Good Medicine

The young family sitting on the crowded beach watched the boat slowly emerge and glide into the sandy shoreline. Two hefty men climbed out of the side of the boat into the thigh-high water, made sure the boat was securely beached and then positioned themselves at the edge of the small craft. They held their arms up as a woman in the vessel handed them each a wiggling overly-excited child. As the men carried their precious cargo to the beach, the woman gathered the other two children around her ready for another hand off. Once she placed the squirming little ones in the arms of the men who made their way towards the shore with their deliveries- it became the woman’s turn to disembark. The family watched (along with many others lined along the shallow beach) as the tall woman, rather than climbing over the side of the boat as the men had done, began sliding on the top of the bow towards the front of the boat. Perhaps she chose this route in an effort to keep her jean shorts and bright yellow smiley-face t-shirt from getting wet as the water was more shallow off the front. It was interesting entertainment to watch her slide slowly gingerly down the fiberglass top, but as she put her legs over the edge and went to turn so she could slide gracefully into the water, the cleat hitch on the front of the vessel grabbed the cuff of her shorts and pulled her forcefully back toward the hull. The six-foot-one woman jerked and was left to dangle in front of the boat..caught like a speared marlin. She squirmed, and swung, air-swam and swayed suspended off the boat’s edge. She was lampooned and unable to get off the hook- hanging helpless fodder for her audience of sandy onlookers and could do nothing but cry ” Help!” and wait for her companions to come wading to her rescue. As they gallantly lifted her off of the hook, the beach family joined the other laughing spectators as they responded with resounding applause.

Yes, that dangling damsel was me and I am thankful it happened before the days of Youtube or did not turn up on America’s Funniest Videos. To this day, it remains one of my “most embarrassing moments”. Nevertheless, I have told this story many times (usually to school kids, but still…) because it makes people laugh. Laughter makes for a merry heart and that, my friends, is good medicine for the soul and who couldn’t use some good soul-medicine?

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” — Proverbs 17:22

Laughter is chock-full of physical benefits. It relaxes muscles, boosts immunity, and protects the heart. It burns calories, lowers stress hormones, and has proven to decrease physical pain. Laughing eases anxiety, improves mood, and adds joy! It is a plethora of blessing.

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them.” — Psalm 126:2

This week I put this concept of laughter as medicine to the test. Like many of you, I had my share of challenges. As I was writing this blog. I found myself paying attention to my laugh-out-loud moments and how they made me feel less fear, less tightening in the chest, less negative knots in the tummy, and more at peace.

You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” — Psalm 30:11

Okay…”so did you hear the one about the…?” I can enjoy a good joke now and then, but there are many other ways you can be proactive and bring a bit of “merry” to your life each day. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Check out funny youtube videos (My favorite is Gerry Brooks)
  • Go to a comedy club
  • Read amusing books
  • Recall and retell humorous stories
  • Do something goofy
  • Dance
  • Spend time with jolly people
  • Watch comedy movies
  • Start your day with a smile and pass it on

God has a smile on His face.” — Psalm 42:5

Last Sunday, I sat at a long and loud table at Goodwoods Restaurant. I was surrounded by grandkids on one side and my husband and adult children on the other. As I savored my Sassy Sauce-covered chicken, I listened to the sweet sounds of cousins chortling at jokes only kids can understand. I laughed along with the adults at a rendition of an amusing encounter in an elevator. My oldest told a story of unwittingly opening a never-used garage door to have it “pop”, “pop”, “pop” off low hanging lights that had been placed there after the door was installed. I watched my daughter’s face light up as she chuckled over something silly one of the kids said. We laughed as my younger son did tricks with his crutches, making even a broken ankle funny. We giggled over book choices, 90’s prom dresses, and ripped off toenails. Family laughter mixed with love…to a mom and grandmother… this is the very definition of good medicine for the soul.

“He that is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” — Proverbs 15:15

Dear Lord, Than you for bringing laughter into our lives even in the midst of trials. Please bless each and every reader with a portion of laughter and Your incredible dose of joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen

“Let your heart be merry.” — Judges 19:6

Keep Swinging- A Lesson in Perseverance

Dear Lord, Thank You for golf. The sheer lunacy of that “head down” “arms straight” “butt out” whacking with a long iron rod at a dimpled demon in an attempt to get it into a tiny hole (yards and yards) down a fairway would make anyone wonder-why not just shove those clubs in a dusty corner and go see a movie? Learning to “stick with it” even when it is hard is one of the compelling reasons I keep paying good money to cuss at a little white ball. Though the progress is slow and the improvements miniscule- that “one good shot” also keeps me going back.

“Don’t give up!” For the first two weeks, my former students had anxiously entered our classroom and looked for the word written in the top left-hand corner of the white board. This was to be our “word of the day”. We used it throughout the school day as a cue for transitions, as well as in casual classroom conversation. Our first word was “perseverance”. We talked about what it meant. Then every day after for a few weeks the “word of the day” was “grit”, “persistence”, “tenacity”, “determination”, “resolution”, “diligence”, “dedication”, “commitment”, “endurance”, and “steadfastness”. Third graders (being the incredibly perceptive people they are) soon recognized the pattern and when I asked what they thought applying our new word meant they soon began to loudly declare in unison, “Don’t give up!”

