GOOGLE TRANSLATE

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

HUNKER DOWN

To pass the time in Ouray, the boys tunneled through the drifts and built forts. Christie Krull's photo.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and whatever he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

This time of year where the snow flies, you will see children frolicking within several layers of clothing and winter coats; with scarves, hats and mittens covering every extremity so that nothing can interrupt their building of snowmen, downhill sledding, or strategic plans implemented inside their snow forts that spring up overnight. 

Mountains of snowballs formed over many hours stand ready in piles for the onslaught of their neighboring foes. Once the preparation is completed, though, there is nothing left to do, but to hunker down and wait within the warmth of the snow caves made in the banks and drifts of the winter wonderland.

There are others quietly constructing their cyber worlds. Hourly they collect raw minerals and resources to build tools, that build protective housing, towers, walls and weapons. 

In times of peace crops are harvested. Animals are collected for food. Their skins are gathered into trunks for clothing and bigger ones are trained to haul lumber, water, and rocks while others learn to fight in tandem with men against any intruders.

Waiting and watching continually for any sign of invasion, my son called me over to admire all that he had worked hours to achieve.  It is amazing and much of this is accomplished through teamwork, intuitive leadership, and relentless creativity. 

He looked to see my reaction and I noticed a slight grin creeping across his face and his shoulders thrown back a bit more as he reviewed his creation through my eyes. I shook my head and smiled in amazement as I expressed my sentiments for all he developed in his world with such artistry and diligence. 

Reflecting on my son's serious preparations for this inevitable invasion in his game, I considered the fact that today our society is openly faced with horrific attacks from those who oppose godly people and call us satan. 

The tide has turned in the past few decades. Freedoms I once enjoyed are challenged and respect for a loving, holy God is eroding in many circles.  

This bastion of freedom has infected the world with the anti-virus of hope, tickling minds with the idea that all men are created equal. Perhaps we can have our differences and live in peace. And maybe, more than the just the top 1% in a nation can enjoy a healthy diet, a simple roof over their heads, peace in a neighborhood, without being enslaved and losing their dignity.

Yes, we ARE guilty of "brain-washing". We spread the words that stir a man's spirit. A breath of air to fuel the fire burning within, desiring a better life; if not in their lifetime, better for posterity. 

Yes, we spread the news throughout the world that man is not alone. We are not an island. There is a world community out there who can band together for good. But greater than that, there is a creator who has very different intentions for mankind.

Now it seems as though our country is hunkered down and waiting. We have made some good headway in areas, but mistakes too. Many resources benefit the needy, but much more has been spent on the inventions of death. 

While elements of gang warfare are stopped and their training grounds are stamped out, more spawn and morph into malicious offspring who seem to have no other purpose but to feeding their bloodlust by maiming and killing innocent victims. Cowards.

Fear spreads its gnarly fingers across the face of the earth desiring to disable our resolve and our courage. A doctrine of death lands on our shores to challenge our core values. Our shaky foundations have become so thin, like ice on an April pond. We are on watch for the cracking to begin, causing the surface to cave in, destroying the dream.

My faith soars when evil raises its ugly head. Saints before me have withstood pain, suffering, and misunderstanding. They remained steadfast, hunkered down, and remind me that standing against popular opinion or enduring scoffers and mockery is not the end of the story.

I am encouraged for the Bible speaks of times when evil will increase. But the best part is that the good will increase as well! 

So, I will continue to prepare my heart. My mind will remain open to all that God is saying and doing in my midst. I have a formidable foe, but there is no one like my God! 

I will continue to be firmly planted in the Word of God. I will not tire of doing good. I will love my neighbor as myself. I will promote the care of orphans and widows. I will defend the fatherless. For I know that my God is an awesome God of Angel-Armies! He is on my side.

Pray, watch, and remain faithful. This is what Holy Spirit says. The world needs to see our resolve more than ever. Only God can bring joy in the midst of craziness. I need the peace that only comes when I turn things over to my omniscient Father in heaven. And rather than gathering more possessions and stuffing them into my crammed drawers and closets, I need to share hope for eternity. 

