The Power of But…

Originally posted on Miss P’s Pondering on July 5, 2012

     Okay, I must admit that coming up with today’s title made me think of my third graders.  You wouldn’t think a conjunction would be so funny, BUT if you pause after you say it then it never fails to bring laughter.  Anyway, I’m curious…did you chuckle?  If so, congratulations on being childlike.

     Have you ever thought of the power the word “but” has?  I have.  You see it has the power to flip the meaning of an entire sentence…sometimes an entire paragraph or speech.  Step into my imagination for a moment, I promise it won’t be too scary.

“I just love Cinderella.  She is just the sweetest thing.  Have you tried her cooking?  I don’t know how she makes her cookies so soft and delicious, BUT I really wish she wasn’t late to everything.”

“You know, Jasmine is just the sweetest.  She is so strong and assertive, BUT I really wish she would wear shirts that covered her stomach.”

“Wow!  I really wish I could keep house as well as Snow.  Her house is always so clean, and you know she really is the fairest of them all. BUT, I heard she was living with not only one man but seven.  I mean, what example is she setting?”

     Did you feel the power?  I bet you thought those princesses were going to be girls that I loved and appreciated, BUT I showed you in the end the true feelings hidden below the surface.  Have you ever been around someone who ends every monologue with a powerful and critical BUT?  I often wonder…”So, if that’s what you say about princesses…what do you say about me?”

“Jodi?  Oh, she’s so talented. Have you ever heard her read aloud or bring a puppet to life.  Quite entertaining.  Man, she sure does love her career.  BUT have you looked in her teacher corner? It’s a mess.”

     Yep, the BUT zapped all the power from the words of encouragement and took all the joy out of the thought.  Instead, what’s left…a thought that would make most people self-conscious. (Of course, I know my teacher’s desk is atrocious, BUT I never sit at my desk, so I don’t fret…unless a new substitute is scheduled for my room.)

However, not only can BUT make a good become a bad, it can do the opposite as well.

“You know this weather is awful.  It’s so hot outside.  BUT, we could be hotter just think of those soldiers in Afghanistan.  We should really pray for them.”

“I can’t believe how loud that thunder was last weekend.  It shook my walls.  Scared me and my cat to death, BUT we really needed the rain so it’s all good.”

“Man, I can’t believe I’m going to be in the parade.  I haven’t done that since the mid 80s!  It’s going to be so hot, and I won’t be able to breathe by the end of it.  BUT, I know my students are excited.”

Yep, BUT is a powerful word.  Don’t you think?  However, BUT is the most powerful in the Bible when it has a partner….

God.

     The earth was destroyed by a flood.  For many weeks, Noah’s family lived on the ark with all the critters God sent to be saved along with them.  Think of the odor on that boat!  Definitely worse than Jasper’s litter box.  It would’ve been easy to complain, don’t you think?

“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him on the boat.  He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the flood waters began to recede.” [Genesis 8:1]

     Now, if you have sisters or brothers, think of a time when they might’ve been a bit jealous of you.  Now, until my nephew came along, I was the most spoiled member of my family.  Actually, Dad still sometimes will joke about how I need to come over for dinner, so Mom will cook him a real dinner.  Anyway, I digress.  Imagine your siblings being so jealous of you that they considered killing you.  However, one of your siblings didn’t want to go to that extreme, so they just sell you as a slave instead.  Yep, plenty of reason to lose hope, yet the power of “but God” comes to the rescue.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” [Genesis 50:20]

     Now, what about those people who “act” differently than they really are?  Honestly, we’re probably all like that at some point in time.  I know there have been times when I’ve plastered on a smile when it wasn’t really sincere.  However, this goes a bit farther than that.  This deals with the heart and character of someone.  Are you truly living for our Creator?  God knows the heart when we can only see the actions.

“Then he said to them, ‘You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.'” [Luke 16:15]

     Yet, if I’m typing this, I must examine myself…my actions…my heart.  I admit there are days when my flesh overpowers my desire to be like Christ.  I’ve uttered words to myself and to close friends that so and so was this or that BUT they do this which really irks me.  We all do it, BUT we shouldn’t…or at least we shouldn’t allow it to make a positive into a negative.  The other flip is fine.  The other flip allows me to take the complaints I have and realize that it’s not about me.

Yes, I complain, BUT I must realize that God is in control and He will work all things together for good.

Yes, people may irritate me at times and I may want to vent, BUT God is their creator just as He is mine…so should I really badmouth His creation?

The following “but God” reminds me of my shortcomings, BUT also the truth of God’s power.

“But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners.  Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and have eternal life.” [1 Timothy 1:16]

So, there’s your challenge from “Miss P’s Ponderings”.  Be careful how you use “but” in your daily dialogue with others.  Feel free to use it to overpower the negative and transform them to positive, BUT tread carefully when you are sharing positives.  If you throw a BUT at the end, all the positive disappears.    
Have a great day…live it for the One who was willing to die for you.

“But God raised Him from the dead!” [Acts 13:30]

Monday? Monday. Monday!

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 14, 2012

   “Just another manic Monday….”  Do you remember that little lyric by the Bangles?  I liked the girl band back when they were making music, but I can only sing the first couple lines to be honest.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0a-3.jpg

  This morning, as I was scanning my Facebook news feed, I saw several things about it being Monday.  So, I figured, why not write about Monday.  Makes more sense to write about Monday today…then tomorrow.  Right?


