Time Goes By…

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on July 24, 2014

There have been many times since my last post (months ago) that I’ve contemplated sharing my thoughts.  Alas, my home computer was…near death, so it would take me two hours to simply produce a one page flier.  Good news?  I buried said computer a week ago, and now am blessed with one that can think more quickly than me!  So, I’m hoping my outlet for sharing my “ponderings” will be more consistent.

But…it seems time has a way of getting away from us, don’t you think?

Since my last post, I’ve said good-bye to a class I loved dearly.  I found myself dreading the end of school and saying “good-bye” to them as my students.  Funny thing is…time kept moving.  It didn’t stop just because I wanted it to move more slowly, so I could remain their teacher a while longer.  Time…moves on.

Our school is currently on a “balanced calendar”.  For those who don’t know what that means, we have two weeks off in October, December, and March, and our school year starts promptly at the beginning of August.  For me, that’s no biggie.  I’ve always been “one of those teachers” who is more than ready to resume the journey when August roles around.   However, this year, I find myself asking, “Where did summer go?”

Two weeks working with third graders needing to take the I-Read retest…
One week serving lunches on the Gleaners “Lunch Bus”…
 The week of July 8th, I found myself at a Teacher Academy focused on science during the day and spending three evenings out at the county fair.
Two weeks setting up my room for my new crop to enter. 
Now?  I’m in my last week of “freedom”, and I am attempting to make myself avoid “room 302”.

Did I go anywhere exciting?  Nope.  Did I go on any thrilling vacations?  No.  However, I enjoyed time with friends, rested a busy mind, and reenergized for the upcoming school year.  One of my biggest goals of the summer was to “Be Still.” 

I find my schedule and mind during the school year tends to run, run, run.  So, my biggest lesson of the summer is to stop letting time race by and to enjoy the moment.

Over the past months, I’ve seen one of my mom’s close friends, Wanda, be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Recently she was told that the treatments this summer didn’t shrink the tumor and if she had “the surgery” she might have two years.  Without the surgery, they predict she’ll have one.   This sweet lady and her husband have opted for her not to have the surgery.  They want to have a quality year together without recuperating from surgery.  I am confident they will enjoy each moment and treasure their time together.

A friend’s sister was recently also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  They were able to do the surgery and remove the cancer.  She begins a round of treatment to kill any wandering cancerous cells.  Likewise, I’m confident that she and her family will have a new sense of appreciation for their relationships and their time together.

What has this shown me?  Don’t wait for a severe storm to rock your world, appreciate your blessings…now.  Cherish them daily.  What will it take to get you to “Be Still” and to appreciate what you’ve been given? 

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of singing and sharing at a friend’s church after their summer pitch-in.  Not being a member of the church, I opted to sing a Southern gospel and then a couple songs you’d hear on K-Love.  The first song I sang was “Count Your Blessings”, which was recorded by the Martins. One of the lines that hits me hardest is “It’s best to look at what you have and forget what you have not, and learn a lesson from old Job and give thanks for what you got!” That’s what we need to do.  Stop and be thankful for what we have and enjoy every moment.  The final song I shared was “Be Still and Know”.  This goes with the verse that God uses many days to still my wandering mind and get me to focus on what matters.  God.  Don’t let life and its busyness steal your joy.  Don’t let the stress of work keep you from appreciating your blessings. 

Be Still, my friends, Count Your Blessings! 

You don’t know what tomorrow holds….or if your tomorrow will come, so seize the day and praise the One who gave it to you!

Count Your Blessing, the Martins 
Be Still & Know, Steven Curtis Chapman 

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Histories, Hilarity, High-Fives, & Hugs

Originially posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on August 29, 2012

 

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   This morning before announcements began, one of my boys came up to tell me a very important story.  At least it was to him.  To be honest, I got a little lost as he told me about a PSD (not sure if that’s the name of the handheld game he was referring to) game he played and what the rocket or car did.  I’m not a “video girl”, so it was all a foreign language to me.  However, to this student, it was the best story ever and something he just had to tell me.  One of my girls told me all about her trip to Bristol for a race last weekend.  She shared the “best part” is the hotel, and she doesn’t really like to go unless they stay in a hotel.  She added, “You should’ve gone.  It was great!”  I reminded her that…umm…I wasn’t invited.  That just caused a chuckle.  Yes, students always have histories to share of something important…or fun…or gross.  It’s part of childhood.

 

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   This afternoon, as I sat at my computer working on updating my classroom Facebook page, one of my boys came back in to get his forgotten student planner.  As he spoke upon entering, I jumped.  This won’t surprise anyone who knows me, as I believe when God gave out the “gene” for getting surprised or startled He gave me multiple helpings.  Just like everyone else, my student found it quite hilarious.  As he left, he said, “I just about killed you, didn’t I?”  Of course, he was laughing at the time, so I’m hoping he meant it figuratively.    Then, there are the times when my students ask me to teach as “someone else”, meaning one of my voice characters.  We often chuckle as I teach with a sad attempt of an English, Australian, or elderly voice.  Of course, our economics activities involving play-dough and service charades have brought plenty of humor.  Yes, hilarity is something that we share daily.  I know when I leave in the afternoon that if my class hasn’t laughed at least once during the day, then I must be a bit grumpy.

 

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   Did you ever wonder who created the “high-five”? I did, so I googled the question, and it led me to a story naming Glenn Burke as its originator.   He was a Dodger in the 70s, and it was simply something he did…that ricocheted around the world.  Now, I use it frequently in my classroom as well as at church.  When a student tells me they scored a 100% on their AR quiz, high-five!  When my student showed me she was almost finished with her chapter book, high-five!  When the boy at church shows me the hole from his missing tooth, high-five!  To be honest, there are times when our 3rd grade teachers high-five…when something we plan or do goes especially well.  I mean, congratulating good things with a high-five is a good thing.  Have you high-fived anyone today?  No?  Give it a shot…what do you have to lose.