My world, with all of its natural beauty and resources is sifting like sands through the sieve of time. Yet, in eternity, time will be no more. My body will be released from its earthly limitations. I will thrive and marvel at the opportunities to use my gifts.  Endless frontiers exist out there for me to explore. Adventures await that the most brilliant minds cannot conceive.

Rather than crouching and hiding amid whimpers and complaints at what is happening all around me, I prepare myself, just as I did years ago when readying for a snowball fight. Resolute, no turning back.  

The wisdom of God is my teacher and the one true God is the leader I seek. Let God arise and my enemies be scattered. 

Release the Lion of Judah into the arena of my life. I have nothing to lose and all to gain. 

Ready.


posted by Kris Valloton originally







#gangs #terrorists #war #atrocities #God #eternity #faith #joy #peace #freedom #Lion of Judah #wisdom





Wednesday, December 2, 2015

NEW RAIN

He pulls water up out of the sea, distills it, and fills up his rain-cloud cisterns. The the skies open up and pour out soaking showers on everyone. Does anyone have the slightest idea how this happens? How he arranges the clouds, how he speaks in thunder?  Just look at that lightning, his sky-filling light show illuminating the dark depths of the sea! These are symbols of his sovereignty, his generosity, his loving care. Job 36:27-31 (MSG)

I read this after going through some pretty rough storms on a trip back home from Arizona.


Written thousands of years ago, God tells Job and his friends off for blaming God for bad things going on. They over reached in questioning God's character and purposes.  

Have times changed that much? Our thinking is so warped by this materialistic, flesh pleasing culture in which instant gratification is the norm.  

The young and old cry out for justice, peace and hope. We try to understand as government collides with our liberties and basic rights.

Our government is not the only place that is cheating us, the church is losing touch with its source of effectiveness and purpose.

Church many places is about numbers, the amount of offerings, or the splashy programs to entertain and mesmerize the masses to change them into followers.  

Rituals leave us semi-satisfied, feeling that we have met an obligation. Fellowship and living in community bring the joy and fullness of synergy through interaction and true life experiences shared generating a family of believers, ready to encourage and bless one another.

Living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the answer to so many disillusioned believers. Sparks have been lit through the ages and fires burned where this truth struck hearts and lives.

Jesus showed us the way, but not by establishing religion and religious rituals. He told us this: 

"I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. 
The world cannot accept, him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives in you and will be in you." John 14:16-17 (NIV)

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26 (NIV)

I am ready for new rain of the spirit.  Bring us a rushing river of refreshing and renewal to quench the thirst within us for justice and for peace on this earth.  Bring a harvest of people who will surrender to the God of love.  

Let us see Jehovah's mighty works, beginning with my own heart. Fill me with your love for others so that I do not concern myself merely with my own comforts and desires, but rather that I desire to share the wonder of God's love with all mankind.

Rain upon me and fill me Lord with your Holy Spirit! Fill me with your truth, power, and peace. Pour your love through me. Let this new rain fall upon all who desire it. For your ways are greater than our ways.

Photo credit goes to Christian Philip Krull IV, my youngest son.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

YOU MAKE ME BRAVE


Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, you are with me.   Psalm 23

Today, I am facing a rough time.  Courage eludes me right now.  It is scampering through a forest of tall strong oaks and is peeking out from behind the rough trunks of these sage trees. My skin tingles and I have the sensation that a huge predator is tracking me, while I stand here unarmed and unassisted. 

This predator comes at me attempting to steal my peace and joy.  I cannot sit in quiet meditation without fear hissing in my ear, interrupting my solitude.  I draw out my sword to defend myself from the attacks, only to have courage come and go when I need it the most.

Then, a comforting voice gently whispers to count it all joy.  Trust.  It is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord that you stand against the predators of this world.

I lift up my hands to the Heavens and exalt the name of the Lord.  I am so grateful for his constant presence in my life when all others follow the ebb and flow of life.  Too busy to notice or just not able to comprehend my struggle. I am meant to lean on the one who gave me freedom from these illusions of lack.

