Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - What a Year It's Been!

I can't believe I'm sitting here looking at the end of another year...another year that has gone by so fast!  I've never been a huge New Year's person, getting really excited or making resolutions, it's just not quite me.  And a little over five years ago, I was a little nervous as to what the New Year might bring, and just 19 days after the New Year, the most important man in my life, my wonderful, loving dad passed away from complications with leukemia and diabetes.  That was tough, a tough way to start out the year.  But then the years after were filled with concern for my mom, as she was never quite the same after my dad passed.  Then we found out that she had Alzheimer's.  And each year, it was the concern of what that year would bring, would there be any stabilization, would it get worse, would there be anything that we could do to slow it down? And then as she got worse, the question became, is this going to be the year she loses her battle and I lose my best friend, and sweet mom.  And just four years after dad's death, mom passed away from that dreadful disease.  So, it's hard to say I'm excited, but then it is nice to think of a fresh, new slate to work with, and of leaving behind some of the sadness and stresses from the past year.  But I do always find it interesting to think back on some of the moments of the past year.
2013 started off with me still struggling with the death of my mom, and not long after her death, the sadness of my friend Erin passing, and the awful tragedy of Sandy Hook.  Things started off OK, though...got back into the swing of school, made it through the 5th anniversary of my dad's death, and mom's first birthday in heaven, and then my first birthday without her.  It was a bit strange celebrating with no immediate family for the very first time in my life, but I was treated very well, and spoiled by my kids at school, and my friends.  It was pretty special!
Then came March, and my heart broke again in ways I couldn't imagine as my dear friend Angie passed away unexpectedly!  It was devastating!  I didn't know I had that many more tears in me after my mom's death...but boy did I!  I miss her so much every day!  We did some special things to remember her, and special things for her family, which were helpful to us as well.  But of course the school year went on.  There were many things still to come, Fine Arts, the Amerathon, the play, the banquet, and then graduation.  Things ended well, and I was more than happy to have my summer vacation.  I was very tired...emotionally and physically exhausted.  I was excited, but yet very sad, as I would be spending the summer without my companion, my friend, my sweet mom.  I really missed her!
Then financial troubles started coming my way, things that were so discouraging because there was no quick, easy fix for them, and they weren't getting better or going away.  And there wasn't much I could do about them.  It wasn't just one or two little things, it was one thing after another, after another.  So, I couldn't do much, but I worked at the school, and then spent the rest of the time at home so I wouldn't be spending any extra money.  So, though I got rest, it still wasn't a very restful summer, with so many things on my mind.  There were other heartaches and sorrows over the summer as well that just made things hard, sad.  Then not too far from the new school year starting I found out my job description would be different, and that scared me quite a bit.  First, I have never taught a combined class before, whereas the other teachers all had.  Second, I would have that tough class again, and add another interesting class to it.  Third, there were going to be 19 of them!  Yes, I was quite nervous!  But as I've had to do so many times in the past year... several years, I had to learn to put my trust in the Lord.  Now don't get me wrong, I didn't do it all cute and spiritual-like.  I'm sadly not that good!  I did it with a little decent bit of kicking and screaming, but just telling the Lord, no matter how upset, or worried, or afraid I was of what He was doing to me, that I was going to try to trust Him.  That's all I could say, Lord, I'm trying and I need to know that You know that I'm trying!  There was a blessing that came out of that conversation, too.  The Lord allowed me to find something that was able to help in one of my financial situations.  So, I was able to know that He knew that I was TRYING to trust Him.  The school year started, and it has been an interesting one.  As I thought, my classes are quite colorful personalities, and we are all learning a lot this year.  But not far into this school year, I had some more heartbreaking news as our wonderful, fun-loving, kind, caring girl's basketball coach passed away unexpectedly.  Another tough time for our school, and the kids.  Another tough time for another family trying to process this loss.  But again we have been pressing on.  And here we are halfway through this school year, and at the end of 2013 with it's many ups and downs.
As usual, I don't know (none of us does) what this year holds in store for me, but I will just try to stick with the truth that I learned this summer, and just try to trust.  But you know what, I hope I can do better than that, and just simply trust.  I'm very human, though, and not always that good.  Hopefully though, I can remember the Lord loves me and wants the best for me, though sometimes I don't see or understand what He is doing...
....but Lord, help me to simply trust You this year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


This is definitely the time of year when relationships are strongly recognized.  Whether it's family relationships (immediate and extended), friend relationships, work relationships, church family relationships, romantic relationships... Then there are other kinds that come to light as well...old relationships, new relationships, new relationships that have put a strain on old relationships, and even broken or lost relationships. Most people have many if not all of these different relationships.  This time of year is when some of these relationships become very prevalent. People coming or going home to be with family.  Friend relationships connecting or reconnecting to enjoy time together. Work relationships celebrating with parties, gifts, or eating out.  Church family relationships growing through special times and services.  Many couples become engaged around this beautiful time of year.
It's everywhere!  Most Christmas movies are about relationships of some kind.  Walking around the malls or stores you see families enjoying (most of the time:) the season together.  You see young and old couples strolling along, holding hands taking in the sweet, magical enjoyment of this time of year.  You see moms and dads with their little ones willing to wait in long lines to get that special picture with Santa, or moms and dads by themselves trying to get as many special things as they can for their precious little ones.  You see friends getting together for coffee and shopping and fun.  You even hear it in many of the Christmas songs that are playing all around.  It really is everywhere!  It shows how important relationships really are. They mean so much to us in our daily lives.
But we can't forget that there are some who are dealing with broken, strained, or lost relationships.  Sometimes because of hurts or wrongdoings or differences in opinion, or even because of death.  Some are saddened to have a strained relationship to deal with that they didn't have last year, and it will be a little difficult for them.  Or maybe for someone it's just a broken relationship, maybe it's been broken for a long time or maybe it's very new.  It could be in family relationships, which would make the whole "family" feel of the season very difficult for them in some aspects.  Maybe it's a broken friendship or a broken romantic relationship, either way it is a struggle and often quite difficult to deal with.  Then there are the lost relationships- husbands and wives who have lost their spouses, brothers and sisters who have left siblings heartbroken, parents who have lost their precious children, and children who have lost their incredible, irreplaceable parents.  These are all very difficult things...and it doesn't matter if it has been years or is pretty recent, it still has a very strong affect this time of year.  There will always be that sense as some look around them that they are missing one or more of those key relationships, and it can be very painful, and very hard to deal with...and that's OK.  There just needs to be understanding.  When people are missing certain relationships that fact just seems to get magnified at this time of year.  Don't judge, just understand that some people go home to an emptier house than usual, missing special people that made their past Christmases so memorable.  Some people are missing family and friends that used to be a part of that special day, and it is difficult without them.  Some are missing family and friends that would love to be there to be a part of these special times, but are not able to right now.  Some never got to even know the precious, sweet relationships they lost, but will always hold them in their hearts, and with so much focus on the joy of children this time of year, that makes it difficult for them.  These people are not just looking for a load of sympathy, but just wanting people to understand even in all of the joy of the season, there are moments...many times just in the confines of that special place called home where memories were made or had hoped to be made, that people are struggling, and they just need prayer and understanding.
There is one thing that helps...and that is the most important relationship of all.  The relationship that we can have with our Heavenly Father.  It's through Him that our ability to have relationships even exists.  But He especially wants to have a close relationship with us.  Even He understands and has sympathy, He tells us to come to Him when we are heavy laden with burdens, cares, and struggles.  He wants to give us rest.  He tells us to cast our struggles and cares on Him because He cares about us.  He knows we're going to struggle, He just doesn't want us to forget that He is there for us in those moments, and He wants us to come to Him, to look to Him, to rely on Him, and keep growing closer to Him.
So cultivate and enjoy your relationships, don't take them for granted, enjoy each moment because they go too quickly.  Pray for broken or strained relationships to be restored or strengthened according to His will.  We need each other and need to be there for each other.  Pray for those who are dealing with lost relationships, sometimes all they need is just prayer.  But most of all cherish that greatest relationship, let Him provide comfort, peace, joy, and rest in His loving arms.
Lord, this has personally been a bit of a tough Christmas season for me...watching Christmas specials, seeing sweet commercials, hearing the beautiful Christmas music, seeing so many different relationships, all the while really missing those key relationships in my life.  The ones I share the most Christmas memories, laughter and fun times with.  I do know that You are the main reason for this wonderful season, but You also made my heart to miss those special relationships that meant so much to me.  Thank You for them, and for the time I had them, and I pray for my other relationships to be what You would have them to be...most especially my relationship with You!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chapel Lesson - Awesome Lesson