  “Monday?  Really.  Another week ahead….arrgh.”

   It seems a lot of people wake up on Mondays, with a question mark after the day. There are posters about the agony of Mondays.  It seems like a lot of people are not fans of this day.  They treat it as they’d treat a foul tasting medicine.  They know they have to swallow it, but just thinking of it makes them about gag.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0b.jpg

“Monday.
Another day of work.
Another week ahead.
Can’t wait until the weekend!”

   Some people start the work week with a period after the day.  They wake up and think…here we go again.  They accept the day, but they’re far from a fan of it.  To them, it’s not a horrible tasting medicine, but a daily vitamin.  They know they need it, but they don’t look forward to it.


“Monday! Another week to make a difference.
Another chance to see what God has in store for me to experience.
Another gift from the Creator of time.”

   Then, there are a few odd ducks out there.  People who awake on this morning and see it as a great opportunity.  Did you guess it?  Quack, quack.  I’m an odd duck.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t jump out of bed and exclaim, “Woohoo!  Another Monday!”  But I do look at the day with great expectation.  Perhaps it’s because as a school teacher, I have a week full of lesson plans to teach and a hope that my students will grow as learners.  Perhaps, it’s because I know I start Monday mornings with two second grade teachers in a prayer circle at 7:30a.m.  There’s power when you join with other believers to lift up our students, their families, our staff, our administrators, and our witness.  Perhaps, it’s simply because I’m simply an “odd duck”.  Who knows?  But, on Monday…I have a clear slate for my week.  I’ve just finished a weekend off ending with Sunday worship with my church family and lunch with my sisters in Christ.  I’ve rested.  I’m ready for the week ahead.

   However, as much as I enjoy Mondays and the anticipation about what lies ahead…I’m not a big fan of Tuesdays.  By Tuesday, I’m already behind on my lesson plans.  I already have papers to grade.  I feel like the week is looming ahead. 

   Then, Wednesday…”hump day”.  It’s a good day.  The week is half over.  I spend time with Lacie, my “Little Sister”.  I help lead the kids in DiscipleTown through songs and puppets.  It’s a good yet busy day.

   Thursday rolls around and the excitement builds since it’s “almost” Friday. Yet, so does apprehension as I realize I only have a little time left to complete the goals of my instructional week.

   Followed by the joy of Friday…wrapping up a week of instruction and ending with an occasional small group gathering.  Being thankful for the week I’ve completed and the couple day off to rejuvenate.

The weekend arrives…and then it’s….


“Just another manic Monday.  Woe-oh-woe.  I wish it was Sunday.”

However, whatever day of the week it is…whatever the day holds.  I know Who holds the day and that alone reminds me to rejoice.

Hmmm…that includes Monday.  Yep, it’s Monday!

Consider It Joy

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on July 3, 2012

As I sit at a desk in the church office subbing for the secretary, I’m reminded of the charge to consider it all joy.  That’s a difficult challenge, in my opinion.

   Now, I will admit, the two things which prompted these thoughts are tiny in the grand scheme of life.  The first is the Regatta parade and the second the 4-H fair.  Just a second…before anyone finds me to be a terrible person for not being a fan of these two things, I will admit that I know most people look forward to these events.  To them, I say…ENJOY.  I, however, was not programmed to enjoy being packed together in high temps as happens during the Regatta parade.  Plus, it seems I have been wired to be allergic to most of the outdoors, so hanging around the fairgrounds with all the “lovely” aroma and sweat rolling down my neck…just isn’t something I enjoy.  See, I told you my complaints were itty bitty.

    Yet, as I was sharing with Pastor Mike this morning (since I’m manning the church office), it seems that this year…I will not only be attending the parade, but I’ll be riding on a float while singing a happy song.  I love singing.  I enjoy the people I’ll share the float with.  Those two things should be enough to get me past my personal issues, right?  Yet, my flesh keeps yelling, “It’s going to be hot!  It’s going to be crowded!  You’re going to sweat!”  Uh, yeah…but I better be ready to ride that float with a joyful smile and an enthusiastic song.  After all, regardless of what my flesh wants to believe, it’s not about me.  

     Then, after enduring the Regatta, the fair is off and running.  Now, I could choose to avoid this.  I could choose to stay at home each evening enjoying the scent of candles and the coolness of central air.  But alas, my flesh is overruled by the opportunity to pass out “free water” to those who are enduring the heat and enjoying the festivities.  Then, I will choose to return to man an information booth later in the week.  Again, the yells of my flesh are heard, “You better hope it’s cool and your allergens take a hike!”  Yes, my flesh tends to be sarcastic.  However, my spirit reminds me to be content.

     When I start dwelling on my “complaints”, I’m confronted with the truth I know.  Truth is…these complaints are ridiculous.  I don’t have any huge valleys or obstacles in my life.  I know people who deal with battling diseases such as cancer…I have friends who have journeyed through the devastation of a divorce….I have witnessed the sorrow associated with losing a child.  So, my trivial obstacles are just that…trivial.  As Connor, my nephew says, I just need to “get over it”.  And…I will.  And in the midst of my baby trials, I must remind my heart to be filled with joy…a joy that bursts out in song.

     My question is…what are you complaining about  The heat?  The lack of rain?  The price of gas?  The upcoming elections?  All of these things deserve some of our thoughts, but our complaining?  Nope.
     Philippians 2:14, tells us to do EVERYTHING without complaining and arguing.  So there’s your challenge.  What are you worried about?  What are you complaining about?  What are you arguing about?  