The Lord is my Shepherd.  The Lord is my light and my salvation.  Whom then shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life. 

What could I ever lack with God at my side? Who is there like our God?  

So with a grateful heart, I thank him for the times that force me to cling tighter. The times that thrust me into the position of trusting more. Sweeter and dearer is his faithfulness to me.  Never alone. Never forsaken. I sit here resolute. He completely understands me: free, capable, and loved.








Saturday, November 14, 2015

SIMPLICITY

My youngest grand. Photo courtesy of Alicia Markley.


People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. Jesus called them back. "Let these children alone. Don't get between them and me. These children are the kingdom's pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." Luke 18:15-17 (MSG)

So I wonder... is my heart and mind open enough?  Am I humble enough?  Do others see the kingdom in me?

The simplicity of a child speaks of the exuberance of a child as they discover the world around them. Energetically pursuing the next new thing and following their curiosity.

Bursting with excitement at every new encounter from a tiny bug on a leaf to finding out how old their mother is.

Keep me simple as a child.  Eyes and heart wide open.  Hands outstretched and giving.  Overflowing with discoveries everyday.




Friday, October 30, 2015

RED TIDE BLUES

Photo by Audrey Keel Photography

Packed books grabbed the shoulder bag
With papers to grade and record
Straightened then erased the white board
Got shooed out of my room 
By a teacher who knew
South Padre awaited our arrival.

South on I-35 for a half hour drive
To give my husband a kiss
Tossing clothes, toothbrush, and suit in a bag 
Beach toys boarded the truck
We gave New Braunfels the wave
As we headed down to the beach.

Fighting off sleep after a long week
Pulling into Aries Drive at Padre
Once stepping afoot
Out in the night air
Took a breath, the coughing began
Then sneezing, our eyes tearing as well.

The luggage all stowed in the beach house
We heard a recital of tales
From grandchild to grandchild
From daughters and son
The stories lead us to conclude
The culprit of all our discomfort.

Fish bones poked and protruded
From their sandy grave
Others stank as they rotted
Not far from the shore
Red foam swelled up from the algae
Came and cut their lives short.

Surfers braving the roughest of surf
Driving for hours for the thrill
Riding wild waves in the wind
Best of conditions for salt water cowboys
Riding astride, only to be tossed by red tide
For they hacked, and itched and retreated.

The grands undaunted marched through the dunes
Remembering sculptures of lore
Buckets held tight in their eager young hands 
Dared to walk the red tinted land
Floating on boards though outnumbered they tried
But the red scourge drove them back home.

Weeks of plans and hopes for this outing
Though a family together is what mattered
The three who flew from Rocky Mountains
Missed the balmy side of the isle
Instead of salt water we played in a pool
As we all sang the red tide blues.

The photograph is an actual picture taken by my daughter, Audrey Keel, Audrey Keel Photography, early on Saturday morning during our weekend at South Padre Island during the terrible red tide.  October 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

WHAT IS THE POINT?


"The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started." John 4:34  (MSG)


THE POINT

What will be the point? I wonder.
This is what I stop to ponder.

Of all the time it took to teach,
Years preparing me to reach,

So much behind me now I know.
Lost, so easily away I throw

These seconds, minutes, gone too fast
Hours and days not meant to last

How careless, expending energy each day
On frivolous choices; shards of clay

Inside there beats a grander scheme
Focused there it feels supreme 

Harkening to others' awakening dreams
Giving a push until fear careens

In its place they find their feet
Planted in soil; life replete

Uncovering secrets some found too late
Rather found sooner, there's no debate

A life spent without theme, no mean,
Might as well have never been

While wondering, how much I'd squander
A heartmap led me toward a way fonder

Peaceful, observing more closely than ever
Gazing into eyes of souls, whoever

Listening for clues in this endeavor
Waking at last to my forever.
--Christie Krull


So, how will you waste your life? Which will it be from the list below? 