The teaching experiment paid off. For the rest of the school year, when math or reading or writing was challenging, we reminded each other of the benefits of applying perseverance, or grit, or persistence, etc. It helped us to keep working harder. I hope the lesson stayed with my students. Just the memory of it encourages the teacher.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

I am much better at persevering than I was when I was younger. If I wasn’t, I would have given up on golf years ago. Nevertheless, I still find myself facing tenacity crossroads. For example-and perhaps the one with the strongest pull in my life these days-is writing this blog. Some days finding the words (any words) is very difficult. Some days I am surrounded by whispers from those demoralizing devils who tell me “I can’t do this“, “I am doing it all wrong.“, “Just put your computer in a dusty closet and go see a movie” Every day it is scary and clicking the publish button is petrifying. But then, once in awhile, I hit that “one good shot” or I receive a supportive comment from a reader (Thank you), or I am subtly reminded of my aspired goal to encourage “one woman” and then…I can face the empty page and start whacking again.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

By the way, I am not writing about those circumstances that are soul-piercing on a regular basis. In some situations, it is wise or necessary to walk away. In those cases, I recommend seeking Godly counsel.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—Proverbs 1:5

I am writing about situations that are difficult, but beneficial if we hang in there. A good friend of mine told me of a lesson she heard once. The speaker encouraged listeners if they found themselves in a place of discouragement or just too tired, all they should do is take “two steps forward”. And then after that take another “two steps” etc. This was exactly what I needed to hear at a time in my life when I was tempted to quit what I was doing because it was so hard. Looking to the Lord for guidance and strength, I took “two steps forward” and then “two more”. It helped- a lot.

The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Isaiah 58:11

I appreciate the parts of my life that have been “tough” and made me “tough”. I loved teaching. I am so thankful for the many years I persisted. The rewards for that have been a joyful cup that overflows even to this day. I love golf. It challenges me in countless ways and is good for my mental and physical well-being. I love writing. While at times it tests my resolve to the core, it has become a new friend for me, a companion willing to listen to my thoughts no matter how many times I hit the delete button. I am thankful that when these life-parts that bless my life get hard, the Lord becomes my strength.

“My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Dear Lord, Thank you for the lessons in our lives which build perseverance. Bless us all with encouragement to have the strength to persist in those areas where we may be tempted to give up. Thank you for each and every reader of this blog. In Jesus’ name, Amen

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Two Words to Help Turn “Triggers” into Triumph

I was sitting on a cold steel table in the emergency room fighting severe chest pains. After two hours of tests, pills, liquids, poking and prodding, and attempts to get my blood pressure to go down, the doctor came in to tell me that what I was experiencing was an intense panic attack. What? This had never happened to me before. “But my chest really hurts!” I emphatically pointed out. “Yes” she said calmly. “Panic attacks really hurt.” What brought on such an extreme reaction? In the moments before my chest began its painful jabbing- my then- fiancee and I were having a discussion about going to a car dealership to buy a car. I was suddenly overcome with an irrational fear and not long after was headed to the emergency room.

A psychological trigger is defined as, “a reminder (including smells, sounds, or sights) of a past trauma that causes an overwhelming feeling of sadness, anxiety, or panic.” Strange as it may sound, the idea of going to a car dealership reminded me almost spontaneously of an emotionally traumatizing experience (no offense to car dealerships) and triggered panic. I did not know how to combat it and needed hours in an emergency room to calm down.

I am usually one of those irritatingly happy people who most often sees the world in a pastel rainbow swarming with butterflies . Of course, I do have sad times like every one else, however, my unhappy moments generally are just that- moments, rarely lasting longer than a few hours or a few days.  However, last May I got into a lingering funk. These particular blues were hanging on and because I could not nail down an apparent reason, I became “down” for being “down” which was causing me to be “down” on myself.

Then one morning I realized that I was experiencing a trigger. Last year at that same time, I had undergone many big changes in my life. I retired from a 25-year heart and soul career and started a new job with a huge insecure-inducing learning curve. That month I had also experienced some hurts that caused my spirit to need recuperating for several months. May was bringing this all back to me on a subconscious level and cocooned me in a deep sadness. When I realized most of what I was feeling was just a trigger about this time of the year, I was able to to begin to let go and move on.

In addition to learning the power of recognizing a trigger to help overcome its effects, I have also found that when I am triggered by something in the present that brings back something negative in the past, I can apply two tiny words to the situation and finish the sentence with a scripture to help me get recover more quickly. Those words are “and yet”. Let me explain.

Yesterday a five minute phone conversation triggered disquieting unrest. The words spoken did not match statements made a few weeks earlier. The incongruity in one simple sentence incited a fear that did not seem reasonable When I recognized I had been reacting to a reminder from the past, I applied my strategy. I thought: I am afraid and yet “God did not give me a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind.” 1 Timothy 1:7 After a short time, I was able to think of the conversation in a more realistic light, let go and move on.