It's funny, it has been a crazy day, and I just knew today that I needed to take some time to write.  It helps me so much when I do.  I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.  I had to write about the chapel lesson the Lord gave to me for last week.  The reason that that is funny to me, is because I just looked at the title to my last post and it's a similar theme, but I didn't even realize it until I looked at the title just now.
Last week I was asked if I would be willing to do the first chapel of the school year for elementary.  I LOVE chapel, love to do chapel, so of course I said I would be willing.  But once I said that, then I had to think and pray about what I should talk about.  On the way home from church Wednesday night, the Lord brought to mind something about new things, beginnings, starting, and growing.  Then the neatest thing happened!  He just randomly (which was of course not random for Him...just for me :) brought to mind my plants, specifically my spider plant.  A couple of years ago, one of my students brought in a spider plant for me as a gift.  I was so excited, I love plants and we used to have spider plants when I was growing up, so it was cool to have my own now.  That spider plant has grown a lot since she gave it to me, I even have two new plants that I have grown from the one she gave me...and there are still some other small plants hanging from the original that I need to replant.  But the Lord made me think of that plant and also brought a great lesson to mind thinking about that plant.  Here it is:
It's a new school year, students are in new classes, with new friends, and even a new elementary teacher this year.  And even some of us have new roles this year.  With all the newness, it made me think of what a clean slate the beginning of a new year holds.  Some students are just starting school for the first time ever, they have to learn to get up in the morning and be ready for a school day.  Others are in new grades learning new things from last year.  It might cross some of our minds to think, man, I wish I was back home, or back in kindergarten, or back in the previous grade where it was easier.  But if that were the case we wouldn't be able to grow and learn.  The Lord didn't intend for us to stay in one grade and never to learn more or grow more.  He has a plan for our lives.  This spider plant is a neat plant because of the leaves and how they grow, but also because from the main plant, some smaller plants also grow.  (I showed them the spider plant with the smaller plants hanging from it)  These smaller plants have been hanging off of my main spider plant for several months now.  They have not done much.  They haven't grown much, just a little, but there is not much to notice about them because they are just hanging from the main plant.  They are probably comfortable just hanging, they are getting there nourishment from the main plant.  The problem is, these smaller plants are not much of a help to the bigger plant because they are taking some of the nutrients and nourishment from the main plant.  Plus, I know that these smaller plants can become so much more if I do something to them.  What I would need to do to them, may seem cruel, and may not be pleasant for the young plant, but I know that in the end it will make the smaller plants absolutely beautiful!  I need to cut the smaller plants from the main plant.  Of course plants don't have feelings like we do, but when we think of things being cut, we think of pain.  Sometimes in our lives this is what the Lord needs to do for us.  He needs to cut us...cut us from where we are comfortable, cut us...to make us grow and be more beautiful and useful for Him.  I don't like to be uncomfortable, I don't like change very much, but there are times in my life, before and now, where the Lord has had to cut me from my comfortable place.  He had something more for me, and the only way that He could produce that was to cut me from where I was.  These smaller plants have looked the same for months, they haven't grown much, and really are not of much value just hanging off of the larger plant.  Me, being the plant caretaker, I know the best thing for me to do is to cut them off, and replant them on their own.  When that happens, it's tough at first because those smaller plants have to learn to get their own nutrients from the soil, they have to learn to get used to a new place and to stand strong on their own.  It's not easy at first, but then they get used to it and realize what they need to do to survive.  And once that happens, they thrive in their new environment, and grow beautifully.  (I then pull out of a bag one of the smaller plants that I cut from the year before that has grown beautifully into a new, vibrant, healthy plant)  This is a plant that used to look just like these smaller plants, there wasn't much to it at first.  When I put it in the soil, it took a bit for it to get used to it's new surroundings and new life apart from the main plant.  But it did get used to it, it did survive, and it is a beautiful, thriving plant.  And from this new plant, in the future it will produce some smaller plants that it will help start out until I as the planter cut them to grow on their own.  We are at the start of a new school year.  We have a lot of new things to learn, learning letters and how to write them and say them correctly for the first time for some...to starting to have homework for others...to learning multiplication and division, to learning about different countries, and many other things.  We as teachers hope by the end of this year, you all will have grown.  We expect you to grow physically...taller, maybe wider for some :).  We expect you to grow academically...learning all the things you need to learn before you go on to the next grade to learn more.  But more importantly than those things, we, as Christian school teachers hope and pray that you will each grow spiritually...closer to the Lord, knowing and understanding more things about Him, so you can share them, and help others to grow in Him as well.  The Lord has cut us from where we were, and He is challenging us to grow in the new places He has "planted" or placed us.  He wants us to learn to adjust so we can grow beautiful and healthy in Him, and for Him.
(This chapel lesson was such a lesson for me, the Lord used it to really speak to my heart as well, as I shared it with the students.)
Lord, thank you for bringing this lesson to mind when I asked You for something.  And thank you for using something so simple to help teach your truths.  Kindergarten all the way through Sixth grade, and even on up to us as teachers, could all relate and understand this wonderful lesson.  Thank You for what You taught me as You brought these thoughts to my mind for me to use for chapel.  Help me to remember this important lesson, You know this is a struggle for me, so bring me back often to the spider plant to remind me that You want to make something beautiful of me for You.  I may not always like the process, but the outcome is always amazing and beautiful!  Help me remember!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cutting and Growing

It has been a loooong week!!!  A bit stressful, a bit crazy, a bit emotional...just lots going on.  It was just one of those weeks where one thing after the other was knocking me down...taking the wind out of me.  One of those weeks where Satan kept trying to get the best of my mind and my spirit.  One of those weeks where it was just a struggle to try to keep going.  One of those weeks where so many things were weighing heavy on my heart.  One of those weeks that exhausts you physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  One of those weeks that just seemed as if it would never end.  Well, it's Friday, and here I am at the end of this long, crazy, stressful, emotional, hot week!
Of course that has nothing at all to do with me, the Lord helped me through, even though there were some times this week where I wasn't sure if He was helping me at all.  Times where I was just feeling so beat up, pushed down, on the verge of drowning with no help in sight.  Then came yesterday!
 I read one of my devotions that I have set up on my phone that was titled "When You Are Weak, He Is Strong".  And one of the lines that stood out to me was, "Stop focusing on your weaknesses...focus on His strength."  I was definitely focusing on those weaknesses this week.  Thinking of my failures and how weak I felt, but forgetting that when I am weak, He is strong, and is my strength. Then Psalm 50:15 popped out at me yesterday morning as well, "And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."  I called out to Him and claimed that promise that He would deliver me.  I want to glorify His name and tell of the wonderful things He has done, but when Satan is constantly attacking and feeding me lies that's a hard thing to be able to do.  I love how God works, though, because then I hopped on Facebook for a bit, and one of the first posts I saw was from author Michelle McKinney Hammond, she wrote, "In spite of how you feel choose to praise.  Exchange the garment of heaviness for something lighter. Worship your way through the storm. #trust."  That definitely got my attention! Just minutes later she posted again, "If you are having a face pressed to the floor kind of day.  First, you are not alone.  Second, this too shall pass.  Wait before God. #trust."  And a few minutes later, this one that I truly loved..."Even if u can't see anything different happening in yr life. Anticipate it.  A lot goes on beneath the surface before you see a flower #trust." Isn't that good?  And a little later..."Anticipate God's best even when u can't see it.  Embrace His love even when u can't feel it.  Trust His Word even when u can't hear it. #trust."  Those were some of the exact feelings I had been struggling with!  No, I'm not done yet, these next two were hitting me right where I was as well..."Doubt is the devils way of distracting you from God's promises.  Speak faith to your soul and override his voice with worship. #trust." and "The devil specializes in making us question God.  It is a futile attempt to steal the joy of your salvation. Don't go there! #trust #Faithful."  Whoa!!! Love that, "Don't go there!" :)  Boy, did I need all of that!  The Lord woke me and got my attention for sure.  There were others, too, that were such a blessing that I will share at the end.  I definitely started to speak some of those truths and words to the Lord...and to Satan, reminding him that my mind didn't belong to him, but to God.
As I went to work that morning, some of those stresses that I had been so burdened with earlier were not looming so heavy on me anymore.  And at school I get to work with such amazing ladies that I couldn't focus on those negative things anymore.  Then Mama G and I got to talking and she was just randomly started telling me about the plant she had in the window.  It is a really neat looking plant that I have always liked. She started telling me that when she got it, it was pretty much dead.  She just started to cut the stems back a little and it started doing just fine.  She said she just recently had to cut it back a little bit again, and then she said, "Yea, I had to cut it, because then it gives it the strength to grow."  Right after she said that God jolted my mind and I looked at her and said, "Wow, that is a great spiritual lesson right there!"  And when she thought about it, she agreed and we both ended up with goose bumps!  We ended up sharing some things with each other, and were able to encourage one another!  I'll tell you, I don't like the cutting, I don't crave it or seek it, but I guess it just helps me to think and know that through that I can have the strength to grow in Him!  What could be more special!
Lord, you know this week has been a tough one for me!  You've been there through it all, though, I'm sorry I know at times I complained to You that I didn't think You were.  Satan was getting the best of me. I was weak. Thank You for breaking through to speak to me Your truth through Your Word and through others that you allowed to be a blessing.  It's hard to go through these times, and I don't like them.  I know they'll come again, but thank You for a little reprieve from Satan's strong attacks.  And thank You for encouraging me! Help me remember these truths!