A) Waste-to use carelessly, selfish, risky

B) Waste-to use or expend with no vision or plan 

C) Waste-to use or expend extravagantly with purpose driven by your passion for good.

I choose C. I will waste away, at following my passions and callings to lift others up; sending them whole and on their way. 

"Shadow" photo credit to Christian Philip Krull, IV

Sunday, August 23, 2015

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah- Christie's review


Saying goodbye is so very hard to do.  This time though it is not a family member or friend, but a dynamic character whose presence I grew to enjoy page after page.

This engaging book took place during the German occupation of France.  Isabelle Mauriac was ever breaking rules and illusive since her mother's death and her father's rejection of her when he turned to alcohol to ease his grief.

Her sister Vianne, was a young wife when her sister his thrust upon her, so she too sends her back to boarding schools for she felt drained and did not have the will to contend with her ways.

As a result, Isabelle dreams of living a life of purpose and adventure.  She shortly found her challenges and adventures during the years when the French nearly lost their country.

You will enjoy the intrigue even to the end of the book.  There is a bit of romance as well, but more of it portrays the life for the French during this time as the Third Reich squeezed, destroyed, looted. and murdered innocents.  But Isabelle found a way to fight back.

Very insightful and gripping.  I highly recommend this historical fiction.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

GOD SPEAKS


He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber; Psalm 121:3 (NIV)

Typically, I would go out under a tree near the Guadalupe River for the hour of quiet time during our ladies retreat.  A chance to listen to God is such a blessing anytime. Yet, this year, Texas was struck by monsoon weather like never before and as a result, the outdoor retreat had to be held inside the church. 

Since I am distracted easily, I headed out to my car for some peace and quiet for my journalling. Initially, I looked up the verse written in my journal, which I picked from the table "at random". Psalm 121:3. God knew what I needed to hear today.  

I poured out my heart as I wrote and told him what I was struggling with. Then, I listened and copied down what I heard in reply.

He said:

"Hear me loud and clear. This step to sell your house met with opposition initially from the enemy to confuse you, but let me tell you, you are both RIGHT ON.  

That day I gave you the verse in Ezekiel 12:3. You understood clearly that you were to pack your belongings that could fit into a suitcase and set out for another place. You heard correctly that you are to go to Costa Rica. Three things I want you to remember as you prepare these next few years.

PACK-you can take some of your belongings with you- you are not going naked or without provision for your needs. There is some sorting and prioritizing you must do. Letting go of your dream home is huge step in letting me know you love me and my ways more than yours. You are packing and taking your trust in me to be your all in all. You are carefree to follow where I lead you.

SUITCASE-you really have to think and sort when you take a suitcase, but you know from past trips that you could have made it with far less "stuff" so pray for each item you take so you can joyfully prepare and look forward to blessed times.

EXILE-don't look back at what you left behind:
1) not at your dream home that is up for sale
2) not wondering if you should go at this time
3) not feeling guilt because of the family you are leaving behind for I will comfort and care for them all.

I am your provider. I CANNOT wait for you to freely share your gifts my love. To see my kingdom grow and become established in a mighty and pure way in the lives that you will impact.

LOOK FORWARD WITH JOY! Look backward content to know you have planted seed and that others will take up the slack. My angels will guard, encourage, and fight for your loved ones. They couldn't be in better hands, right?

Of course, you will miss being around to enjoy their lives, but they are happy to see you spreading your wings and living your passion and the dream I planted in your heart as a teenager. It is never too late and I have been preparing you for this exact time. YOU DID NOT MISS IT! This is the time that you will have THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE! NOW GO! Go out with joy!

We encountered some trials, yet we were delivered out of them all and now laugh and are thankful for going through them. Each time we see God's provisions.  

I will write more specifically in the future, but suffice it to say that God goes before us and surrounds us with his love. What he does for my family is not just because we go on mission trips, but it is there for each of us every day.  

Do not become weary of doing good.  Rather, refill, renew, and replenish your strength by sitting by the cool waters with our amazing God.  Ask him your questions.  Seek to know by listening, then move forward boldly into opportunity as it presents itself.

