Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 in review

  • January -- Braces for our oldest and a corneal transplant for my husband.
  • February -- Bob is still recovering from they eye surgery. His body healed quickly, but his eye does not regain vision as quickly as he'd hoped!

  • March -- Easter comes early this year and we celebrate with a mini-vacation to Virginia Beach for a couple days. What a great respite from the cold!

  • April -- As the weather warms, we enjoy some unusual visitors: Turkeys in the front yard and a mouse giving birth in our grill!

  • May -- May is always hectic. My husband and I celebrate our 19th anniversary; I direct a drama night for my middle school drama class; My middle daughter turns 13; I turn another year older; my daughters play their instruments in the MS band concert (Violin & flute) and my son makes his debut on the recorder!
  • June -- School's out. My oldest and I begin our training for our missions trip.
  • July -- On the road: One week in the Dominican Republic; Kids at camp for one week, and then ending the month with our family vacation / road trip from Jersey to Detroit, to Mackinaw Island, MI, to Toronto, to Niagara Falls and then home again. The missions trip was amazing and the family time was so much fun!

  • August -- We spend the days relaxing in the pool, playing with friends and enjoying the final days of summer. Bob and the kids even sneak in another road trip to Cedar point while I begin my back-to-school training.

  • September -- Back to school: I lose my 7th grade language arts classes and gain 10th grade English / American Literature. Smaller classes; a new principal; and powerful retreats for my middle school and high school daughters. My "baby" turns 10 and celebrates with an ice skating party!

    October -- After 17 year working for one organization, my husband resigns in order to begin a law partnership with an old friend. My son begins learning to play the baritone . . . After only 2 lessons, he can play 3 notes and a fart! Halloween is always a fun day for the kids!

    Frosty the Snowman & Alien Princess Butterfly

    Indiana Jones

  • November -- My oldest turns 15; we are all thankful for God's many blessings.

  • December -- 5 concerts in 10 days make the days up until Christmas break feel like a marathon! Bob and his partner finally move into their new office (but the furniture takes a detour to Ohio!)

It’s been a fun ride this year! As always, God has blessed us abundantly above all we could ever ask or imagine!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Family time

I had a surprise visit early in the week from my brother. His company in Texas needed to send someone to inspect work done at a mall here in New Jersey. When he looked at the map and realized the mall was about 20 minutes from my house, he volunteered for the job. He flew in, did the job, used his handy GPS and showed up on my doorstep. He was able to stay less than 24 hours, but it was such a treat. My "plans" for those days were thrown aside so I could sit and visit.

After he left, one of my kids commented about how his visit "threw off" my plans I thought about it a bit and told the kids, for my brother, I'll throw off my plans any day. As I think about it even more now though, I realize that my kids need to see me "throw off" my plans so that I can concentrate on THEM. I'd do it in a minute for out of town guests -- but what about my own children and my husband? Can I lay aside my own agenda and concentrate on them? As a working mom who happens to be very task oriented, this is tough. I create lists of things to do for home and for school, and I make it my goal to finish the list. In the process, I often overlook the people around me. I've often laughed about a friend who is so task oriented, he puts relational items on his task list (call ___ today) so that he doesn't neglect people. I think I need to stop laughing and start modeling this. I need to put "family time" on my to-do list so that I don't neglect the most important people in the world to me.

Last night, Christmas night, this reality became even clearer. The grandparents had left, Daddy (sick again), was resting, and the rest of us were playing -- all on different computers or game systems. My oldest daughter kept bugging us all to do something TOGETHER -- watch a movie, play a game -- something TOGETHER. I put my computer aside, snuggled next to her on the couch and watched some mindless Disney Christmas thing. I guess I always assumed as my kids became teens they would want LESS together time. And yet my kids, especially my oldest, seem to want to be with us. They like "road trips" as a family; they like to play games together; they like to put the fire on and watch movies together.

