Saturday, March 14, 2020

Today I Love Divine Timing - March 14, 2020

“Never let it be said that the young people 

are powerless or incapable.”  

~Shimshon, in Resistance, by Jennifer A. Nielsen

submitted by S. D. in 6th grade

One of the March Book Madness books that my students (and I) have been exploring.
They have been bringing me quotes to share with the rest of the class from these Bold and Brave characters.

  Today I love divine timing. This is the quote that I asked all of Middle School to copy down in their Writer’s Notebooks yesterday, our last day of face to face school until April 6th. I did not know I was going to use this quote until I got to school, and looking back now I am amazed at the divine timing.
You see, yesterday morning as I was driving (and running late), I was listening to 1 Corinthians 12 as part of our Bible reading plan at my church. It automatically moved to the next chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, and before I could switch to the rest of the “assigned” reading I was drawn in again by this well known section of scripture known as the LOVE chapter.  What a blessing these words are to clearly define who God wants us to be.  
When I arrived at school and found this quote submitted by one of our sweet 6th graders, I knew God was putting the pieces together as He always does. The first piece actually fell into place months ago at our annual Middle School retreat where we all learned the vast difference between a REACTION and a RESPONSE. (Response is ALWAYS better!) Yesterday we talked at length about how they CAN be powerful and capable in these next several weeks. 
After asking them to jot down the quote, I asked them to raise their hands if they have ever, in the past...oh...anywhere from 13 minutes to 13 years...felt completely powerless. All the hands raised. Middle schoolers are well acquainted with that feeling unfortunately, as are many of us “grown ups”.
I then asked them to listen in as I read that LOVE chapter to them, pausing often and asking them to jot down ways they can RESPOND in love over these next days and weeks rather than REACT in fear and panic.  We looked at all of the specific ways that 1 Cor. 13 asks us to respond: in patience, in kindness, in refusal to become angry, in refusal to boast or be envious, and so many more.  I wish you could have seen the hands raised and heard the things they jotted down.  

"I'll help with the dishes!"

"I'll help my mom out at her shop."

"I'll (try) not to fight with my siblings." (I love their honesty!)

“I’ll keep a positive outlook.”

And on and on and on. In fact, many of them made commitments to make it all the way through break WITHOUT having to be reminded to do their school work.  We talked about what vast power they had to lift that one single stress off of their families’ shoulders. I was so proud of them.  
We talked about the whole "talked like a child, reasoned like a child...but when I became an [adult] I put away childish things" section.  I reminded them (and I will remind you) that the absolute joy (and frustration) of being in middle school is that within any given day...or any given 5 minutes...middle school students can be both child and adult.  They are still walking that fine line between childhood and adulthood and they know it. They know that there will be times when their fun and exuberant childlike sides will be needed. They know that dopamine, the hormone that makes us happy, is released when you laugh and that they are gifted with the ability to make people laugh!  They know that there will also be times when their responsible and focused adult sides will be needed. Times when they will need to be on the lookout for a way that they can help. Times when they will be asked to do something and will need to respond with a simple, “Okay!” I told them that these days will be ones that they will remember for the rest of their lives, as many of us remember events from our own generations:  the days following the assasination of President Kennedy, the blizzards of the late 70s, the days following 9/11. I’ve asked them to keep a journal of the events of these days to look back on later. I can’t wait to hear all of the ways that they do prove themselves to be powerful and capable. 
Which brings me to the rest of us...the “grown ups”. Please never underestimate the power you have in your own right. The Man and I got up early this morning to try to beat the crowds and run a few errands, including the grocery store. I walked out with the sides of my face actually sore from smiling at people and listening to bits and pieces of their stories. As I told one woman “Good morning” and walked on past, it registered to me that she was in scrubs. I stopped and said, “You work in the medical field?” She said yes, and I thanked her for her hard work, telling her I would hug her if I could, but I explained that she probably didn’t want a hug.  She had a vaguely familiar look on her face. One that I have seen in children who do indeed need a hug, but do not know how to ask for it. I asked, “Or do you need a hug? I am not afraid to hug you.” She said, “Okay,” and opened her arms. I pulled back and asked her where she worked. She said the name of a local nursing home and I went right back in for a stronger, tighter hug. She hugged me right back and we both left with tears in our eyes.  
Friends, at our school we operate under two very simple rules:  Love God. Love Others. In these particularly strange and different days, I hope you can spend some time pondering this quote with your family and keep those two simple rules in mind. Let’s remember how much power and capability we have to be patient, kind, humble, others-seeking instead of self-seeking, not easily angered, keeping no record of wrongs, and delighting in truth. Let’s protect, trust, hope, and persevere...and for goodness’ sake, let’s love. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Today I Love a Snow Drill - Slice of Life Tuesday January 12, 2016

Today I love a Snow Drill. 