Be still and know that I am God.  Avail yourself of his wisdom for he is good.  His mercies endure forever. FOREVER!!!  Even when I least deserve it.  He is good to me.

My enemies come against me, but there is a force field that surrounds me in protection from their brutal attacks. The power of love pours out and is stronger in its influence to transform me from within. His spirit dwells in me and I in him. What a comfort to have this hope that no matter what, he's got me covered.


Monday, June 8, 2015

DEPENDING ON GOD

We're depending on God; he's everything we need.  What's more, our hearts brim with joy since we've taken for our own his holy name.  Love us God, with all you've got- that's what we're depending on. Psalm 33:20-22 (MSG)

Jerry, Philip, and I just landed in Costa Rica at 1 am.  We were weary.  The day stretched out into the wee hours and a drunken passenger made so much noise the whole flight, that I did not sleep a wink.

Waiting for us outside the exit was our good friend, Chino, who gassed and brought our truck to us.  

Jerry climbed into the driver's seat, eager to drive our Ford Expedition again.  Last May, he had driven our vehicle from Texas all the way through Mexico and Central America until he reached Costa Rica.  It felt like home to be riding in our own vehicle again.

As we drove along, we both noticed a funny sound in the wheels.  Jerry said he noticed a faint noise when he was down in February, but nothing this loud.  It was not a little sound like gravel in the hubcap.  It was a rubbing that sounded like it would cost a lot of money.

A couple days later, Chino and Jerry took our green SUV in to his favorite mechanic.  He looked it over and told us that a wheel bearing was shot.  The wheel might have fallen off at any time.  We thank God that it was not when we were driving late at night.

The mechanic called for parts in San Jose and we were quoted a price of $600.00 USD.  This was not what we wanted to hear. Next, he called another parts dealer to see if he could get a better deal for a new part, and in Cartago, there was the exact part we needed for half the price!

A messenger drove with the part to San Jose to meet Chino and Jerry in San Jose.  As he took out the heavy package, he explained to Chino that it was a miracle that they even had this exact part for a 2 wheel drive Expedition.  Their warehouse is not as large as in the capital city, but an American had ordered this same part for a 4-wheel drive Ford, and this one was sent by accident and could not be returned.

The parts store was thrilled to finally unload this part, so we were fortunate to benefit from a previous error.  Was it an error? or was it sent there for the time when we would need it?

God took care of us.  The truck needed repairing, but he arranged for half price parts.  We are so grateful.  The time for the mechanic will only cost us $40.00.  This all put a dent in our spending, but we are thankful and joyful for God's provisions!

We are depending on God for so much right now.  Yet, I perceive that He has just indicated through this experience that He is right here beside us.  He assured us that he is capable of providing for our every need.



Sunday, May 24, 2015

OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE


For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  Ephesians 2:10

Several weeks ago I was asked to talk in church about going to Costa Rica and I was given 2 minutes. Well, what God put on my heart would have taken longer, so I spoke briefly, but this is the full message that He gave me to share.

There are many things that are pleasurable in life. There are many times that are memorable.  It seems that those moments when we leave our comfort zone and reach out into the unknown to help another or to trust that we will have the strength or resources to endure, those moments in time are etched to leave a mark like no other.

Just like those men at the Alamo, who without a moments hesitation, crossed the line in the sand to stay and fight, when Travis told then that they could pare down the enemy troops to aid in the fight for Texas, as well as stalling for more time to evacuate farms and towns in the path the Mexican army would take to pursue and overtake the Texas resistance. Each man knew it was certain death since they were outnumbered 6,000 to 130 or so.  They bought thirteen precious days for General Houston to build up his army.

Abraham, Sarah's husband, was told to change their names. Sarah would bear a son and Abraham would be a father of many nations.  Genesis 17:17 states that Abraham fell facedown and laughed...then when the Lord appeared to him again with two angels at his tent, Sarah overheard.  She laughed and wondered, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?"  At age ninety, she embraced the challenge.