Stop.  

     Consider your troubles an opportunity for joy.  Learn to be content with whatever life brings your way.  Trust in the Lord and be ready to lift a happy and joyful song of thanksgiving. So, whether your challenges are small or overwhelming…or somewhere in between, remember that He can be your refuge in time of distress, if you call on Him as your Lord & Savior.  The trials and storms won’t fade away, but He’ll walk you through them each step of the way. 

A Good Good-Bye

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on June 29, 2012

Recently, I’ve been pondering “good-bye” a lot.  It seems a couple of our sweet families at church are relocating soon, which means saying good-bye to friends and cherished children.  I must confess….I’m not good at good-bye.

As I’ve contemplated “good-byes”, my mind first returns to 1986.  That was the year of the first “good-bye” that hurt my heart in a memorable way.  Before that, I had had the death of a grandmother, aunts, and uncles.   In 1977, at the age of 7, I didn’t really understand the impact of good-bye when I went to my grandma’s funeral. Obviously, those were sad events, but my age was young so my heart didn’t quite grasp the good-bye.

However, in 1986, Tommy & Becky announced their upcoming move back to Tennessee.  You see, Tommy was our youth pastor and Becky is his sweet wife.  He had served at our church while pursuing his ministry degree from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  Being only an hour away from the seminary affords our church the opportunity to get many talented young ministers to serve our church family.  However, it also means that for part-time ministry positions, they don’t stay more than a few years, as God leads them into full-time career ministry. 

Tommy came to Calvary when I was only an 8th grader.  Through the ministry of him and his wife, I grew in my Christian walk as a disciple of the King.  They were probably the first people, outside of family, that I had actually allowed myself to get close to, so their upcoming departure was difficult.  I remember building a wall around my heart as their final weeks passed by and being called into Tommy’s office.  He called me out on my attitude and reminded me that “good-byes” aren’t easy for anyone.  Yes, he cared enough to be straight with me, so the wall came down.  My friends moved to Athens, Tennessee.  I think I began the longest letter of my life…as I wrote them often and mailed huge letters.  It was my way of dealing with good-bye. 

Later, when I went to Carson-Newman College, their alma mater, I remember going to Athens to visit a few times.  Their first son was a baby, and now he’s out of college.  Yep, this was a long time ago, but the emotions I felt when they left are still fresh in my heart.  Good-byes are hard on the heart, even when you know it is God’s leading that prompts the departure.

 When he (Paul) had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye.
Acts 20: 36-37

Yet, I must also think of the joy of the good-bye at the end of each school year. It never fails; a couple students will ask me at the end of the year if there’s a chance I’ll be moving to fourth grade.  I assure them that even though they won’t be in my class that I will always be their third grade teacher, and I remind them they can come visit me when they feel the need.

However, thinking of student good-byes also reminds me of students who move during a weekend without prior knowledge.  They’re here on Friday and excited about upcoming activities, but on Monday…their names are off my class list.  They’ve left their friends, their school, and all their “things” in their desk.  I often wonder if they’re ok with the quick departure.  Then, I lift up a prayer for them and their new teacher…hoping that the move is the best for all.

This past Sunday was the day when I knew that “good-bye” would be the topic whenever I wrote another post.  Last Friday, Andy & Ashley shared at small group that they would be moving to Indianapolis for Andy to take a new position.  After Adam and Amy had announced the same thing in May, I had anticipated that this couple wouldn’t be far behind since Adam & Andy worked together.  So, expecting it eased the intial shock of the announcement, but it didn’t buffer the pain in my heart.  I joked that they just needed to make sure their new house had a guest room for teacher-friends to visit during school breaks.  Then, on Sunday, during the “fellowship time” of the service, I went over and gave Ashley a hug.  This caused a lump to form in my throat.  Then, as I stood at my pew singing praises to God, I looked up to see Andy playing the guitar on the praise team.  The lump became tears and I cried through the song.  Yet through the tears, I thanked God that He was taking them closer to family and providing Andy with a job which would hopefully provide him joy and the opportunity to shine.  Yep, I’m not good with “good-bye”, but fortunately my head is wiser than it was in 1986 and the walls aren’t being built.

Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David.
1 Samuel 20:41b

But, all of these good-bye I’ve shared are temporary.  These are all people that I can see during vacations, in the school hallways, or stay up with through e-mails and Facebook (thanks to the technological age we seem to be living in these days). 

However, on Monday, another good-bye entered my throughts.  This good-bye was to a sweet, sweet Christian woman by the name of Nellie.  On Monday morning, a prayer mail arrived in my inbox letting me know that she had passed away.  So, I knew another good-bye was here. 

I must admit that even though I was saddened by the fact that I won’t see her sweet smile on Sunday mornings, I actually rejoiced.  You see, the love of her life, Bob, passed away last December.  I remember thinking back then that I just couldn’t imagine Nellie without Bob.  They were always “Bob & Nellie”, so I knew that the day she said “good-bye” to this life…she was saying “hello” to Bob.  More importantly, she was saying hello to heaven…to worshiping her Savior.  How can that leave me sad?

