Day #1 Of The Challenge-Tell Me A Story

I have decided to commit  to the challenge of writing something each day for the next 31 days. Each day has a writing prompt that will “give me a push” to complete that day’s challenge. Some days the posts will be short, and some days longer, depending on what kind of day I am having. So here goes.


Tell me a story……..

The first time I laid eyes on the school, it made me feel uneasy. The older inner city school looked sad sitting in the midst of this worn down neighborhood. Had I made a mistake? I was beginning to doubt my decision to take a position here.

The days there did indeed turn out to be emotionally, and mentally difficult for me. Many days I felt helpless to make any real changes in the lives of my students. One day in particular, I found myself learning a lesson that I didn’t even know I needed to learn.

His head was laying on his desk, he was obviously too sleepy to even finish his lesson. “Why are you so tired today?”
“My mom made me sleep in the bathtub last night….and it is hard to sleep in a big ol’ tub.”                                                                                                                                                                        “The tub? Don’t you have a bed? Where was your mom? Where was she sleeping?”                 I could feel myself becoming indignant.  What kind of a mother would make her son sleep in a hard, cold tub? The idea was completely foreign to me.                                                               The next day I had opportunity to talk to my student’s mother. I told her that her son had been tired the previous day…he hadn’t slept well.  She looked at me sheepishly and replied, “I know that sounds bad, but I didn’t know what else to do. The gangs have been shooting a lot in the neighborhood the past few nights. I worry that the walls in the housing projects are so thin. When the gunfire got really bad, I put J in the tub. It is a thick, old tub. I figured he would be safe from bullets if he slept in there.”

I learned a valuable lesson that day….not to judge a person’s motives. Not to pretend I understand when I don’t know all the facts. What I thought was neglect, and maybe abuse, was in fact a mother’s selfless love for her child. She placed him in the safest place she could find.

Sometimes things are not always what they seem.



When The Ending Isn’t Always What We Think It Should Be


Movies, relationships, and how sometimes the ending isn’t always what we think it should be, or want it to be.

Last night my husband and I watched the movie, Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks. The movie originally showed in theatres in 2000, but last night was the first time I had seen it. It was a good movie, but made me sad too. I’m the type that likes movies to have a happy ending. I like things to be tied up in a big red bow by the time the credits roll.  My husband reminded me that life just isn’t that way, and this was still a good movie because Tom Hank’s character had grown and changed by the end. True…but, still.

My husband is right. Life doesn’t always have what we would consider happy endings. Things that happen aren’t always fair. All of us live in this fallen world where the fissures of life often leak out pain and brokenness. Most of us have experienced the questions of “why?”, “what if?” and “if only”.

Sometimes, when I am feeling contemplative, I consider the almost forty-seven years of my life. I relive my story, rewind the scenes, play back the moments. Sometimes my heart aches, and I still don’t always understand.

The truth is I probably won’t ever fully understand the why of all of life’s situations. Even if God, Himself, explained the why…would I be able to comprehend? Would it make sense to my finite mind? And would it change anything right now? Really?

I trust Him.

I trust that God does know and He does understand…..even when I don’t…..and I cling to that.

“Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is His faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3: 22 & 23


In Ways I Might Never Realize


The sunlight streamed through the kitchen windows illuminating all the smears on the counter, and the leftover fingerprints on the front of the microwave. Dust had resettled on the furniture, that I had just dusted the day before. As I swept the floor I noticed pet fur, and mud from winter worn boots. As I completed the mundane acts of daily cleaning, I considered the ordinary found in everyday life. As I traipsed to the barn, to feed animals, and back to the house to feed people, I thought about the simple routines. Dinner and dishes, and loads of laundry. Grocery shopping, and appointments for the kids. Love and laughter and even tears.

Back at the house, I pulled off my scarf and coat and quickly looked in the mirror as I raked my fingers through wind tangled hair. I have started to get the smallest of wrinkles that crinkle around my eyes. I like to wear sweaters and jeans and running shoes. This is me. There is no doubt, that I will never walk the runways of Paris.