So, in 2012, Jerry, Philip and I took a vacation to Costa Rica. We stayed for a couple weeks in the mountains, and then a week on the beach for Philip.  

The first night on the Pacific coast, we encouraged a new Christian from Wales, England.  As we stood out on the sidewalk outside our restaurant talking, I felt the Holy Spirit flow over me in waves.  It was so strong that I stopped and asked Jerry and the young man, "Can you feel that?  Do you feel God's presence right now?"  They both acknowledged they certainly could.  

That night and through the remainder of the trip, I felt God tugging at my heart concerning Costa Rica. I sensed that God was asking me again, to cross the line and accept his challenge to leave all and serve God in this country.

I continued to pray and asked for this to be confirmed to Jerry and for direction from his word in the Bible.  So, in July, I opened up my Bible, intending to flip to a new testament passage, and my eyes saw this verse leap off the page: Ezekiel 12:3,6- Ezekiel was told to leave as an exile to another place. He was told to only take what he could carry on his shoulders and to leave at dusk.

What this shouted to me was that we were to get going, explore, network, and then go in the dusk of our lives with only a suitcase.  So, we have gone each time and rented a humble place to stay as we sought God's will for us there.

Be willing to step across your comfort zone to dive into the adventure that your life was meant to be. Be ready to obey in small things.  Ask God's will before you choose your next job. Resist temptations that stand before you. Give that unsafe relationship up and wait for the right one.  No matter what the issue, be willing to cross the line and do the hard stuff to get it right.

Each day we have choices.  Leave your comfort zone. Obey God's still small voice as he urges you into your destiny. 




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

THE SWAP

 He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. Isaiah 42:3 (NLT)

     It was nearing the close of the second summer session.  I calculated that at the end of two more semesters and two summer sessions I would finalize all of my graduation requirements.  Up until now, I took classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with another night class to fill my load. That allowed me most days at home with my preschooler and I was there to see my three older children right after school.       
     This last round was going to take a lot more time away from home in order to complete my graduation plan and more time at the daycare for my preschooler. 
     I loved being a stay at home mom with my four children. I had appreciated the benefits to my children all of these years, but when my husband, a pastor of a small town community church, divorced me, our lives changed.  Now, I faced the fact that student teaching in the spring would take its toll on all of us.  
     For several days, my mind was in a whirl.  As I drove the hour back and forth to classes, I attempted to develop a plan to make this work.  
     One weekend, while the kids were visiting their dad, I took time to brainstorm.  Several plans were devised and I calculated the costs. I worked well into the evening that Saturday, but I could not figure out anything that came close to fitting into my budget.  
     My greatest concern was the WHO.   Who would be willing to come all of those afternoons and evenings?  I needed someone trustworthy with my children, but also someone who would show up every time without fail for this to work.
     Each month for three years, I put a little money aside to buy a more economical used car.  At this time, I owned a Lincoln Continental that cost an arm and a leg to buy gas for.  It broke down a couple of times, and if it hadn't been for the generosity of the members of my small fellowship, it would still be sitting around unused.  