     Yes, I love the histories my kids share about their adventures.  I laugh a lot with the hilarity of life or jokes & stories of my kids.  High-fives are given and received daily.  It’s part of being a teacher.  Yet my final “H” seems to be in abundance this year.  Hugs!

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     You know…hugs just do wonders.  I have students who hug me daily when they arrive.   A couple students hug me daily when they leave my language class.  There’s even a few students I’ve not met by name who come up and hug me in the morning just because I say “hi” and they know my name.  In fact, one of the boys in my class probably hugs me a half-dozen times a day.  Of course, I can’t imagine a Sunday morning or small group without a hug from Bam.  He’s my buddy, and he always makes sure to give me “my hug”.  Hugs do wonders.

     Hugs remind me of when my nephew was little.  First, nothing would bring me more joy then when he’d come running down the hall at church to give me a hug.  I didn’t see him daily, but on Sundays…the hug always arrived.  Hugs…let people know you care and show them that all is well…even after “bad stuff” happens.  My sister and I would often chuckle when my nephew was smaller.  If she had to discipline him about a choice, he would reply with “Huggy, Mommy, huggy”.  He needed to know that even though his choice wasn’t making his mommy happy that the affection was still there.  Have you hugged anyone lately?

Well…those are my random thoughts for the week…So, share a story, tell a joke, give a high-five, and offer a hug.  Not only will the other be better for it, but so will you!

Missed by a Week…

Last week, I wrote a blog post about my year of being 50. I shared about various goals and progress made. I also admitted the one goal on my list that I didn’t achieve or begin….Learning to shoot a gun.

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Joy loading the guns

Growing up, I just always thought “guns were bad.” However, my grandpa and his brothers hunted. That was fine. My brother-in-law hunts and has thus taught both my sister and their son how to shoot. As I became an old lady…I mean, as I matured…I realized that as a single female, I probably should learn to shoot “just in case.” [Even as I typed that, I uttered a prayer that ‘just in case’ never transpires.]

For those of you who read my blog, you know I’m a Christian and that I am active in my church. Joy, who currently teaches our Sunday Bible study class, shoots…well. She serves on our church’s security team. She has taken several of the ladies in my class to learn how to shoot before they purchased a gun. This past Sunday, as she was talking to a couple of the other licensed gun owners about their meeting and shooting practice this coming Saturday, I uttered, “I want to go!”

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1 in bulls-eye was Joy; the rest were mine.

Rather than taking a total novice to a meeting of trained women with guns, she offered to take me for a 1-1 tutorial. Now, the teacher in me knew that was a much more appropriate setting for me to learn how to shoot a gun. Plus, I had plans already on my calendar for Saturday. Plans were made, and the week began.

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Thanks, Joy!

I enjoyed learning how to shoot. My eye protection kept fogging up, so I’d have to wipe and start again. By the end of my 30-minute (or less) tutoring session, I hit the target a few times. It was apparent that I needed to have many more practice sessions to gain mastery, but most skills require practice. When we called it a day, my hands were a bit numb from the power of the gun, my arms were a bit stiff due to the tension placed on them to hold the gun steady. As I showed Joy’s husband my targets when we returned, he offered encouraging words. Then, getting in my car, I smiled. Check another goal off the list, and I had been able to enjoy conversation with a friend which was a bonus blessing.

As I thought about today’s lesson and target practice, I pondered several things {Hmm, that’s probably why my previous blog was called ‘Miss P’s Ponderings’.} First, I remembered when my friend, Marge, was going to teach me to play golf. Their family was avid golfers, so I thought, “Why not learn?” Wisely, she took me to the golf course that the “intense” golfers didn’t frequent as much. I had fun. In the end, I never became a golfer. Her son, Todd told me, “Jodi, I think you laugh too much to be a focused golfer.” Yes, that comment made me laugh.

The next thought focused on guns themselves. An invention that can protect. It can provide. It can do good. However, it can also kill, maim, and destroy. On one side of the debate, people scream for gun control and more strict laws and guidelines. The other side counters with the second amendment. Me?

We do deserve to bear arms and protect ourselves, our family, and our property. Yet, in my 25 years of teaching, I had one former student die accidentally with a gun wound in 2012 and another died from a self-inflicted wound in 2017. Guns…. Powerful weapons which can be used for both good and evil. Some people say, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” True. However, sometimes it happens by accident. At times, it’s because of depression. Does that lessen the power of the gun?

Of course, as my brain is programmed to do, I saw an analogy between a gun and a person’s life. Both are created for a purpose. Both can be used for good. Yet, both can also do harm.

When God sees me doing harm or not doing good, does He wonder if I should have more safety features on my life? Does He think His creation is evil and should be banned? Thankfully, even in the midst of my sinful choices, He sees me through the blood of Christ who took my sins upon Himself. I thank Him for loving me even when I fall short of hitting His target.

And…I pray for all those who have been hurt by guns…may God give you comfort, strength, and peace as you walk this journey. A journey prompted by a gun used by someone in a way that doesn’t fulfill its correct purpose.

A Year in Review…

A year ago, I turned 50. As many people do, I pondered my life. I made some changes. I set some goals. I started on a “Finding Jodi” journey. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lost. However, I have so often become what someone or everyone believes I am that I wanted to ponder who I was, what I believed, and how to grow into the person I’m meant to be. Of course, you can also read it as my mid-life crisis. I hear that happens frequently.

First, I decided it was way past time to focus on my health and to become a healthier version of me. I’ve been on WAY TOO MANY fad diets that I haven’t been able to commit to long-term. This time, I simply decided to be “smarter” in my choices. I ate less fast food. I tried new vegetables. I would often take my lunch to work. I still ate chips & salsa and other items that some diets veto. But, it seemed to help me feel better and have more energy. I also tried to drink less soda and more water (or flavored water). Well, at 11:00 on my birthday, I went to my post-fasting-labs appointment. And….

