Monday, August 25, 2008

Give Your Dreams a New Beginning

"I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart." (Jeremiah 24:7) Are we stretching to the next level? Sometimes disappointments can set us back. I've probably written on this blog before about the layoff I experienced in 2002. I was teaching young adult literature and communications at Southwest Junior High School in Lawrence, Kansas, at the time. We had just moved to town and this job was an answer to prayer. I loved it. My principal gave me an excellent evaluation so I thought that I would have the job as long as I wanted it. That spring, though, the administration and school board made a decision to cut the budget by laying off educators (RIF-Reduction in Force). In 2002-2003, Lawrence Public Schools laid off 131 first year educators. Even though I had taught 20 years, it was my first year in this district so I was RIFed. I was so upset at first that I didn't know what I wanted to do. In the fall I started subbing. I had a job every day. The pay wasn't great, but it was so much fun to teach every day without bringing home papers to grade, lessons to plan, or a list of parents to contact. I felt so free. It was God's plan to take the pressure off me and free my spirit. It was a new beginning! I stretched to a new level, and I have never been happier. "I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth. Do you perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:19) I never looked back. I get up in the morning and ask God for guidance and wisdom. At night I thank God for a perfect day. I'm so thankful every day for my new beginning. I did love my job at Southwest, but at the time of the layoff I didn't realize that God had more in store. He worked out our finances so I didn't need that job. Mom gave us an early inheritance so I can testify that "all things work together for good". (Romans 8:28) Joel Osteen says, "God is saying this is a time for new beginnings. Get your fire back. Get your passion back......this is the time to break free." Amen!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Stretching to the Next Level

Whether we are talking Olympic competition, achieving optimal health, or making good career choices, stretching to the next level and constantly pressing forward in our abilities to excellence is the potential we have inside. Just ask Nastia Liukin, the U.S. Olympic gymnast, who wore a smile that lit up her whole face as she climbed atop the medals podium and waved to the crowd. She blinked back tears of joy as the gold medal was placed around her neck. While I am not competing for any gold medal, I am pressing forward and stretching myself to stay fit. I'm also stretching myself in the classroom to do the best possible job with my students that I can do. Today I actually got to teach literature, which is my subject area, and I did stretch myself to present the material in a way that was enthusiastic and, I hope, interesting to them. I have also been stretching myself at home with my family. We had a couple of grown kids move back in a month ago, and it is definitely a stretch to keep my patience with them until they are able to move out and make it on their own. The bible teaches that we have the Holy Spirit inside to give us guidance and wisdom to handle these kinds of situations, and I call on Him daily to help me with this. Joel Osteen asks this question in chapter one of BECOME A BETTER YOU: "Are you ready to break free from your self-imposed limitations and start stretching to the next level?" I think I am. I just need to get my eyes off my problems and onto my God. As for achieving optimal health and staying fit, I am so ready to feel energetic and wear cute clothes again. I will keep my eyes fixed on the prize as Paul did in Philippians 3:14.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Love in the Family

Frank and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary yesterday. We each brought two children into the marriage. I had a toddler granddaughter at the time. Since then, we have added two more grandchildren to the family and a fourth is due next month. Is it easy to have a blended family? Well, it depends on who you ask. I just asked my husband, and he said, "No". I think and say that sometimes too, but it is what we needed to help us learn how to love. Frank is a terrific bonus father for my daughters, and I hope that I am a great bonus mom for his son and daughter. Even though most people say it is hard to parent children who are brought into the marriage via a former spouse, it is a definitely a learning experience. It's nothing for which we would ask or choose in our lives, but it is what Frank and I needed to grow as individuals. No one ever says, "I want to be a step-parent when I grow up", but with God's help, we can go with the flow and realize that it is a way to let love do its perfect work and show through in all kinds of situations. Eventually, the children become a part of us, just as our own children do, and we realize that God brought these children into our lives for a purpose. We are then grateful for the diversity and contrast they bring. The main thing we need to remember is this: "Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast; it is not proud. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (I Corinthians 13:4-8)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Coping with Loss

I lost my aunt (my mom's sister) this past week. My aunt is the mother of one of the participants on this blog who also lost her husband and father. I know another one of you lost your husband. I lost my father. Most of us have experienced loss along the way. A couple of my facebook friends have lost grown I was wondering if this would be a good topic for the blog. I'll start with some quotes of people who have lost loved ones because I think that in sharing comes healing. Glenda Brenton who lost her husband says, "When you experience the loss of a loved one, your whole world is turned upside down. And so it's very necessary to be in a caring, confidential, supportive environment so that you can share your thoughts and your feelings and experiences with others who are going through the same thing." Virginia Conard who lost her seven-year-old son forty years ago and then her husband just recently said that she cried for a year behind closed doors in silence when her little boy died. When Virginia lost her husband, she said that it wrenched the heart in a different way. She said there is a difference in the way you grieve when you lose your parents than the way you grieve when you lose a spouse. Losing a child is still a different kind of loss. She said, "At one time I had my husband dying of cancer at one end of my home and his sister, my sister-in-law, dying of cancer at the other end of my home." Virginia joined a support group and began looking at her home differently. The same place where her husband and sister-in-law slowly said goodbye became a place she could greet warmly again. "I've always been surprised at myself...that I'm going around saying, 'I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful. And here I don't have my wonderful husband, but he left me this nice home; he left me with 60 years of happy memories. He left me with three wonderful sons and three wonderful daughters-in-law. I am grateful.' One of the most effective ways we cope with loss is gratitude for the time we were given with our loved ones.