This year's 8th grade has waited (semi)patiently for three years for the right weather and time and temperature to have their turn at this luxury. 7th grade had the fortune to get their turn today as well. (Please pray for at least one more snowy day for 6th grade!) 

Here's a recipe in case you want to try one at your place. Enjoy!

 Recipe for a Snow Drill
(serving sizes vary)

Prepare much the same as for a Fire Drill. 
Exit the building in a calm, silently efficient manner, 
bringing along one classroom full of 
open minded and appropriately bundled containers. 
In order to fully appreciate the wonder of falling snow, 
prepare containers with a liberal coating of:

“I’m really not at ALL sure you can handle this, 
but we’ll give it a try, 
just this once, 
and we'll see.”

Add Writer’s Notebooks and sharpened pencils, 
let stand for 5 to 10 minutes 
depending on speed and moisture level of falling snow, 
ambient temperature, 
and attention span of waiting containers.

Bring inside, simmer for 10-15 minutes 
and Do Not Disturb!
Shake lightly when done and enjoy.

Serves the multitudes!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Today I Love a Challenge

Today I Love a Challenge (Part 1 of 2)

Our two 4th grade classes have taken the song "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)" by Matt Redman quite literally and have challenged the entire school to come up with 10,000 blessings...10,000 reasons to worship God. This is my oh so sweet slew of 7th graders singing along to the song of the same name this morning. After a bit of explanation and discussion, we each took a sticky note and started our own personal lists. 

I wanted to make sure they understood that this is similar to Today I Love, but not quite the same thing. While we might love fried chicken, for instance, it might not necessarily be something we think of as a blessing or a reason to worship God. After they had a few moments to think, I asked a few to share some ideas.

The first boy I called on said, "God's omnipresence."

Another boy said, "His redemption."

A third student said, "Forgiveness."


I think they get it.

With one student absent, we had 400 reasons at the end of class. Stay tuned for the final results from our class tomorrow, as I am about to send out an email inviting their parents to join us.

And...ummm...if I may be so bold...while you're waiting for our numbers, why not start your own list? You may not reach 10,000, but the simple act of thinking it through will most definitely lift your spirits.

I promise.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Today I Love Learning How to Live - Slice of Life Tuesday September 8, 2015

Today I Love Learning How to Live

Today I love learning how to live. 23 years ago today, the day after Labor Day is when I really began receiving lessons. On the evening before Labor Day, The Man and I had just put the finishing touches on the baby's room and then we just sat in that peaceful space listening to lullabies before going to sleep for the night. (Maybe that's where some of this boy’s love for music comes from, but I truly believe that gift comes from God.) Little did we know, as we rested our heads that evening, how our lives were about to change.

Fast forward to 2:13pm the following afternoon and this guy shows up to begin our lessons in how to live. He's been teaching us ever since. We've learned some things that we'll never forget, a few lessons that we needed extra course work in (thus his sister two and a half years later), and a few facts that I'm sure he doesn’t realize he taught us. And there are a few that maybe even he has forgotten. I thought I'd set them down here for all of us to remember.  In no particular order, these are 10 Lessons in How to Live from my baby boy:
1. Never expect things to go exactly as planned. I think this is the first lesson all babies teach their parents.
2. Always be ready for an adventure; keep your Legos packed. You never know when you'll have the opportunity to take off for South America. (Make sure your dad is watching when you leave so he can stop you before you actually leave the yard!)
3. spite of what doesn't go your way...learn from it...learn in spite of it. (And never mix up the radiator with the windshield fluid reservoir.)
4. YES on the copy of Oh! The Places You'll Go for high school graduation; YES on getting all of the teachers along the way to sign the copy.  NO on the read aloud at the graduation us on this one. The ugly cry is...well...not pretty.