I admit, I will probably never do what the world considers extraordinary things. I won’t be in the paper, or on television. Most people, out of my own circle of influence, will never utter my name. There are millions of other wives and moms (husbands and dads), that do the same things I do….day in and day out. Thankless jobs, sometimes boring, sometimes difficult, often times completely unseen.

And that is okay……because I was reminded that this life, each and every day is for an audience of One.

The One, who out of all the millions of people, knows me by name. The One who sees and acknowledges even the smallest acts I complete. With Him I am never forgotten. He loves me beyond measure and considers this one life I live to be valuable, in ways I might never realize.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.           Isaiah 49:15-16 

Thank you, Lord.

The Story Is Still In Progress

Just a little over a year later, I got the early morning phone call that my father had taken his own life. Once again, it seemed so surreal. I was hearing the words, but it was difficult to wrap my mind around it. This happened to other people, not me.

But it did happen. Regardless of the depth of relationship, when a parent dies, something forever changes. Childhood innocence (even when an adult) is tainted with hard reality.

So much had happened in my story. Pages turned, lessons learned.


A word that became familiar to me.

Months passed……Being a single parent was fine, but sometimes lonely. Jesus was very real to me and I stuck closely to Him as we walked this story together.

Years passed and God, in His goodness, brought my new husband and I together. In His sovereignty He wrote a chapter for my story that I never would have guessed had I been the one holding the pen.

I realize that my story…this story, the place I’m at right now…might never have been.

That realization, make no mistake about it, is a gift.

It allows me to value my moments so much more. Some would say I’ve paid a high price for this knowledge, but without my experiences I would have missed out on so much. That is just the truth.

My life’s story is just a small portion. If I were to give you a book, any book, and tell you to turn to chapter 14 and begin reading…it wouldn’t make sense. The story never makes sense if one doesn’t read the whole thing.

God’s story is the overriding story for all of us. It all started with Him and it will all end with Him. His is a true story of love, and it is through Him that all the rest is even possible.

1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. —-Hebrews 12 

Amen and amen.




What I Learned From Kennis

Today is the day.

Thirteen years have come and gone.

Seems like a lifetime ago, and yet not.

I am more aware.

Aware of what truly matters….

and for that I am thankful.

Even in our darkest moments, our worst times, God is there.

He is there.


I wrote this post last year…..and I thought I’d share it again.

Because it matters…..

Live Like You Were Dying

Tim McGraw at @ #WMT2010

Image by liljhawkgirl via Flickr

Without appearing to be overly morbid, I’d like to state the obvious.


I’m dying.


Yep, you read that correctly.


And, so are you.


Let that sink in a minute.


None of us are going to make it out of this life, alive. Well, unless Jesus comes back before then…but, other than that…yep, we’re all going to die.


It could be this evening, or maybe next week. It might be before Christmas…or it could be 75 years from now, in your sleep. None of us knows when, but we know it will happen.


That really is one of the few sure things we can know, in this otherwise chaotic adventure we call life.


Now, with all that said, and you my readers, probably scratching your head and wondering if I’ve totally flipped out talking this way….


A few days ago, a friend of mine on Facebook, wrote a status using Tim McGraw‘s lyrics of Live Like You Were Dying.  If you’ve never heard the song you should take a listen. For being a secular song, it is still very good, and has a lesson in it that we could and should learn. A lesson in living. You can check out the lyrics here.  Anyway, as one thing usually leads to another, it got me thinking about life and death and all the in between stuff. I realize that most people do not want to hear this kind of talk. It makes them uncomfortable, nervous, or down right angry. That’s okay. One doesn’t have to read my blog entries if one wishes not to do so. My goal is not to make people  uncomfortable, but to make them think.

I remember when my first husband died. The day we got the diagnosis was a beautiful, June day. When we got out of bed that morning we didn’t know that it would be the beginning of the end.  Isn’t that true about a lot of things in life? He was 32 when he was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition. He lived for just 1 year and 4 months after his diagnosis. Now, if you’d have known my husband, he was not what I would have called a philosopher, or a theologian. He was a good ol’ boy, born and raised in the south, loved NASCAR, and Tennessee football. He should have gone to culinary school, he loved to cook, and he was excellent at picking out just the right gifts for birthdays and Christmas. All that aside, some of the most profound things that he ever said to me in our nearly 10 years together, were during those months between his diagnosis and his death.

