Valuable And Worthy

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I just read another story about a teen that was bullied, and chose to take his life. It was heartbreaking. Most people’s reaction to a story like this, aside from the obvious sadness, is one of outrage. How could other students be so cruel to this child? What would possess a person to devalue another’s life so much? What is the matter with them?

All of us want and need to know that we are valuable…that we make a difference in this world that we live in. That we matter. We might not choose the helpless and hopelessness of taking our own life, but many people are left dying on the inside.

The older I get the more I realize the truth of the saying, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Most people are good at covering it up, going on with their day, keeping their hurts to themselves….but, it doesn’t mean that the battle isn’t real, or it doesn’t exist. A kind word, an encouragement, a hug, or a listening ear can make a real difference.

Jesus understood this when He said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

God loved us so much (true love, real love, perfect love) that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus), that whosoever (regardless of age, gender, race, or socio-economic background) believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

He thinks each of us is valuable and worthy.

Dear Guilt, Leave Me Alone!

Today’s writing prompt from Holley is: What would you say to Guilt?

Dear Guilt,

I’m writing this letter because I feel like I need to clear the air. I will admit, I don’t like you very much. You take up space in my head, and weigh heavy on my heart. You continually make me think of the “could have’s and the should have’s”. Many times you overwhelm me. You make me feel like I am choking, as I sputter out words to cover you up, clean you up, or stuff you away some place. You get on my nerves! On occasion I will think certain things or feel certain ways, and you show up uninvited, making me feel, well…..guilty! Why won’t you leave me alone?!

Sincerely, Me

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23 NLT (I know, by myself, I could never meet God’s perfect and holy standard. I will always fall short. Even though the world would consider me “a good person”, I know in my heart that I am not. I am not good, apart from Jesus Christ and His gift of redemption.)

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8 NLT (I was guilty in my sin, and didn’t even know it, or care, for that matter. I didn’t deserve God’s grace, but He gave it just the same, because of His wonderful love.)

God’s amazing grace breaks the chains of guilt, fear, and hopelessness. His grace allows the guilty to be set free.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT  

He Gave Me A Firm Place To Stand

It is a beautiful, sunny, late spring day. The sky is bright blue, with just a few white, puffy clouds. The grass has been freshly mowed, and the newly potted flowers are hanging on shepherds hooks near the deck. It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood. It might be the calm before the storm, as we have the possibility for severe weather this evening.

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Isn’t that just like life? Going through life, everything is flowing smoothly, and all is well. Then it happens. It could be anything, just not what is expected. Sometimes it can mean a bumpy ride, choppy waves, or hanging on for dear life.

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“Father, help me to keep my focus on You. When the weather of life is good, I thank you. When life is hard, I thank you, not because I particularly enjoy the difficult things of life, but because I know that You are still there. You don’t leave me alone in the mess. You pull me out and see me through.”
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2 

It Is An Ongoing Process

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I try hard to lead a balanced life.

I am learning it is okay to say “no” to things.

I am trying to simplify, so I can focus on the important.

It is an ongoing process, in my day to day life.

On some days I struggle with it more than others.

The earth at times seems to lean heavy on the hard things. The scary things, the painful. I wish it wasn’t this way. Yesterday, I found out a sweet young friend is struggling quietly with chronic health issues that I knew nothing about, another friend, who is now a grandma, waited last night for her grandson to be born, watching her daughter tense with pain from a 30+ hour labor. Yet, another teacher friend, told of her student who had special needs, that had passed away……and the earth continues to spin, making me dizzy with it all.

While taking a shower the tears flow, mixed with hot spray, both are washed down the drain. Cleansing the body, washing the soul. There is, all too often, much to cry about…..but, I cannot stay at this place.

For all the hard edges of this world, all the diagnoses, the pain, the sorrow, the scary nights, the close calls, and the misunderstandings…..there is still so much more to be thankful for. Being able to see the light in the darkness is a true gift. I consider it a wonderful opportunity to be able to offer thanks.

There are moments when I feel as if time is suspended and I am standing in slow motion, being allowed the privilege to truly see…to live this one life with my eyes wide open to all there is instead of all there isn’t.

The kind of life I will live, has much to do with where I keep my focus.

