your voice, and the peace that only you can give. You know who you created me to be, the lessons I have yet to learn, and the plans that you have for my life. Help me to see with your eyes today, God.  Help me to know that you are with me, able to direct (and redirect) my steps as many times as it takes.   Hold me close to you and help me to listen to your heart that is so full of love for your people. You heart that encompasses the world and everything in it, that knows every need great or small, and from which the promise is made in your word that you work all things together for the good of those who love you. God, you give us the love with which we can love you – our place under your wings is secure and warm. Your presence fills the throne room and we stand in awe of you. Thank you, Lord, thank you for your presence.

Coffee Cups and GCS

Do you have a favorite coffee cup? Do you know why it is your favorite?  

I do. And it is my favorite because it is big enough to hold all the coffee I need (not necessarily want) for the day, it’s light-weight, the handle fits my hand smoothly, and the lip is perfectly designed to be thin enough that it doesn’t feel like I really have much on my lip and curved at just the right angle so that it doesn’t dribble on my lip or on itself. 

  
But – it is mine only because I claimed it from a cabinet full of forgotten cups and mugs at the school where I used to work. In fact I have at least three mugs that weren’t originally mine. They were left behind by great teachers who had determined that life held other things for them. 

Some left because teaching wasn’t their real calling, but a holding place until their real dreams came into view. 

Some left because they were spent  – had given all they could and there was no more to give. 

Some of my cups were passed down from other teachers who retired before being left behind by someone else. 

I didn’t start my collection knowingly for the purpose of collecting cups from great teachers – or even some that were not as great (still good at least). It started because every now and then, I would forget my own cup. I checked out the cabinet, recognized a mug as having belonged to someone that no longer worked there, knew it wouldn’t be missed, and rinsed it out for my own use on that particular day.  

I would wind up bringing each new member of my collection home to wash, and never remember to grab it in the morning to take it back. 

I know who the previous owner was for a couple of them, and remember them, fondly yet briefly, each time I use their cup. But I don’t know who used to own my favorite one. So, if you recognize your cup and want it back, let me know so I can give it back. (I would give it back, but then again if you loved it like I do you probably wouldn’t have abandoned it – or maybe you intended to share its greatness with others and I’ve ruined that. Who knows?)

Where am I going with this? (Other than confessing my cup thievery?)

Somehow these cups remind me that each of us has a different (even though related) gift. God gave us our personalities, our abilities, our likes, dislikes, and even the smallest parts of our physical being that make one cup feel better to us than another.

But sometimes we miss just how unique our gifts are because they are similar to someone else’s. 

Having worked with gifted children for so long, I became aware of something I thought of as GCS -Gifted Child Syndrome. Now this is not a real thing as far as syndromes go – it’s just something I noticed. GCS is my mental notation that a gifted child tends to have a very difficult time understanding that others do not share his or her particular combination of gifts and abilities.  

It is real enough that we train teachers to be aware of it, but as far as I know I’m the only one who lovingly refers to it as GCS. 

It follows some of us throughout life into adulthood. It is what makes it difficult to understand why we have to explain a particular process that we do naturally to others because – (we believe) everyone can (and therefore should) see it that way. It is what makes it difficult to take a sincere compliment regarding our abilities because we can’t imagine that it is sincere. (Why would they compliment that – can’t they do it too? Aren’t they just being lazy to not do it themselves?)

GCS can be a good thing – it keeps us humble because we don’t even recognize our own uniqueness and cannot therefore exalt ourselves in inappropriate ways. But it can also be a bad thing – because we don’t recognize an ability as a gift and cannot express our gratefulness for its existence, and because we cannot realize that it makes us uniquely valuable to those around us. We can’t see how much we are needed. 

Each time I have my coffee in one of my reclaimed cups, I do think about the best each previous owner had to offer to the school in general and to the individual students in their care. I am grateful that all teachers are not alike, that all people are not alike, and that even though the differences are subtle, God created each of us uniquely to deal with the people that we encounter and the tasks that we face each day.

So, if someone pays you a compliment today, and you wonder why they even did, maybe you are experiencing GCS. Notice what it is that makes you special to that person, and be grateful that God allowed you to fill a small need in their life. More than that, be grateful that God made you as the only you there will ever be. He loved you enough to make you from scratch (as we say in baking) instead of from a mold (which is better left for jello or plaster – and maybe even coffee mugs). 

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (‭Psalm‬ ‭139‬:‭13‬ NIV)

Thank you, God, for taking the time to make me unique. Help me see today,  what it is that I can specifically do to show your love to those around me in ways that would be missing if I don’t step up to the challenge. Help me be grateful that I am exactly who and what you created me to be. Don’t let me miss the beauty that is already here inside me – keep me from the temptation to be like someone else, or to make myself into anything that you did not create. Help me to remember that if I do, I am robbing myself and those around me of the uniqueness that you intended to be most helpful in our day to day lives. You are glorious, God. Your plans and your ways are so much higher than ours. Your creation is beautiful. I worship you today, God; show me how to live and to love like you. 

Saturday Slideshow: June

This may become a regular feature on my blog since I have always thought it could be interesting to catalogue the way the light and foliage change over time.  So at least once a month you can expect to find a variety of images of whatever is blooming (or not) around here.

   Crepe Myrtle Blossoms and Blue Sky

 Critter in the Crepe Myrtles

    Crazy Unidentified Ivy – seriously, does anyone know what kind this is?

    Dew on the Roses (I refer you to the old hymn, In the Garden.)

 Blueberries Ripening

    Busy Bee in the Canna Lilies

For those of you who care – all pictures were taken on my iPhone.

Okay, that’s it for now. Hope you enjoyed this walk around my garden with me. It’s nice to get off the bench every now and then, but come Monday – I’ll be there waiting.

Serial Cereal

So, while I know our fearless leaders in blogging101 said that our current assignment of creating a regular feature didn’t have to alliterate – the English teacher in me won’t let that thought go. I have toyed with the idea of having a schedule for the blog that might operate on some kind of monthly schedule – like first Mondays would be Motivation Mondays, and 2nd Tuesdays could be Tough Question Tuesdays, etc.  But I keep coming up with so many of them (I currently have five Th- words that could preface a Thursday post) that I know I wouldn’t keep up with it because it would limit me to only following this ridiculously long list of alliterated days.

My former students would tell you that I’m great at routines – each Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday meant a particular type of assignment. Mondays = reflect on a quote. Tuesdays = free write. Wednesdays = thoughts about a reading assignment. Etc.  While the topics changed, they only had to know what day it was to know what they were supposed to do with the topic – it kept things flowing nicely.

So why am I stuck when I’m the student? *Drops head in mock shame.*

In my head I am re-reading a book that my children wanted me to read so often that now, 17 years later, I can still quote it: “Ant. Ants. Angry Ants.  Angry Ants Advance.” (The Berenstain Bears: The A Book by Stan and Jan Berenstain) I would go on, but I think I would likely run into some sort of copy-write conundrum – oh boy – I can’t quit.

The other thing running through my head is a song from my not-so-saintly past – Friday I’m in Love, by The Cure.  It gives multiple lists of things that represent each day. So while I ponder the possibilities for posting periodicals, enjoy the song and perhaps tomorrow I’ll give you a Saturday Slideshow of all the random pictures I’ve taken of my garden this week.

Ouch!

I’m not sure why, but my beloved steps have been overrun by biting gnats this morning. Trying to swat them only scares away the rabbit that is calmly nibbling my grass.  Watching him jump away from an unknown foe yesterday is what made me think of the differences in taming rabbits, lions, and people – which is what gave me the idea for yesterday’s post. Now I completely understand his jumping fit – it must have been these gnats.

So, I cannot sit outside this morning.

It’s amazing how small annoyances can completely derail our focus and even our attitude. Gnats pushing me off my steps, my husband’s tinnitus making conversation difficult, misunderstandings about who is responsible for a particular task, misunderstanding the task itself, not having time to thoughtfully prepare for writing the next part of the gifts theme. My list of annoyances could go on and on.

Some of these things are just part of life. Little things that just happen. Some people will tell you that our enemy is behind it all. I’m not sure that he orchestrated all of those things happening all at once this morning – I don’t want to give him that much credit.  Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But what I do know is that he loves it when I allow myself the luxury of getting bent completely out of shape, of feeling offended, and of retaliating against people who are just trying to do life the best they can (just like I am).

The Bible says that he prowls around looking for those he can devour. How does he know we can be devoured? He watches our reactions, waits for us to become overwhelmed in our own weaknesses, and pounces when we are distracted by the little annoyances of life.  But this morning,  I’m trying to see him out there – waiting in the grass – and turn it over to the “big guns” – meaning I’m running for my daddy, my Father in Heaven. He has the power to make the big bad enemy go away, the power to heal my bug bites, and the power to heal the relationships that seem a little off kilter this morning (okay – a lot off kilter).

Heavenly Father,

I thank you today for standing against the foe, for granting me a glimpse of the problems through your eyes, and for gently guiding me back to your peace and your presence.

Help me to stay close to you today so that my weaknesses will be recognized and immediately filled with your strengths, so that my fears can be wiped away, and so that your voice is the only one I hear.

I praise you, Lord, you are mighty, and you bring peace where there was no peace, pateince where there was only frustration, and joy where there was only sorrow. In your name, I rebuke the spirits of oppression, fear, and intimidation that have tried to invade my home. I command them to leave; they have no place in the hearts of your people.

I declare it today, and I worship you, God, for your amazing love. You are love, and you are life. May we all find our place in your heart today, Lord. Thank you for your grace and goodness and mercy. Your name is above all names, your kingdom shall reign forever.

Lions in the Morning

I am writing this post in response to the Literary Lion Weekly Writing Challenge. 

This morning, during my quiet time on my steps, an outline for a story about a lion (not really a lion) began to form in my mind, answering many questions that I’ve had recently.  When I checked in at Blogging101 for our daily assignment, we were asked to respond to a Community Event.  When I saw the Literary Lion flash fiction challenge – I figured I should go with what was already in my mind – so in 400 words or less I am to write about the A.M. (morning). So, while this isn’t a story only about a morning – it is a story that begins in the morning and that was given to me this morning.

Two kinds of animals creep at the edge of the tall grass – prey and predator.  My nose twitches and I feel the grass scratch my face and ears.  I am alert – eyes open, but still – trying to blend.  My heart pounds. Too much for my body – will I explode? – or will I transform?

My body begins to feel different. I become aware of bars surrounding me – each bar a to do; the cage a list.

A whip cracks somewhere close beside my ears – which seem to be moving in different directions, although I am not sure how that is possible.

Yelling and a whistle, bright lights and strange discordant music. A loudspeaker, and an audience.  I begin to run. But whether I am moving toward the sound, or away from it, I am unsure.

The running ends and I am standing on a box. Something feels tight around my neck. Is it something hanging there? – or my own skin, growing more furry.  That exploding feeling returns – what will I become?

Why am I here? What is the purpose of this noise? Tame me? Do I need to be tamed?

Still these bars.

A man comes near – chair in hand. I hope he will sit awhile, share a moment, share his thoughts or his heart.

Again the whip cracks and that urge to run is strong. But I sit, twitching my nose at this man. Eyes alert for his intent.

I turn from him. My shoulders straining against bars. And then, I am small enough to fit between them.

The man’s steps are fast behind me. He shouts something I cannot understand.

I see the grass, and I run for it this time – not away.

Has he followed me? Back to this place of peace?

He is mine to tame.

Gift Ideas

Running around
inside my head

thoughts of gifts you’ve given
that I thought I had received

but now I see
the depth of your gift
a whole new world for me

you gave so much more
A gift – disguised as a chore 
and I struggled and resented and strained

until you said, “I gave
 you me”
did I begin to understand

I still don’t know how to open your gift
But I know that it holds your heart

I have too much to say today and I’m having to pare it down so that I can share. Please accept this poem as a clue for things to come.

I am Written

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Tattoo….You?.”

This prompt from the Daily Post, caught my attention today – it says so much about our identity – how we label ourselves and whether we should.  Some of you may already know where I’m headed, but before I get to the point – I need to give you some background information – just so you know where I’m coming from (literally and figuratively).

My grandmother’s brother had tattoos – lots of tattoos – apparently from time he spend in the Navy during WWII(?). My mother may have to correct me on that.   I never could remember his name (she had two brothers that I never saw at the same time, and I couldn’t quite get it right), so I just referred to him as Uncle Tattooed Man. The family knew who I meant and considered it cute rather than disrespectful, so . . .it stuck. I’m sure his tattoos were wonderful souvenirs for him, but by the time I knew him (when I was three), they had faded to bluish-gray blobs that, to my childish eyes, made him look like he was some kind of plague survivor.  And because of that – I was always somewhat disgusted by tattoos.

During the ensuing years, I had a variety of experiences that piled on my impression of tattoos and other types of self-labeling that people are prone to do. Having lived in various places, I witnessed all kinds of prejudices in action.

In one town, 85% Hispanic, which I was not, I became something of an oddity because of my red hair – that many of the other children had never seen. I remember feeling like crawling under a rock on the first day of school when they pointed at me and spoke about me to each other in a language I didn’t know. I remember one girl telling the other students in our advanced class that I was faking a southern accent and had dyed my hair because I didn’t want people to know that I was only pretending to be smart enough to be in “their” class. (Really?) How did she account for my extra-pale skin and green eyes? I also remember a child in my sister’s kindergarten class whose parents had named their bi-racial child Angel (accent on the end) and had moved to that town so that she could pass for Hispanic. I remember meeting the first “real” Jewish person I had ever known in that same town, and how he brought pictures of his grandmother’s arm – tattooed with a number at Auschwitz (or Out-with, if you like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) so that we could understand what we were learning about in history.

Moving back home to the deep south, I remember learning about the Civil War, and learning that some slaves had been branded on their faces so that if they ran away, they wouldn’t be able to hide.  I remember learning about the civil rights movement and how prominently, and negatively, our state’s reputation had grown because of the acts of certain individuals who had committed atrocities against some of the college students who were involved in the movement.  Wondering, in middle school, why people had ever felt that way – some of my best friends in middle school looked very different that I did and I didn’t even think much about it.

Moving again to a town in a “border” state (if by border you mean the Mason-Dixon line), that had supposedly been a Union state – but in which there was a definite monochromatic color scheme, I encountered another type of prejudice. The prejudice that told (some of) these people I would agree with them because of where I was from.  They were so wrong – they never had the opportunity to meet anyone that was significantly different and had such horribly strange ideas about anyone that was different.  I remember taking Civics as a senior and facing down our teacher in front of all the other students as he tried to spread more hatred toward my home state. He, a short white man with a Hitler mustache, was telling the class that the “south” still had segregated bathrooms and water fountains – still required students to attend different schools. Several of us in the class were transplants to that town and were trying to tell him that he was wrong.  He asked one girl, who had been just as appalled as I was, where she was from and when she said, “Virginia” he said, “Well, I’m talking about the DEEP South.” At which statement, I stood up and said, “I’m from south Miss-iss-ippi! How much further south do you want to go?!?!?!” He sat down and didn’t say another word for the next week – just handed out worksheets for us to finish every day.

Now – what has that got to do with tattoos? I saw a picture of a young woman the other day with the word “Loyalty” tattooed across her very dark-skinned cheek.  And I thought of how I defended my state against that teacher, trying to let everyone in that class know how “my south” didn’t do horrible things anymore. I thought about the lessons regarding branding slaves faces. I thought about my friend’s grandmother’s arm. And I wondered – does that girl even know? Now, if you want to tattoo a great huge word across your face – that’s your business, but it made me wonder if she knew how much her face resembled the pictures I had seen of horribly disfigured people from the Civil War era?  What would they say when looking at her? Would they wonder why they fought so hard to escape oppression only to have their descendants choose to bear a mark so similar to the ones that were meant to label them forever as a piece of property?  Surely, this young woman has never seen those pictures.  I can’t imagine having seen those and choosing to label yourself in such a way.

But all of it – all of the pictures and the experiences – started to come together in my mind as I realized that we often label ourselves with words that were never meant to belong to us. We just don’t necessarily write those words in huge script across our faces.  We take on the words that are given by the negative people in our lives.  Words like useless, disappointment, mistake, loser, failure.

We tell ourselves that we aren’t worth anyone’s attention or time.  We tell ourselves that it’s all our fault (and sometimes it really is – and we must take responsibility in those times). We tell ourselves that we will never get any better.  We are our problem, we are our disease, we are our – whatever.

But what we tell ourselves – may have NOTHING to do with what we really are. With what God created us to be.

Part of my aversion to actual tattoos comes from some idea I got in childhood about not wanting to ever change my body in any way because that isn’t the body that God gave me. (My husband points out my pierced ears when that feeling pops up – and I have no real answer except that I wanted to fit in when I was eleven – and even though I have left my ears vacant to see if they would grow back together – they don’t, so I keep wearing my earrings rather than sport a naked hole there.)

But earrings aside, that feeling is how we are supposed to feel. We are not supposed to accept things in our life that He didn’t put there.  We are supposed to rely on Him, not just for that great one-day-I’ll-fly-away feeling that we can get, but for every moment of every day.  We are supposed to want His opinion to be the only one that matters. (I am not trying to dissuade anyone from getting a tattoo, or dying their hair, or wearing trendy clothes, or even getting cosmetic surgery here – I am speaking spiritually). There is not supposed to be anything in our spirit that wasn’t placed there for our good – and if we have allowed something to be there – then we have to turn to Him for our spiritual tattoo removal surgery.  We shouldn’t label ourselves because of what the world tells us about ourselves – as believers, we have to let God label us according to our secret name that he will reveal to us in Heaven.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. Rev. 2:17
Further, if you want something written on your face – check out this verse:
They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Rev. 22:4
Not only do you get a new name – His name will be written on you – and you know what is even better – He has your name written on Himself!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; Isa. 49:16
So – if you just can’t find the pattern for the tattoo that tells the world who you are – just wait!  The best tattoo in the universe can be yours – and it will be designed by the best artist!  Ask Him who you are today – he will begin to reveal your true self. He will begin to tell you about His plans for your life – and you are so much more than you have ever imagined.

Something New for Saturday: Infinity Dreams

Blogging 101 has challenged those of us in the course to add a blog role to our sites this week. I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  That is, until one of my classmates Anne, nominated me for the Infinity Dreams Award.

To be perfectly honest, I  have a weird thing about “awards” and wasn’t sure I wanted to “accept” the nomination at first. But I poked around on Google, and discovered that this “award” is more of an invitation to reach out to others in the blogosphere than an actual award. Since that is similar to what we are encouraged to do in this class, I decided to put aside any weirdness and to go for it.  So I want to thank Anne for essentially asking me to share more about who I am.

Now, responding to the nomination requires several things (which I will do shortly), one of which is answering questions. The questions that have been asked got me thinking about why blogging was appealing to me in the first place, and what blogs I followed prior to starting my own. And those are the ones that will become the foundation of my blog role.  I will add others as I get to know more of you. So, thank you Anne, not only for the nomination, but for the ideas as well.

The Rules:

  1. Thank and Follow the blog that nominated you.
  2. Tell us 11 facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the questions set for you.
  4. Nominate 11 other bloggers and set questions for them.

Eleven facts about me:

  1. I love God. But you probably already knew that.
  2. I am a redhead – not a ginger, please don’t get me started. ( I do know that for some of you there is no significant difference in those terms, but there is for me. I will probably write about it one day.)
  3. I can play the piano and the French Horn, though I don’t do either very often.
  4. I have two dogs, Duchess and Tucker, that currently live outside because they refused to stop inviting their friends, the fleas, to come inside with them. (Well, actually, Duchess has always been an outside dog. It’s my Tucker that is the actual culprit.)
  5. I recently learned to cut my own hair thanks to this video on you tube.
  6. I love to bake, but generally don’t like to cook. If you don’t know the difference you must not spend much time in your kitchen.
  7. I have a farm where I feed cows and chickens and collect honey and weave cloth and . . . Oh, wait – that’s just Hay Day.
  8. My three children are scholar athletes, playing a total of 10 varsity sports and maintaining GPAs above 3.6. So – that is more about them than me, but that means I am usually, during school, sitting on some bleachers somewhere or driving someone to or from practice.
  9. I used to do a lot of cool stuff myself – but since I haven’t done most of them since I was – oh – 20 – they really don’t belong on this list. Let’s just say that I have lots of great memories and experiences that are now ready and waiting to provide the illustrations for sharing all that I am learning about life.
  10. I am an educator – it is what God created me to be, and it doesn’t matter whether it is at a school or just in life – I see things that way and express things with a teacher’s heart.
  11. I actually have a Ph. D. I actually finished it. I actually was “hooded” (although it feels at times more like “hoodwinked”). And it isn’t at all what people think. I don’t consider myself better than anyone because of it (which is my way of nudging a friend of mine who struggles with thinking people owe him now that he has one – even though he will probably never see this). For me, I am just incredibly blessed to have had the tremendous opportunity to work with some of the smartest people in my field.

Answering the questions set for me: 

1. Do you have a hobby or hobbies?

Baking. I love to bake. My most recent creation was a tiered cake (Red Velvet on the bottom Pistachio Cream on top) for my eldest’s graduation. Unfortunately, we were all so exited to see everyone who came to celebrate with us that no one remembered to take its picture. Guess I’ll just have to make another one. I love taking pictures, though I would not consider myself a photographer of any sort. I do occasionally knit, crochet, or sew. 

2. Do you come from a large or small family. 

Smallish- just me and my sister. My dad was an only. My mom is one of four. But there are lots of long-living people in my family so I am blessed to know several generations of aunts and uncles and cousins. And then, of course, is the family I married into – most of whom are of the good Catholic tradition of having HUGE families. My first Christmas at Grandma’s was an eye opener – I had never seen so many people in one place that all claimed each other – Wow!

3. What is your favorite cuisine? 

As a child I would answer this jokingly with, “anything that doesn’t eat me first.” And then I met my husband, who has somewhat of a survivalistic nature and who would actually eat bugs if necessary – so I don’t answer that way any more. My grandmother’s spaghetti would have to be at the top of the list though.

4. Where did you grow up?

I am a child of the Deep South, but have lived in Appalachia and in the “Great State of Texas”, though at the time I thought it so much less than great. We moved often, gaining understanding of so many different viewpoints, but not really putting down roots. Granny’s was home and I longed for it when I wasn’t there.

5. If you like writing, what made you aware of it. 

I took a writing class in the sixth grade (we all did-it was required) and my teacher turned in a piece of my writing to a VFW competition. There were nine elementary schools competing and I came in third. It’s the only trophy I ever had. I’ll have to tell the whole story as a post one day. 

6. Where would you like to travel, if a reasonable amount of money were available?

I don’t really enjoy traveling, except through books, but probably somewhere in the UK or New Zealand.

7. What languages can you speak?

  English- obviously. Only a very few words of French, same for Spanish. But I can read Russian and speak a little if I stay in practice.

8. Do you have a pet peeve?

Useless noise (it’s a teacher thing). Although my classroom was full of the sounds of  conversation, tapping and clicking sounds were not welcome. 

Also – nasty ears. Parents, clean your children’s ears – nasty ears mean you haven’t even looked at your child in days. It’s another teacher thing – nasty ears meant no support for homework, and more than likely no concern for anything their child experienced. (This obviously doesn’t include the kids who just came in from sports. There is a difference between dirty and plain old nasty.)

9. Can you touch type, or do you use the hunt and peck method?

Learning to touch type was such a freedom giving experience – finally my fingers could write as fast (well almost) as I could think. My wonky computer is making me rely on my phone for this class, and this one finger typing is literally giving me headaches because I am so tense as I peck out posts and fight with auto-correct (which is better than it used to be).

10. What is your favorite form of entertainment? 

I love to read, but , AHEM, my name is Heather, and I am a TVholic. At the time I am writing, it has been two hours since my last viewing. 

11. How did you find WordPress?

My sister, actually. You can see her latest post here. She is way more fun than I am – I promise. 

Questions for those I am “nominating”/inviting:

  1. What is your favorite quote and why?
  2. Who was your favorite teacher – why was he or she so special?
  3. Would you tell us a joke – one that I could share with my children please?
  4. What battle are you facing?
  5. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
  6. Do you have pets? 
  7. What is your favorite song and why?
  8. What should you be doing right now instead of blogging?
  9. What started your journey into blogging or writing in general?
  10. What tags do you most often use to label your posts?
  11. How does blogging affect your piece of the world?

Almost done!  All that is left now are my “nominations”/invitations.  Now, there are several of you that I am following that I will not include here – that’s because I already know so much about you. I am trying to include people on this list that I have shared comments with, but may not know as well, or with those I follow that I just haven’t gotten to know yet. These are not listed in any order other than the order in which my wonky computer would quit stalling on me in order to copy and paste these links.  Thank you in advance to any and all of you who choose to participate – feel free not to participate as well.