More posts from Michelle McKinney Hammond:
"I shatter the power of discouragement over you today.  Take courage that God is God and is able to do what He has promised."
"Have a blessed day anticipating God's best for you.  Never settle for less.  Hope all things.  Believe all things.  God never fails."
"Sometimes you just have to talk to yourself.  Say self, God is faithful, no matter what. Bless the Lord.  Anticipate a miracle."
"Sometimes when you can't stand on the promises of God you need to cling to them.  It's always darkest before the dawn."
"You have to go through the storm to get to the rainbow.  So wait for the light. It's on the way.  Rest assured.  This too shall pass."
Amen! :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Learning From the Potter

So it is officially summer, has been for about a week now. (Well, a couple of weeks now.  You can see it's taken me a little bit to get this finished.)  It's nice to have a break.  I did get a bit emotional on that last day of school, but it didn't seem to be as much as I usually do.  I was so ready to be done as I said before.  Things ended well, and after going back the next day to finish cleaning my room, I was officially finally on my break.  Saturday was busy with graduation parties, and Sunday was church of course.  So Monday was my day to be completely knocked out...and I was!  My exhaustion certainly caught up to me, it's been a full year of constantly being on the go, constant struggles, constant emotion.  I was very thankful for a couple of days where I just chose not to think about anything or worry about anything, but just to sit back and relax a little.  Yet, my heart was still so heavy from sadness and stress from the past year.  Instead of time to be still and know that He is God, Satan was definitely taking this time and using my mind as his playground.  It was and is, a struggle.  "What am I doing wrong?"  "Have you forgotten me?"  "Why do I see other people getting blessed?"  "When will I get my blessing?"  "When will I see my prayers answered?"  "Don't you see my struggles...feel my pain...hear my cry...see the faith I'm trying to have.......care??"  I had seen some great blessings, on the last day of school, not only did I get some wonderful gifts from my kids, but I also for some reason received a generous anonymous gift from people that wanted to be a blessing to me!  It was such an amazing surprise!  It was a huge blessing!  I had also been finding some great encouragement through my devotions.  Yet, in the back of my mind, the struggles and questions still rose.  It was hard to quiet them.
I had been invited to go hear a friend share what the Lord has taught and shown him through pottery.  I had been invited by him before, but had never been able to make it, but this time I did.  I was really looking forward to it and knew it would be neat to see, and would be such a help to me.  I sat with some other friends who were also there, they had been before, but brought a group of their church teens with them.  They warned me that I may need some tissues.  I did have a couple on hand, but sweet Natalie gave me her packet of tissues in case I needed more, which she figured I would. (She knows me well :)  Right from the start I was amazed at what I was hearing and needed my tissues.  The potter talked about where the clay came from, which I never knew, was the swamp.  But he started working with the clay to get it ready and as he did so, he was constantly pushing it down, applying pressure. He related that to our lives and how the Lord applies pressure to our lives as well.  The reason the potter does this is to help bring the impurities to the surface and get rid of them.  He related that to how the Lord works in our lives.  We don't like the pressure, it hurts, but it is a special time for Him to work with us and help us.  And though we may be screaming that it hurts and telling Him that we want Him to stop applying that pressure, He gently tells us just to hold on.  He is doing it because He knows the final outcome and how beautiful that will be.  He has a plan that goes beyond the pressure to something more useful, but He has to do this necessary part first.  Then the potter even said, this may be when we ask, "Why do I see others getting blessed and why am I not seeing blessings?"  Wow!  Just the things I needed to hear!  The potter then showed how he puts the clay on the wheel, making sure it's centered.  It takes some work to keep it centered because it isn't the natural reaction when the clay gets on that wheel.  The Lord works hard to center us, too, and to keep us centered in Him.  But then another part that I found so interesting was that when he started to make the pot, he mentioned that he needed to get into the heart of the clay.  He pushed his fingers into the center.  He said he had to get into the heart of it, so that way he could build it up.  Then he started shaping it, working on the inside and outside to build it up as much as he could.  The Lord gets into our hearts so He can build us up in Him.  Even through that process it took some pressure and some careful time.  Once he got the height he wanted he started to shape the pot the way he wanted to.  He said as he worked with the clay, he could picture what he wanted it to look like, he could see his plan for it.  That's the way the Lord sees us, though we can't see His grand plan, He knows.  It amazed me how almost precious that piece of clay seemed to the potter, he really took time and care with it to make it become what he wanted it to be.  It made me think of the Lord with me, He does care, all of these struggles are going to make me more of what He wants me to be.  I don't know what that exactly is, but He does, and that's why He is working hard, and though it may be painful for me, He is excited because He is starting to see His plan take shape in me.  The potter even mentioned some of the struggles we may face and totally got some of the ones I face.  He said we need to be careful not to be angry at God for things that Satan has done or is doing to us.  He even "scarred" the pot...put some design marks on it.  He said we may have some scars in our lives, but instead of being so ashamed of them,or trying to hide them, we should use them as a testimony to show others how good God is.  Those "scars" are what so many people are attracted to when they look at the pots.  The scars in our lives can attract people to us, so we can show them to Christ.  So many great lessons, and yet there was so much more that he shared and there were some truly deep moments, but they were all beautifully illustrated with this potter and his clay.  I was so touched, as were so many others.  What an incredible journey to see the Lord and His love for me illustrated in this way!  I was beyond blessed and learned so much that I will continue to carry with me!  It was wonderful and I plan to go again another time when he is giving his presentation nearby, and to invite some other friends!  I want to keep those reminders in my mind and hope others who need it will go and be as blessed as I was.  Here's the link so you can take your own little Journey to the Potter's House.  You can also find him on Facebook at Facebook.com/AJourneyToThePottersHouse.