Yes, my head and heart have been dealing with good-bye a lot lately.  In May, I realized that little Lydia wouldn’t run up to sing with me in DiscipleTown on Wednesdays this fall.  At the end of May, I accepted that the 45 students (homeroom and language arts class) who knew me as their teacher would be leaving and consider someone else that title in the fall.  On June 22nd, I discovered that lunches with Ashley, praise team practice with Andy, and laughs with little Liam would soon be in the past.  On June 25th, I rejoiced that Nellie said “good-bye” to us but “hello” to Bob.

In the 30+ years I’ve been experiencing “good-bye” to people who have a place in my heart, I’ve realized that the good-byes that are temporary are much easier to accept than those which are final or questionable.  I think of people in my life who have passed away whom I don’t know if they have accepted Christ as their Savior.  Those good-byes…those are the hardest.  So, I encourage you….ensure you don’t have to face those painful good-byes by asking those you love, those you care about, those whose paths you cross if they know Jesus.  If they don’t, introduce them.  You’ll be glad you did.

Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
John 16: 19, 20, 22

Just Jasper & Me

Originally posted on Miss P’s Pondering on June 19, 2012

     I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to write about today. Do I write about the four books I’m reading right now? Do I write about my experience at VBS last week? Do I reflect on cancer after last weekend’s Relay for Life? Well, I decided to save all of those for another date. Today, my feline, Jasper is the inspiration of all my analogical thoughts that I will share. Hmmm,  I’ve never used “analogical” before, but I’ll use it anyway.

     Hmmm… Let’s see, I took my nephew, Connor, to basketball conditioning this afternoon. It’s two hours in the middle of the day, and if you’re an 8th grader that means you must be dropped off and picked up…no driving of your own vehicle when you’re only 13. So, I found myself spending an hour or so at the Hanover Library. I watched a webinar on Twitter and its benefits to educators, I finished a “just for fun” Christian fiction book, and I picked out four additional books. You see…my goals for summer are resting, reading, and whatever else comes my way.

     One of the books I checked out was entitled “The Secret Life of Your Cat”. I read/skimmed the entire book during the hours since checking it out. I learned some things I didn’t know. For instance, I knew cats had a strong sense of smell. However, I didn’t realize they had 200 MILLION cells in their nose which makes their sense of smell 14X as acute as ours. Wow! I think of how “stinky” their food is and imagine what it would be like to multiply that by 14! Yuck! However, if you realize they can’t see much that’s 8 inches or closer to them and their sense of taste isn’t too hot, then it all makes sense. You see, I read the book to understand Jasper better. I had hoped to learn what his behaviors mean…why he does the bizaree things he does…but instead I learned about his senses, stress concerns, and needs. I realized that when he is totally unfriendly towards my dad when I’m gone for an extended amount of time, it’s not because my cat’s unfriendly…but stressed by my absence. Then, I thought….when is the last time I spent hours, literally, reading through Scripture to better understand the character and will of my Father. Granted, God doesn’t bite me, attack my legs, or trip me while I walk….but I should have a greater desire to know Him. Reading His word should be so enthralling to me that I eagerly share things with those around me, as I did with Connor when reading about cats. Yes, analogy number one…understood.

     So, after that analogy hit me over the head today, I started seeing analogies everywhere I looked in regard to Jasper. Who would think a pesky pet could be my professor today?

     Throughout the day, I’ve wandered from the kitchen, to the living room, office, restroom, and outside. Never failing, Jasper followed me everywhere. Whether he laid on the bathroom rug, the kitchen floor, the coffee table, the office’s sunny carpet spot, or the scratchy porch, he was there. Not wanting anything from me…simply desiring to be in my presence. Do I have that longing? Do I dwell in the Lord’s presence throughout my day through my thoughts, my words, and my actions? Sadly, the answer is no, but it is something to strive for as I walk with Him daily. Yes, analogy two taught…and hopefully learned.

     Then, I recalled yesterday evening when I looked into Jasper’s water bowl. It had a bit of water left, but it also had some of his shed hair floating in the liquid. Yuck! It was quickly dumped, rinsed, and refilled. He soon was beside it welcoming the refreshing drink. My thoughts went to how God is so faithful to provide for me. He doesn’t “forget” to supply my needs, as I did Jasper’s water. I realized through the simple act of giving Jasper fresh water that God is my Perfect Provider while I’m just a mediocre master to my cat. Analogy three brought a thankful heart.

     This afternoon, as my sister left with me nephew, I realized I hadn’t gotten my mail yet today. Since Jasper was already in my arms, to avoid his escape, I figured I’d just take him out to the mailbox with me. All was well until a car raced (Yes, correct verb though by our speed limit it shouldn’t be.), and Jasper let out a pitiful cry. Although he was safely tucked under my arm, he didn’t trust me as much as he should have. He was agitated all the way back to the house in spite of his being in my arms and having my voice assuring him. The same way, I must confess, there are times when I allow my fears to overcome me even though I know He has His arms wrapped around me. Just like Jasper, I let out pitiful cries even though His calming Voice reminds me that He will work all things together for my good and His glory. It seems both Jasper and I need to be more trusting when fears approach. If you’re counting, that’s number four.