As the months went on, and he became weaker, his words took on new meaning. Words that still echo back to me 11 years later.

I remember…. “Dawn, come sit with me. Cleaning can wait….I won’t be here forever.”  He knew he was dying. His perspective had changed. He realized relationships were what was important in this life. (Lesson #1)

Or, the scripture he wrote in his own hand, a verse that was close to his heart….found in 1 Corinthians 2:9. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”  I still pull that verse out on occasion and read it. I look at his handwriting and think to myself, he’s there now.  He sees what God prepared for him. He had a personal relationship with the Lord. (Lesson #2)

And the final words that he said to me, as he lay in his hospital bed…”I love you.”  These words were followed by a hug. That was the last time I ever felt my husband’s arms around me. Isn’t that what most of us want to hear? That we are loved? (Lesson #3) God was so good to me that hard day. He gave me the gift of Kennis’ words.

As much as I tell this story about my late husband, and the emotion of it all floods back to me, it is not he that showed me the greatest love. It was not my husband’s love that saved me. Nor, is it he that has gone to prepare a place for me. You see, the One that wrote me a love letter….it is He that I long to meet after I take my last breath in this world. It is Jesus that will make Heaven, home.


Jesus said, ” I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…”  John 11:25  NIV


“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me (Jesus)……I am going to prepare a place for you….I will come back and take you to be with me.”  John 14: 1-3


And so….


live like you are dying…


Because you are.


Living The Life

Our computers

Image by aranarth via Flickr

As many of you know I am a former, public school, special education teacher. (mouthful, huh?) I loved my job because I loved my students–and their parents. (most of the time) Four years ago I resigned from my teaching career of 17 years to come home. I, with my husband, home educate our own three kiddos. It’s not just a job. It’s an adventure. I’m not talking an adventure, like back backing through Europe. I’m thinking more like living in the trenches in Cambodia. Just teasing. No, really I am. Seriously, people. It’s not Cambodia on most days. Well, unless it is a day that everyone wakes in a bad mood and Dad and I haven’t had our coffee yet. Then we’re talkin’ serious guerilla warfare. Just sayin’.  All in all our kiddos are intelligent, well rounded, and they drive us nuts. On occasion. But, would they be teens if they didn’t? It’s part of the circle of life. I just secretly smile, because I know that one day they will get theirs. God will bless them with children in their spittin’ image. And I will laugh on the inside….because as a grandparent I will spoil my grandkids absolutely rotten (as is my grandparental right) and I will send them back home TO THEIR PARENTS. And I will sleep like a baby:)


1. I know what my children are studying. This is important to me…because I’ve been on “the other side of the fence”, and I know some of the off the wall stuff that is taught in schools, under the guise of character training, or student enlightenment.

2. We can work at odd hours if the need arises.

3. We are not chained to calendars or clocks.

4. My children are readers. They read on a myriad number of subjects, not just assigned textbooks. I learn many things from my own children because of things they’ve seen or read.

5. The kids interact with people of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly. This opens the world up to new relationships.

6. The kids learn to figure things out on their own. They are excellent problem solvers.

7.  They understand that all of life is a learning experience. It doesn’t end after graduation.

8. We can work in our pajamas if we so choose.

9. The kids are still kids. We all have our ups and downs. No one is perfect. They do know that they are loved. They are not scared to go to school.

10. It’s really cool that I, as the teacher, can smooch on the “principal” during lunch break, and I won’t get in trouble. Yep. There are definitely some perks to this lifestyle:)

Helen Keller had it right when she said, “Life is an adventure…or nothing at all.”



The Children That Changed Me–Part Four

The year is 1997. I’m still teaching in the same county, just a different school…one closer to my house. This would be the school I would teach in for the next ten years. I liked this school. I met many wonderful teachers and a lot of interesting students while there.