Woohoo! Weight was down. (I knew that one.) My good cholesterol improved. My Vitamin D levels improved (I’m guessing thanks to spending time outside walking). My sugar level improved (last couple years it was in the pre-diabetic zone) to the point it was “normal” which, I kid you not, made me let out a “woohoo” in the room. The only negative was that my bad cholesterol increased a bit (must be those eggs?), but Amy wasn’t concerned due to the level and the improvement to my good cholesterol. I was PUMPED!

Part of getting healthier meant starting back, once again, to Planet Fitness. Since joining, I’ve had a handful of times when I would “get committed” only to be “too busy” a few months (or even weeks) later. So, after May 14, 2020, I started going three times a week. Then, I started going additional times or walking during the other days. I kid you not….there are times currently that I exercise all seven days a week. Not always. With my oldest sister battling back from a horrendous case of Covid, there are some Tuesdays when I opt to rest due to teaching and going to visit with her. I’ve stuck with the “need to” long enough that it became a habit. Plus, can you believe….when I don’t exercise now…it seems….odd.

Besides getting healthier, I also chose to try new things and explore beliefs. Now, if you’re one of my friends reading this, be assured…this does not have anything to do with my faith. I am certain that I am a child of God, and I strive to serve Him. However, at times, I realized I would do things or not do things because it was what I have always been told.

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It was pretty…but pricey. Not a fan.

What? Here’s an example. At the age of 50, I had never ordered a drink or tried alcohol. I am not joking. Well, I may have taken a sip of someone’s strawberry daiquiri when I was in college and a group of girls went out for dinner, but that was the extent of my experience. I simply would say, “I don’t drink.” Why? I was always told it was wrong, which in my walk-the-line Christian-girl mindset translated to drinking alcohol being sinful. Now, walk with me just a bit. I’m certain there are some of you who are thinking I’ve gone crazy. Others of you probably think that belief was crazy. Here’s the deal. I’m a smart person. I know Jesus Himself turned water into wine at a wedding. Now, I do know that getting drunk is a sin (Ephesians 5:18). I also know that I tend to have an addictive personality, so I always rationalized my not trying alcohol as…”If I like it, then becoming an alcoholic could happen.” However, in my “Finding Jodi” journey, I told my colleagues that whenever we finally went out for a meal together that I was going to order and drink my first beverage. We did. I did. I was not a fan of what I ordered (Peach Margarita, peaches are my favorite fruit, so I thought it would give it a chance.). Then, I saw the bill. Goodness! Before my “getting healthy” quest ever started, I stopped ordering soft drinks at restaurants because the price was too much. This means that the price of that drink at the restaurant is enough to deter me from EVER ordering another. However, if I’m at a friend’s house, I may try a glass of wine, just to see. Thankfully, I don’t foresee my addictive personality kicking in on this avenue.

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Another aspect of “Finding Jodi” renewed another old activity. Way back in the 80s, I started putting my feelings and thoughts into poetry. I remember thinking in high school that it would be “cool” to be a poet one day. Now, honestly, I realize that making a living as a poet won’t be happening. However, I’ve written a few poems along these past 365 days. Plus, I’ve started typing ALL of my poems from high school, college, and the few I’ve written thereafter. I’m hoping to continue to do this and self-publish Kaleidoscope of Poetry by Valentine’s Day 2022. I originally wanted to finish it this summer, but I didn’t realize how many poems I needed to type. Goodness!

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As I’ve shared previously, I did request last spring and was granted the opportunity to try a new grade level as an educator. When I was in college, I had hoped to do my student teaching in 4th grade. As a substitute, fourth grade was probably my favorite. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching 3rd grade for those 24 years. I had accepted Christ as a 3rd grader, so I always felt that teaching third graders connected my two worlds (Even though as a public school teacher, I was unable to teach my beliefs). Granted, with Covid regulations, the year I just finished is not a clear reflection of how well I’ll do in fourth grade. However, I’m EXCITED about ideas for our grade level and instruction ideas & activities that beckon to be tried in Room 404. That change seems like a great fit.

Did I meet all my goals or dreams for my “mid-life crisis”? Nope. I had hoped to learn how to fire a gun. Why? I’m single. It seems like a smart plan. Of course, even though I’ve decided to learn how to fire a gun, I’m not as certain as whether or not I want to be a gun owner, so there’s that….

Oh, what do you do for your 51st birthday when you’re single? Well, first you go to Planet Fitness and have a 51 minute workout where you do 51 reps on the machines or exercises that you select to do. Then, you meet with the nurse practitioner to learn if your numbers have improved on your fasting-lab work. For lunch, you meet your parents before going to their house to train your mom on using Google. In the evening, you go with one of your sisters and brother-in-law to visit your nephew for dinner. Then, when you finally get home, you fall asleep a few hours later than your normal bedtime. And…my 52nd year is off to a great start!

2020
2021

Don’t Steal My Joy…

Originally posted on August 22, 2012, on Miss P’s Ponderings.

     If you haven’t read my posts consistently, you won’t realize how much I appreciate the joy I find through my Savior.  Yet, it seems that often in this life, things try to steal it.  Sometimes, the things that try to steal our joy…or which we allow to steal our joy…are small things, not life-changing things.

     Today, I’ve thought a lot about how easily we can let our joy slip away.  To be honest, there have been a few patches of time when I allowed a storm cloud to attempt to takeover.  However, the joy from within reminds me that “it’s all good”, and I need to consider it all joy.

     This reminds me of my first student teacher.  To be honest, I had my first student teacher probably before I should have.  At the time, we were told you had to be a teacher with a masters to have a student teacher.  I did not.  Yet the principal told me she saw me as a “master teacher” and signed me up for the experience.

     Now, to understand this little anecdote, you need to understand that the year of this student teacher was also one of my three toughest years as an educator.  The behavior and personality challenges in that class were quite trying. One parent told me during conferences that he’d like to request a room change for his daughter, but the daughter wanted to stay with me…regardless of the behaviors that at times took over our classroom.

     My student teacher came into the classroom befriending my students.  Now, being friendly to students is important, but students have to see you as a teacher.  This energetic lively teacher soon became overwhelmed.  I remember one day after she had been teaching for several week, her smile faded.  She looked at me as we walked back into the building after dismissal and uttered, “Miss Pflaumer, I just don’t know what to do.”  With her downhearted expression and weary heart, I simply said, “Don’t ever let them steal your joy.”

     Knowing she shared my faith, I went on and explained that as teachers we will have good days and bad days.  We will have good years and bad years.  We will have good experiences and bad ones.  Yet, no matter the obstacle or the storm we ride through, we must maintain our joy…the joy we find in the Lord.  Yes, we’ll have bad days, but my worth and my mindset cannot be mastered by my circumstances.  My mindset and worth comes from the One who made me and who gave His life for me.  We then discussed things to do to attempt to improve the situation.  Yet, to be honest, some years are just hard.

     Now, I will profess, this year is not one of those three hardest years.  The mixture of students I have this year both in my homeroom and language class is a blessing.  Yet, aren’t those challenging groups blessings too?  Yes, but it’s harder to see the blessing when it’s in the midst of the storm.

     Today, I learned that one of the kiddos in my language class will be moving sometime this semester, and it already made me a bit sad.  Then, it was confirmed that the routine and rapport I’ve established with my one-hour teacher’s aide will be restarted with a new aide at some point.  As a person who likes things to be “just so”, these things attempt to steal my joy.  And for a bit, I admit, they did.

     You know, I’m confident that all will be well.  I generally can get along with most people, so I’m sure I’ll be fine with the new aide.  It’s simply a change.  I’m not a fan of change…unless it’s a change I’ve requested.

     But, as I step back, I wonder….How is God going to use this to further mold me into His finished pot?  I mean, the Potter has a reason for making me uncomfortable by allowing change to occur.  I’m trusting that the irritation I feel right now will fade.  I’m confident the complaining I’ve done today will be replaced by rejoicing.  Yes, I will find my joy…not in my circumstance, but in the One who is control….even over my class enrollment and teacher’s aide assignment.  After all….I should consider it all joy.  Right?

     What’s trying to steal your joy?  Don’t let it.  Take a deep breath.  Say a prayer.  Reclaim the peace that only He can give and treasure your joy…day by day.

So Much Sunshine!

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on August 18, 2012

     You know, if I’m honest, I could complain about aspects of my job.  I mean, there’s a lot of testing.  K-Love has told us for a few weeks that teachers are the least respected profession these days. Government keeps cutting funds but raising requirements…or hoops we must jump through.  Government cutbacks put stress on local school systems. Changes in laws and policies cause a whole new dynamic in the field I was called to for my career.  Yes, complaining could steal my joy, but I won’t let it.

     Those things I shared are true.  Yet, they can’t overshadow the Truth.  The Truth tells me that children are a gift from the Lord.  It tells me that when I welcome one of these little ones into my heart that I’m welcoming  Christ.  It reminds me that I’m not to be a stumbling block in their journey.  You see, my calling is to children and the public schools are my mission field.  I’m to be a light in the lives of the ones He places in my room, whether for a day or a year.  Yes, my heart is a teacher’s heart.  I don’t teach to get two months off in the summer.  I don’t teach because I never work a weekend (Let’s face it…I work plenty of weekends…I just don’t get paid for my time).  I teach…because of my kids.

     I often refer to my kids as my “crop” for the year.  I have a year to tend the crop that’s been planted in room 302.  Oh, how I hope to be a good gardener! (Let’s hope I’m better than I am with real plants! Ha!!)  After only 11 days with my “new garden”, I can honestly say that I love the little ones He placed in my room.  I have already been touched by so many sweet things this year, and I anticipate my heart breaking a little when May rolls around.

     The title of today’s post…is due to the sunshine my kids and parents sprinkle into my days.  Regardless of the “storm clouds” that politicians try to push into my atmosphere, sunshine is stronger.  I thought I’d give you a glimpse.

     Let’s see, one little boy professes daily, “Miss Pflaumer, you’re the best teacher in the world.”.  On Friday, he didn’t get to participate in Fun Friday due to being a little too noisy one day.  As he was heading next door to the “Un-Fun Room” [where students work on their reading and math goals], he came up and said, “Miss Pflaumer, you really are the best teacher in the world, even if I don’t get Fun Friday.  You’re the best!” OK, how can that not put a smile on my face?

     After he went out the door, another boy was at my side, he wrapped his arms around me and said, “I think so too, Miss P.  He’s right, you are the best.”  Awww, it was such a sweet sentiment.

     Then, we can’t forget my girl who tells me every day after she returns from language arts’ class, “Miss P, I really missed you.”  Yesterday, when I went to get my kids from the “Un Fun” room she added, “I missed you, I’m glad you’re back.”  Wow!  Only 30-minutes later, and her sentiment was sincere.  My heart melted a little more.

     Of course, my language kids tug at my heart strings too.  As I stand outside my door at 7:45a.m., greeting the students as they arrive, one of my LA girls came up.  “Here, Miss P, I made these bookmarks, and I want you to have one.”  Of course, I pick the purple one, and her face beams.  As I finish reading a chapter and tell them we’ll read more later, the LA class lets out an “ugg” and says, “Just one more, please?”  [Umm, no…we have lessons to learn and skills to acquire, but it’s a sweet request nonetheless.]

     Does it stop with my third graders?  Nope.  Every afternoon, I take my students to their special class at 1:52.  On three of those days, I’m in the fourth grade hallway on the way back to my classroom.  I have to chuckle as I take my “celebrity” walk down the hall.  Last year’s crop dash out of their line for a quick hug.  I sure hope their fourth grade teachers don’t mind too much because I find it sweet.  A splash of sunshine!

     Then, there was another fourth grader who stopped by my classroom after school to bring me a packet of seeds.  If I can tend them well, they’ll grow into lovely purple flowers with some pink mixed in too.  It’s a small gesture, I know, but the fact that they’re purple is a demonstration of affection.  Again, my heart melts.

     As I sat typing my lesson plans yesterday afternoon, one of my students returned to give me a hug.  Her parent works in the school, so she just wanted to stop by and hug me before she left for the weekend.  I’m amazed as I had just had to talk to her about some behavior issues, but it’s forgotten as she demonstrates her feeling of acceptance in my classroom.

     Of course, I can’t share my sunshine without sharing that I’ve had some kind e-mails and FB comments/messages from parents too.  I’ve had conversations in my classroom, the hallway, and even the cafeteria that have been encouraging.

     I honestly get excited when I think of the possibilities of our school year together.  I have high expectations for what my crop will grow into.  I pray that by the end of May they’ll be able to be harvested as fourth graders eager for another “farmer” to develop them further.  Alas, I will not worry about tomorrow, but I will enjoy each day along the journey.

     So, as I ponder all the sunshine my kids and their parents have sprinkled on my first two weeks of school, I can’t help but see the Sonshine.  You see, I know that I’m a teacher because my Creator gave me a joy to work with children, creativity to help engage them, and determination not to let “storms” take away my joy.

     I pray He’ll use me to be the Light…and to shine His Sonshine on the lives of all whose paths I cross.  Have you been shining for Him this week?  This day?  This hour?  If not, start shining!

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Conversations to Community

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on August 5, 2012

     Wow!  With our balanced school calendar, I’m about to finish my second week of my 17th year in third grade.  I usually joke that “someday” I’ll graduate to another grade, but for now…nothing beats the joy and excitement of third grade.

     As of today, I’ve had 9 days with my 44 students.  Before you gasp in disbelief, be assured I don’t have 44 at one time.  As of Monday, I have 22 in my homeroom, and as of Tuesday I have 24 in my language arts’ class.  Of those 24, 2 are from my homeroom class, which gives me the total of 44 students.

     The thought I keep pondering on these past days is how conversations lead to community.  You see, on August 3rd, I didn’t know anything about my homeroom students outside of their names and what the names mean.  Now, I’ve learned several things that have helped us gel into a community.  I look forward to our community getting tighter as our 180 schools days go by.

Our first theme of study has been feelings….

“Feelings….woh-oo-oh-oo…feelings…trying to forget my…feelings for you”

 [Now to sing that “right”, you must start with a low gravely voice and sing “you” in a high-irritating voice. As that’s the way I generally begin our chats about “feelings”.]
     As we’ve read our text and discussed feelings, it has prompted stories of when students have been angry…or stressed…or felt grief.  Through those stories, we learn about each other…we have conversations…we promote community.

     On Monday, I ate lunch in the classroom with “my girls”.  If you put ten girls in a classroom without boys, there is LOTS of chatter.  We had a fun lunch and shared stories as we ate our meal.  Then, on Tuesday, I did the same with “my boys”.  Now, our conversations were certainly different.  Tuesday’s conversations included a lot about food and wrestling, but I also learned about their families and hobbies.  In fact, the lunches were such big hits that the students asked if we could do that every day?   every week?  Ummm, we’ll have to wait and see.

     Isn’t it amazing?  The more you talk with someone, the more you know someone, the closer you become.  I know that’s not some new epiphany, but I thought a reminder might be good.

     The same has been true for my language class, but the process is a bit slower.  Why?  Well, I only spend two hours a day with them, and our time is so packed with language arts’ curriculum that the impromptu discussions that take place during the beginning and ending of the day and health instruction can’t take place as easily.  However, during our brief chats, I am getting to know them.  As I read their writing, I learn their likes and dislikes.  As they share their writer’s notebook, I understand how they think and what fills their mind.

     Yep, another fascinating tidbit isn’t it?  When we read something someone else writes, we gain understanding of who they are.

     So, when I take these two insights…I ponder further.  As usual, my ponderings lead me to the Cross.  I’m confronted by the reminder that the more we converse with God through prayer and meditation of His Word…the closer our relationship with Him becomes.  Furthermore, the more we read and study His Word, the more we understand who He is and what He teaches.

     Yes, I may be a teacher in my seventeenth year with third grade students, but I’m always a student…sitting at the feet of my Rabbi (teacher), Jesus Christ. Thanks for learning my lesson with me today…

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Lessons Learned in the Church Nursery

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on July 26, 2012

     First, let me confess.  Working in the nursery is not my calling.  Now, there was a time, around 1980, when I couldn’t wait to be “old enough” to be added to the nursery rotation list.  Finally, when I entered 7th grade, Terry & Wanda, who were coordinating the nursery ministry at the time, added my name and I spent one Sunday each month serving in the nursery.  I loved it. Yes, when I was a teenager, it was a way for me to serve.  Let’s face it, when you’re a teenager, you are too young to fill most positions in the church, so this was my avenue of service.

     As I continued to age, I earned an elementary degree, and I realized that my calling was more towards school aged children.  During college and after, I filled many positions in children’s ministry at our church.  I taught Sunday School classes during summers.  I led children’s worship.  I taught VBS classes.  I learned to work with puppets.  I even served as the children’s minister for a while, until I realized that career ministry wasn’t my calling either.  In the midst of my journey, I work with kids a lot.  I love kids.  I love little kids.  I love babies. 

BUT…

     If you put me in a room with a small group of children who don’t really know how to talk with me yet…it’s a challenge.  So, when the window was opened and another person (thank you, Sherry Getz) volunteered to serve in the ministry.  I quickly gave my rotation slot away.  I still work with kids.  On Wednesdays during the school year, you can hear me leading songs and watch evidence of my presence as Mr. Tony interacts with “Jessie Rae”, “Officer Max”, “Princess Violet” (better known as Queenie), and my latest character…”Priscilla Elizabeth”. 