     “Meow. Meow. Meow” If you have a cat, you know there are times when Jasper just likes to make noise. After our years together, I can tell the difference between his hungry meow and his “open the door” meow. There’s the pitiful cry on the way to Pawsibiities or the vet when he just wants to be rescued. I know him well. God knows me way better than I could ever know my cat. I mean, let’s face it, I picked Jasper out of a couple kittens who needed a home and made him mine. God created me. He knit me together in my mother’s womb. He gave me the personality, talents, and abilities He wanted me to have to make me the woman of God He created me to be. He doesn’t merely hear my voice, but He hears my heart. I may say I’m fine to other people, but He knows if I’m heartbroken or worried. I may not say a thing to my family or my friends, but He hears me without a word being said. Yes, God knows me…He doesn’t just know my name, but He knows my very soul. Wow! Analogy five just gave me a big hug.

     Analogy six follows number five hand in hand. You see, I do know his meows. I know what he’d like. However, I can’t make his life perfect in his eyes. You see, as much as he doesn’t enjoy going to Pawsibilities once a year for his shower, I know it helps him fight against fleas, lessens his thicker winter coat, and cuts down on future “hair logs” (Whoever named them hairballs didn’t have a cat!). When something’s a miss with his health, I take him to the vet, although he cries the whole time.  The agony lasts for a few hours, but the benefit lasts longer. He doesn’t see it when he’s going through it, but I know it’s the best choice. Jasper would be thrilled if I added food to his bowl each time I passed it, but even though he’s a big cat…no cat needs that much food. Jasper is a big fan of playing with used Q-tips. It doesn’t matter where I throw them away, if he sees it…he’ll knock the trashcan over in order to find the object of his desire. I know this. But still, if I can throw it away where he doesn’t see it, I know it’s best. I know he’s not smart enough not to try and eat them, so I must be cautious to protect him. When I reflect on my life’s journey, I see many times when what I wanted for my life wasn’t what God allowed. Most times, when I look backwards I see His purpose and thank Him. However, there are certain aspects of my life which still aren’t what I would’ve preferred, yet I must have faith in the One who guides my journey. I know He loves me and has plans for me to prosper and not be harmed. I must trust that, even when I don’t see it with my eyes.

     I think I’ll end with a seventh analogy since it’s a “good number” to end on it seems. Soon, Jasper will prance over to the recliner and jump up on my lap. He will stretch out and not want anything but to be shown affection. A scratch behind the ear or a stroke down his back will set his purr machine into overdrive. Then, when my eyes won’t stay awake and I head to the bedroom, he will follow me without a word being said. Most likely, I’ll awake in the middle of the night and find him stretched out beside me. You see, he will just want to be near me. There won’t be any biting or scratching, just simply affection. In the same way, I long to sit by my Father, to rest in His care, and trust that He loves me and that won’t change.

     So, I hope you learned a few lessons from Professor Jasper. Night, my friends…feline lovers or not.

Red Hat, Blue Hat, Old Hat, New Hat

Originally posted on June 7, 2012

Wow!  Time flies when you’re having fun…or cleaning house…or taking care of things that you’ve let slide during the final weeks of school.  It’s hard to believe that my first week of summer break ends tomorrow.  Based on my methodical calculations, that leaves eight more weeks of summer to rest, reflect, relax, read, and any other R word that sounds good….

However, I’m typing this from an office at my church as I fill in for our church secretary while she’s on vacation.  It has made me think about “hats” that we wear.  Not real hats…with my “fluffy/frizzy” hair…hats aren’t my thing, but the hats or responsibilities which we take on.

My blue hat…that would be the hat of a teacher.  Now, even though I’m on summer break, I’ve worn this hat a few times this week.  I’ve organized the “teacher stuff” I brought home to work on.  I tore apart question cards of a game I can use for review next year.  I’ve gathered up postcards and mailing labels to send notes to my “new crop” of kids.  I’ve rescheduled my plans next week to support my students who have to take the I-Read test again.  Yes, even though it’s summer break, my BLUE hat isn’t far from me.

Then….there’s my old hat…the hat associated with my family.  Looking at these past couple of weeks, I’ve worn my sister hat to sing at my oldest sister’s renewal of vows’ ceremony.  I donned my daughter hat when I’ve spent time with my parents.  I’ve enjoyed my aunt hat as I’ve shared time with Connor or cheered him on at a ballgame.  In fact, today, I’ll be heading out at 2:00 to pick him up from basketball conditioning and staying at their house tonight to allow him to sleep in (which means…I sleep later too, at least in theory).  My OLD hat stays with me, though its look differs from day to day.

I can’t forget my pink hat which goes with Lacie, my little sister.  As I look at my calendar, I see our BBBS anniversary approaching.  On June 23rd, we will have been Big & Little Sisters for 2 years.  I’m supposed to pick her up as soon as I post this writing.  Today, we have lunch plans and then another adventure in the putt-putt arena.  I’m sure I’ll lose again, but oh well….  Yes, my pink hat even prompted me to add a few pink petunias in my newly planted flower garden (Thanks, Mom, Dad, & Connor…the best landscaping crew in town.).  I’m sure she’ll smile when she sees the pink at the beginning and end of my row of flowers.  Yes, pink may be far from my favorite color, but I do enjoy my PINK hat.

Today, I’m wearing my khaki hat.  Why did I pick khaki you may wonder?  Good question.  Khaki goes with everything.  It’s the hat that allows me to “become” what I need to become to help others out.  Right now, I’m sitting in as the church secretary.  Is this something I do often?  Nope.  I probably sub two or three times a year, but I know it alleviates a need and allows me to serve.    Well, my khaki hat comes off soon, so I better finish this post quickly.

Finally, I have my red hat.  Red is the color of the blood of Jesus…so my red hat is my hat as a Christian.  This hat, I try to wear at all times, and I am easily convicted when I forget to wear it.  I often wonder if the love of Christ shines through my actions and words.  That is my daily goal…to wear the red hat so truly that when people see me, they see Him shining through.

Well, my purple hat and I are heading out of here to go grab my pink hat and in a bit my old hat.  Huh?  My purple hat…it’s just me.  My personality, my abilities, my joys, and my sorrows…my purple hat is who I am.  We’re off to pick up my “Little Sister” for lunch.  Then, my red hat will bring me back for a VBS chat with our children’s minister before heading out in my old hat to pick up my nephew.

New hat?  Hmmm…wonder what new adventures God has in store?  I guess my “newest” hat would be that of a blogger….I wonder how long it’ll fit?

Have a blessed day, and whatever hat you’re wearing…wear it with a smile and for His glory.

Voices?

Originally posted on Miss P’s Pondering on June 1, 2012.

I had lots of thoughts about what I should write today. Some of those ideas came from packing up my classroom and battling the “dust monsters” (Way too big to be dust bunnies!). A few of the ideas came from my favorite four-legged friend, Jasper, and his joy in me coming home “early” today. However, the topic I picked came from a short conversation at small group…. This discussion came from the “voices in my head”…. I honestly don’t know how it started…but somehow….during a time of us sharing concerns with which we wanted prayer. Oh, I know…I mentioned VBS…which led to my love of storytelling…which led to the “voices” I use when reading or telling stories.

A couple of the people in our small group (Andy & Martin) seemed to be new to hearing my voices, and they seemed to get quite a chuckle. Now, for those of you who don’t know me, let me take you back to the beginning. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Oops, I didn’t mean that beginning. At 5:15a.m. on July 8, 1970, a little girl was born to Jerry & Sharon Pflaumer. Oops! That’s the wrong beginning again. Back in 1984 (I think), my sister started dating a guy on the MHS basketball team, so I inherited her babysitting gig. For whom did I babysit? The four daughters of the Varsity basketball coach.

Gary and Ruth went to our church, and Ruth was a stay-at-home mom. So, the only times she was away from the littlest daughter was during morning worship and basketball games. Let’s just say that Kylie greeted me with crocodile tears and screams as Ruth would head out to the game. So, I developed a routine. I would immediately take her back to check her diaper. As she lay on the changing table still screaming, I created noises and voices. I would keep at it until the screams and tears became a smile…and sometimes even laughter. Ahhh, a new talent was created…thanks to the love of a child for her mother.

Over the years, those noises and voices have come in quite handy. Whether it’s teaching my third graders, leading DiscipleTown, storytelling at children’s ministry events, or manning a puppet or two…those “voices in my head” have been polished and used. As each school year passes, Mary and I read a lot of the same “read aloud” books to our classes. Mary laughs as a lot of the book characters have the “same voice” year after year. “Mrs. Jewels” in “Wayside School” always has an English accent. “Mrs. Gorf” from “Wayside School” has the same voice as “Grandma” from “George’s Marvelous Medicine.”

Funnier still is the fact that my students begin to ask for “other people” to teach math. There were many afternoons when someone would ask, “Can Mrs. Jewels teach us math today?” These voices come in handy. A friend of mine from school and church has two daughters and a son. His son would never talk to me more than a word or two when he was little. Then, one Easter, the church had an Easter Egg hunt where age groups would rotate through stations. I was the “storyteller”. So, I came in as “Farmer Fran” and used the Resurrection Eggs to share the gospel with each group. That day, Evan talked my ear off. He didn’t see me as “Miss Jodi” the teacher…or the adult…he saw and welcomed me as “Farmer Fran” the lady who talked funny and talked about colorful eggs.

However, there’s a more important Voice for me to share, and that would be the Holy Spirit. In fact, the chapter we discussed tonight in small group talked about how we live/think/speak according to the flesh or according to the Spirit. When we live according to the voice of our flesh, then our default setting is “all about me”. According to Romans 8:5-8, living according to the flesh (or the world) is death. This mindset is hostile to God and is unable to submit to God’s law.

Lots of “good people” do lots of “good things” without being “good” in God’s eyes because it is not for His glory. However, when we live according to the Spirit, we are led to life and peace. As a Christian, I have peace in knowing that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

What a gift of grace! Yes, God has given me the unique ability to develop voices and characters. He can use this talent to teach His children and to bring Him glory. But…these “voices” are nothing absolutely nothing when compared to the Voice that called me to be His child. The Voice who made me His own. The Voice that I hope will say, “Well done by good and faithful servant.” Until then…I’ll use the “voices” for His glory…and the entertainment of my elementary students not to mention my small group.

Last Day Learning

Originally posted on Miss P’s Pondering on May 31, 2012

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is got-this.png

I’m starting this post at 7:05a.m. on the last day of this school year…at least the last student day.  I must confess I have a whole array of thoughts and feelings going into the day.  First, I look at my classroom and see all the “stuff” I still want to pack away and organize before 11:30 a.m. tomorrow when my “official” 16th years concludes.  Then, I see all the “junk” on my tables which will soon be considered treasures and souvenirs to the 3rd grader who picks it when I pull his/her ticket.  Next, I see the memory/autograph books on the students’ desks awaiting their thoughts…and a bit of me dreads the 15-20 minutes when 100 third graders will be trying to get all their friends and the four teachers to sign their book.  I also think about which tasks I can save for my nephew and his sidekick, Robby, to take care of when they come to my room this afternoon.  I wonder if my cadet teacher will come over today and plan out what tasks I can have her take care of.  To be honest, with all those thoughts running through my head, it gets a bit overwhelming.