So on the task list for this week . . . and this month . . . and this year . . . spend life together with my husband and my children. They need me -- not just to "do" all the mom things, but to BE Mom.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What a Week

What a week . . .
  • My husband's been sick all week with a nasty staph infection. He's been in pain, feverish, tired and all around miserable.
  • 4 credit cards were stolen from my wallet. My professional development team and I had a working meeting at Panera Bread all day Wednesday. At some point during the day, someone took my purse out from under my chair, went through my wallet and took the cards, put the wallet back in the purse & the purse back on the floor. And I never had an inkling. Later in the day my husband got a call from fraud alert atCitibank (and Discover) that someone had charged $600 at Best Buy and was attempting to buy 400 at Target. Both companies stopped the cards immediately.
  • It was the week before the week before Christmas break. If you know anything about schools, the students' and teachers' energy levels run in opposite directions as we get close to vacations: Students' levels increase as teachers' levels decrease! The kids are excited about the holiday, distracted by concerts and programs; the basketball season started -- so athletes ratchet up even further. All the while, teachers are rapidly losing steam. Those concerts and programs and games are all wonderful, but the distractions make classroom learning difficult.
  • During the course of the week my family made 5 different doctor visits. Only 1 was for illness (my husband and his above mentioned infection); the rest were check ups, sport's physicals, annual exams, etc. In addition, the one person in my family who did not visit a doctor stayed home from school sick -- she's nursing a cold.

What a week. Sigh.

So what do I do with a week like this?

  • I pray.
  • I remind myself that it could be SO much worse. Nothing happened that was life-threatening -- it was mostly just annoying, frustrating, tiring and overwhelming.
  • I pray.
  • I trust that no matter what happens, God is in control. Yesterday while hanging Christmas lights a friend made the comment: "Oh look, we had just the exact amount we needed -- Isn't God good." My response was, "Yes, he is good -- but he would still be good even if the lights didn't fit!" I believe God is sovereign over all. Nothing happens around us that is out of his control; and He is good. So when bad circumstances happen, I can trust that God can use them for good.
  • I pray.
  • I look for what God is doing. Is He trying to get my attention? Are there areas in my life that need pruning? Or are these circumstances simply distractions from Satan? Is he trying to get my focus off God and onto the waves and wind around me? Regardless, I have to keep my eyes on God.

I know all these truths in my head. I KNOW the right things to do and to say. I can give anyone good advise on how to handle adversity. But my heart is not cooperating. I still feel discouraged, overwhelmed and down right tired.

What a week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why I teach

I just read a wonderul blog that reminds me why I teach, and why, despite the stress, frustration and heart ache that often comes from pouring my life into my students, I keep going day after day.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Give Thanks

A few reasons to give thanks:
  • We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds. Psalm 75:1
  • You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118: 28 - 29
  • I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. I Corinthians 1:4
  • But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:57
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”- Colossians 3:16
  • Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16 - 18
  • We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. Revelation 11:17
Verses taken from Bible Gateway, New International Version: http://www.biblegateway.com/

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What'd you learn?

How many parents begin a conversation with their kids "So what did you learn today?" Generally, the kids' answer is "nuttin."

Well, I spent the past 3 days at the A.C.S.I. DC Convention: "Life on Life: Transformational Teaching" (http://www.acsi.org). And now my question to myself is, "So what did you learn?"

While there, I enjoyed the fellowship of my colleagues, listened to some challenging general sessions (Guy Doud (http://www.guydoud.com/ and Sue Thomas http://www.suethomas.info/) , delighted in the music of the Annie Moses Band (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgumSGoGSFY), and learned from some educational experts.

By far, my favorite presenter was Cynthia Tobias (http://www.applest.com/). Years ago I read the book How They Learn and heard hear speak about learning styles; since that encounter I've attempted to adjust my style so that I can effectively teach all of the different learners. But when you are dealing with nearly 100 students every day, it's impossible to hit each style, preference, personality. In the seminars I sat through ("Why even good students hate school", "Motivating students to take charge of their own success" and "Teaching Strategies"), she focused on teaching the students to understand their own styles and allowing them to make their own accommodations. She gave practical ideas and insightful suggestions. It helped take the pressure off me to change my styles so much, but to help look for ways the KIDS can adjust.

