Will You Pray For Me?

IMG_2026.JPGThe whispered words are often spoken in the quiet….the question hanging in the air, being held there by the trials of this life.  Will you pray for me? Sometimes, the person can’t remain quiet, and instead of a soft plea, the words tumble out in frantic desperation. Will you pray for me? Hearts crack wide open, gushing pain, and fear, and sorrow. When our world feels as if it is leaning too far to one side, and it makes us sick with all the unknowns, we often ask, will you pray for me?

Or maybe, we don’t. Maybe we don’t tell. Maybe we don’t ask. Maybe we feel like our problems aren’t big enough to be prayed about. Or are not worthy enough of prayer. Could it be we are scared to let anyone know our struggles….because if we do, they might think less of us? How many have the mistaken idea that being a Christian means always having it all together? That we can’t share our hurts, our need for prayer…that we need to be strong, toughen up, and hold it in.

This week alone, I’ve had several friends and family tell me of their friends and family who are in need of prayer. A young child, chronically ill, requiring life changing surgery. Parents desperate for healing. A mother of young children just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer that has already begun to spread. Children heading back to school, parents hoping all goes well when their children are away. Safe travel. An upcoming wedding. A child whose cancer has returned. A freak accident that never should have happened…but, it did. A family member that has passed away. A child about to be born. So many things, almost overwhelming……… Almost.

But, those of us that are followers of Jesus Christ, adopted into God’s family, can bring our hurts, our joys, our concerns, and our uncertainties directly to Him. The Creator of the universe, the One who calls all the stars by name, the One who created life from nothing…..big enough for all of time and eternity…..and yet close enough to hear His children when they call out “Abba (Daddy), Father!”  He hears us. He sees us. He knows us. Even when we cannot put into words all the heaviness we hold in our hearts….He understands.

Some people have the mistaken idea that prayer is a passive thing. That it is a last resort. Instead of what it truly is…..the incredible opportunity to talk to the Almighty.

 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8: 26-27 NIV

Be Changed

The other morning I was driving the back country roads with no other cars in sight, on my way to a meeting at the next town over. As always, I was mesmerized by the blue sky, white fluffy clouds and the vastness of the sky out here. The fields, were vivid green with corn and soybean. The landscape dotted with white farmhouses and red barns. On mornings such as this, the world looks like a picture postcard of country living. I took that moment to thank God. Saying “thank you” is so simple, and yet, so profound.

In acknowledging the beauty of nature, I am, in fact, acknowledging the beauty and creativity of the Creator of it all. It is He, that is the giver of gifts.

Instead of focusing on all the things that are wrong, or uncomfortable, or boring in life, I choose to focus on the good. Make no mistake, choosing thankfulness is always a choice. When I focus on the problems, life can seem so small. It makes me feel grouchy and short with others, and causes worry. When I fill my mind with gratitude and thanksgiving, my world might not change, but I most definitely do. Might that be the reason why God tells us over and over again in His Word, to give thanks? So that we can experience, the joy?

Being thankful changes my perspective, and it changes me. I find myself much more appreciative of my life and all that is in it.  I’m not perfect, nor is my life. I’ve had my share of wonderful experiences and painful tragedies in the forty-eight years I’ve walked this earth. This day, choose to walk through your life with your hands open to receive all the gifts that God daily gives…….and, be changed.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV

102_4938

Where On The Continuum?

 

IMG_2009

Those of you that know me personally, or have been reading my blog for some time, are aware that I am a special education teacher and an independent special education consultant. I have a myriad number of friends with children that have some type of diagnosis. I grew up with an aunt with intellectual disabilities, and have a grandson on the autism spectrum. I have an online page for parents of children that have various special needs, and am co-founder of a parent networking and support group. I tell you all these things, not to give you a list of my credentials, but to let you know, when I speak about special education, it is from years of experience. My passion and drive has always been to educate an advocate for those individuals with disabilities, and their families.

I am “back in school” to get my Master’s degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders. My classes on transition, collaboration, and behavior have validated a lot of what I have thought for years. The other day, during class discussion, we were going back and forth about the “Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)” continuum. The continuum being from very restrictive, such as individuals living in an institution, to the very least restrictive, when children (with disability diagnoses) are in their general education classes with only a minimum of supports.