Yet, then I think of the 24 kiddos who will be entering my classroom in 30 minutes, and I get a little choked up.  Yes, I have a few “challenges” in this crop of kids, but…even my challenges are cherished.  I’ll miss these little ones God placed in my charge this year.  I hope that wherever the path leads them next fall…that their memories of this year will make them smile…that the learning from this year will be permanent…and the improvements they’ve made will only grow greater. Yes, I look at today with the excitement of the last day of school, the joy of seeing what has transpired in the past 179 student days, and the sadness of saying “good-bye”.   Well, it hasn’t been ten minutes, but I think this round of thoughts will end.  I’ll write more later…when my next “break” presents itself…

Well, it’s 5:20p.m, and I’m heading out in just a few.  I have a sweet little “fourth grader” sweeping my floor while her mom works in her kindergarten room.  Then, I’ll be off to Mom & Dad’s for dinner (favorite childhood meal…salmon patties and macaroni & cheese…Yes, I am spoiled.)

However, now I look at my classroom…without any students.  Desks stacked by 2s in the middle of the room…library packed away to force me to reorganize my books before August 3rd…pics of next year’s third graders are in my rolling crate to be posted in my home office to help me learn names & faces before I meet them in person  Yes, my 16th year is almost over…only a half-day in my classroom tomorrow…and I’m already contemplating year 17.  Some teacher texts and books are already home for me to “reorganize” and contemplate next year’s instruction.  Yes, I love my career…I love the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children…

BUT….

I’m also looking forward to sleeping in until 6:30….
Walking in the mornings to welcome the day God has given…
Reading books as long as I want without fretting over papers to grade…
Eating lunch for longer than 20 minutes each day, if the opportunity presents itself…

AND…

Thanking God for all the blessings He gave me this year….

Thomas, Jadyn, Ethan, Emily, Cameron, Natalie, Layken, Destiny, Bailey, Keith, Tyler, Joey, Chance, Jordan, Autumn, Zola, Miles, Lacy, Austin, Corrisa, Mark, Brady, Billy, Alicia, Zach, Jessica, Chelsea, & Hunter. 

May He watch their steps, guide their journey, and bless them & their families in more ways than I can imagine.

Field Trip Anxiety & Thanksgiving

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 30, 2012

After 16 years of teaching, I still get anxious when a field trip is approaching.  I dream about various bizarre things leading up to the big day, and the night before…I don’t sleep well at all.  The “field trip woes” hit me last night causing me to wake at midnight thinking it was time to go to school.  I went back to sleep until 4 when I woke and contemplated heading to school.  However, I stayed in bed until the alarm went off at 5 and was at school a bit after 6. 

An e-mail from a parent who had some health issues last night waited on me, and I prayed that she’d wake today feeling up to the trip.  (Woohoo!  She was!)  Then, I finished organizing…and rethinking my day…and praying for my students and the adults “taking care of them” today. 

At 7:45, 23 excited students entered my room with my 24th absent.  Thankfully, 11 adults also arrived with my final two showing up in the minutes preceding our departure.  We were off!  Heading to the Louisville Zoo to observe and reflect on how plant life is foundational to animal life.  With scavenger hunt in hand, my 23 students went off into six groups manned by at least two chaperones.  And me?  I experienced my first field trip without students in my direct eye of supervision. 

For those of you who don’t me, I like being “in control” of the situations I experience, so this was a test for me.  However, as I saw my six groups throughout the visit enjoying the day, looking for answers, and excitedly sharing about the animals antics…a peace overwhelmed me.  The anxiety had passed…even as I waited for the six groups to make their way to the entrance.

Guess what?  All 23 students returned and after 3 were signed out from the zoo…the other 20 and I loaded the bus for home.

As I sat there, I thought of all my “Field Trip Thanksgiving” moments…

  • Thank you for the teacher who spent hours organizing and planning the trip, so I wouldn’t have to do anything other than collect money and organize my classroom’s experience.
  • Thank you for the 13 adults who not only gave up their day but also jumped through the hoop of the “limited criminal history check” to ensure they could supervise more than just their own child.
  • Thank you for AC on buses!  What a “cool” idea!
  • Thank you for cafeteria ladies who come early to make sack lunches.
  • Thank you for the bus drivers who adjust AC temps and radio stations as requested.
  • Thank you for friends who packed me a great lunch including 2 Diet Dr. Peppers.
  • Thank you for an ice cold beverage after a warm trip.
  • Thank you for safety.

Well, I could write more, but I have a third grade dinner to get to.  Blessings to all…and to all a good night.

Unfocused Focus

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 28, 2012

     Okay, I know today’s title is an oxymoron, but it’s the best title I could come up with for the thoughts that have gone through my head concerning today’s writing.  First, for those of you who take the time to read my ponderings, “thank you” and please forgive me for not being as consistent as I had been previously.  I figured that the last couple weeks of school would find me not writing as much, but I hope to write a bit this week…and start back with more consistency next week.

     So, what is this unfocused focus of which I write?  I’m glad you asked.  It’s actually twofold…my goal for the weekend and the thoughts in my head.