Most people have a few triggers. Some are healed quickly and others seem to take a lifetime. Some are severe and some are mild. I am discussing mild triggers that are sometimes helped by just knowing what they are so we can examine reasons we may be reacting a certain way. I have discovered that if I mentally or aloud state my true feelings, “I am afraid” “I am sad” “I am lonely” “I am hurt” due to a trigger from a past negative incident, apply “and yet”, and then finish the sentence with whatever scripture I have memorized or can find for my situation (sometimes repeated several times), it can be one helpful tool to find triumph over those triggers.

A few of my favorite “and yet,” statements are:

I feel weak, and yet, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

I feel sad, and yet, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7

I feel stressed, and yet, “When I am overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I”. Psalm 61:2

I am not a professional counselor or psychologist. I do not mean to suggest that this is a cure-all for any time you are sad, scared, or stressed. I do know that when I recognize I am experiencing a trigger from something that happened in the past using Bible scriptures can bring relief to my immediate reaction and put me in a place to see the incident more rationally.

Another strategy I have used is to refocus my attention onto something calming or more positive. For example, today I was in a class where the heat vent was blowing hot air directly onto me. For many years, this has caused me to feel anxious. It reminds me almost subconsciously of a traumatic time in my past. Usually when confronted with direct heat like this I can usually move or avoid it. However, today I could not change seats or better position myself. What helped was being aware of this trigger and then focusing on more positive things going on in the room (the instructor’s booming voice, the woman’s pretty pink bag that perfectly matched her sweater, a delightfully displayed fruit plate) to relieve my stress.

Also, I have found an additional method to help heal a damaging trigger is to replace the negative trigger with something good. For example, for many years, I used to dread Thanksgiving. My family has helped to make it a very joyous special day full of gratitude and now I love it. Thanksgiving is no longer a trigger for me.

Perhaps, you are wondering why you are feeling a certain way and cannot put your finger on why. It may be helpful to examine the possibility of being triggered by a stimuli in your environment or a reminder of a difficult event. If you already know your triggers and when they are sparked, you may want to try applying my “and yet” strategy by adding comforting scripture to combat what you are feeling, refocusing on something else, or proactively replacing the negative trigger as it arises with a deliberate pleasant experience.

Just a reminder: If you are experiencing acute sadness, chronic stress, or severe anxiety, please seek help from a professional medical provider.

Dear Lord, I pray for each and every reader of this blog. I know that You are the Healer, the Comforter, the Protector, the Strength, the Shield and I am so grateful for the healing that has been done in my own life and the healing that is ongoing. I pray for the healing of any reader who needs it right now and for comfort for any reader needing comfort. Help us to see the trigger areas and to turn them over to You so we can let go and move on. In Jesus name, Amen

Purging the Plate of People Pleasing

I felt a nervous low-grade panic mingle in the pit of my stomach. “Would you like to go out to dinner with us tonight?” It was a simple question posed by my compassionate sister-in-law. Oh no! What does she want me to say? Do they really want me to go or is she just trying to be nice? Will I hurt her feelings if I say “no”? Is she hoping I will say “no”? What is the best thing for me to do? The indecision must have been written all over my face because she said (in her direct, perceptive, but loving way) “Please don’t think about what I want you to say. What would you like to do?” I had no idea. I had spent such a long time- many years in fact-trying to make sure I said and did the “right” thing, I had forgotten how to look within and see what I wanted, needed, or truly felt? That “me” was buried under heavy piles of “unhealthy” on a plate of “doing what it takes to make other people happy”.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

I got it mixed up and for a long time- this pleasing God vs. pleasing people thing. I got it mixed up. I became confused about what it looks like to be a “good person” or a “good Christian” or a “good wife” or a “good friend”. I brought my soggy brown bag of other people’s expectations to the party, served it on a plate of flimsy acceptance paper and labeled it “good works”. And…while I know that, because I am a Jesus follower saved by grace, I am called to do good works, I lost sight of the fact that the Bible states, “For we are HIS workmanship.” His! I am not other people’s workmanship. I am not called to do good works to earn favor from others.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 KJV

I got it mixed up- trying to figure out what others wanted from me and forgetting God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. I let any bite of criticism eat at me. I got confused about giving my best for the sake of others (sometimes to my own detriment) and loving others because God loved me. I dedicated myself to being all for everyone while missing the healthy portion that God wanted me to set aside for taking care of “me” and more importantly, that nourishing serving that was to meant to grow me closer to Him.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

What does people pleasing look like? It is in those tiny decision moments when you can do it for God or do it for you, or do it for them, or do it so that they will still like you or think you are great. When it becomes obsessive, you stop expressing your opinion, you stuff your needs, forget your wants, you “shut up and smile.” You lose all sense of boundaries. You lose your God-given sense of self. You can’t afford to lose their approval- to risk them abandoning you.

You forget where your ultimate approval comes from: you lose sight of the truth that humans do not decide your worth. You become resentful. You become sad. You become like a heaping platter which can hold no more and one day you become so heavy with trying to please those around you that you eventually tip and slip and spill in a heap all over the ground- the nourishment so muddled with the empty and the poison that you can’t pick out what is “right” anymore.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25 (NIV)

However, I am so grateful the Lord does not leave you there- on the floor- in a pile of mess. He keeps molding and making- healing and helping- changing from the inside so that your mixed up mess will some day slowly become the unique flavorful feast He intended you to be. Your identity is not what those around you think or those hidden voices that creep up from inside that say you are not “good enough” unless you are being “good enough” and when is that “good enough”? No, your identity and worth is tied to who you are according to God.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

Though every now and then, I still can’t resist placing a few well-chosen acts of people-pleasing on my plate, I am quick to recognize it’s potential to be harmful to my health. After many years and many lessons, I am learning much about the difference of serving others with God’s love versus people pleasing. I know that to please God my job is to love Him… and to love others. This is not the same as losing myself to them. I can still busy myself with helping others (highly satisfying and fun) but it is not the same as doing for others in a way that is not healthy for them or me. It is giving in a God-honoring way or for the pleasure of it, not to gain the approval of the recipients. It is knowing not everyone has to like me. It is being okay with who God chose me to be- knowing my uniqueness is created by God. It is setting boundaries and being direct about wants and needs. It is comforting and encouraging because God has comforted and encouraged me. It is forgiving as I have been forgiven and loving others with grace and truth. It is about freedom and trusting.

And… now when someone asks me to dinner, I answer truthfully and without panic- grateful from a peaceful plate of me being me. Thank you, Lord.

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.1 Thessalonians 2:4

Dear Readers: Thank you so much for joining me again this week. I am committed to posting every Thursday and remain excited to write my weekly blog. However, due to my strong desire to tell the second half of my story with authenticity and introspection, I need more time. I have written titles with empty pages including: “The Fruitless Attempt to be the World’s Greatest Christian Wife”, “Rich for a Minute”, “Betrayal- What to do When Angry at God”, “The Power of Stay” “The Healing Seasons” and more. I just can’t do them justice within a week or a short blog. Therefore, I am going to take spend the time I need to write the second half of my story with the care and prayer without self-pressure or the “just get it done” syndrome. Perhaps a few weeks in the mountains would help. Still…I hope to see you next week as I continue posting blogs. I will also keep you posted on my progress and you will be the first to know when I have finished. My sincere thanks to each of you who take your valuable time to be part of this blog with me. Next Thursday’s post is called, “And Yet”.

Teaching: A Trove of Treasures

He looked up at me with big round eyes, not with a look of defiance, but of defeat. He could not pick up that pencil and begin working on his math assignment. He just did not have the energy to overcome the resistance. For several weeks now, I had tried praise and bribery- contracts, prizes, reduced homework, Tootsie rolls…nothing worked. I sat next to him- feeling a bit defeated myself. “Did you know my grandpa got a purple heart when he was in the war?” He said in that way kids do when they hope the comment will distract from the goal at hand. “Really! That’s cool.” I said. Then a teacher “ding! ding!” went off in my head. “Hey, if I gave you a purple heart every time you did your math, would you like that?” He perked up. Smiled. Picked up his pencil and started the arduous process of solving the long division problems. He kept at it until the page was complete. I thought he might be disappointed when I cut out a purple heart from construction paper, but he was delighted. For the next few months, he was happy to complete his math for one simple paper heart to add to his collection. Divine inspiration? I like to think it was. I gave him purple hearts. He gave me the gift of joy and a lesson in listening and being willing to do what it takes to help reach a struggling student. This is teaching- a trove of treasures.

If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Romans 12:8 NIV

I dreamt of being a teacher from a very young age. Nevertheless, nothing (not all the instruction on classroom management, lesson planning, and a host of other education related topics) had prepared me for the feeling of walking in that fifth grade classroom on the first day of my student teaching experience-surrounded by young minds depending on me to help them glean knowledge. It was intimidating and exciting. As soon as I stood in front of those students to teach, I was at home. A home built around a long sustained aspiration- walls of warmth and doors of possibilities staring at me with eager eyes. Wow!

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3

Finally, after ten weeks of learning from a wonderful mentor teacher, trying new things and reflecting on successes and failures, and falling in love with those 27 young people, I graduated and received my Bachelor’s degree. I was proud of myself and excited for my future. One day soon I was actually going to walk into my own classroom surrounded by my own students. I was finally, amazingly, going to be a teacher. What an incredible treasure.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23

I was hired that first year to teach at a highly-impacted high-risk school. I was advised to work in this setting for a couple of years and then I would be able to move to an easier school. I stayed for eight years. Many of the adults and teens in the surrounding areas were local gang members. On our first back-to-school night, we had to employ uniformed police officers to be on hand in case there was trouble among rival gangs. Some of our students went home daily to unimaginable horrors. Some were in foster homes and some had no home at all. I taught one bright young man who had to study during his lunch hour and hide his homework because he would be ridiculed (or worse) at home for taking school seriously. Many of our students were just learning to speak English. Though it was hard and heartbreaking and sometimes scary, everything about that school was where I was supposed to be. It was a powerful place to begin my teaching career. I had no doubt that as teachers we impacted our students every single day. I knew that for many coming to school was their only safe place. These kids stole my heart and taught me so much about compassion and strength and surpassing difficulties. Teaching and learning at this school was another amazing gift. Thank you, Lord

I also taught in a school where many of our students came from affluent homes. The back-to-school night here was very different. There were no police officers patrolling the grounds; no prizes or free food to entice reluctant parents to attend the event. We had 100% parental attendance and one of the first parents I noticed come through the door was a well-known 70’s pop star. A famous author’s children attended the school as well as other celebrities’ kids. The patrons at this educational institution also taught me fabulous life lessons. I learned that despite differing economic status, we all share a common desire to want what is best for our children. I learned that no-one escapes trials and challenges. They are sometimes just different ones. I learned a committed kind of love from a super cute boy with down syndrome who could not leave my classroom each day without expressing his love for me. I learned how to be part of helping heal grief from a sweet little girl who kept her brother’s framed picture on her desk and wrote letters to him when she was feeling sad. Kids from all walks of life share joys, fears, hurts, and concerns and just want to belong, feel accepted, and be seen and acknowledged. My fourth grade students from this school remain cherished parts of my heart as well. I am so thankful for the gift of teaching them.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm90:17

I believe that I was meant to be a teacher and yet I have made plenty of mistakes- probably at least one a day. To this day, I am learning truths to help me become a better educator. It is a challenging high-stress job where I heard once that most teachers have to make approximately 600 decisions a day. It involves long hours and children with as many different personalities and problems as ribbon designs in a party shop. I am not and will never be even close to perfect at it. But, for me, teaching was a colorful box filled with passion and purpose. Once opened, it gave me a sense of success I had never felt before. I did not always dance with joy over the challenges of day-to-day teaching, but I never doubted that it was what I was supposed to do. Having that assurance for all these years has been an powerful energizing prize for me and kept me from giving up.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

I was blessed to teach my last 14 years in an elementary school that could be described as economically middle-of-the-road, but to me there was nothing average about this incredible school. Not only did I partner with wonderfully supportive parents, I worked with amazing teachers and administrators, a fabulous school secretary and secretarial staff, compassionate custodians, dedicated lunch staff and aides, and more. If I had time, I could easily describe many instances where miracles occurred because of these people who showed up every day to hand out their unique gifts in order to ensure that our students received a quality education. It was an invigorating experience.

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.” Mr. Fred Rogers

The best gifts, of course, come from the students. I could write a separate book on the many treasures they have been to me. Each time I run into a former student and am greeted with a hug and a smile, I am so blessed. I have been amazingly fortunate to have seen them graduate, get married, go on to have children of their own. They have been my teachers, as well as my students, for all of these years and I am grateful to each one of them for the lessons and joy they have given to me. Thanks to all of you- “A” you are adorable- just sayin!

I dedicate this Thursday’s blog to all of the wonderful students, parents, administrators, and school staff that help keep the education treasures flowing. In particular during this back-to-school month, I honor the teachers who bring their gifts through those glass doors every day in order to share their talents, purpose, and passion with the students placed in their care. You are amazing!

As always, thank you so much for joining me this week. I pray that each and every one of you would be encouraged and strengthened in the gifts and natural talents you have been given. I am so grateful for your support and encouragement to me.

Teaching: A Trove of Treasures-Study

If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. Romans 12:7 NIV

Writing about teaching caused me to think about working in general, whether in the home or outside of the home and what God’s Word says about work.

Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. (NIV) Deuteronomy 15:10

Reflection/ Application Questions:

  1. Are there certain aspects of my job which I do with a grudging heart?
  2. What one place could I change today to have a more giving attitude at work?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, (NIV) Colossians 3:23

Reflection/ Application Questions:

  1. What does it mean to “work as if unto the Lord”?
  2. What is a realistic way you could work “with all your heart” today?

There are many other scriptures about work you can check out. These are just a few examples. Thank you to all the hardworking teachers out there starting back to school at this time of the year.

Thank you, dear readers for checking out the mini-companion study to my blog “Teaching-A Trove of Treasures”. I am changing the format of the studies a bit due to time constraints. From now on I will be adding Reflection and Application questions at the bottom of my blog post instead of a study. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support. Writing to you is such a blessed part of my day.


Wondrous Works: From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher

I dropped out of school in the ninth grade. I never attended one day of high school so sitting in a college class with a bunch of much younger students was daunting. To be able to register, I had to take a general education test and pass it. Then I had to overcome a myriad of other obstacles to forge a way to start my college education. I lived at an elevation of 8,500 feet- 20 miles away from the college in a log cabin with no electricity or running water and had little financial resources to even think of going to college. It seemed an impossible dream. Yet, the dream was slowly becoming a reality. I had begun taking two classes in the summer and had completed my course work for the first week.

On Friday, my English professor passed back my first paper. I had written a story comparing my son’s mountain lifestyle with his cousin’s-who lived in the city. I was apprehensive to look at the teacher’s comments. In lovely hand-written scrip at the top of the page I read, “Good first try. You have potential.” I felt portions of insecurity slough off me like the dead scorched skin of a too-aggressive sunburn. The confidence I needed to believe I could succeed in any classroom was just one of the many challenges I had to overcome. I had not been in school for 15 years. Her words were like soothing aloe. encouraging me to keep going. That summer, I passed both classes and signed up for two more: English 102 (with the same professor) and Art Appreciation.