When I started at this elementary school I had seven years of experience under my belt and was fresh from the inner city experience. I felt like, since I survived that, nothing could slow me down now! The first day I met my new teaching assistant. She sized me up right away. Checking me out to see if I was up to par. I guess the “evaluation” turned out okay since we became fast friends both inside school and out. We were the dynamic duo of our little school….and boy, did we have some adventures together!

One little girl in particular always kept us on our toes. I will call her Vonda. I will not use her real name to protect the innocent or not so innocent as the case may be. She was EXTREMELY ADHD along with having learning disabilities. Now, I know a lot about ADHD…when I say she was EXTREMELY I mean it. This is the same girl that would walk around the room and touch everyone as I was trying to teach. I don’t mean a hand on the shoulder, or even a tap. I mean a full out ” squeeze you ’til your eyes pop out” hug. Or she might decide to give you a new hairstyle if your back was turned for a split second. The girl was constant motion. One day, right in the middle of a lesson, she jumped up, raised her arms to the ceiling and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Give it up for Jesus!” Okay. I love Jesus, but to be honest I wasn’t in a worshipful mood right then. I didn’t feel the need for a tent revival. I asked her to have a seat. My assistant told her to sit down….she did not. She bounced around praising Jesus instead of doing her schoolwork. You can imagine what the rest of the class looked like with her conducting her very own “come to Jesus” meeting and me attempting to have a lesson. All of them went wild, like monkeys at the zoo. Later that day, I informed her mother about the incident. Her mother apologized for her daughters impromptu church service…but she laughed. She said, “I have to tell you this story about Vonda.”

We were at church the other Sunday. Everyone was listening to the preacher, preach. We were all into the service, when Vonda started acting out. I didn’t want her to interrupt the service so I gave her “the look”. She ignored my “look” and continued to be disruptive. I whispered for her to sit down and be quiet. She looked the other way. I had, had it! She started in again and so I reached over and gave her a pinch on the leg to let her know I meant business. At this, she let out a loud, high pitched shriek. The congregation thought she was calling out because she was “in the spirit”. I just let them think that, as I gave Vonda another look. She was going to be “in the spirit” again if she didn’t quit!

I had a good chuckle over that story. Her mother and I bonded that day. We both knew what we were up against.

Not all my stories are easy to tell. Some hurt. Some stories I have chosen not to share because they still haunt me today. Stories of child abuse, drugs, and neglect…and a system that many times failed my students. My heart broke. My anger flared at the injustice of it all. When a person is passionate about something…sometimes emotions get in the way. Such is the story that I am about to tell……

I had a new student. I will call her Shelly. Shelly came from a home that was dysfunctional to say the least. Long story short it was all about neglect and emotional abuse. She had grandparents that loved her, but a mom that I don’t really think understood what real love meant.  I really liked Shelly a lot. She was a good kid except when she had “melt downs” and flipped desks and pulled over cabinets and threw things in a rage. You see Shelly was emotionally disturbed. She had a difficult time controlling her impulses….because mom saw fit to do drugs and drink alcohol while she was pregnant with her. She chose those vices over her own child’s health and well being. Shelly would never be “normal” because of her mother. The blame should be laid directly at her mother’s feet. Anyway, as a special education teacher I had to have meetings with parents at least once a year to go over progress.  I don’t know if mom was just having a bad day or what, but as we sat down at the table for the meeting she says to all the school personnel, “the fact that Shelly isn’t making much progress is YOUR fault.”  Now, I am usually a fairly calm and collected person. It takes a lot to get me truly riled up. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to come across that table at her. To scream in her face, “NO. It’s YOUR fault. YOU made the choice to do cocaine. YOU chose to DRINK. YOU chose this life for your daughter before she was even born. How dare you!! Go home and look in the mirror. YOU. YOU. YOU. Your daughter is damaged because you thought that YOU were more important than her and her future.”  I didn’t say this. Instead I just sat there and stared at her. I had to detach myself from it. From the situation. You see, over the years I learned that I can’t fix everyone. It’s not possible. Even though I wanted to help, I could only do what I could do,when my students were with me. Unfortunately, some times I had to turn kids over to situations that were less than desirable…because that is what our system says to do.