     I’ll begin with the goal of my weekend, which was to complete my “end-of-year books” and to clean/organize a large percentage of my classroom, so the final “half-day” for teachers on Friday would actually be a half-day for me too.  So, on Saturday, after eating breakfast with my sister and nephew at 7:00a.m. at Bob Evan’s, I ventured out to room 302.  The AC is off on the weekend, and the temps were in the 90s, but it didn’t get too terribly humid in my classroom.  For this I was thankful.  When I left at 3:30, I was glad to have my 25 end-of-year books finished as well as entering grades and posting them.  Woohoo!  Yes, we’ll still have class tomorrow, but I don’t believe my students’ focus will be of the degree worth taking an assessment score.  Along the way I laminated some things, packed away some books, organized field trip assignments, worked on the textbook inventory, and…whatever else happened into my path.  You see, I was unfocused but my focus for the day was accomplished.

     As I worked on my books, I thought back over the year.  I saw some writing samples which really went well and I thought, “I need to make sure I include that in my lessons again next year.”  Alas, I also was reminded of a few things that didn’t go as well, so I made a mental note to delete the activity from next year’s instruction.  Finally, there were those lesson, units, activities which I thought, “That went really well, but I think thus-and-such would make it better.”  So, as I was focused on my tasks, I also reflected on the journey and looked ahead to the adventure awaiting in 2012-2013.

     Today, I had a new goal.  Today’s goal was clean, organize, reflect, and repeat.  Again, I began with breakfast, after all it is the most important meal of the day.  Today, I joined my parents rather than my sister, and I was in 302 by 9:00 a.m. without a Polar Pop!  (For those who know me, you know that this was quite a feat!)  As I meandered through the classroom…my thoughts spent time pondering 16 years in third grade.  I took down my class photographs (Umm, I’m missing my first two years?  That did not make me a happy teacher.  I guess I need to find someone with a yearbook to scan.)  As I looked at the children who have passed through my doorway (whether it was 606, 604, or 302), I was flooded with lots of thoughts and feelings…

     First, from my first year, I thought of the boy who caused me to spend ample time with Wes (our school counselor) and Cathy (who taught next door).  That same boy…returned to visit me a few years ago before going into the military and told me that I had been his favorite teacher.  (Really??  I was utterly amazed!)  I also thought of the girl who came to school often without her hair brushed, so I bought her a “purple hairbrush”.  She knew she could take it up to the nurse on any day her dad forgot to brush her hair.  I’ve run into her a few times around town, and the purple hairbrush always comes into the conversation.  You just never know what’s going to be the “thing” they remember.

     Then, a few years later, I saw the grandson of two of the couples who attend church with me.  I thought back to Parent Night that year and how the mom had come up and given me a hug telling me that I had been an answer to the prayers she had lifted all summer.  (Really?  That’s pretty cool and quite encouraging to hear.)

     Next, I saw Daniel..a lively blond boy who had enough energy for the world.  Tears came to my eyes as I remembered that he was my first experience with a former student passing away.  My heart still hurts when I remember his accident and later death.  He stays a third grader in my memory though he was older when his life ended.

   Then, I saw the class I had, who are now ending their freshman year, and the soccer team which were all placed in my classroom together.  That prompted me to think of a conversation I shared with two previous students who attend my church.  I was taking them home from VBS two years ago after we had finished serving for the day.  As we drove, the sister (who was in my class two years later) shared how she had gotten out her “end-of-year” book and went through it.  She told me she started crying as she remembered how much she loved being in my class.  Her brother said, “Yeah, but we thought you were pretty uptight.” (Really?  I reminded him that with a ball team all in one room, I pretty much had to be if we were going to accomplish anything.)

     Then, I saw the class who are now 8th graders, and I remembered how skilled my student teacher was that year.  What a blessing she was to our class!  As I looked through those students, I saw the little girl who would sometimes get so anxiety-filled that she couldn’t move forward.  What’s a public school teacher to do?  Well, I taught her when things get to us, we need to learn to shake them off.  There were plenty of times when she and I would simultaneously start shaking uncontrollably at the end of our chats until one or both of us started laughing.  All the while I shook, I would say a prayer for her heart to calm and her peace to restore.

          I could write and write and write, as you can see, but I need to jump to this year.  I think of the two chatty boys in my language class who gave me a half-dozen hugs before leaving my room on Friday.  I see the five students who have moved away during the course of the year…one moved just last weekend.  I think of the 25 lively students who are eager for the “give-away” to begin, excited for the field trip on Wednesday, and anxious about what fourth grade will be like.  I think of how when I was cleaning and organizing…I was also getting excited for what we could do “next year”.  I chuckle at myself for laminating orange and purple paper for next year’s AR airplanes.  I laugh when I see the Really Good Stuff order I placed for Mary and me to use next year.  I’m reminded…yes, this is definitely my calling, or I wouldn’t find joy in cleaning and organizing…I wouldn’t find peace in reflecting over the lives He’s placed in my room.

      Yes, I will continue to teach regardless of whether I agree with the decisions the politicians make, for I am doing what I love and loving what I do.  Well, I may not love all of it (I mean, who really loves grading papers?), but I love the ones He puts in my classroom.  Yes, today, I reflected over the 320+ students who have been called “Miss P’s class”, and I have been reminded of the blessings of the journey.