     Blessings came our way through the wonderful families at Dayspring Church.  Grace, my pastor's wife, offered me her VW Rabbit to use while I commuted back and forth to Edinburg from Rio Hondo. 
     I bowed my head and sought answers from God for my dilemma.  Then, before bed, while I was reading my Bible, I ran across a verse in Isaiah, A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. (NAS)
     I picked up my guitar and sang this verse over and over from then on whenever I felt fainthearted at the tasks before me.  I knew he spoke this promise to me for the days ahead and it soothed me. 
     One day, when I pulled into my gravel drive, I parked the VW, facing our big Lincoln as usual, but today this thought crossed my mind, "The Lincoln...what am I going to do with the Lincoln, when I finally purchase another smaller car to drive?"
     My last year of school was so hectic, I asked my neighbor, Maria, who cleaned for me, if she would help me in the fall and watch my kids three days after school, in addition to cleaning.  She agreed.  Jennie, my oldest, reassured me that she was kind to them while I was gone, and I heard from my oldest son that her cooking was not the best, but she always showed up.
     Finally, I got up the nerve to ask her if she would be willing to provide child care everyday after school as well as two evenings, for the spring semester.  This time, I explained that I would still pay her for the cleaning, but instead of money for the childcare, I would give her the title to my golden Lincoln Continental if she did not let me down.  
     As I spoke, I saw her eyes light up.  It looked  hopeful.  Yes, she was thrilled at the idea and wanted to talk to her husband before giving me a final answer.  
     Right after supper, she ran over to tell me that he also agreed.  I breathed a prayer of thanks and all that evening the tune and my special verse ran continually through my head.  We said our prayers, and I stretched out on my youngest son's lower bunk. It took a while for the boys to settle into sleep.  All the while, my heart pounded with gratitude at the prospects for my student teaching.
     Months later, I organized some cookies on a serving plate in the big country kitchen.  My tea kettle whistled on the stove, ready for me to pour its contents into the teapot.  My pastor arrived and greeted the children, who quietly seated themselves on the carpet in the living room.  
     A second knock sounded at the door. My faithful sitter and her husband timidly entered through the doorway and sat stiffly some distance apart on my blue sofa.  Faithful Maria never left me or my children in the lurch. 
     I noticed though that they looked uncomfortable each time they eyed our pastor.  I had the feeling that they were afraid that I was going to renege on my deal.  I smiled and offered some more cookies.
     After we visited a bit, I began to thank them for the time they invested in our lives. It meant so much to me to become a teacher so that I could care for my children.  
     I reminded them that all those hours Maria only had a promise of a car for payment at the end of  May.  We did not even sign a contract concerning the arrangement.  
     I produced two sets of keys and the title to the Continental.  I stood and handed them over to Maria, thanking her warmly from my heart.  
     Smiles, and giggles followed.  Each of my children ran up to give her a hug.  
     Hope was the downpayment.  I hoped she would not let me down and that she would be present with my children each day and she hoped that I would not take advantage of her. 
     To this day, I marvel at the way God provided for every detail that we needed during those tough years.  
    