I learned much . . . so much . . . . in some ways too much to take in.

And so I sit here a day later, still mulling over and digesting the information, and I find the question is shifting: It's not WHAT did I learn, but How can I USE what I learned. What can I use in my classroom? How can this make me a stronger teacher? How will I use this to teach my students more effectively? For if I cannot apply what I have learned, than what I learned will be merely useless head knowledge.

So when my kids finish a day of school, maybe now instead of asking "What'd you learn?" I'll ask "What are you doing with what you are learning?"

Friday, November 14, 2008


Hebrews 11 – the “hall of faith”. Stories of men and women who endured seemingly impossible situations because of faith. They had faith that gave them courage to do whatever God called them to do. Faith that said their lives and their stuff and their dreams didn’t matter as much as God’s Kingdom. Do I have their faith?

  • Do I have the faith of Abel? He sacrificed his best because he believed God. He died – but he is remembered as a man of faith.
  • Do I have the faith of Enoch? His whole life pleased God. So much that God allowed him to escape death.
  • Do I have the faith of Noah to endure ridicule, to do something that seems to make no sense because that’s what God wants?
  • Do I have the faith of Abraham to leave everything behind and follow God’s lead?
  • Do I have the faith of Sarah to trust God’s promise even when it seems impossible?
  • Do I have the faith of Abraham to give up my children for God?
  • Do I have the faith of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph to “reach into the future” and bless my children with God’s blessing?
  • Do I have the faith of Moses’ parents to trust God to care for my children in an evil world?
  • Do I have the faith of Moses to stand up for what is right, for the oppressed, even if it costs me my own comfort and privilege?
  • Do I have the faith of the Israelites who stepped into the Red Sea and possible death?
  • Do I have the faith of the Israelites to fight the way God says, not the way man says?
  • Do I have the faith of Rahab who risked her life and trusted God?
All of these people went through incredible situations. Yet they had faith. They kept their eyes focused on the future: God made a promise and they kept their eyes focused on that promise. They did not give in to the storms around them, to the turmoil, to the attacks, to the uncertainty: They had faith that God would do what he had promised.
But the ultimate hero in the hall of faith is in Hebrews 12.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Heb 12: 2 – 3, The Message)
He kept his eyes focused on the prize – the future. And that gave him the ability to endure the unendurable.

God has not put me in the incredible situations of the heroes of faith; he has not asked me to go to death for his name. In fact, quite frankly, he has blessed me above all expectations: a wonderful husband, three great kids, a comfortable home, a good job. I couldn’t ask for more. Yet I still need to have faith, to live my life in total dependence on him, to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, not on the world around me.

So what is faith? Living each day that God gives me doing what he put before me to do all the while keeping my eyes focused on eternity, on his kingdom. The choices I make, my actions, my words, my thoughts as I live my day-to-day life must always be focused on Jesus and his kingdom.

I know this all to be true. I believe God’s word. I know his kingdom matters above all. I have faith that God IS in control of all things. . . .

So why am I still depressed?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Little things

Maybe it was all coincidence. Maybe it was just a series of random events. But this weekend God used a series of coincidences and random events to capture my attention.

Let me back up a bit. Growing up in a pretty conservative church, "Keeping the Sabbath" meant taking a nap and having no fun. And so I chose to put that particular command in the "Old Testament Law" category that I didn't have to obey. Once I joined the force of working moms, it became not just a law I didn't have to obey, but a law I couldn't possibly obey. I mean there is no way humanly possible to teach and take care of a family and still take a day off.

My friend Kathy reminded me frequently -- probably every Friday afternoon -- to "take a day off this weekend. Enjoy the Sabbath." At first, I told her it was impossible. Then I decided to do housework on Saturday and schoolwork on Sunday . . . This way at least I "sort of" took a day off."