Lord, thank you for this amazing lesson from Dr. Ferris!  Thank you for giving him such wisdom and insight to relay this beautiful message to us in such a special way!  The illustrations were such wonderful learning tools, help me to hold on to them and not forget the things I learned, and that You wanted to teach me through this!  Thank you for loving me and wanting me to be beautiful for you, even if I don't always see it!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The End of an Era

I know the title seems pretty dramatic, but I really do feel that it will fit this post.  I have been a little emotional lately, and this may have a tendency toward that, so just a forewarning, you may not wish to continue reading as it may be more of an emotional post.  But I feel the need to put this out there.  I have been thinking of a couple of different ideas that I planned to blog about, but just never got my thoughts all together, or took the time to do a post.  It's been a little crazy lately.  As I sit here tonight, though, the night before the last day of school, I feel compelled to write some thoughts down.
As this year draws to a close, I don't find myself feeling the normal emotions of sadness for the year being over, reminiscing on the year and my class, I am feeling more of a sense of relief that this year is over.  I may get emotional tomorrow, but I'm not sure.  I'm so ready for a break!!  But then that's when another part of me kicks in and hates to see the year come to a close.  My friend Angie was here for part of this year, so it's sad to see it end without her, and next year will be a just a full year without her.  I hate not having her here to share this end of the year time, to see her son graduate from 6th grade to Jr. High.  To see her "kids" graduate.  Graduation will be terribly sad without her!  She has been around for my whole teaching career (all 16 years), and now she's not.  We would plan some times to get together during the summer to go to Olive Garden and do some shopping, Charming Charlie or Sparkle or wherever.  It was just special times with us and the girls.  I never did get to introduce her to one of my favorite places- Dave and Busters.  And this would have been a great summer to do that!  When I go back for my 17th year she won't be there to encourage me, give me confidence, encourage the students, new and old and parents to be excited about a new year and what God was going to do.  Her spirit will be truly missed, as it already has been, but now in a different way and time.
Then thinking of summertime (though I'm so excited about it), makes me sad to think that this is the first summer that I will be spending without my mom.  The past two summers were all about her.  The first summer just trying to do things with her,  trying to keep her mind stimulated, and making as many memories as possible.  Then last summer was just a busy emotional summer as I watched her go downhill so quickly, and I wanted to make the most of the time I had with her.  It wasn't easy and wasn't always fun, but we had each other.  This will be a long time without her, where it's just Bella and me.  Christmas is only two weeks and is kind of busy, spring break is only a week, and goes by way too fast anyway, but this will be a full summer of just missing her presence in my life.  School consumed so much of my time right away after losing her, so now it will be different as things come to mind from last summer.  This past weekend I had a dream about my pappy, too, which was so real, he was healthy and well and we were chatting away.  It was sad to wake up and realize it was only a dream.  Not only was he not here, but neither was mom.
Then on Sunday I saw my second "real" butterfly.  I have seen some of the little butterflies flying around, but Sunday I saw a yellow swallowtail butterfly.  Since I had a butterfly engraved on mom's casket, every time I see one, I think of her!  Then that same night, I saw about 4 fireflies or lightning bugs, and every time I see those they remind me of pappy!  We would go out on hot summer nights and try to catch one.  So it has been a bit emotional.  Then there were the graduation parties that remind me how quickly time flies, and how exciting it was at that age to have your whole life ahead of you, with so much to look forward to.
I also spent some time last week talking with who I call my "little brother" Marcus, reminiscing about his grandmother Julia Sims who passed away last week.  Yet another beautiful, strong woman the Lord chose to take home.  I called her Ma Sims and she was like a grandmother to me.  She was a funny lady and people could easily get on her bad side, but she seemed to have a soft spot for me.  She was a no-nonsense type lady, and I loved her spirit.  She had no problem telling boys or young men to pull their pants up or to turn their music down.  And they rarely got mad at her when she did.  I don't know if it was the head of beautiful white hair that they couldn't resist or her look that maybe made them nervous, or how she would share with them her wisdom and why she felt strongly about it.  She was good!  She would often say she didn't care if they got mad, she was on her way to heaven anyway.  I remember many Sunday dinners when she would sit at our dinner table with us.  I remember so vividly my dad coming up from being downstairs watching bowling bringing up some sodas for dinner.  He would see Ma Sims and ask her how she was doing.  She would look at him with a serious face and ask, "Why, you writin' a book?"  My dad being the wise-crack himself would say, "Yea, I am writing a book."  And without a moment's hesitation she would fire back, "Well, leave that chapter out then."  She was pretty quick with a sarcastic, sharp sense of humor.  She would get pretty heated about some things sometimes and would do some little turns in the chair and flip her skirt over her knee and hit it with her hand and quite enthusiastically share what she needed to say.  She was fun to watch.  I remember her coming over sometimes on Saturday mornings or other times complaining about her hair, I loved her phrase, "My hair is looking like a hoorah's nest." (Her hair was always beautiful!)  Then there were those people that thought they needed to do everything or who thought that things would not get done without them, and she would simply remind them, "One monkey don't stop no show."  And she would often remind people, "Payday don't always come on Friday."  She was one-of-a-kind! I haven't seen her in a while, her memory was failing her just like mom's was.  It was sad to think about, she was a nurse for years at Hartford Hospital and was sharp as a tack.  She always talked about sitting on her couch eating ice cream and watching the Red Sox, one of her favorite things to do. Those are some special memories of special times a while ago.  Then my parents and later on she herself would get sick and those times ended.
Then a few days ago I heard that Jean Stapleton passed away.  She was Edith Bunker from All in the Family.  When I heard that it just made me sad because we all loved watching that show.  I know this seems so random, but Mom, Dad, and I loved watching this together.  It just reminds me of those fun times.  Dad would crack up at some of the things Archie would say.  It once again it made me think of mom and dad and our times spent together laughing and joking, watching TV, or just whatever.  I miss those times!  It saddened me to think of so many things that have changed.  Actors, friends, family, family friends that have passed that remind me that this special era or time of my life has changed and is changing.  That has been hard for me.  If you've read other blog posts you know I'm not a fan of change.  Yet part of me hates that life is so predictable right now with nothing new to look forward to, same thing just about everyday, school, then home with Bella, or church, then home with Bella.  I know I need to be content in whatsoever state I am, but if I'm going to be real, I'm struggling with that right now.  It's nice to have those memories, but I do miss those times...good times.
Lord, You know this is a hard time for me right now.  I've been telling You about it. Some special people are gone and some special memories are locked in my mind as these people and times are no longer.  Help me to remember You have a hope, plan, and a purpose for my future.  I know my future is Heaven, but please help me to see things You have for me here too.  Help me through these times when I'm truly missing people and times that were so dear.  Help me to draw nearer to You during these times as well.  Keep me from hearing Satan's lies and help me to find my strength and delight in You.  Be near to me as I draw nigh to You.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Did I Make It?