I am thankful for: 

*pulling the curtains back on a glorious pink and purple morning

*the soft padding of my footsteps as I let the dog out for his morning walk

*the rooster who crows a good morning, telling the world it is time to get up

*emails from friends with good news

*a chill in the air, even in late May

*getting my car back from the garage, driving down Main Street

*rabbits that run across the road ahead of me

*a new cria (baby llama)

*a kiss on the forehead before leaving for work, from my 20 year old son

*a daughter who is graduating in two days

*a husband that I love, and loves me back

*fence posts and wide open fields

*blue expanse of sky that kisses the horizon

*bright red barns with horses grazing

*freshly planted fields that will soon be sprouting

*lovely birthday cards and gifts, and a treat that arrived from Amazon

*phone call with my mom and sister….hearts touch over the miles

*looking forward to a family wedding in June

*Thank you, God. You are the giver of daily gifts. Some big. Some small. All valuable.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 

Slow Down

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Sometimes I read something, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is speaking to me. Today’s “Jesus Calling” devotion by Sarah Young said, “Do not search for security in the world you inhabit. You tend to make mental checklists of things you need to do in order to gain control of your life. If only you could check everything off your list, you could relax and be at peace. But the more you work to accomplish that goal, the more things crop up on your list.”

Ouch, that hits me where I live. I am the mental checklist queen, the to do list diva. Yep. That is me.

Just last night I was thinking about how busy the month of May is, and how am I going to get everything done? I had to remind myself that life is so much more than the list of things to do, because let’s face it, there will always be stuff to get done. I shouldn’t allow it to control me, or rob me of peace.

Life is not an urgent emergency.

Slow down, enjoy the moments, appreciate the view.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matt. 11:28 &29

I Hate Death

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I hate death.

I hate the pain it causes.

The hearts it breaks.

The lives it changes…forever.

Those that are left behind.

I’ve walked this journey multiple times in my life…traveled in the shadow of death.

Today, my heart is hurting for the loss of one so young.

I hate cancer. I hate leukemia. I hate when children die.

The aftermath is messy and painful.

It hurts, when hearts bleed wide open.

The “why” questions go unanswered. Even if we all knew the why, could we fully understand it? Would it make a difference? Regardless, there will still be an empty place, that is impossible to fill.

This world is so broken, cracked through to its very core.

One day it won’t be this way. One day death will die. One day, oh…one day.

In the meantime we live in it, and through it, and we wonder about that why question.

Jesus, You understand death. I know You do. When the landscape is darkened with sadness, You are there. You never leave. You never let go. You hold the hand of the broken hearted. You wipe their tears. Although we don’t understand, and the walk is hard and painful, help us in our grieving.

Help us to have hope….in You. The only One who has ever overcome death.

Amen and amen.

1 Corinthians 15:54

But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.

How Great Thou Art

Yesterday morning, at church, we sang, How Great Thou Art. This is one of my favorite hymns. I have been known to bust out a chorus or two of this song, while I am going back and forth from the barn. or sometimes when I am outside at night, looking up at the black velvet sky filled with stars. This song even came to mind the other night, when we had the blood moon make its astonishing appearance. I stand amazed.

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O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

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When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

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And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

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When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

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Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

How Great Thou Art” is a Christian hymn based on a Swedish traditional melody and poem written by Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940) in Sweden in 1885.

Storms Of Life

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Spring ushers in storms. These storms bring torrential rain, and high winds with them. I always keep an eye to the sky and watch cloud formations during this time of the year. A beautiful spring day can go from balmy and sunny to dark and mean in no time flat.

I live outside of a town, here in farmland Ohio, that got hit hard by one of those storms back in June of 2012. I consider myself a weather geek, but was caught totally and completely unaware that day.

I never saw it coming. 

As my husband and I raced into town that afternoon, to rescue our son who was having car problems, a storm was racing across the midwest, straight for us. We would find ourselves caught in its fury, as that lazy,hazy early summer day turned wild and dark.

We made it into town, and I had noticed on the drive in, the clouds were a little odd….but, we had things to do so I didn’t dwell on it. Once in town we tried to get our son’s vehicle to start, with no success.

At that moment it hit…….hard.

People running down the street. Siding being torn off buildings. Bricks falling from on high, into piles of rubble below. A large tree right in front of us fell over, electric lines down in the street. Our historic courthouse, smack in the middle of town, took a hit. Rain….wind…..so much wind!

I thought it was a tornado. Not the kind of weather one wants to be caught in, especially when stuck outside in the middle of it all.

Getting out of town wasn’t easy, as we found most roads blocked by debris and downed lines.

By the time we finally got back home, the sun had come out. Our house, that sits alone, in what once used to be a farm field, was untouched. Our children, one of whom was with us, and the other two who were counselors at a local summer camp were okay. Our nerves were jangled, but other than that, we survived this frightening weather event.

(As it turned out the event was a derecho. This is what I found on Wikipedia to explain what took place: A derecho (/dəˈr/, from Spanish: derecho [deˈɾetʃo], “straight”) is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms.[1] Derechos can cause hurricane force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods. Winds convection-induced take on a bow echo (backward “C”) form of squall line, forming in an area of wind divergence in upper levels of the troposphere, within a region of low-level warm air advection and rich low-level moisture. They travel quickly in the direction of movement of their associated storms, similar to an outflow boundary(gust front), except that the wind is sustained and increases in strength behind the front, generally exceeding hurricane-force. A warm-weather phenomenon, derechos occur mostly in summer, especially during June, July, and August in the Northern Hemisphere, within areas of moderately strong instability and moderately strong vertical wind shear. They may occur at any time of the year and occur as frequently at night as during the daylight hours.)