Tomorrow I will finish my blog series…my teaching-the later years.

The Children That Changed Me–Part One

As a mom, of course my own children have changed me. I am definitely a different person because they are here. I love my kids all the time, and most of the time I like them too…especially  now, during the teen years, but that is a story for another day.  This particular blog really isn’t about my own kiddos though. In this blog I’m talking about my other kids. The kids that I’ve spent 20+ years with. The kids that have challenged me…and changed me. I choose to dedicate this blog to all the kids out there that are fighting against the odds with both grace and goofiness, spirit and hope, determination and grit….and above all love. You see, I’m a special education teacher/consultant/advocate—whatever you want to call me…. and these are the stories about my kids.

“Aunt Mabel looks different”. My mom’s sister was born in the 1930’s, well before special education law went into effect. A child that was born at home, after a long delivery on my grandmother’s part.  A child that, due to reasons I’m really not sure about, was born mentally retarded. I understand that the doctor told my grandmother to just put her in an institution. She wouldn’t amount to anything. My grandmother refused and my Aunt Mabel went on to live a happy life. A simple life by a lot of people’s standards…but, it suited her fine. She brought a lot of joy to her family in her own way, and when she passed away a few years ago, in her 70’s, a hole was left in the hearts of those who loved her. Although my aunt wasn’t my student, she was my first understanding of “special education” and I learned a lot from her.

At the beginning of my senior year of high school I had almost enough credits to graduate. I was able to take a couple classes in the morning and by ten o’clock I was on my way to the elementary school next door to complete my independent study at their special education preschool. It was a good year. That was the year I met Joey. Joey was non-verbal, in a wheelchair, and he had seizures. He was the ripe old age of five, but he was full of personality. Those who think that you have to talk to communicate have never met this little guy. He laughed and smiled…and it was contagious. Joey taught me a lot about laughter that year. He also taught me about having a servant’s heart. He depended on me to move him from his chair to the floor–and to do that gently. He taught me how to deal with pain. Joey had a major seizure one day, unfortunately he bit his tongue–hard. I know it hurt, and I was helpless to do anything. His jaws were locked down and there was not much to do until the seizure was over. I learned to put myself in his place, and think about how I would want to be treated…even if I didn’t have the words.

That same year I met Carrie. A precocious two and a half year old. Grand-daughter to my former 3rd grade teacher. Carrie was a petite powerhouse, with almost white,blond hair and a million dollar smile. She could have you wrapped around her little finger in no time flat. She was talented that way. Carrie also had brain trauma and limpness on one side of her body….from being in a car accident as a infant. She had been born perfectly “normal”. Everything worked. Everything was good….until that fateful day that changed her young life. Carrie taught me that, but by the grace of God, I could have had the same thing happen to me. Traumatic brain injury could happen to any of us. It only takes one bad accident to change everything. Every time I saw Carrie, I didn’t feel sorry for her, because she didn’t feel sorry herself. She kept smiling and learned to figure out how to do things on her own–even if it was difficult. A lesson for all of us.

In my first two years as a “professional”, I met Luke, Malisha, Shonda, Jeffrey and Todd. Brent, Michael, Daniel and Travis among others. We all lived in a small town in the mountains of East Tennessee…..and we were going to the Olympics! It was an exciting time. The day of the trip was cool and overcast. We just prayed that it didn’t rain! The troop was ready to go. We were bringing “the heat” to this little get together! I couldn’t have been more proud. Each of the students participated. Even if they didn’t place, they put their entire heart into it….and they were brave in the attempt. So many times, those of us that are able bodied, think to ourselves, ” I can’t do this or that”. I think we probably miss a lot of opportunities because we are too scared to just do it. The courage and tenacity of my students was what made my students special….not their mental or physical disabilities. My kids taught me to press on, past the obstacles. Go, go, go and don’t look back. Keep running. You can’t win the race if you don’t try.

Tomorrow I will be continuing my story from the year 1992….come join me for some more lessons from the heart.