I don't think I have written about my day in a while, but Friday was just one of "those" days!  One of those that I feel merits a blog post.  I needed to be at school early to help out with morning duty, that's a tough one for me, and it didn't help that I didn't hear my alarm for about 20 minutes.  So, I was prepared to have to skip something, and of course that ended up being breakfast.  But I made it there...about on time-ish.  Morning duty went fairly smoothly, though the kids were quite excited.  It was Friday for one, then it was Amerathon day, and fifth grade was having their International Celebration day.  I went to my friend Cathy's room to ask or tell her something and mentioned how I had no breakfast that morning, so she gave me her cucumbers that she had for her lunch and a Granny Smith apple (the only kind of apple I will even eat, which she knew:).  As I was walking out of her room, the cutest little bug, named Ava was in the hallway and I had to say hello.  She looked at me with that sweet little face and asked me what I was eating, but I had just finished the cucumbers, but still had the apple.  I asked her if she wanted a bite and she did.  Then she gave it back so I could eat some, then she wanted another bite, and then I got another couple of bites in before I gave over to the extreme cuteness and let her have the rest.  I was enjoying talking to mom and watching her chomp on this big apple.  We were talking a little about missing our sweet friend Angie.  Last week for some reason was a really hard one for missing her.  I talked to about 4 or 5 people who were also really missing her.  As I was in the hallway, mom and dad's pastor, Pastor Jason came in and had my CD that I forgot to get from the church after mom's funeral, and then he had some old pictures from church which had my parents in them.  So, of course that brought on more emotions, but it was so nice to get them.  We finally got our day started with seatwork and trying to get a subject in before the day went into crazy mode.  When it was time, we went down to the auditorium to hear and learn about the countries the fifth graders had chosen to study, learn, and talk about.  It was a bit emotional because Karen, the teacher asked me to sit in the back to be a reference point for the kids (she had to ask me, because Angie did that for her and the kids every year).  So I sat in the reserved DAL chair, which stood for the Designated Angie Larson.  It definitely made me miss her more.  Some of the Jr. High and High School came in to watch, and Gabby, Angie's daughter sat next to me.  When things were just getting ready to get started Gabby jumped a little and Karen was looking toward the door asking my friend Cathy if everything was OK.  Cathy just smiled and nodded, but Gabby informed me that something fell from the ceiling right by Cathy as she was standing there.  I thought that was pretty crazy, but didn't think much else of it, because I was trying to focus on being a good, helpful, smiling reference point for the fifth grade kids.  It wasn't until their speaking parts were over that Cathy informed us that it wasn't just "something" that fell from the ceiling, but a mouse!!  It fell right in front of her and she asked someone to get paper towels for her so she could pick it up and get rid of it.  As she went to pick it up, it started moving, so it wasn't dead, as she thought it might have been.  So she was running down the hall saying "Oh my, it's still alive!"  She went to a door and chucked it as hard as she could far from the school.  After that excitement, we went to the other side of the room to visit the tables that the kids had set up with pictures and different things from that country and some food to try.  We enjoyed that for a bit, then went back to the room for a few minutes, got in a little bit of learning before I sent the kids down to the restroom to change for the Amerathon walk.
As the students were lining up to go, one of my boys was a bit excited and started throwing his shorts up in the air and was trying to catch them.  As I was telling him to get in line properly, he threw them up again, and they got stuck on one of the pipes.  He looks at me to see what I am going to do, and I simply tell him that it is too bad that he will not have shorts to wear outside for the walk.  He goes into "solve the problem" mode and starts moving a chair, and then a desk over to where the shorts are and I tell him that in no way is he allowed to try any of those means to get them down.  He went down to the restroom disappointed, but I wanted him to learn a good lesson.  A bit later I went back to take a picture of them, but they had fallen down somehow.  So I gave in and just gave them to him to put on.  So, I tried throwing them back up so I could get my picture, but it wasn't working, so I had to climb on a desk to put them back up.  By that point some of the kids had caught me, but were willing accomplices to help me and closed the door so the others wouldn't see.  I got my picture, and by the time this little boy came back they were still up there.  I told the class to go wait in the hallway to walk down, and I made him go as well.  He was pretty bummed because he thought I was going to get them for him.  I hit them so they slid off again, and when I met the other kids in the hallway, I told this little boy he could go back and see if they had fallen off and if they had he could go put them on.  So, needless to say, he was excited to find out that they had "fallen" down and he could wear them after all.  They went out and ran/walked their 25 laps and then we came back in and it was time to go to lunch.
At lunch my class had won a pizza party for the most class participation for bringing their Amerathon mailers in.  So they were very excited about that.  As we go into the lunchroom, my same little gem of a boy walks into the kitchen area, and yells out to my friend and her husband (who had been working hard all day with the Amerathon, making sure there was water outside, and oranges were cut up for the kids, and granola bars out for them to have, and counting out rubber bands for each child to have 25, and then running to go get the pizzas for school lunch and then for our pizza party) "So when are we gonna have our pizza party?"  Or something to that affect.  That also did not sit well with me and I told him to go sit down at the lunch table and wait quietly.  A little later I saw him coming out of the kitchen area again.  I asked if he had the nerve to ask them again about when they were going to be getting the pizza....and yes, he did.  Then as my friend was passing out slices to everyone, I asked her to withhold his.  He of course couldn't figure out why he hadn't gotten any pizza or soda.  I made him wait about a good 10 minutes or so.  As I called him over to me to give him his pizza and let him know the reason he didn't get it right away, I see him putting something under the table as if trying to hand something to someone across the table.  When I asked, he said one of the other boys had given him a couple of chips since he didn't have anything to eat.  Oh my!  So, I made him wait longer.  When I finally gave it to him, the other kids were on their seconds and just about done.  As I explained it to him, I think...I hope he got the message.  Before he could even think about seconds I told him he needed to apologize to my friend and her husband!  He did so, and was able to eat a little more before it was time to head to recess.  It killed me to have recess when they had just been out for a while running for the Amerathon, but we did have some recess time.  We did get a little work in, in the mean time.  In the afternoon I just put on the rest of our Treasures of the Snow movie, which was a good way to end the day.  After school I left quickly to head home to take out the pup.  Gave her some time outside, brought her back in and gave her her dinner, then a snack and headed back to Newington to get to the Sports Picnic.  Of course it's Friday night traffic, so it was a bit stressful and I was trying to get back to be on time for helping to hand out the cheer leading awards.  When I got there, they had already started with the cheer leading awards and I got up there just in time to give out one of the awards, though I felt a bit discombobulated at the time.  But made it through.  Watched the other awards given out and kept getting emotional about certain awards.  Then came the award that I had already thankfully been given a heads up on, or that would have been worse for me.  But the school has been giving a Falcon award to people who have been such a great help during the sports seasons in many different ways.  Well, they decided to change the name of the award now, it's no longer the Falcon award, but the Angie Larson Memorial Award.  Coach Eric talked about why he wanted to change it, and tried not to choke up as he shared his heart.  I was trying so hard not to just lose it and sob, that I just ended up giving myself a headache, oh my!  It was special and my friend Brenda was blessed to be the recipient this year.  She was very touched, and it was a special moment at the picnic.

I got to spend a little time afterward talking to friends which was nice.  Then headed home back to Bella.  It's  often tough coming home from something like that and not having anyone to share it with.  But it was good to just veg for a little bit before I went to bed.  Definitely a long, emotional, busy day, but ending it with my sweet girl by my side made me happy!  So thankful for her!
Lord, these days are tough...and I have been having a few of those lately.  I need You and Your help everyday, but on days like this even more so.  Help me to remember on days like this that You haven't left me, You are always there...there with me, there helping me...there to give me peace if I keep my mind stayed on You!  Thank you for that!  Help me as I sometimes struggle to remember that.  Thank You for being patient with me!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Doubt, Fear, and Trust