Drumroll please:

http://codedtransmissions.com/

https://peggyricewi.wordpress.com/

http://johannamassey.com/

https://stormyweather.wordpress.com/

promptlings.wordpress.com/

sparksfromacombustiblemind.wordpress.com

kwagner97.wordpress.com

ontheland.wordpress.com

strangevegetables.wordpress.com

mossandwillow.wordpress.com

That leaves one more – and in true teacher fashion, I’m leaving this one as a reader’s choice.  If you would like to participate, please do – just ping back to me so that I know you are joining in.

Enjoy your weekend and I will meet you back at my bench on Monday morning.

Coin Toss

It has been said that every story has two sides. At least.

That was certainly true for the story that I’ve been telling you this week, and it is true for the way we often see the gift we are given in our identity.  Remember when I asked you to think about what your definition of a gift would be? Well, pull out your definition and see if any of this might fit. 

I’ve always been good at seeing things from both sides, understanding the emotions and desires on opposite ends of whatever spectrum chose to present itself on any given day. I’ve always considered that a gift.

My mother, on the other hand, called me a collector of lost causes and bemoaned some of my friendships because of the “bad influence” they presented. All I could see was people that needed a friend. 

My own transition into motherhood helped me redefine that gift of seeing both sides. I encourage my children to be a friend to those in need of one, and even try to help them understand how differently some people live so that they will not judge and ridicule. But there are times when I just have to be an old grump. Those are the times when they are being more than empathetic – they are being influenced. 

We have raised our children to have some absolutes in in their lives. They absolutely know they are loved for who they are – not what they do or how well they perform. They absolutely know that they were born for a specific purpose. They absolutely know that problems cannot be solved without honesty. 

So in those moments when they are being influenced – all we have to do is ask – How does that honor your identity? (It isn’t always stated in those exact words, but pretty close.) That is all it takes – their whole expression changes, brightens, relaxes. Then come their concerns. They open up, share their thoughts. And we have an amazingly mature conversation about the friend or the situation. They then have the responsibility for making whatever adjustments need to be made. 

I’m not blind – I’m not that mom who thinks her children do no wrong when the rest of the town knows their every misdeed. But I’m also not the one who thinks her children are failures when they are actually really cool kids. I’m realistic about who they are.

 I can be because I pray for them – and no, I don’t pray for them to be something they are not just to make me happy. I pray that God would reveal to them each day the path that He would have them take. I thank Him for allowing me the honor of being their mother. I ask Him for forgiveness when I have failed them and to let me be humble in my responses to them, so that through that they might see true love. I ask Him to bless them and keep them from harm. 

So what does this have to do with  seeing both sides? 

The point is that most of us – even those who grew up “in church” – don’t have those absolutes in our lives. We see ourselves being tossed in the air, flipped over and over by circumstances in our lives, desperately hoping to land heads-up, rather than with our face in the mud and our backside exposed.

I believe that choosing to parent our children this way has been the best gift we could have given them. The most useful possession they can have is a strong sense of who they are – who they were born to be. 

I have so much to be thankful for in my children, and I could become the biggest jerk in the world if I were to start listing all their accomplishments and activities and awards. But none of those things matter to me. What matters is how my children have carried themselves through each opportunity, how humbly they have received any recognition.  

I didn’t always value this way of thinking – the desire to receive recognition from other people was tremendously strong in me. The story about the jacket, and being able to change my outward personality each time my family moved, is a testament to how I used to receive other people’s acceptance as validation for my relativistic identity. I thought that who I was only mattered if other people liked me, or I could meet their expectations of me.

That didn’t necessarily change when I had my children, and I didn’t always support my husband in the efforts he put forth to give my children something better. But God allowed me to get myself into a place, so tremendously and specifically relative to my desperate need to see it differently, that the coin was flipped and I can now truly understand the value in having an absolute, objective identity.  (In fact that is part of the whole reason for this sabbatical in the first place.)

 I was so moved one day recently as I read the way in which Jesus responded to this issue. Amazed that I had never seen it before, even though I had read the verses many times. That is why we say it is the living Word.

“I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (‭John‬ ‭5‬:‭41-44‬ NIV)

Is the gift of your identity wrapped up in accepting glory from someone or something else? Or have you asked Him to show you who you were created to be?  His answers will amaze you. 

Until next time, I am waiting here on my bench. Hoping to hear your thoughts – even if you disagree.