Last summer, however, I read this verse: Ezekiel 20:18 "Keep my Sabbaths as holy rest days, signposts between me and you, signaling that I am God, your God." It struck me that God gave the law about the Sabbath, not JUST to give the people a much needed day of rest, but also to signal that HE is God and WE are not. Taking a day of rest is a way to say, OK God, I trust you to help me complete all of my work in 6 days. When I don't take a day of rest, I am doubting God's ability to work in me. So while I still believed there was no way "humanly" possible to get all my work done in 6 days, I decided to trust God to see what he would do.

When school started in September, I made it my goal to not touch school work on Sundays. In fact, I worked towards making it my goal to finish my lesson plans for the next week before I leave each Friday and to only bring "grading" home with me. Fridays and Saturdays have been busy, but Sundays have been glorious! No school work, no housework (OK, not much housework), a day to rest, reflect, read (and occasionally shop!). I really feel like this little change in my habits has made Sunday morning worship service much more meaningful. It's been good.

Now we come back to the series of coincidences and random events: Last week was insanely busy at school. I collected essays from 35 students and book reports from 60 students; I gave tests to those same 60 students; I had to plan several new units to begin teaching in the next week, AND I had parent teacher conferences and technology training. I worked non-stop every day and every evening and was still not finished. On Friday afternoon, in the five minutes that would occasionaly free up between conferences, I sketched out lesson plans for next week. But by 4:30, I was no where near being finished, so reluctantly, I saved my work and for the first time in 8 weeks, I took my plans home with me.

Saturday, I spent most of the day grading papers and taking care of my family, with the plan that I would have to give in and finish my plans on Sunday. Just once. God would forgive me. Besides, it wasn't about legalism. It was a necessity. . . . . Saturday night, I worked another hour or two on my plans. About the time I was ready to call it quits, I noticed that I did NOT have any of the plans I had worked on in school on Friday. Instead of saving them to my laptop, I saved them to the Network at school. That meant I couldn't access the work from home. Because I was doing so many things on Friday, I had no idea just what I had finished or what was ready for Monday. My stress level about went through the ceiling, but since there was nothing I could do about it, I went to bed.

Sunday morning before church , I read a chapter about the sin of unthankfulness in Jerry Bridges book Respectable Sins. I was reminded God calls us to be thankful in everything -- even difficult circumstances. My perspective shifted, and I thanked God for holding me to my promise not to work on Sunday, and I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to trust him. And then I went about my usual Sabbath -- a glorious day of rest.

I made arrangements so I could go in to work extra early on Monday to make sure I at least had plans for one day. I got in, retrieved my plans from the Network & saved them to my laptop, and sent the papers for my morning classes to the copier, and made it in time for faculty devotions.
During my planning period later that morning as I went to finish my plans, I discovered that somehow I had actually finished my plans for the whole week. All that was left to work on was a powerpoint for Friday. I don't know HOW I finished it all without knowing I finished it. But it was done. I breathed a huge prayer of thanks!

Now is when the coincidence comes in: Turns out the schools network had been acting up all weekend. Somehow, it was up and working on Monday morning for only a very short time slot -- the exact time I happened to get to school to retrieve my plans from the Network. By the time faculty devotions started, the system crashed and the network was inaccessible for the entire day. But somehow, I managed to get on in the few minutes it was up, copy my work to my laptop, and get off. A coincidence? Maybe. But I choose to see God's hand in every coincidence!

By Monday evening, when I sat down to look at the events of the few days, I was overwhelmed -- this time in amazement. God put in my heart to trust him in the little things; God worked out details so I HAD to trust him; and when I trusted him, God blessed my work. I actually had a GOOD Monday --- even though I went in without any idea of what I would be doing. THAT is God, not me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Seeking Truth

As a part of a school project I am working on, I have been digging into the "Web 2.0" technologiesand researching teaching methods and philosophies this week. As I've done this, the worldview that pervades education & society right now strikes me. I’ve been reading about “constructivism” and “meta-cognitive” theories, and about the necessity of teaching kids 21st century skills which focus more on collaboration and inquiry than on facts. These beliefs jump out at me:

  • Truth is changeable and “experiential.” The only truth that matters is that which affects me personally. My truth may be different from your truth.
  • Authority figures are irrelevant. Because truth can change from person to person, I don’t need any authority figures to explain truth to me – I have to find my own truth.
  • The result or the product is less important than the process by which we get somewhere. Structure doesn’t matter as long as I’m “thinking” and searching for truth. It used to be “the ends justify the means,” (which was also not Biblical.) Now, the end doesn’t even matter. So any “means” is OK – as long as it works for me.