The past few months have been a struggle!  I have been trying to trust the Lord.  I have been trying to wait on Him.  I have been trying to leave my cares on Him.  I have been trying to encourage myself in His Word.  But Satan has been trying to speak words of doubt into my mind....doubt that He will answer my prayer requests, doubt that He will do it in the time it needs to be answered, doubt that He wants to answer because I am not worthy...so many doubts.  I try not to listen to them, but they still come.  Then I try to remind myself of the things that God has already done in my life to show Himself to me, and I try to remember some of the things that He has been trying to teach me.  It's not always easy though.
The other day a friend and I were talking and as we were talking she ended up telling me about some doubts that had been spoken to her about something she just wanted to feel a peace about.  There was some validity to things that had been spoken, which made her doubts even stronger.  She told me that she got down on her knees before bed that night with her Bible open in front of her and cried out to the Lord to give her a verse, something to confirm that things were going to be OK. She found nothing.  She was so discouraged afterwards.  As she was talking to me, the Lord graciously reminded her the words were spoken by someone without the same motives and desires as she had for the situation.  Then the Lord brought to my mind some of the things I had learned.  She told me some of the positive things about the situation that she knew.  I told her Satan had used that other person to speak doubts to her, but all the positive things she was remembering were the things she needed to speak out loud to Satan in those times he tried to make her doubt.  I told her to even write them down to help her remember and speak them.  The other day as Satan was trying to feed me some lies, the Lord graciously allowed me to look in my driveway to see the car that He unexpectedly gave to me when I was struggling with wrong doubts and fears.  He reminded me that when Satan tries to tell me that God cannot, will not, or might not do something, I could look in the driveway and be reminded of what He ALREADY has done.  It was so much fun for me to see my friend's countenance change as I shared things with her. I was also able to remind her of something else I had been doing lately...reminding the Lord of His promises to me, that I am His and He has promised to take care of me in my times of need.  That He has promised if I have faith He promised to move my mountains, that if I prayed and asked in faith believing He would answer.  It was a blessing to me and a good reminder to my spirit as I spoke to her, and it was neat to see that it helped her spirit as well.  She felt better, but as she walked down the hallway, she said out loud, Lord if you could just send a lightning bolt to show me what I need.
After we finished talking, I went to see another friend who has also been struggling with some doubts and fears.  But when I went to see her, she showed me an answer to one of her prayers.  It was a shock, because I'm not sure either one of us thought that would be answered in that way.  I was truly blessed seeing that answer to her prayer.  Not that everything is wonderful and fully resolved, but it was part of what was needed to see the Lord's hand at work in the situation.  But then she had something that she had learned that week that she wanted to share with me, something that encouraged her and something she knew would encourage me, too.  She shared versed Psalm 1:1-3.  I've read those verses thousands of times, and I will admit I was a little skeptical about what they had to do with my situations that I have been praying and crying out to the Lord about.  She said the main part was the first part of verse 3.  "And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season..."  Again, what does this really have to do with my situation, or even hers?  But then she read to me the notes that she took about that verse.  She said the person who she heard shared with them that there may be times in our lives where we don't feel like the Lord hears us, or that He is not answering our prayers.  And before we get discouraged and doubt, we need to consider that as this verse states that the Lord will bring forth His fruit in HIS season.  It may not be the time we were hoping or thinking He would answer, but His time.  But what she said next totally struck me, she said the reason He may not have answered that in the time or way we would be hoping is because that fruit may not be ripe yet!  It may not be ready to develop yet, and He knows the perfect time for that fruit to ripen so that it will bring forth much more fruit in His season.  Wow!!!  The first thing I thought was thank you, Lord, but my next thought was to find the first friend I had been talking to to share it with her.  She happened to still be there and I was able to share those words with her...she got chills as I told them to her.  The Lord didn't give her that verse the night before when she wanted it, but gave it to her the next day, with a great message that went with it!  I told her if that was not a lightning bolt I don't know what was.  We were both so excited to get that confirmation from the Lord!  He is so good to do that!!
That evening was church and Pastor's message was on the tongue.  Of course, if you've been a Christian for any time you have heard plenty of sermon's on the tongue.  And he did speak about some of the things I expected, but then he talked about the tongue being more of a revolving door.  Yes, things come out of it and we must be careful what does.  But he also just so happened to mention that the tongue also needs to be used to speak truth back to ourselves.  That we need to encourage ourselves in the Lord and in His promises, the same thing my friends and I had just been discussing a couple of hours earlier!!It was neat to see how the Lord allowed him to share that that night.  What a blessing!!    And then, to make things even more interesting.....as Pastor was preaching there were a couple of real lightning bolts outside from a quick storm that came up.  So, if that jolt from His Word wasn't enough, He sent a real one to confirm it even more!!  What an amazing God I serve!!
Lord, help me to remember these blessings when times of doubt and fear rise up in my mind.  I know I've prayed this before.  But I will keep praying it for myself and my friends as much as I need to!  Help me not to doubt, but to trust You.  Help me to remember what You have already done.  Help me to remember what You have already been trying to teach me.  Help me to remember to speak words of encouragement and truth to myself in those times of doubt.  Thank you for those bolts and jolts to help us remember!
And thank you for this this morning and the verse from Malachi 3:10 that You brought to mind to once again help me to remember to trust You.  "...and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Always Learning

As I've said over and over again lately, these have been some interesting months lately.  Through all of it I have learned many things, but I'm sure I'm not done yet.  It usually takes me a while anyway. :)  I know my last couple of blogs have been about my friend Angie, but she is continually on my heart and mind.  And so much of what I have been learning has been through this situation.  I planned to write about this earlier, but then the other post came to mind and I had to write that first.  So please permit me some more moments of talking and sharing about my friend.  I miss her so much, but I know I'm not the only one.  I have seen posts on Facebook recently where friends are just missing her.  I have also talked to some people who have said that they think about her everyday, even some that only knew her a short time.  And if we miss her that much, I can't even imagine how much more her family misses her!  I have seen posts from them talking about missing her so much.  They are going to miss her and mourn her for the rest of their lives, and that's OK.  There is no time limit on mourning, as another friend shared, so I hope they will always feel free to think of her, cry for her, remember her, mourn her, talk about her, share fun memories about her, and treasure her always.  That should never be discouraged, it's healthy.  We've been doing that for over 2000 years with the Lord's Supper, He asks us to do that in remembrance of Him until He comes back.  It's good to mourn and remember.
No, that's not what I learned, I already knew that.  So, on to what I have learned.  The day after Angie's death we had a prayer service at our church.  That was a tough day, walking into the church and seeing so many sad and hurting people.  All we could basically do was cry and hug each other.  After being in the lobby for a while we went into the auditorium to sit and wait for things to start.  Right before things started Angie's family all came walking in together, which made it even more emotional.  But it was such a blessing to be able to see them.  Pastor read a passage and later Tim came up to speak.  There were some things that he said that really just stuck out in my mind that I keep coming back to.  One thing that I loved that he said about Ang was just the simple fact that she was real.  And she really was, and that was how people could relate to her and feel so comfortable around her.  She was real about what was right and wrong, and she would speak up for what she felt was right, even if it might not have been popular.  She was real with people and definitely with the kids at school, telling them what was right and wrong, encouraging them to do right, whether at school, at home, or simply with friends.  She was real about her relationship with the Lord and what she believed.  She lived it and shared it all the time.  But he also shared something that I absolutely loved and have held to.  He said that he asked his brother to be real with him.  He asked him if Angie could see what was going on down here.  He wondered how she could be in heaven not shedding tears as she looked down at her family who are so devastated by her loss.  How could she be OK, knowing they were down here and were not OK, or could she just not see them.  I loved what his brother said!  He said he believed Angie could look down and see what was going on, but that the reason she was not going to be upset or crying is because she can now see the WHOLE picture.  She sees what each of her kids will become, and how the Lord will use them and take care of them through their lives.  I don't think it could have been answered more beautifully, and it gave such a precious perspective to this awful time of wondering and not understanding this.  That is something that has and will continue to stick with me.  It's hard to be on this side of things and not understand what is going on or why.  Things that may be muddy and don't make sense here suddenly become clear in heaven, and there is rejoicing.
I also knew this next one, but it was good to have Tim remind everyone, that unless we do something that makes a difference for all eternity nothing else really matters.  And Angie made a difference in so many people's lives.  She pointed people to Christ, she encouraged people in the Lord, and she just loved people so very much.  So many people shared how Angie made a difference in their lives, talked to them and encouraged them.  She lived out Jude 22 "And of some have compassion, making a difference."  She always showed such compassion and she made a difference in people's lives.
The Monday after that prayer service was the first day back to school since Angie passed and again it was hard to walk into that building, there was a huge joyous presence missing, it just didn't feel right.  There was an assembly for the older kids to help with this difficult day.  Again, the whole Larson family walked in to be a part of it.  And again Tim got up to speak...and again I was touched!  He told the students that he had written something on his hand WWAD.  He said there was the popular phrase a few years ago WWJD "What Would Jesus Do".  But he said some of us may get discouraged thinking and knowing we will never measure up to that standard because He is perfect and we never will be this side of glory.  So he said maybe it would be easier and more present in our minds to think "What Would Angie Do".  She wasn't perfect, and many could relate to her struggles in her life, but we all knew she was constantly striving to be all that the Lord wanted her to be,  and was always encouraging that in others. So I loved that thought.  It wasn't about uplifting Angie, it was still all about uplifting the Lord Jesus, just remembering that is what she strove to do and wanted others to do.  We even have wonderful bracelets for sale now that say WWAD on them with Angie's favorite verse Micah 6:8 and also 1 Cor. 11:1.  Great reminders for everyone.  The money will be used to help this awesome family!
I have also been reminded about words lately.  Words are so important, they can help and heal, but they can also hurt and harm.  We must be careful to seek, and use wisdom when it comes to our words.  We know as Christians our words should uplift, exhort, and encourage.  But we still need to ask the Lord for wisdom, because sometimes those words we thinking are helping may actually be harming.  In our efforts to say something, or something we think may be a spiritual encouragement, we many times innocently saying something that does more harm than good.  Sometimes it would be better to just give a hug, tell someone you are praying for them and love them, and then leave it at that.  When we seek the Lord, He will help us to know.
I also learned that love is an incredible thing.  As I think about Angie, I am continually amazed at the love that emanated from this woman.  She gave so much to everyone.  It is so hard for me to imagine one person sharing that much love so specially with so many people.  Her family never felt cheated out of her love, she loved them immensely, and not just all as a whole, she loved them each individually in a special way!  Then she showered more of that love through her church, and our school, and with other people as well.  If we could all learn to love like that, what a difference we could make in this world.  Let's make a difference!
Lord, I'm so thankful for these things that you are constantly teaching me, things that I am constantly learning or being reminded of.  Help me to have an open heart to always learn.  Even in these hard times there are so many important things that we can learn. May I always be a willing student.  Some lessons are tougher than others, but I need all of them to be where You want me to be.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

How Will You Be Different?