     Yes, I work with kids in ministry…I teach kids in my career…I interact with kids through Big Brothers & Big Sisters.  Yet, when it comes to the nursery, it’s a challenge.

     This past Sunday, my sister was supposed to serve, but she wasn’t able to make it.  So, I took her spot.  [Yes, I sub…but I don’t want to be a “real” nursery worker. Ha]    As the hour of Sunday School went by, I observed and pondered a lot…in between making noises, voices, and singing songs.  I thought this week I’d share those lessons…Lessons from the 7 in Sunday School Nursery.

Lesson 1—As I entered, a lovely little blonde was already present and having a good ole time with the toys.  Her face shined a brilliant smile.  She interacted with both Sherry and me though not in understandable dialogue.  What lesson did I learn from her?  Be content.  Would she rather have been with her mother or father?  Yep.  Would she rather have been playing with her two older brothers?  Of course.  Yet, at the age of 23 months, she was already learning to be content with what and where she was.  Yet, I learned another lesson.  Long for your father.  You see, as Sunday School came to a close, she caught a glimpse of her dad outside the door.  She heard her dad talking with Pastor Mike.  With that evidence taken, there was no where she would rather be than in her father’s arms.  So, after seeing his face and hearing his voice, she began to cry for him.  This little girl who is rarely seen unhappy or in tears was overwhelmed with a longing to be with her father. 

Lesson #2–The next little one to enter was a little boy.  A little boy who loves music but loves his parents more.  In fact, his father was bringing him to the nursery.  As they approached the door, the boy’s tears began to flow.  This quiet content little boy found his voice and lost his contentment.  He didn’t want anything to take him away from his daddy.  Maintaining a calm disposition, his father told him he’d be fine and pointed out his diaper needed to be changed.  As his dad took care of the diaper needs, the little boy quieted.  Peace had been restored.  He listened to the voice of his father and calm returned.  Then, his next request was pointing up…up to the goldfish crackers.  You see, he knew where the snacks are.  He knew that with a raised hand and a questioning grunt, he’d get a snack.  His father noted that goldfish crackers may ruin his lunch, but if it helped him make it through the separation and feel comfortable with his surroundings, then goldfish crackers were fine.  So, the little boy and little girl sat down together and enjoyed a few goldfish crackers…and then a few more.

Lesson #3–The next little one to join us was a tall little girl…a little girl with a great need for assurance and joy.  In her almost two years, she’s dealt with more hardship than I probably have in 42 years.  Tears flowed as her foster mom brought her in.  Offering to hold her wasn’t accepted.  She simply cried.  She cried and stayed by herself until she had perceived that her mom had left her in a safe place and that Sherry and I were “okay”.  By the end of our hour together, she was smiling and enjoying her time.  But the sadness she exuded at the beginning was enough to melt even Grinch’s heart.

Lesson #4–A small little girl was the last to join us for the hour.  She too has had things transpire already in her life that I would have no idea about.  She came in smiling.  She came in playing with others.  She had a joy that surpassed understanding.  Yet, the lesson I learned from her didn’t come until around 9:45.  You see her foster mom came to get her after Sunday School to take her to the worship service.  As the mom’s face was seen above the door, this tiny one ran to the door with such glee and excitement.  Her foster family provided her with love and security, and the joy she expressed as her mom picked her up almost brought me to tears.

Lesson #5–This lesson came from Sherry Getz.  You see I often play the “single without children” card when I sub in the nursery.  I think every Sunday I’ve worked in the recent past I’ve been able to allow my “co-worker” to deal with the changing table.  You see, odors aren’t my thing.  As we sat there, Sherry shared that she smelled evidence of a need for a change.  Where I would’ve been gagging, she served willingly and joyfully.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think she wakes up in the morning longing to change a diaper, but she’s willing to serve in whatever way is needed.

Lesson #6–This lesson came from myself.  What did I teach myself?  Well, it was merely a reminder.  I need to get over myself.  It’s not about me.  It’s about what needs to be done for His glory.  If it’s changing diapers, change them.  If it’s singing in the choir, sing.  If it’s taking out the trash, take it out.  No, I don’t need to say “yes” to every need…God has lots of people in our church who can serve.  Yet, when there’s a need that’s not being filled, then I need to be willing to fill it.  Even if it’s merely “subbing” until someone else comes along.

Lesson #7–Who else was there?  Well, there were only 4 toddlers and 2 adults.  The only other One present was God Himself.  You see, He could be seen in the beautiful blessings I interacted with that day.  His Hands served by changing diapers through Sherry’s willingness.  He’s always there. He knows my heart.  So, He knows if I’m doing something willingly or begrudgingly, so I need to check myself.

Now, any good teacher reviews the objectives at the end of the lesson…

  • Be content with where you are and what you’re doing, but never be so content that you don’t long to be with your Father.
  • Hold tightly to your Father’s hand, and listen to His Voice to calm you when you’re afraid or worried.  Trust that your Father wants you to be at peace and get through your trials.
  • Long to be with the One who brings you comfort and peace.  Know He won’t leave you where He isn’t present.
  • Possess a joy that those who don’t know Christ won’t understand.  And always be prepared to explain the hope that you have.
  • Serve with a willing heart, regardless of the task.
  • Be available to go outside your comfort zone to work where God is working.
  • Do all things for the glory of the God of heaven and earth.

Yes, always be a student…you can learn lessons anywhere…even in the church nursery.

Real or Fake?

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on July 17, 2012

     This morning, as I lay in bed contemplating getting up and heading into school, Jasper (my cat) began a very odd meow.  It wasn’t the “open the door” meow or the “feed me” meow or even the “I’m the center of the world” meow.  No, this one sounded like it came from his gut and was garbled in his throat. So, my immediate thought, “Please don’t let there be a mouse under my bed.”

     Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I wear contact lenses.  This means that if I’m still in bed then…I pretty much can’t see squat.  So, I rolled over to look at what he was focused on and saw a small blob in front of him.  “Yep,” I thought, “it has the shape of a mouse.  Ooh, what if he killed it and is bringing it up to me?  Gag!”  So, I reached for my glasses, and the shape was clearer, but due to it being 6am, it was still too dark to see.  With frustration, I reached for my reading lamp and….wait for it…it was a ….

     FAKE mouse!  Shwoo!  I don’t even remember when I bought the toy he was destroying.  (It was purple and has a feather tail, so I had to buy it, right?)  Anyway, he had found it recently, and in the early hours of the morning, he decided to kill it.  Let’s just say I was thrilled to find a FAKE killing taking place rather than a REAL dead mouse on my floor.  Gag!

     Of course, that started me thinking.  I know…I know…I really should quit, but it’s the way I’m wired.  So, I began thinking of all the fake and real things in my life.  Some are quite trivial while others are dear to my heart, so I thought I’d take you along as I reflect on the acceptable generics and the heartfelt genuine articles that came into my thoughts.

     Let’s see…why not go to the groceries?  I live in downtown Madison, and the JayC grocery store was replaced with Rulers.  Now, I’m not saying that Rulers is a fake grocery store for those of you who love it.  I’m simply saying…if you prefer name brand foods, you shouldn’t go there.  However, I’m not that shopper.  Kroger brand chips, lunch meat, milk, etc are fine with me.  They do have a few name brands, but overall you have to be okay with “store brand”, which I generally call “generic”.  From my experience, some cereal is better than others, but it fills my fridge without making me go uptown to the stores which cost you more money and eat up more of your time.  So, I “settle” for “fake” most times in the area of my groceries and we’re good.

     Yet, when it comes to cat-care, I opt for the “real thing”.  I’ve learned which litter absorbs the nasty scent and which food doesn’t cause stomach issues.  I mean, if the cat has stomach issues, I’m the one who has to deal with it. So, I give him REAL food and litter rather than the generic brands.

     Let’s see…what about flowers?  Now, as someone who’s allergic to many things outside, I prefer fake flowers in the house.  I mean, Jasper will eat and regurgitate any real plant that enters our home, so I tend to leave them outside.  I also do not have a green thumb.  I tend to kill real flowers.  For example, my friend Dr. Rubino, botanist extraordinaire, gave me a purple heart (plant) last summer at the Teacher Academy.  All last year, I attempted to help it grow.  I did put it in a bigger pot when it outgrew its first home.  I watered it.  But, alas, it looked sad most of the time.  A few times during the year, my students inquired if it was dead “yet”?  Um, no, not yet….it’s still holding on.  So, as the end of the year approached, I went to our principal, who does have a green thumb, and asked him to be the foster father for my purple heart over the summer to ensure it wouldn’t die alone in my room or be eaten by a cat at home.  A few weeks ago, Jason sent me a picture of a thriving and lovely purple heart.  Yep, a REAL plant owner knew what to do, but I must be a fake one…Anyway, I digress.

     I have some FAKE flowers I sit outside my room in the spring that our a lovely bright yellow and purple.  So, if the only purpose of a flower was to look pretty, then fake would be acceptable, even though real flowers tend to be much prettier.  However, since plants are one of our standards in science, my students can attest that the purpose of flowers is not to look pretty.  That’s just a perk.  Pollination, photosynthesis, and food chains all depend on flowers.  So, fake may be better for my allergies, but the real thing is mandatory for life to go on as needed.  I bet you didn’t know flowers were so important, did you?

     Hmmm…the next step on this ever exciting journey (read with thick sarcasm) is WORK.  Now, I’m guessing many of you reading this immediately think of “someone else” who pretends like they’re working while everyone else does the job.  Am I right?  This summer, I took my car to a fundraiser car wash.  Most of those involved were actively spraying, scrubbing, or drying, but there were also those on the fringe.  Close enough to look like they were working, but not a drop of water on their clothes.  Now, any of you who’ve helped with a car wash know that if you are working for REAL then you have water or soap on your clothes.  If you are FAKING the work, then you can dodge the sweat and simply wipe the car a few times without really putting forth a lot of effort. 

Same thing goes on in jobs…on committees…in any group where work is done.  You have those who put forth REAL effort and those who merely show up and FAKE their involvement.  Of course, right now, you might think my working in my classroom is a bit FAKE since I’m sitting here typing….but I figure I’ve been here two hours and each time I write a paragraph, I go back to the REAL work of my day. 

     Stay with me, just a couple more thoughts, then this post will finish.  The next fake/real part of life is friendship.  I hope my friends consider me a real friend, but I’m guessing some see me as fake.  What’s the difference?  I real friend knows you. I real friend spends time with you….or at least would like to.  I mean, I have some “real friends” from my past whom I don’t see, but I know if I happened to be in their town, we’d grab lunch and talk like no time had passed.  They know my heart with its joys and sorrows.  They know which days I’ll have headaches due to weather and where I need to sit in a restaurant.  They know what drink to order me and chuckle as I order with this, not that, and this on the side.  Now there are friends who aren’t fake and just aren’t as close as the ones I call real.  They may one day develop a real relationship with me, but generally speaking we both are okay with being surface friends…friends who speak, smile, and check on each other without invading each other’s thoughts or agenda.  However, is that what we’re supposed to do?  Are we supposed to be okay with merely sharing life’s journey or should we invest the time and effort needed to make a significant impact on each other’s lives?  John tells us we’re supposed to love each other as Jesus loved us.  I mean, He died for me, so I really don’t think that would be called surface friendship.  That’s the epitome of a REAL friend.