  5. Keep wonder; lose judgement. (He got almost as excited about the tree frog outside of Henry's Restaurant in West Jefferson as he did at the baby tigers in Indiana last week!)
6. Youtube...if you don't know how to do something, chances are someone else does. And if they know it, they have probably shared it with the world!
7. Something can usually be made from your mind and let your creative juices flow! This kid once fixed our refrigerator shelf with a paper clip and a rubber band!
8. Macaroni art is a perfectly acceptable gift. (See #7 above!)
9. Be ready with a song; you never know when you'll need it, and you'll always be able to make someone else's day with it.
10. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31 This one goes all the way back to our first Vacation Bible School experience. I can still hear his 4 year old voice reciting this memory verse. True then, true now, true forever.

Happy Birthday, my son.  I've told you before, and I'll tell you again, and someday you’ll believe are a great teacher. 
Thanks for the lessons. 
I love you!  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Today I Love...umm...well...LOVING! Slice of Life 2015 Day 18

To borrow a phrase from a friend today, have you ever watched God thread the needle and sew things up?  That's what I had happen today.  

When I left my classroom last evening, I adjusted the Today I Love count that I keep for my students on the whiteboard and felt a bit of pressure as my own "count" turned to 1,000 days of loving.  Now, count is a very loose term...remember I am a word girl, not a number girl.  I have taken a day off now and again, still loving, but not always posting.  I may have miscounted, and I have definitely posted more than a few DOUBLE WHAMMY and TRIPLE WHAMMY and even QUADRUPLE WHAMMY Days when it was just not enough to only love one thing.  As I hit Day 100, I loved LOVE...I quoted some Bible verses and thought that it was a pretty stinkin' big deal to have intentionally loved for 100 days in a row.  

Day 500 came and went and I honestly have no idea what I loved that very well may have been LOVE again.  And there have literally been a thousand crazy things along the way:  I have loved the electric bill, being left handed, all sorts of food, BACON (multiple times!), particular people and loved ones, strangers, keeping dry, getting wet, PBJs, particular colors, pinky promises, weddings, sleeping in, staying up late, getting up name it!  But as day 1,000 came closer and closer, my mind actually started to wonder...would that be it?  Would I run out of things to love after 1,000 days and have to finally come through with my promise to love chocolate chip cookies and call it quits?

Heavens no!  Perish the thought!  If anything, what today (a long day!) has taught me is that it is the actual LOVING that I love the most.  It is the daily search, the wondering, the pondering over the day's happenings, and yes, sometimes the desperation to turn something negative into something positive before I fall asleep at night, that gets me through!  I have never thought of myself as a "glass half full" optimist.  Being medicated for depression several years ago pretty much stripped any idea of my being "positive" away from me.  It is sometimes a genuine struggle to find any light in my day at all.  But that's where this crazy obsessive habit has come in quite handy.  By "forcing" myself to look for, to find, and to LOVE something each day, I do not allow myself to wallow...well, at least not permanently!  

And the best best best part?  Seeing it show up in others' lives.  I found out late this afternoon that my seventh graders who are searching for that sweet spot between 6th and 8th (and keep getting in their own way as seventh graders will) just talked with their homeroom teacher and together they have started their own "Attitude of Gratitude" bulletin board; a place to sticky note up the things for which they are thankful.   

 So, silly as it may seem, when "beamish" showed up as the "Word of the Day" on my dictionary app (beamish; adjective, bright, cheerful, optimistic) I just had to laugh at God's sense of humor and absolute perfect timing!  I could see Him threading that needle and beginning to sew up this 1,000 day issue for me once and for all.


And THEN when He arranged chapel and had the song "Speak Life" by Toby Mac played, I was chuckling (and singing along!) again.  (Please listen if you have the few moments.)  He THEN sent Matthew Vohlwinkel, youth pastor at a nearby church whom I have never met, to speak at chapel this morning about how we must search out those positive things in our lives, not grumble, not whine, and not miss the daily blessings that God sends us...yeah, I was smiling again.  