These past few months have been a bit difficult.  Quite.  Starting this summer with the passing of my beautiful mother, taken by the awful disease of Alzheimer's.  Then in December came the awful Sandy Hook tragedy that shook the entire nation.  Just a little after that my sweet friend Erin, at the young age of 29 went home to be with the Lord after some sickness.  Then came March 8th which shook me to my core as I found out my dear friend Angie had gone home to be with Jesus.
There is a common factor as I think about all of these amazing, beautiful, special people, that continues to come to mind.
My mom was a daycare provider for over 22 years at our home.  She was a Sunday School teacher, Junior Church worker and nursery worker.  She loved children!  I think that's where my love for kids came from!  My mom was great with kids, she loved them, took great care of them, taught them so much (even though she had no formal education in childcare), it was just a part of her, just who she was.  She truly cared about all of her children, from her daycare kids, to her church kids.  She loved them...unconditionally!  Many would come back to visit her.  That's what made it so hard to see her with this wretched disease that took her communication skills and her confidence and made her more introverted, nothing like the strong, confident, people person that she used to be.  Though, even with the disease, when she would be around children, there would be a little spark of that old self that would reignite... just a little.  That's why it makes me so sad that I was never able to give her grandchildren, she would have been an amazing grandmother, I just know it!
Then I think about all those children and the staff at Sandy Hook.  Precious, beautiful lives gone senselessly.  Of course I didn't know any of them personally, but just thinking of these lives lost brings such sadness.  First of all, the children.  Children are so loving and caring, they teach us so much by how they can love unconditionally and without reserve...no stipulations, no judgement.  Twenty children...just think of all that love...so much love ready to be shared with the world, just taken away!  Then, of course I think of the teachers and staff members who obviously loved these children...loved them enough to give their lives to try to protect these children.  They were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice!  They definitely had unconditional love for all that were under their care.  As the stories came out about these precious, sweet children, and the amazing staff, they were all stories of how caring, kind, sweet and loving they all were.
When my friend Erin died, that was tough for me because she was so young.  She was a precious daughter, the only child of her sweet parents.  She was a loving wife, but had only been able to share that love as a wife for about two years.  She was an awesome teacher.  One of her students got up at the funeral to talk about how much Mrs. J meant to her, how she encouraged her, listened to her, helped her, and loved her.  She was someone else who had that unconditional love that she showered on others.  So many students with tear-filled eyes because they were going to miss one of their favorite teachers.  She was so young and I know had so much more love to give and shower on others, but the Lord saw fit to take her home to be with Him.
And then with the recent death of my beautiful friend, Angie, that topic has come up so often.  We are all just in awe of this woman who had so much love to give.  She was an amazing wife and mother and had so much love for her family!  She also shared so much of her love with her church family, she touched so many of the young people's lives in her church!  She had so many friends at church that she enjoyed special times and memories with.  Even with all of that she still had more love to share with all of the students at ECA.  She was the school Mama to them.  I shared in my previous post about how great she was with them.  And then to top it all off, the staff, faculty and families of the school also felt that love.  It boggles my mind how one person can have so much love, shared so equally and specially with so many.  But yet her priorities were right, she loved her Lord most of all, then filtered so much love to her family, then to all the rest of us.  She had such an amazing ability to love unconditionally, and she wouldn't judge...just genuinely loved people!
Did you catch the common factor?  It's simply love.  But not just simple love, each of these people showed unconditional love.  They are no longer here with us to shower the world with that love.  That's a huge bit of love lost in this crazy world!  Who will step up? Who is going to help fill that void?  How can we hear these stories and not want to strive to be different?  This world needs more people like these have truly impacted people and made a difference in their lives, simply by showing them love.  And no, don't worry, I'm not naive enough to think it's just all about love, no.  I know personally, for a fact that a couple of these had to and were willing to do the hard part many times and rebuke and discipline, but that was also done with love so people accepted it with the right spirit... though not all the time.  But they were willing to do the hard part because they loved people enough to help them strive to be exactly what the Lord would want them to be.
These losses changed people (I know they changed me), changed their way of thinking, and made people want to be different.  People hugged more, shared more, connected more, appreciated more, strove to be more loving and kind.  Are we just going to hold onto this for a little while, and then forget, or are we willing to strive to be different and keep these things going?  Unconditional love is not the easy norm for everyone, but are we willing to work towards that end?  This world definitely needs more of that.
Lord, these have been some difficult months, there has been much sadness, and such great loss.  I can't help but think of you with these losses, especially the ones I knew.  They remind me of how you lived your life, coming to earth to love all, even and sometimes especially, the unlovable.  You loved so unconditionally that you were willing to give your life for all, even those who would never love You back.  There is no greater love!  Help us to be more like You!  Help us to remember the lives of these special people you gave to us and strive to shower that kind of love on others, and to be different and to make a difference in people's lives as these wonderful people did for us.