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
John 15: 12-14

     As for “fake friends”, those are the ones who “act” like they care about you, but if you disappeared they wouldn’t realize you were gone.  I hope I’m not that type of friend to anyone.  If I am, I pray the Lord will change my heart and make me aware of a bridge that needs mended or a relationship that needs to start.  Do I have “fake friends”?  Hmm, not sure. 

    

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Finally, let’s talk faith.  Is yours real?  Are you the same Sunday in worship as you are Monday at work?  Are you the same at your parents’ dinner table as you are out with your buddies on Saturday night?  Do you live your faith daily?  hourly?  minute-by-minute?  Oh, I pray I do, but as with all of us it’s a journey.  It’s a daily decision to be REAL.  To be the woman of God He created me to be.  It’s not always the easiest choice.  However, it’s the choice that we need to make if we’re children of God.

     Are you?  If not, I’d like you to meet my Savior.  His name is Jesus Christ.  He loved you enough to lay down His life for you.  He is strong enough to conquer death, even death on the cross.  He is caring enough to return to Heaven, a Risen Savior, to prepare a place for you.  It’s real…no fake god in this gift of Salvation…just the REAL thing.  Jesus!  What a Savior!

For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,
‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4: 11, 12

Just Get Over It!

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on July 16, 2012.

     For those of you who don’t know me well…I’m a planner, list-maker, organizer….I’ve been said to have a “methodical” (that’s the nice word…) personality.  Knowing that, you’ll better understand the inspiration of today’s writing.  Failed plans!  Argh!

     This was fresh in my thoughts as I drove to church yesterday morning.  For the third time this summer, my well-planned agenda for the day was destroyed by the behavior of the other involved. Twice it was due to better plans coming along and this time was due to oversleeping.  Now, please realize that I totally understand the reason for the three failures, and most people wouldn’t have issue with it. However, my “methodical” personality doesn’t deal nicely with well thought out plans going awry. 

     So, with these frustrations fresh in my thoughts, I sat to listen to the guest preacher begin his message on Psalm 96.  As he preached, he shared the reasons we were called to worship.  The Psalm was filled with “reasons” such as He’s the Creator and our Savior.  But the one that…slapped me in the face (stepping on my toes is easy to overlook) was that He is sovereign.  Greg went on to share how they were heading here from Louisville and hadn’t heard that 65N was closed.  The point of the illustration was that He is sovereign…and regardless of our plans, He has a plan and will use all things, even closed interstates, as a call to see Him and glorify Him.  So, there it was, in a nutshell…”get over it”.  Your plans are fine, but when they fall through…get over it.  He’s sovereign and all is well. 

     Now, obviously my cancelled plans are small potatoes compared to other things in life, but it causes me to reflect on other instances where I needed to “get over it” when looking on my plans and accept His plans and, more importantly, TRUST His plans.

     First, when I graduated from Carson-Newman College in 1992, my plan was to teach in Tennessee.  I fell in love with the beauty of it as well as the way of life.  I had become accustomed to going into a restaurant and having perfect strangers call me “honey” and “sweetie”.  I became okay with friends hugging me in Wal-Mart when they saw me.  These were not things I grew up with in Indiana.  I’m not saying Indiana is rude by any means, I’m simply saying…Tennessee is different…it’s unique.  My plan was to turn my blood orange and call Tennessee home.

     For several years, I would complete applications and send them off.  Then, two things happened that made me see I needed to accept my journey back here at home.  First, as I sat with the principal at my friend’s school he uttered these words, “You need to write your college roommate’s address down as your own.  You’ll never be considered with an out-of-state address.”  “Umm,” my conscience said, “I think he just told me to lie on an application to get a job.”  That’s not going to happen.  Then, back at home, I continued to work with the Baptist Campus Ministries at Hanover College, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It occurred to me that even if I wasn’t using my teaching degree I was being used by Him, and I needed to be “okay” with it.  So, I surrendered my plan and accepted that I would substitute teach during the day, work with collegiate ministry in the evenings and weekends, and wait on the Lord.

     Guess what!  The following August, I was offered my own third grade classroom in Hanover, Indiana.  The school that had been our biggest adversary in sports while I was a student was now my “home”.  Sixteen years later, it still is.  I can’t imagine teaching elsewhere.  Is life perfect at my school?  Nope.  But, am I being used by Him to be a Light?  I think so….and the joy I receive through my career hasn’t diminished even in the midst of all the “junk” facing education due to government proclamations.

     The other big “get over it” came through my “status”.  Most girls don’t grow up thinking, “Maybe I’ll be single forever and never know the joy of marriage and motherhood.”  Yet, currently, that’s where I find myself.  To be honest, some days I’m better at accepting this than others.  To be blunt, I pretty much loathe Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve since they seem so “coupley”.  I’ve gotten frustrated a few times when my church has done a marriage/family focus in sermons or Bible study which I think…”how can this apply to me”.  Yet, as time passes, I have a peace. 

     I see how as a single person I’m free to be involved in ministry and fellowship with others without checking with someone or finding a sitter.  I also watch as friends have gone through the agony of divorce or the heartbreak of a wayward child, and I realize that singleness has its advantages.  I’ve had many married friends encourage me to enjoy the “freedom” of singleness causing me to realize that both “statuses” have mountains and valleys. 

     In the end, I go to my memory of Aunt Eva.  She was actually my great aunt and one of the sweetest ladies I knew.  My sisters and I would play games and play dress up when we’d visit her.  She’d make us cookies and take us to church.  I always remember how much I enjoyed my time with her and how much her faith meant to her.  When I think of Aunt Eva, I usually tell myself, “If Connor can have those same thoughts when he thinks of me, then what better legacy could I leave behind.”

     Well, my plan for today was working in my classroom.  I have a pile of empty boxes stacked by the door, and stacks of children’s books throughout my classroom organized by series, genre, or author.  I must get back to my “to do list”.  I’d hate to be the cause of my own frustrations.  Thanks for reading….and if things don’t go as planned remember…”get over it” and trust He is in control.