I am most thankful that in God's justice, he helped me acquire the qualifications I needed to take care of my little tribe and more than that, to discover that teaching was much more than a means to pay the bills.  More satisfying adventures lay ahead of me as I taught and shared time with hundreds of students in my classroom. 
       
Side note- The little monkey and graduation mug were a gift from my kids.  Since there was no graduation party thrown by any adults, my four children and their friends planned a surprise for me one day after school.  They baked a cake, decorated with balloons, and proudly presented me with my little graduation momento.  Jennifer, Nathaniel, Audrey, and Jonathan were my biggest fans and encouragement during this time.  My life is rich because of their love.

I also thank God for my sister, Diana, my brother-in-law, Don, for their belief in me and showering gifts and love on my children all during their childhood. David and Virginia Sissom, who watched my children for night classes as well as teaching them chess.  Susan Chandler, who sat through months of lunches once a week to listen and help me process the changes in my life.  Dayspring Church for aiding me with a vehicle to commute to college in, financially with a monthly love offering to keep food on our table, spending quality time with my kids, and encouraging me as I sang on their worship team.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

TRUE GRIT

 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.  I John 2:17

"Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." ~Einstein

     I walked into the interview at Cano-Gonalez Elementary.  The fact that I had taught the past eighteen months in a juvenile detention center near Edinburg intrigued the principal.  During the interview I soon found out that I was hired, and then I was given some information about a few tough kids that were going to be fifth graders in my class.  One was a very challenging boy who needed a great deal of help, and the other was a girl.  I will call her Laura.
     In fifth grade, the big challenge is to get ready for the state tests and to fill in the gaps to prepare kids for the rigors of middle school and on.  Laura floundered in reading and writing, so to take the focus off of her inability to perform well in these subjects, she got in trouble by acting out so that she could hopefully miss reading by being sent to the office.  I usually do not try to look at a student's history in their folder at the beginning of the year, because I believe every year is a fresh start.  I have high expectations that all will engage and learn and grow along with me. 
     However, information volunteered to me about Laura's past performance in class I could not shake off.  Since Pre-Kinder, she had been sent to ISS (In Campus Suspension) due to her terrible behavior and disruptions in classes.  She had spent more time in isolation than she had spent in the classroom.  Each year the gap widened and widened.  I began to realize that this young girl had been rejected, isolated, and had fallen behind due to her disciplinary plan.
     Then, I recalled a couple of seventeen year old boys from the Dallas area I taught at the detention center the past year.  Even at their age, they needed teaching in basic phonics, then kindergarten and first grade reading skills.  As we spent time together and talked, they shared more about their childhood. Their mothers slept in and did not take them to school during their foundation years for reading. They told me that they got into trouble at school so that they could escape the classroom.  Since they could not read, they did not want to be shamed or ridiculed for not being able to do the work or to read aloud in class.
     My heart went out to these boys.  When I thought of how differently their lives could have been if only they had known how to read. It amazed me how many teachers passed them to the next grade and never found out, or to took time to teach them to read.  How differently their whole childhood and teen years could have been.   
     There usually is a reason behind misbehavior in the classroom.  It might be physical, emotional, a home situation, or just silliness that needs to come under control, but many times it is a deficiency of skills or self confidence which take time and work to improve.
     Laura suffered from an unstable home, so I wanted our time in class to be a haven for her.  One time when she was interrupting a lesson, I took her out into the hall and I told her that her punishment was going to be to stay in the room with me, right beside me.  I made it clear to her that she was not going to spend the year wasting her time in ISS, but that she was going to learn to socialize responsibly in class. I wanted her there with me everyday, so she might as well begin to show respect.  
     Believe me, she never missed a day of school.  These kids never do.  Their parents are the first ones to drop them off and the last to pick them up, too.
     Silent reading for 20 minutes each day was a mandate on our campus.  Laura and I worked on reading skills while the others read independently.  It was a painfully slow process at first because of her negative self concept.
     Yet, over the weeks, she stayed by my desk and improved.  I found out that she was very adept in mathematics.  No matter what I threw out there, she aced every new concept once we had mastered the basic skills.  
     I used peer tutoring in my classroom.  I had a very large gap in abilities in reading and math. They ranged from brilliant gifted students with attention and behavior problems to kids with gaps in their schooling or language problems that kept them at a slower pace. So I used pair work to try to bridge the gap with so many who needed tutoring.  
     One day, I asked all those who understood the day's math lesson to stand on one side of the room and then all who did not to find a partner. This time a gifted student in my room ran over to be with Laura.  The kids were noticing how quick she was to understand the math.  Other students who struggled with division vied to be partners with her.  She had a knack for methodically explaining and giving examples for understanding.  After this, I saw a new girl emerge from her cocoon.  A beautiful girl, confident, well groomed, smiling, and interacting respectfully with all students and staff.
   At the end of May, we studied careers and discussed the basic skills needed for each one. Did they require math, reading ability, writing, science, social studies, technology, people skills?  Then the students wrote a piece about themselves and what career they would pursue with the skill set they had.  
     I loved reading these, but when I got to Laura's, I could not believe my eyes.  Laura wanted to be a teacher!  What a drastic change had occurred in her self perception.  I had a hard time keeping my composure. 
      It is so essential not to jump to conclusions about ourselves or other people before finding a niche in life. When we are asked to do things that we are not prepared for, or that are not in our skill set, just as Einstein said, we feel insignificant and have a low self esteem.  But when we finally see where we excel and how we can contribute to others in life, then we swell with a feeling of purpose and fulfillment.  We fit and life makes sense.
     So God, I pray that you will help me to find my area of expertise.  That area where I can flourish and interact meaningfully to bring harmony to the world around me.  I thank you for what I am going to discover even this week about myself. I pray that you, the reader, will more clearly see your strengths  and give you new purpose this year.