I was in love with the learning, loved breathing in new ideas, loved expanding my world through art and music, loved learning more and more about writing, loved having the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with written words. I grew resolute about my desire to teach. Watching the passion of professors who cared strongly not only about their subject matter, but also about the students they were teaching took hold in my heart. Their ability to impact lives was powerful.

One of the most influential touchstones of my college years was that first English professor. Her name was Marilyn Larson- the teacher who did not appreciate me laughing at my first homework assignment. She not only encouraged my writing and taught me a great deal in that few short weeks, she developed a connection with me and an interest in my progress. She took time to teach me how to apply for scholarships. I was awarded an academic scholarship the following quarter and for the rest of my college experience, I received scholarship money. She helped me to navigate the ins and outs of college life. She was an amazing role model- the kind of teacher I wanted to be.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 KJV

Over the next few years, I registered for class after class and the Lord provided. I took history, psychology, drama, speech, children’s literature, Shakespeare, and more. I remained enamored throughout- absorbing the thrill of learning what I had never been taught. The only blight spot on the horizon concerning classes was the looming- the dreaded- math. How would I ever be able to pass the required math classes?

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

When it looked like I might actually earn an Associate’s Degree, I knew I had to face the inevitable and register for the most basic math class I could earn credit for and then I prayed. I prayed my way through every required math class after that. I did my part. I studied and studied and studied. I faithfully completed my tortuous homework. I went for tutoring help. I drove the teachers crazy with questions from my front row seat. I even had a teacher give me a huge button to wear on the last day of class that said, “I LOVE MATH” in huge red letters as penance for all the whining I did while in her class. Still, most math concepts remained as elusive as that pesky fly-here for a minute and then gone again-just when you were about to “kill it”. Therefore, before each and every math test, I prayed, “Lord, I do not know (fill in the blank-algebra, geometry, etc.) but You do. Please help me to pass this test.” And I did- time after time-sometimes with a fair margin- many times just one or two problems away from mathematical massacre.

I began to take classes to become an elementary school teacher. It seemed like an exercise in futility because I was sure too many stumbling blocks stood in the way for me to actually earn a degree, but I kept plodding on, just loving the learning, not wanting to give up.

Who does great things, unfathomable, And wondrous works without number. Job 9:10

Two years after I started plunking out papers on my trusty Smith Corona and reading textbooks late into the night under a Coleman lantern, I graduated with my first degree. A few months before the quarter’s end, a reporter for the school paper ventured up the mountain to interview me and wrote an article about how I was surviving college while living in such an unconventional manner.

“Give me one moment in time, where I am more than I thought I could be- where all of my dreams are a heartbeat away.” Whitney Houston-

On graduation day wearing a black gown I never thought I would wear- standing among other graduates, I looked up into the vast audience to search out my family. There they were- my three children who had sacrificed so much to see this day happen. They had helped me study. They had encouraged me. They had given up time and attention with their mother and had hung in there with me throughout. Beside them was my husband- considering his feelings about my decision to attend college-far more proud of me and far more supportive that I would have ever expected. I smiled- so grateful for them in my life.

Suddenly, I heard my name spoken by the man at the podium. He was asking me and two other students to stand. What? The speaker was highlighting students who had overcome great obstacles to graduate. He told the audience about me never going to high school, about how I lived miles from the nearest town in a log cabin without modern conveniences, and that I achieved scholarships every quarter. He told them that despite the many challenges I had faced, I was graduating Summa Cum Laude- at the top 1% of my class. As the audience clapped, I glanced back at my family. They were all there-standing and cheering for me. Aside from the births of those three amazing people, this moment in time remains one of the most incredulous events of my life. All I could think of was, “Thank you, Lord!” To God be the Glory!

For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Psalm 86:10

Thank you wonderful readers for continuing with me as I relay to you my story. Next week I will conclude my education story- from dropout to degree. I want you to know what it means to me that you take time to join me. You can also check out my mini-study for this blog on the wondrous works of God. Again, thank you.

Wondrous Works: From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher-Study

Did you ever wonder what would happen if we stopped long enough to ponder the wondrous works of God at least once a day. This simple habit could add such an element of adventure to life. Just taking a moment to look at how nature speaks of God’s glorious work can bring peace and joy. For example, as I look out the window from my “Fufu” room where I read, write, and pray, I see a lovely overcast sky- one of those you feel rather than notice. After many consecutive scorching days, this day seems welcome- comforting somehow. Is it wondrous? Depends on your perspective. For me, today it is just what I needed.

Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. 15 Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Job 37:14

Last weekend, we attended a small church where my mother and brother live. The sermon was based on a scripture that kept popping up loudly on the white screen at the front of the small chapel. It said, “When I am overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I”. Ps. 61:2 KJV This scripture and the exuberant sermon were exactly what we needed to hear at exactly the time we needed to hear it. Is that wondrous? To us it was.

Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works! Psalm 105:2

Psalm 105 is a song about remembering and praising God for the wondrous events He has impacted in the past. Writing about going to college amidst a myriad of obstacles that the Lord helped me through, one-by-one, day-by-day caused me to think about a lifetime of events that have occurred since I met Him- to thank Him for the many wondrous things in my life.