So...1,000 days is a lot of days...but really not that many in the grand scheme of things.  I expect to make it to at least 100 years, as My Ol' Man has said he will do.  That's roughly 36,500 days in all.  I'm almost halfway to that 100 year old mark, so that means I have roughly 18,250 days (give or take) left.  So...what will I do tomorrow?  Why, look for something to love of course.  

Because today...
             and tomorrow...
                        and the next day...

                                        I will love the LOVING.  

                                                     Won't you please give it a try?

                                                              It really does make all the difference.



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Today I Love the Unexpected Gift - Slice of Life 2015 - Day 17

Today I love the unexpected gift.

It started a week or so ago, when I asked the children's librarian at my favorite local library for a new book on CD to listen to.  (I don't drive without story.)  She knows that I teach middle school and selected an author that many of my older girls have been reading.  The story was one that I knew would be on the somber side...a young adult reeling from her best friend's I told the library lady I'd better balance it out with some Ramona Quimby.  Well, somber is not the word for the first selection.  I found myself dreading the drive time that I normally look forward to.  I mean, I wanted to find out what happened (I am a confirmed story addict!) but the depressing nature of the story and the language (eek! the language!) left me feeling shell shocked every time I got out of the car.  I stuck it out, and two days ago finally got a decent ending to an otherwise very sad story, and was happy to hear a TON of suicide prevention information at the end of the book.  

Enter Ramona Quimby in all her 8 year old glory, as read aloud by none other than Stockard Channing...the PERFECT choice for the voice of not only Ramona, but also her big sister Beezus, her mother, father, and even the neighborhood children Willa Jean and Howie Kemp. Ah, what a blessing that story has been.  Now, don't get me wrong...this was no new adventure for me.  My kids grew up on Ramona ala Stockard on long car rides and I can practically recite along with her.  She is one good friend of the family!

Today, however, as I received the unexpected gift of the sun shining down on a day forecast to be gloomy, Ramona and her family were enjoying a nice family dinner out to eat, and suddenly there was an unexpected gift for them as well.  The man sitting across from them in the restaurant had watched them, determined that they were a nice family, and missing his own children and grandchildren, paid for their meal as he left the restaurant.  What a treat for a family struggling with finances and just wanting a little change in pace!

But the unexpected gifts didn't stop there.  On my evening walk, not only did I get to enjoy that sunny blue sky some more, but I happened to notice actual buds in the neighbor's tree!  Spring really is on the way!  For a confirmed sunshine-aholic, this was good to see indeed!


And that's not all...The Man needed me to run to Wal-Mart for him, something I am normally loathe to do, but it was something he really needed and that blue sky was calling me, so off I went, with of course a side stop at that lovely library I mentioned before.  More Ramona found its way into my back seat and guess what!  There was an entire teacher's collection I had requested just waiting for me to put to use right after Spring Break! Book lover's heaven!

And then, Wal-Mart...well....I got what The Man needed, but in the process, I just happened to walk through the baking aisle, and I just happened to remember a recipe that I wanted to try from The Pioneer Woman's latest episode, and I just happened to have my very smart phone with me, and I just happened to find the recipe and the ingredients and well...the rest...including my nice relationship lately with My Fitness history!  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Chocolate Lava Cakes with Vanilla Ice Cream...the final unexpected, but most delicious gift of my day. (You can find the recipe here.) Now there's an unexpected gift for you!  Enjoy!  


But that's not all!  You know how this deal works by YOU need to pass it on.  What unexpected gift can you provide for someone who needs a lift in their day?  Can YOU pay for a meal?  Can you cook a meal and deliver it to someone who ISN'T sick or recovering from surgery, but just because?  Can you lift someone's day?  Sure you can...go for it!  (If nothing else, you can make Chocolate Lava Cake!)


Monday, March 16, 2015

Today I Love My Walk - Slice of Life 2015 Day 16

Today I love my walk.

I have been hanging out 
                         way too long.
To be out in fresh prairie air
this evening
was just what this teacher needed.  

A blue sky, a sunny sunset,
a wave or two to the neighbors
as they drive by.

A few songs on the Pandora,
bouncing along in my pocket, 
reminding me of all my blessings. 

Birdsong in the air,
A breeze across my brow,
The day melting away.

Today I love my walk.