The worldview around me runs contrary to Biblical truth.

  • Truth is found in the person of Jesus Christ and his Word. God is the author of all truth – anything that man discovers comes from God. Just as I cannot change the “fact” that 2+2 = 4, I cannot change the facts about God, man, sin, humanity, hell, etc. I cannot choose to believe only the truth that I like and throw away the rest.
  • God created human relationships with an in-born NEED for authority. God placed Adam as the “leader” in the Garden and Eve was the support. In marriage, Man is the “head” and woman is the support. In the church as a whole, Christ is the “head” and we, the church, support his work. In individual churches – pastors / teachers lead the church. I can find example after example from Scripture that show me that God put someone in authority to teach, to govern, to lead those following. (Think Moses, Samuel, David, the Judges, etc). In the New Testament, specific commands are given that those who are older and more mature should teach the younger.
  • Both the process and the end result do matter. In the old testament, God gave explicit instructions on how to build the ark, the tabernacle and the temple. He did not leave it up to the builders to decide how to go about their business. And the final products were works of excellence in form and aesthetic beauty. God DOES care about the end product. The Bible itself is beautifully written – it was written WELL. The content is amazing and the structure (in it’s original form) was excellent. Both content and structure are important.

I recognize the flaws in the thinking of the world around me. I can see that the world I am working in, EVEN in the Christian school, is flooded with thinking and acting that runs contrary to God’s world. So what do I do? Do I run away from it all, take my kids and isolate them from the world? All of the “Web 2.0” and “School 2.0” practices and theories seem to scream the post-modern worldview. And I would love to run away from it all.

But Jesus didn’t run away; Paul didn’t run away. They lived, moved and interacted within the worldview that pervaded their times, but as Paul says: ". . . .I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. . I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (I Cor 9:19 – 23, The Message)

My job then, as a Mom, as a teacher, and a minister in God’s Kingdom, is to “keep my bearings” on what I believe, and enter their world. I do need to become more and more familiar with technology; I need to be aware of current methods of teaching and thinking so that I can interact with those around me. But I need to keep my bearings and share TRUTH with those around me. . . from the teachers I work with (Christian and unbelievers) to my students, to my own children.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A New Year

As summer ends, I'm torn. Part of me is sad that summer is over. No longer will I be able to enjoy days relaxing in my yard, reading books, watching television, playing games with my kids. The days of waking early and sitting for an hour on the swing in my yard are coming to an end. The lazy days are wrapping up. Days are getting shorter and even though it's still August, the trees even look different now.

Yes, summer is coming to an end, and that makes me a little melancholy. But with the end of summer comes something NEW and exciting.

You see, I love school. From the time I was a child, I loved September. As a 5 year old, I couldn't understand why kids were crying when their parents dropped them off. I had been waiting my whole life to go to school with the big kids. And as I got older, I still loved the first day. There's something about a brand new box of crayons. All of the colors in place; all with crisp, sharp points. By the spring, crayons will be broken and missing; my favorite colors will be dull. But in September it's fresh and new and exciting.

And that's one of the main reasons I knew I would be a teacher some day. Every year, I start fresh. Just like that box of crayons, I start out fresh and new, nothing missing, all the colors crisp and sharp. Yes, as the year wears on, like the crayons, I will wear thin, colors will break, I will snap at students . . . they will snap at me. But each September, I can put behind me the failures and frustrations of the previous year. I can look at the mistakes I made last year and start fresh this year. My box of crayons will be new and sharp.

So, yes, I'm sad that summer is almost over. But an energy is building in me, getting me ready for the excitement and the freshness of the new year.