I praise you, because you are fearful and wondrous! Your work is wonderful, and I am fully aware of it. Psalm 139:14 ISV

Remembering and praising God for all He has done for me is energizing. It gives peace when troubles seek to swallow me. Taking time to notice His hidden treasures daily in a word or a scripture or a song or the smile of a sweet soul comforts and strengthens. Commitment to noticing the sights, smells, and sounds around me that are splendid testimonies of what he can do stirs up joy.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds …” Psalm 111:2 NIV

Please take a moment today to document a few wondrous works in your own life. Think back on certain events in your life you know would not have happened without the helping hand of the Lord. Notice His encouraging touch in the kind words of those around you. Breath in the nature you find yourself in- created by God. Please feel free to share your unique way of noticing God’s wondrous works.

Thank You for joining me as I ponder the wondrous joy it is that you are reading this blog. Really! It is an amazing blessing to me.


From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher-An “Impossible” Dream

Have you ever had a desire, a niggle in your soul that wants to do something different, something more, but talk yourself out of it before you even take one step in that direction? Do you often see so many roadblocks in the path of what you might like to do that it is just easier to try and stay on the road-of-no-hurdles? I understand. I have moments like that too. However, every once in a while a dream is sparked- it glows and grows- and will not go. You are compelled to walk towards it and with each step, obstacles break away and flames of possibility grow stronger.

I did not attend one day of high school. I dropped out in middle school- the ninth grade. I was not pregnant and did not hate school. I was a lost and angry 14-year-old with safety issues at home and someone willing to marry me to get me to higher ground. From fourteen to twenty-seven major events shaped my life: I divorced, birthed three children, had previously been a maid, a waitress and even owned my own restaurant for a brief stint. I found Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and was currently living in a mountain cabin with no electricity or running water where my family had resided for several years.

One day, my friend Debbie asked me to go to the local college with her to complete some paper work needed for her to attend her first semester. I get how corny this is going to sound- but walking around that campus was like the jittery homecoming of long-hidden yearning. My senses awoke. I could smell learning, hear people shifting books from side to side traveling from class to class, taste the sweetness of challenging new ideas, almost feel the growing of open minds. My unexpected excitement went deep. A past dream flickered. When other little girls in our neighborhood were playing with Barbies and baby dolls, I would seclude myself in my crowded bedroom, line up well-used stuffed animals against the headboard of my bed and stand before them imparting magnificent lessons of math, reading, and spelling. It was my safe place. It was what I wanted to do when I grew up.

On the way back to my mountain road that day, I timidly shared this dream with my friend and the utter futileness of even hoping that this could ever happen- so many obstacles- it seemed impossible. She encouraged me. She explained that I could get a GED (General Education Diploma) by taking and passing a test to prove proficiency and then start taking classes. Oh, if only that was the single blockade to allowing my dream to come to fruition. But…what if?

I went home and broached the subject to receive a resounding “No!”.Before you are tempted to think too harshly about my husband’s negative response, let me explain. He was very old-school and had made this clear from the start. He wanted a Christian wife who did not work, who stayed at home, and took care of the family. He felt very strongly about this and I had signed on from the beginning. Not only did his desires permeate his decision, he also did not have fond memories of education in general. I sadly relented. I knew it was an insurmountable long-shot when I brought it up. A dream seemingly extinguished before it could light and take hold.

The trouble was… that day walking around that campus had sparked a tucked away aspiration. Hearing about the experiences my much younger friend, Debbie was having at college only fueled the glowing embers. I questioned her about everything. What classes were she taking? What books did she have to read? What new concepts was she learning? I could not get the idea out of my head. As my desire to go to college grew stronger so did I. After a year and a half (when all three kids were attending school) I broached the subject again.

This time he said, “You can go, but there is no money to pay for tuition or books. You will have to figure this out on your own. I don’t think it is a good idea, but I will not stand in your way.” Yay! Now all I had to do was pass the GED having had no high school education, somehow find money to pay for books and tuition, figure out how to provide gas money to get back and forth from the college almost twenty miles away, still make sure the kids and house were taken care of, and a myriad of other challenges. I took my concerns to the Lord.

I barely passed the GED test, especially the math portion where I squeaked by on literally a hope and a prayer. I began cleaning houses in town that spring to pay for my tuition and books. I knew that the chances of me being able to earn a degree were extremely slim. However, my plan was to start with two classes in the summer so the fees were less and I could still clean houses. I would just see what happened from there. I tucked away extra dollars for gas and other expenses and registered for English 101 and Music Appreciation. I felt sure the Lord had given me the ability (after much studying on my part) to pass the test and provided enough funds to pay for that first quarter’s tuition. I, then, waited to attend my first quarter filled with red-hot excitement and gut-burning fear.

I sat among a group of much younger students in my first class on that first day-a transformed person. I was not the troubled and troublesome teenager I was when I had last attended school some 15 years previously. Back then I lacked motivation and reeked bad attitude. Now, I could not wait to learn-excited to do what it took to succeed. The professor was not much older than I and she started the class by going over the syllabus (whatever that was) and relaying the expected homework due for the next class (in two days)! “Please read the first 120 pages of the textbook and write a 2-3 page essay comparing two things of your choice.” I started to laugh. Then shrunk as she popped her head towards me with a withering glance over her glasses. Surely she was joking. I did not know how I would find the time to read 120 pages in two days and I had no idea how to write a paper. Later, in my Music Appreciation class, I was given a hefty assignment there too. All work due by the following class on Wednesday. What? I assumed I could ease into this education thing, not be pushed in with the force of a bulldozer placed firmly under my well worn sneakers. Help!

I drove home that evening watching for wayward deer along the stretch of highway between the college town and ours. I maneuvered the dirt road to the cabin, built a fire to cook dinner, fixed our meal, helped get my kids settled for bed, and then lit the Coleman lantern above the kitchen table where I sat and began reading the textbook pages I had been assigned. In no time, I was consumed with the thrill of learning about things I had never known before. I read about different musical styles from the Middle Ages. I studied how compositions differ according to audience and purpose. The lantern kept burning and I kept reading long after the rest of the house had softly gone to sleep . The flicker of my excitement became a blaze.

The next morning after sending everyone off to their own busy day, I pulled out my dusty little blue Smith Corona and began to plunk out my very first story. I wrote a narrative comparing the lifestyles and adventures of my youngest son living on a mountain and his cousin (of the same age) who lived in the city. I was so nervous. I had not written anything for a very long time. I did not know where to put commas, colons, or how to structure an essay, or much of anything where writing was concerned. Nevertheless, once I hit those first keys and got into my head and the process, I was filled with a kind of jubilance that has nothing to do with correct syntax, spelling, or grammar and everything to do with the joy of putting what is in your heart and head into somewhat coherent sentences. It was about the elation of telling a story. I was hooked.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and inChrist Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen’ (Ephesians 3:20–21).

Dear Readers, Thank you so much for taking your incredibly precious time to read my blog. I decided to break this blog into two or three parts in an effort to make it more of a quick read. Last week’s was so long!

Also, I am thinking of many friends and family out there who have their own “dream come true” story. They worked hard and did not give up. I just want to say “Good job!” and encourage those “in the midst” to keep walking towards that dream!

If you would like to receive a convenient link to this blog as well as extras I try to include weekly: Please send me your email address at: sonflowersandsoul@gmail.com or message me on Facebook or comment at the bottom of this blog.

I pray for a wonderful week for each of you. If you are facing some seemingly impossible challenges, I pray that you receive hope and encouragement today to help your situation. I pray for direction and clarity if you are trying to decide “next steps.” I pray for peace. In His love, Kristy

From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher- An “Impossible” Dream- Study

Some dreams really are impossible. I will never be as skinny as I used to be or as young, but most dreams are still worth dreaming. Most are worth taking steps towards. Why? Because if they are in His will, God is in the midst of dreams and desires. He wants to help them come true. He wants to say “Yes” to our dreams. Going to college seemed an “impossible” dream for me. Yet, I felt that once I took steps towards this desire of my heart, a way was made for my dream to come true. See my blog “From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher- An “Impossible” Dream

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. NKJV Psalm37:4

God is, however, not Santa Claus and sometimes he says “No”. Sometimes when things happen in our life that do not feel like dreams are fulfilled in the way we wish, Our Father is still working it out for the best. For example, I sold my dream house because I got robbed. For several years after I moved, I often had to drive by it and would lament the loss of my favorite home. Recently, I traveled down the road my former house was on and noticed a large moving van. The occupants were moving out. Wow! I wonder if my husband and I could buy it back.? As fast as that dream came in, it went out again. I realized I was happy where I was. That house was no longer my dream house. That dream had changed and contentment had snuck up on me and stayed. I was glad that the Lord put me where I am now. Thank you, Lord.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.Proverbs 16:3 NIV

I believe the secret to having my dreams come true has to do with righting my dreams with what God’s desires are for me. I believe, if we are open, the Lord will plant aspirations in our heart that line up with His will. Then if I take first steps towards that dream, He will be with me all the way to fruition.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

I also believe I can blow up my dream or at least veer it off track with my pride or sinful nature. This is different than God saying “no”. This is me messing up my own dream. For instance, I can stand in the way of my dream coming true due to fear. It kept me from writing my story for many years. Not being proactive and prioritizing my time to work on what is exciting to me is also a dream destroyer. I am thankful that even when I let these things hinder the desires of my heart, God still applies His love and grace to my life.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I feel that the first step to dream making is always prayer. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Please take a minute to think of a few of the things today you would like to see happen in your life. Do they line up with God’s Word? Can you accomplish your dream to God’s glory? Is the intent of your dream honorable? After praying about it, what next “first steps” could you take to make your present dreams come true?

Don’t give up, unless you have assurance that you are not on the right path for you. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Finally, apply faith. When I think back to where God found me and the doors that opened to me becoming a teacher- my childhood dream, I stand in awe at what God can do. But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26 ESV

Dear Lord, Thank you for each reader joining me at looking at some scriptures about who You are and what You can do. Thank you for making my “impossible” dream come true. In His love, Amen