I read an article the other day, written by a mother of two children. One diagnosed with Down Syndrome and one not. The article discussed how she wanted her child with DS to have full inclusion. The author believes, in her opinion, that all children, regardless of (dis)ability, should have a fully inclusive experience at school.

Her article made me wonder. Do all parents feel this way? Is full inclusion really the best education, regardless of diagnosis, for all children? Is being with “typical” peers, using the same general curriculum, always the most appropriate learning for all involved? I took this topic to my online page for parents. Those that replied to the discussion, had some interesting perspectives. Parents told of their children, that are in full inclusion, getting in trouble frequently, and often requiring, but not receiving, more sensory breaks. Others talked about a mixture of “pull out” special ed classes and general ed, while others wanted their children out of the general ed classroom altogether, because their child was being bullied. This parent spoke, of feeling her child was safer in a special education classroom. I believe all these parents wished full inclusion would work, but unfortunately that often isn’t the reality. Maybe some of my readers  have children in full inclusion and it is working. I’d love to hear your stories.

Special education has come a long way since the enactment of Public Law 94-142, The Education of All Handicapped Children Act, forty-one years ago. Reauthorizations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, over the last twenty-six years have created more opportunities for those students with disabilities, and their families. Before 1975, special education services were hit and miss. Some students, who desperately needed services, didn’t get anything at all. Even with all the good that has occurred since this time, there is still a long way to go……….

I am a firm believer in everyone having a voice. I believe in real collaboration, working together to form solutions that will be good for all involved. Do I expect perfection? Absolutely not. I doubt anything will ever be perfect……but, it can be better. Here are some questions I think about, not because I have all the answers, but because I think we need to think about these issues and consider the implications. In this way we (the families, student, schools) can make the best choices possible. Isn’t that what special education should be about?

  1. Is full inclusion always appropriate if a child is unable to work at their grade level? Should we alter the integrity of grade level curriculum in that classroom? Or are modifications always okay? How many accommodations/supports are too many to still be considered for full inclusion?
  2. Is having a special education teacher in the general education classroom for one or two academics, enough?  Does working with the special ed teacher, in the general ed classroom, make the child feel even more different? Is working one on one or in smaller groups in a special ed. classroom, wrong?
  3. What about all the non-academic activities? Some students have difficulty during unstructured times. Some students require more sensory breaks. Some students require a person to teach them and daily practice with them, social skills.
  4. Is is right to expect a general education teacher (who might have only had to take one or two special ed. classes to get their degree) to understand a myriad number of disabilities their students could have? Can we expect them to be proactive instead of reactive in their classroom behavior management? Is it fair and equitable to treat all the children the same? Does fair always mean equal?
  5. How do we keep students from being unkind to each other? Do we talk about a student’s disability to the class? In order to help the class understand “why” a student might act the way he/she does?
  6. Should the student who has a severe intellectual disability, be subjected to taking standardized tests at their grade level? (For example, should a fourteen year old with the cognitive ability of a toddler be expected to take an eighth grade test? And if so, why? How will the results even be close to any kind of accuracy?)
  7. Should a teenager with high functioning autism have less supports in his general ed classes, because he “doesn’t look like he has autism” and “we don’t want him labeled”?
  8. Is overlooking a student’s true needs, an inherent danger in inclusion, because sometimes a student doesn’t “look” like he/she needs special ed services/supports? (whatever that is supposed to mean)
  9. If/When do the rights of a child with special needs carry more weight, than a child who does not have special needs?
  10. Are we making decisions now that will ultimately benefit the student after he/she graduates? Shouldn’t all of school be preparation for life after graduation? Especially, with teenagers, how to we make sure our children will have a smooth transition?

Blog readers, what do you think? I would be interested to hear your opinions, your experiences……

 

 

One Hot Mama

 

cropped-img_0226.jpg

Here I sit, on a hot and humid mid-July morning in rural Ohio. It is already hot as hades, and amazon jungle humid….and our air conditioner is on the fritz.  I am just not made for this weather. I think I must have Scandinavian blood in me. You know, the countries of the north, where it is cooler, and there are snow capped mountains even in the summer, and humidity isn’t as much of a thing.  Yes, I know I lived in east Tennessee for twenty-three years. I understand hot, muggy, summers in the south, but this chick does not “glisten”. I sweat like a horse. There, I said it. I know that is gross, but there is no getting around it. My hair is plastered to my head, I have a very attractive sweat mustache, and if unable to find some cool air soon, will be found deader than a doornail lying in a puddle on the floor. Okay, fine. This might be a slight exaggeration, but……only slight. My dogs and cats tell me to get over myself, I cannot possibly even understand heat until I’m wearing a full fur coat with temps in the 90’s. Yes, for those of you who care to know, I speak fluent canine and feline. What??!! Stop looking , staring, reading (?) at me like that. My husband calls me Dr. Doolittle for a reason. Kidding, people. Really. I am. I am not clinically insane. Yet.