This storm was scary, and not so much like other storms that happen in life.

Storms that we might never see coming…….

When the winds of pain are pounding hard, when the problems seem torrential, and it might feel like there is no way out of the storm, there is.

Jesus is still able to calm the storms of this life, but sometimes, for His own reasons He chooses not to. Sometimes He instead, calms us in the midst of it all.

He brings a peace that passes all understanding.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

The Ups And Downs

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Today is Central Auditory Processing Disorder awareness day. April is Autism awareness month. As a special education teacher, consultant and advocate I have had the pleasure (and sometimes frustration) of working with students with all sorts of diagnoses. I have learned a lot from my students, and their parents, over the years…..things I would never have learned had I not been on this journey.

This is a post from my archives, I am reblogging in support of those with auditory processing disorders and autism.

Making A Real Difference

My friend was sitting at my kitchen counter yesterday morning. She hangs out while I work with her son during Fun Kitchen Fridays. He is learning life skills as we create a cookbook for independent living.  My friend told me that a jeep had just pulled up in my snow covered driveway. Dogs began barking as I opened the door. Flowers for me? Completely unexpected, but welcomed. The flowers were beautiful and smelled like spring on a cold winter day. The card attached read: Thank you for helping my Mom change my life. Love, K.D

The message was short. Simple. Sweet.

Yet, to me, deeply profound. I had what my son likes to refer to as “moist eyes”, as I read the card.

Over the past several weeks I have been consulting with K’s mom. K is on the autism spectrum and she needed help with school planning. Planning that would teach her, and challenge her, and benefit her….things that would make a real difference in the life of this young child.

For parents of children with special needs, many times the battles are great. Being an advocate is not easy work. There are set backs and disappointments, so when the battle is finally won the rewards are often bitter sweet.

Sometimes when life gets us down and everything seems to be going wrong, a small, simple gesture can mean so much.

Making a real, positive, difference in a person’s life. One day at a time.

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Matthew 25: 44-45  NIV

Do You Sometimes Feel Ordinary?

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When Jesus began His ministry, He chose the group of men that would be His closest companions and friends. Those that would walk with Him, talk with Him, learn, observe and most of all witness His glory, up close and personal. Jesus, Son of God, He who was there when the earth was created. He who knew the gloriousness of Heaven. He who entered into time and space…came for all of us…into this broken world. He chose the men that would walk by His side. These men, to hear of them, were not particularly special. Many were fishermen, think of an earlier A.D. version of Deadliest Catch. A few of the fishermen actually owned their own business, hiring others to work for them. One disciple was a tax collector. Tax collectors weren’t any more liked back then, than the IRS is now. Another disciple was a zealot, which pretty much meant he was a religious community organizer. He wanted to stir up the Jews against the Romans. He probably knew how to work a crowd.

I picture strong, working men with calloused hands from pulling in heavy nets full of fish. Probably a bit “salty” and rough around the edges. I think that several of the men were not afraid to speak out and speak up. They knew how to put words together to make sure others listened. A couple of the brothers, James and John, were named “Sons of thunder”. Now, I don’t know about you, but I kind of think those two must have been something else. Loud? Booming voices? Maybe, when they entered a room people couldn’t help but take notice? I bet they had a presence.

These devoted followers, students, and companions of Jesus, learned a lot during the three years of Jesus earthly ministry. I am sure they spent a lot of time wondering, worrying, questioning, and trying to understand all that Jesus taught and showed them. They weren’t perfect. They made mistakes. They often fell short of expectation. Jesus knew they would. They were human after all…..and yet, even so, they helped to change the world.

Do you sometimes feel ordinary? Wondering what plan God has for your life? Do you not feel smart enough, pretty enough, tough enough to make a real difference in this life? Stop that train of thought right at the station! Man(kind) looks at the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. He knows our thoughts, and understands our attitudes. He can use anyone, for His own purposes and glory. Think about it…..God used stutterers and those who were tongue tied to lead great nations. He used murderers, adulterers, warriors and kings, prostitutes, and panhandlers, the disabled, and the deranged. He used tax collectors, and governors, and a woman at the well doing her daily chores. He used farmers, and fisherman and children who had fish and loaves for lunch. He used a young brother, sold into slavery, to become one of the most important leaders Egypt had ever seen. He used young men who surprised the king when they walked through fire unharmed. He closed the mouths of hungry lions so they would not kill and destroy. He used the words of a common thief dying on a Roman cross, to remind us that no matter how low you are, you are never too far from the Father’s grip of grace.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV