Not One Of Them Knew They Wouldn’t Be Coming Home

I give you fair warning, this post is sad. I realize some people don’t want to read something if it comes across as depressing. I get that, but this is the way life is sometimes.

Unfortunately for all of us, life is sometimes sad….

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Wednesday morning, seventeen people woke up. They picked out their outfits to wear on Valentines Day, they were going over plans they had, grabbed backpacks, school books, car keys, and kissed their loved ones before leaving for work or school. They weren’t expecting a shooter at their school. Not one of them knew they would not be coming home that afternoon. Life changed forever for those left behind.

My late husband was just thirty-one when he was diagnosed with an incurable heart disease. The day he went to the doctor to get a routine physical for his job as a truck driver, my preschool-age son and I were going with him so we could all go out to lunch together after the appointment. It didn’t work out that way. Instead, my husband was taken to the hospital, where he stayed for a week. He lived for another year and four months after that diagnosis. Life changed forever for those left behind.

My new husband was also widowed. His wife was thirty-nine. It was a perfectly ordinary day, with the exception that her back was hurting her. She went to her chiropractor and still wasn’t feeling better. Later that evening she dropped to the floor, in and out of consciousness. An ambulance was called. They found out she had been bleeding internally. Maybe an aneurysm? The doctors weren’t sure. She wasn’t coming come. Life changed forever for those left behind.

The miscarriage.

The cancer diagnosis.

The car accident.

Sudden Infant Death.

Old Age.

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My husband and I co-facilitate a GriefShare group. We will be starting it back up soon for the Spring. Between the two of us, on and off, we have been involved with this group for nearly fifteen years. During those years we have listened and held hands of those grieving. Cried and laughed. Hugged and supported. It is not easy, because every time we meet someone new, someone hurting…..we are reminded of the pain of our own losses. I used to second guess myself, was I sure this was the ministry where I was called to serve? Is this really what we wanted to do?

My answer is yes. It will always be yes. Not because I am important or even special, but because God is. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 

Jesus wept at the tomb of his dear friend Lazarus. He understands people’s pain. God knows what it is to watch His innocent, blameless Son die. It is because of Christ’s death that we who know Him, have hope. That is what I am called to share with the hurting. Hope. His hope.  Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 

On my late husband’s gravestone is the scripture reference of John 11:25. My husband wasn’t perfect. Honestly, he had a lot of bad habits, he made mistakes… but he knew Jesus. As a follower of Christ, I know where my husband is, and others that I have loved who have died,  and who knew Jesus. I don’t mean know of Him in an academic way, purely historical. I mean love Him, accept Him, and follow Him.  That verse on the gravestone says, Jesus said…, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…

Friends, do you know Jesus? None of us knows when our last moments will be, and quite frankly we live in an increasingly turbulent, violent, and scary world. No one wakes up thinking this is going to be the day he/she dies. I don’t want to die yet, but if today should be my day I know beyond a shadow of a doubt where I will be…with my Jesus. More alive then, then I will ever be on this Earth.

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Please take a moment to read a group of verses in the book of Romans. Thank you to Mr. Peterson, at Bible Gateway.

 

For your quick reference, here is the Romans Road to Salvation: a selection of Bible verses from the book of Romans that present the plan of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ

The Problem

Romans 3:23 (CEB)
All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.

Romans 3:10 (CEV)
The Scriptures tell us, “No one is acceptable to God!”

The Consequences

Romans 5:12 (NIrV)
Sin entered the world because one man sinned. And death came because of sin.
Everyone sinned, so death came to all people.

Romans 6:23 (ERV)
When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death. But God gives his people a free gift—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Scope

Romans 1:20 (ICB)
There are things about God that people cannot see—his eternal power and all the things that make him God. But since the beginning of the world those things have been easy to understand. They are made clear by what God has made. So people have no excuse for the bad things they do.

The Solution

Romans 5:8 (GNT)
God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!

The Response

Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

The Assurance

Romans 10:13 (NLT)
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

 

The Result

Romans 5:1 (VOICE)
Since we have been acquitted and made right through faith, we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King.

Romans 8:1 (NIrV)
Those who belong to Christ Jesus are no longer under God’s judgment.

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

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The Genius Five Year Old

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This is my twenty-eighth year in education. For seventeen of those years, I taught full time in four different elementary schools in East Tennessee. I’ve worked in a rural Appalachian school, a large suburban school, an inner city school, and a small, local, city school. I took time away from public school to homeschool my own children through middle and high school. I am currently working part-time as a home instruction teacher for students who are on IEP’s (individual education plans) and who for various reasons are unable to attend the brick and mortar school. Over the years, as a special education teacher, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to work with students with many different disabilities diagnoses, different races, different socio-economic situations, and different family situations. Yearly, I complete assessments for a myriad number of homeschooling families. I co-founded a monthly support group for families that have children with various disability diagnoses, whose sole goal is to educate families and come alongside them with support and give them the chance to network with other parents. I tell you this to let you know I am passionate about learning. I am always learning, myself, but also helping students, parents, and anyone else who is interested, to learn.

This year, along with my other teaching, I get to spend a large amount of time playing with my seventeen-month-old granddaughter. I get to watch learning happen, as each new and exciting opportunity unfolds. Geo-blocks. Yes! Unix cubes. Wahoo! Puppets and dolls, and sensory balls that light up, and everything. With a one-year-old literally, ANYTHING can become a toy. A paper towel roll, a cardboard box, toilet paper, or Kleenex. Anything.

 

people-children-child-happy-160946.jpegThe other night my husband came across an article that he told me I needed to read. It was an article about our education system in this country, and quite frankly, how it is letting us down. This is not about the teachers, and really not the local administrators either. It is more about the education system as a whole. It has been my belief for many years (and remember I have been on the “inside” for just shy of three decades), that our education system in the United States is broken. Learning that might have worked as preparation for the factory jobs of the industrialization era, doesn’t work anymore. It is my opinion, that this type of rote education has stifled creativity, problem-solving, and innovation in our children.

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Back to the article (Study Shows Kids are Born Creative Geniuses, But the Education System Destroys Imagination), my husband showed me… “Dr. George Land and Beth Jarman were commissioned by NASA to help the space agency identify and develop creative talent”. Sixteen hundred students, followed at five years old, ten years old, and fifteen years old. Creativity and innovative problem solving plummeted as the students got closer to graduation.

This is Dr. Land during a TED talk.

There has got to be a better way!

 

What If?

 

I read an article entitled, What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?. The article is written by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui. At first glance, it looks like the title is saying a bland, ho-hum kind of a life is the goal. That is not what she is saying…unless that is what someone is truly looking for. It is more about being okay in your own skin. Looking at your life with all its craziness and laziness, ups and downs and realizing you are okay with it.

This is something I have been thinking about and working through for the last several months. My life, like yours, isn’t perfect. It never will be, but it is good.

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  • I like to wear leggings and big sweaters instead of tight jeans and fitted t-shirts. (Because I am almost 50 and comfort far outweighs “cute”) Although, I will say I love vintage t-shirts.
  • I drink green tea and water every day, instead of soda. (I have a tea addiction and I embrace that)
  • I recently got my hair cut short, sort of a long “pixie”. It is simple, much easier to take care of and it fits in with my “messy”, low maintenance idea of hair care. (Blow it dry, spritz with hairspray and I am done)
  • I’ve lived in the country and I’ve lived in the city, and I enjoy the country more. Yeah, I have to drive to get anywhere and the selection of stores and restaurants is not great, but the open night sky and sunsets, peace and quiet, and having animals…worth every single inconvenience.
  • Sometimes I am grumpy and under pressure to finish assignments or assessments, or I just want to sit and watch Netflix. (Sometimes I do just watch Netflix because I can and because I need to relax–which is difficult for me)
  • I am passionate about people. My heart is for those with disabilities. My specialty is working with those with autism. My heart aches for those people caught in human trafficking. (I try to be a voice for all those individuals that deserve to be heard)
  • My children are grown and I am releasing my grip on them. I don’t always get it right. I am learning the fine line between love and letting go. (It is hard…so hard.)
  • I decided to go back to school in my 40’s to get a graduate level degree. I didn’t have to do it, but I wanted to do it. I have a 4.0 because I love to learn.
  • Winter is beautiful to me, even though the cold air dries out my skin and I am left with chapped, raw hands and itchy skin. (But, the snow falling soft and quiet…)
  • I am a good wife, I keep our home running smoothly on a daily basis…but, sometimes I can be grouchy and things get on my nerves and I am not always loveable. (But, my husband because he too is good, loves me anyway)
  • I like to get dressed up on occasion, but most of the time my life consists of tennis shoes, and sweaters, cleaning litter boxes, wiping up cat puke, and mucking a horse stall. (It keeps me humble)
  • Stubborn, edgy, and sometimes I blat out stuff I shouldn’t. Sigh.

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No, not perfect.

Not even close.

A good life.

A messy life.

My life.

And I am okay with it.

 

At Times Life Is Hard

pexels-photo-262218.jpegAt times life is hard. Gut-wrenching hard. Breath knocked out of you, hard. There are things that happen to each of us. Things we don’t like. Things we don’t want. Things we never asked for. These things leave us bone tired, weary from the troubles, ready to give in or give up. At those times we might silently ask our self, “How did I end up here?”.

If this is you right now, I get it.

In my own life, woven between the tender times and joyous moments are strands of rebellion and death. There was also widowhood hand in hand with single parenting. I had regret mixed with anger and pain. A time of job loss that threatened to take me under. Heartbroken over words that cut deep, and friendships lost. I have not lived my almost fifty years unscathed. There were times when my spirit felt crushed under the pressures of this heavy world.  No one really likes to talk about those feelings. Often times those feelings are pushed aside, shoved out of the way. But, they are real.

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Jesus never said, “Follow me and life will be easy. Follow me and there will never be trouble. Follow me and you will no longer feel pain”. Actually, it was quite the opposite. He knew life would be hard for us, but He also spoke comforting words, real words. He reminded us to not lose heart. To look to Him. To look forward to what is ahead…..

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rests for your souls .…” Matthew 11:28-29 NIV

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all“.  2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV

 

 

Modern Day Slavery

theme-patterns-74358.jpegHuman trafficking and sex trafficking doesn’t only happen in poor third world countries, it also happens right here in the United States of America. Infants sold by their parents to traffickers who have nothing but sinister plans for these innocents. Young boys and girls who trust the adults in their lives, only to be abused and forsaken. Young women promised decent jobs, only to find out they are trapped in the sex industry and are often beaten and threatened if they dare to attempt leaving.

These disturbing lines are ripped straight from newspapers and televisions across the country:

“Hollywood is in the midst of a massive sexual abuse scandal, which can be compared to that of Jimmy Savile in Britain”, child star turned adult actor Elijah Wood has claimed. 

“The Number one problem in Hollywood was and always will be pedophilia.” -Corey Feldman, During interview with ABC News

Two Lima <Ohio> men were convicted of human trafficking charges for their roles in forcing two teenage girls into sexual acts for hire, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin and federal officials said Thursday. –-Toledo, OH. May 2017

“She worked at the local mall selling sunglasses when she was lured into prostitution after being told she would be modeling.” –Phoenix, AZ

“A middle-class fifteen-year-old girl abducted from her driveway, gang-raped, threatened with death, and sold into prostitution”.–Phoenix, AZ   (Teen Girls’ Stories of Sex Trafficking in the U.S. ABC News. February 2006)

“I was four when my dad started trafficking me”–Dee Dee, Texas

“I thought he loved me”--Brittany, DFW area, Texas  (Shreveport Times, Part of the USA Today Network. May 2016)

“The Keepers”--Netflix (a true documentary about pedophilia and its coverup in a Catholic school in Baltimore, Maryland)

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President Donald J. Trump Proclaimed January 2018 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Law & Justice. Issued on: December 29, 2017. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-january-2018-national-slavery-human-trafficking-prevention-month/

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The statistics are heartwrenching. Lives forever changed. People broken. Innocence lost. Let these statistics sink in. I know it is overwhelming, but we cannot look away.