I have an autoimmune disease, that I was diagnosed with when I was just fourteen. This particular “gift” makes me extremely heat sensitive. I told my husband the other day, “When it is cold you can put on socks and crank up the electric blanket to stay warm. In the summer months, when I am caught in the seventh circle of Hell, I am unable to escape”. I suppose I could strap a box fan to me, and just wear it around my neck as an, albeit unusual, fashion statement. I can only strip off so many clothes to cool off, before being arrested. Just sayin’.

I have summer loving friends, who thrive in the heat. I still love them, even though in my mind I’m thinking, “freak of nature” how lucky they are to be able to enjoy the summer months. Fine. Just fine. You enjoy the months of sweat, and frizzy hair (or stick straight hair, however it is you roll), and sunburn, and having to shave your legs because you want to wear shorts. And don’t even get me started on going bathing suit shopping. I don’t care if a woman is skinny as a rail or resembles Jabba the Hutt, or anywhere in between. After a certain age, bathing suits are not a girls best friend. The struggle is real. Sisters, can I get an amen?

So, as I sit here sipping my iced coffee, in front of a box fan going full blast, just know that I am dreaming of October. My month of bliss. Crisp, cool temps. Sweater weather. Hot chocolate. And pumpkin everything. I just have to hang on for what seems an eternity another two and a half months. Lord, help me.

IMG_1697

 

I Don’t Want To Miss Them

Life gets busy and I fall into bed at night, exhausted.

My to do list is long and my need to rest is even longer.

There are days when I go from one thing to the next,

forgetting to live in the moments that are now.

Stop. Slow down. Look around.

I whisper, “Thank you, God, for these moments.”

I don’t want to miss them. Not now. Not ever.

Being thankful is a gift in itself, and there is always so much to be thankful for.

IMG_1912

IMG_1171

P1030137IMG_1393

IMG_0182

cropped-img_0198.jpg

102_4436

images--tea

images-barn

102_3153

 

 

 

Mr. Mole

mole

I read The Wind and the Willows as a child, and because of that I am feeling some guilt over the story I am about to tell you…….

It all started a few days ago. My husband was laying down river rock in our front flower beds. (The reason we have river rock in our flower beds, is a whole other story, but it will suffice to say, we have dogs. Dogs that like to dig. Dogs that like to chew. Dogs that like to dig up entire bushes and carry them, root ball and all, to the four corners of the earth. Dogs that live out the words, UTTER DESTRUCTION.) So anyway, as he is working out front, the dogs figured out that something was under the stone steps that lead up to the porch. That is all it took for the barking and digging to commence. There is no stopping them when they get like this. My husband noticed dirt flying OUT of the hole—and not by the dogs. We had found a couple of good sized turtles and thought that might be what was digging. Then two days ago, when I was walking out to the barn, I saw the end of the flower bed (aka rock bed) was dug up. They were after something again! I gave all the dogs a stern talking to, letting them know that this was not acceptable behavior to allow our front flowerbeds to look like someone had dropped a bomb in our front yard. They sat quietly and listened to me, but the second I turned my back they took off. Dogs are like perpetual toddlers. Just sayin’.

Last night my husband and I were out, it was starting to get dark when we returned home. As we pulled into the driveway, our headlights landed on three dogs standing around something laying in the yard. Living with a pack of dogs out in the sticks, one can never be sure what said object might be. My husband went over to investigate. He said that he thought it was a rat. Just then Mitford (not yet two year old, Collie mix) grabbed it and took off across the yard, then dropped it again. It was big, whatever it was. Now, I had my doubts that it was a rat. I lived in the city for years, and we had rats (not inside!) that would eat dog food. Those rats were the size of opossums. They would stand up on their haunches and stare at me with their beady little eyes, daring me to catch them. I was completely freaked out and usually ran off screaming. Around here, we have field mice that pretty much are the size of my pinkie finger. I still am not friends with rodents, but they are more manageable. I digress……I told my husband I thought it might be a mole, but it was too dark to really tell.

This morning I was ready to head to the barn. I will readily admit I looked like the “What Not To Wear” page in Glamour magazine. My outfit consisted of a pair of paint stained University of Tennessee shorts, an oversized gray t-shirt with a hole in it, and my knee high rubber boots (a country girl’s best friend). Whatever people, don’t judge. Seriously, when one is going to muck a stall, who cares what I look like? Jazz loves me regardless. On the way over to the barn, I decided to investigate last night’s “kill”. I found it in the yard, the dogs all gathered around me, as if to say, “We did this for you. Receive our gift as a token of our undying love and devotion and well, we just like to chase things and catch things, and sometimes kill things.  Sorry. We’re dogs, after all.” (Pant. Pant. Pant. Slobber. Slobber.) It was indeed, a mole. His little mole “hands” stuck up in the air, like he had just finished a “Praise Jesus” chorus. Rest in peace little guy. Your digging days are over. Just then Mitford licked me. With his mole tongue. Sad thing is, that doesn’t even phase me anymore. Whatever. I can wash off when I get back to the house. If, by any chance,  there is some rampant mole disease going around, that I don’t know about, well then, I guess I’m a goner. Now, my husband is going to fix the flower bed, and the holes around the stone steps. Hopefully, this mole doesn’t have an entire mole family mafioso, that will now target our dogs for extinction, to avenge the death of their dear mole father. Or worse yet…..take out their revenge on our flower (um…rock) bed.

mole2

And people think the country life is boring and slow……..they know nothing! #lifecanbescaryoutontheprairie

Llama Love

102_3211

The neighbors across the road have llamas. I never knew how much I loved llamas until my family moved here. Our little slice of heaven has a llama field directly across from our house. The llamas often greet me at the mailbox, their ears turned in like fuzzy question marks.On occasion some of the llamas break free from the confines of the fenced in area. Have you ever seen a llama jump a fence? It is not unlike a deer, as far as that goes. Of course, they are taller than a deer, but are about as silly, as neither knows to get out of the road. Standing in the middle of the road is not safe…..if you are a deer, a llama, or a human being for that matter. Move it, my furry friends! Sometimes the llamas will decide the grass really is greener on the other side, and trounce their way to our front yard for a snack. I do not fancy myself  the “lord of the lawn” or “the grass master” (that is my daughter, actually) …..so I don’t really care if they snack on our yard, eh….as long as they are helping to keep the grass down. Besides, it gives the dogs some fun and excitement. Oh, there is also a brand new cria (baby llama). Picture a black and white cotton ball on stick legs. My husband and I got some pictures the other day. His were better than mine. It never fails. Every time I go to take a picture, the subject moves! Then it sort of resembles a blur. Just use your imagination.

IMG_20160529_200917553.jpg

This morning I was sitting at the kitchen counter, scanning through Facebook posts, as I am wont to do, when all of a sudden I heard them. My ears are attuned to all things llama. The boys were fighting! I grabbed my phone and ran out to the front porch. I turned the video on my phone. Of course, my phone does not zoom in well and it was too far out to really do a good job of videoing. Although the picture is not zoomed in, one can really hear the llamas (they are extremely noisy when going at each other!). Young male llamas like to neck wrestle each other. Usually it has to do with dominance and territory. One of the llamas neck wrestled the other to the ground but, wait…….he popped back up, bellowing at the top of his lungs. Just like two teenage boys fighting. During the entire video I am giving “Wild Kingdom” commentary. Great stuff, people. I might have missed my calling in life. Of course, at the end of the video, one can hear my dogs standing beside me panting (I promise it is them, not me), and then I can’t get the video off and so you get to see my feet and part of my front porch before I mercifully end the show. I never claimed to be a videographer, people. (I was going to attempt to download the video because it is only two minutes long. Alas, living out in the sticks, there is no fast download of video. I might post it tomorrow, because it will probably take that long to load!)

I love living in the country! City living might be more convenient, but one can’t see llamas in the city….and that is really sad for you. I, on the other hand, can watch all the llama drama right from my front porch.  #greenacresistheplaceforme #llamalove #llamadrama