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Global Trafficking:

Over 20 million victims worldwide (Polaris Project)

Total market value of over 32 billion US dollars (UN)

Over 1.2 million children trafficked each year (UNICEF)

Affects at least 161 countries worldwide (Polaris Project)

Domestic Trafficking: 

Between 100,000 and 300,000 underage girls are sold for sex in the U.S. every year (US State Department)

Girls are sold for $400 an hour (Shared Hope, Int’l)

Reported trafficking cases in all 50 States (US State Department)

1 out of 5 pornographic images is of a child (US Department of Justice)

Statistics found at Women At Risk International (WAR) https://warinternational.org/understand-the-risks/

 

An unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country for sexual servitude and forced labor. Contrary to a common assumption, human trafficking is not just a problem in other countries. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. territories. Victims of human trafficking can be children or adults, U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, male or female.

How Do I Identify a Victim of Human Trafficking? How Do I Report a Suspected Incidence of Human Trafficking? Click on the link below for signs and what to look for.

(Office of Safe and Healthy Students. U.S. Department of Education. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oese/oshs/factsheet.html

Be aware of what is going on. Don’t look away. These hurting people are everywhere. They might even be in your own hometown.

Excess Doesn’t Equal Success

 

pexels-photo-584764.jpegI’ve been listening to TED talks. I enjoy listening to other people talk about their passions. I don’t have to agree with everything I hear (and I don’t always), but it usually interesting. Lately, I’ve been listening to men and women talk about simplicity in their lives. As you know, simplicity, slowing down, being intentional in my life is a thing for me now. One lady and her husband sold everything they owned with the exception of a few small boxes and moved abroad to live their dreams. Another man lives in a very small apartment (the size of some people’s closets) and said it forces him to be out in the community more. Another young woman cleaned out her entire closet keeping only a few loved pieces of clothing, throwing out or donating the rest.

 

As I type this post, I am looking around my house with new eyes. Now, I am not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do want to have less. I feel like things are holding me down. Stuff to clean, stuff to store, stuff I never use anymore, stuff I have that I don’t even know I have because it is piled in a box somewhere with more stuff. It is overwhelming. Stifling. Ugh.

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One person suggested getting rid of one thing a day for thirty days. After that time, usually, a person is so into the habit of this, he/she continues on the journey to less. I think I am going to attempt this. I don’t believe it is going to be easy, but I need to. I know that years ago after my first husband passed away, I gave a large number of his clothes to a friend from church. This friend and his wife and three young children had a house fire. They lost everything. EVERYTHING. This young man was the same size as my late husband. Jeans, t-shirts, socks, dress shirts, suit coats, sweaters, jackets they all went. There was peace in that exchange. I knew those clothes were helping someone. It made it easier. Not long after that, I cleaned out my side of the closet. I literally filled gigantic trashbags full of clothes to donate. It was one of the most liberating experiences. For real. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Physically, and emotionally.

I can do this.

One thing a day.

A small drop that will ripple out into the rest of my life.

Starting 2018 with less, because often times having less allows us to see more.

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Focus on Jesus

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Life often times doesn’t turn out the way I have it planned. It becomes messy, sometimes unglued, with uneven edges…..not the perfect picture in the dream. There are broken dreams, harsh words, and crushed hearts mixed into the mundane of each day.

I see smudges on the windows, crumbs on the counter, dishes in the sink. The to-do list only gets longer, while the days seem shorter. Never enough time. This race I’m in, where the finish line always seems to be out of reach.  Is this what I want? What I long for? My thoughts are muddled.

There are days when I feel like I am almost done, almost to the finish line. That is when I will relax. Then everything will work out. Then it will all be okay. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. That is just how life is. Sigh.

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This whole simplifying I am trying isn’t easy. I am constantly having to rethink about what is important. What is real. What matters. Being intentional is difficult. Anyone that has ever tried to change can understand that.

So, as I am thinking through what leading a more simple life will look like for me, I read Psalm chapter 46, verse 10. “Be still and know that I am God…” Be still. Don’t run around always doing. Relax. Know ME. This particular verse then caused me to think of the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha.

 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!  There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:38-42 NLT

Be still. Do not worry about details. Focus on Jesus.