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Friend

I don't even know how to begin this.  I'm sitting here still in some form of shock and with swollen eyes and a bit of a headache.  I was so excited to get a snow day today because I had so many amazing blessings that recently happened that I wanted to blog about.  But, as I got on my computer to get ready to blog, I stopped by Facebook first.  I did a couple of things on there, and then saw a post from a friend that asked everyone to please pray for my friend Angie.  It seemed very urgent, so I went to the Lord right away asking Him to please take care of my friend.  I couldn't imagine what could have happened, then I saw another post that said she wasn't breathing, they were trying to resuscitate and the ambulance was on the way.  I cried and offered up more prayer and again asked the Lord to be with her and take care of her.  I put up my own post because the more prayers we could get out for her the better.  I love this woman, and needed for her to be OK.  Not long after my post, my friend Amy called me and told me news that was exactly what I did not want to hear.  She told me that my dear friend had passed away.  I didn't want to believe her, and still I sit here and don't want to believe it!  I'm still hoping for some strange mistake or dream sequence to end, but sadly that's not the case.  My heart is so broken right now, I haven't really stopped crying since I heard the news, and I'm sure that is the case for most of us who knew and loved her.  Angie and I became friends when I had her daughter Raycheal in my class, I can't seem to remember exactly, but I think that was about 13 or so years ago.  Through those about 13 years I was blessed to have had the privilege of teaching all five of her amazing children!
To know Angie is to love her, and I just appreciated her spirit, her support, her love for her kids, but more than that her desire to do right by them, by constantly teaching them to do right.  She was someone I always knew would support me as a teacher.  She and her husband Tim would work with me to help their children along.  She would always say, "Let me know if they ever act up or give you a problem."  I would just laugh at her and tell her, those were the kids whose parents I rarely had to call, because the kids always knew.  The one time I did have to call her, that child was in tears even before I had finished dialing her number so he could tell her what happened, because he knew he had disobeyed and disappointed her, but also knew he was going to be in big trouble when he got home...not the "big trouble" that some parents say.  She meant business and he knew that.  It wasn't even terribly a huge deal, but it was disobedience and we both knew it was important to address it.  She thanked me for caring enough to call her and tell her, and I thanked her for caring enough to take care of the situation.  I never had any other problems with him.  Every time I had one of her children, I felt so blessed, and I'm not just saying that!  They were joys to have in class.  With each year that we knew each other our bond grew stronger.  She's just such an amazing woman, you can't help but to be drawn to her.
She had such a heart for people, and apart from her family she also had so much love for the students at ECA.  I think that was part of the bond that brought us together.  That, as well as our immense love for all things purple, and our shared likeness for bling!!!  We were like the purple bling twins!!  We even have some  twin clothing because we had a similar love for certain fashion.  I can't imagine not being with, laughing with, sharing with, and getting hugs from my purple bling twin!!  My classroom is even an amazing purple color because Angie and another friend Erin highly recommended that color when my room was going to be repainted.
She started helping out at the school, and became our school librarian.  I loved this because I knew at least every Monday, I would pretty much be guaranteed to see her.  She would often be there other times, too, and I know the kids at school appreciated having her around.  She was a mother to all the kids at school.  She just truly loved them and wanted the best for them, and wanted them to grow and serve the Lord.  She was there to listen, hug, encourage, offer Godly advice, lovingly rebuke, or any thing else that was necessary.   No one was a stranger to her, and she would make everyone feel so special.
I was so excited this year, because she was at school more, which just always made me so happy!  Last year she had been going to hairdressing school and couldn't be there as much, which I didn't like.  Just her presence brought me pure joy!  Then part way through the school year, I found out she would be there even more, sadly it was because our beloved friend Sarah had to take a reprieve due to her cancer diagnosis, so it was a sad loss to not be able to have Sarah there for a while, but sweet to be able to see Angie each day.  Angie just stepped right in to take her place.  Sarah was such a blessing and worked hard to bring our lunchroom up a few notches, and got her license to change our lunchroom around.  Well, if she was going to take Sarah's place she wanted to make sure to do it right, so she also went to take her food prep test and get licensed.  She was always willing to do what she could and to help.  She helped so much with the booster club, organized bake sales, worked hard at many of the school functions in one capacity or another.  This was a woman full of life and love.  I so enjoyed getting my daily hugs each day!
So, it should be no surprise that my heart is truly broken and I'm feeling a little lost and shocked and numb, as I heard the awful news earlier today that my sweet friend Angie had passed away.  I have cried so much today, that now as I am writing this my eyes hurt and are a little swollen, my head hurts from all the tears, and my heart hurts because my amazing friend that I love with all my heart took a big chunk of it to heaven with her.  I still can't believe it, and don't want to.  I don't know how I'll walk into that school everyday, and not see her there to give me a hug, some encouragement, or just to listen and care.  I don't know how all these sweet kids are going to be in school knowing they don't have Mama Larson to check on them, care for them, love them, keep them in check, and encourage them.  I don't know what her kids will do without their mom who was such a loving, caring, nurturing mom who would do anything for them.  I don't know how her husband will go through each day not having her by his side.  I don't know how so many friends will get through this time of truly missing a one-of-a-kind amazing woman!  But I do know that with all of these unknowns, I still have to trust and believe.  I trust Him because He has shown himself and his love to me over and over, and I believe He will do what he promises!  And today when I was outside shoveling the driveway, I was asking what are her poor kids supposed to do, how are they supposed to finish school and carry on.  Right after I was crying out and asking that, I felt two big gusts of wind push me forward and I thought I was going to fall forward...they were pretty strong.  And I knew the answer, I felt from the Lord and from my sweet friend Angie, was to just encourage them as well as each other, to go forward!  It's not going to be easy, but we have to go forward...that's what she would want.  She started this great legacy, we have to go forward and keep it going, or else everything that she did, all the lives she tried to touch, all those she counseled and made feel special will be in vain.  We now have to pick up where she left off, though none of us will ever be able to fill those shoes!  But with the things she taught us through her beautiful, too short life, we have to now pick up the slack and carry on, and go forward.
Lord, I don't know how I'm going to go forward, when I feel so stuck and numb right here.  But I know my friend Angie would want that for me and for everyone else she touched with her life.  Help us to trust you, help us to lean on you! Help us to check up on each other, to help each other, hug each other, love one another, encourage one another, lovingly rebuke one another, and whatever else we need to do for one another.  And Lord, help us to help her family, help us to love on them as they will need that!  Please give them your peace, and help us to always hold them up in prayer before you as she did so faithfully!  Please allow me to go forward with the things this amazing friend taught me, and keep her spark and spirit alive!  Help us to be there for others and her family as she was always there for each of us!  It's now our time to carry the torch and go forward!
Angie, I will miss you everyday of my life!  I can't imagine my life without you, it will feel so incomplete, but as I have told you before, I'm so thankful for you and for what you mean to me.  I'm so thankful to have known you and been blessed to call you my dear, very dear friend!  I got your message and we will go forward and encourage others as well as your family to go forward and be strong for you!  I love you so much my dear friend!  So looking forward to seeing you again...and boy do I hope it's soon!  Here's the hug I never got to give you on this snow day! (((HUG)))

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lessons I've Learned From my Puppy, Who is Not a Puppy....but I call her that because she is little, though she is not as little as she should be, because....nevermind...

Ha, have no fear...just because the title of this post took about two minutes to read, this post is not going to be super long, I promise!
(You'll see in a minute that this post was started a while ago, sadly I didn't check the old date before I started adding more to it now.  I started it back when mom was alive, obviously... it was special to read what I wrote and I didn't want to change anything, although some of this is old.  But I just had another thing that hit me today about my little girl and remembered this post so I thought I would add to it... and maybe finally finish it.) :)
(Not sure of this start date) But just really quickly...she's not as small as she should be, she's a 15 pound Maltese!  We're working on it, well, at least one of us (me) is trying.  Bella and mom are a dynamic duo, working against me and not helping out at all...ah well.
Now to the real part of the post!
Just a few things that I learned from my sweet-ish little girl. :0)
Early each morning I go into mom's room to wake up mom and Bella.  Bella scrambles over pillows, covers, and even mom to get to me!  She is so excited to see me!  What a sweet morning welcome.  Sometimes, I can't even get to my mom to give her a kiss good morning because Bella has claimed her space and time with me.  I pick her up off the bed, pet her, talk to her, get kisses and love from her, before she is ready to get down and head outside.
Do I get excited and really look forward to spending time with the Lord in the morning?  Do I do what I can to make sure nothing gets in the way of my spending some time with him?  Do I treasure those moments?
Bella loves to go out and gets very excited.  I always take her out on a leash, because I'm just not sure if I can fully trust her without it.  Many times she is just chill and lays in the grass.  Many times she goes right to the very edge of the driveway and sits and looks to see what is going on.  She is usually OK sitting there.... until the temptation of a loud car or truck comes rumbling by, or that speedy bike dares to fly by, or some random "evil" person dares to walk by our house.  Then she is no longer that sweet little girl, she has become a totally different dog that I need to reign in.  How many times do I pull away from God?  How often do I get too close to the things that will tempt me?  How often do I displease Him by my actions and attitudes toward those temptations?
One other thing I noticed about Bella is that she will go as far away from me as possible...the very end of her leash...to make her messes.  Isn't that what we often do?  We get far away from the Lord and make messes when we are far away.  I'm so thankful that the Lord is so gracious when we do make those messes. (2/9/13)  He gently and lovingly cleans them up for us.  When Bella does make her messes she doesn't dwell there, maybe a second or two, but then she is on her way to other things.  Do I just constantly dwell on my messes?  Do I see them for what they are, try to correct them and go on with the other things I need to or should do?  Or do I just keep coming back to them and let them affect me?  God cleaned them up and they are no longer a thought to Him, so it should be the same for me.
Well, today, Saturday, February 9, 2013, we woke up to the aftermath of the blizzard with two names.  Channel 3, WFSB has been naming snowstorms for years and had named this storm Charlotte.  The weather center decided recently I guess to start naming it's snowstorms, too, so they named it Nemo.  So Blizzard Charlotte or Nemo came and left lots of snow for us...26 inches!  I woke up and had to take Bella out, she usually doesn't mind snow, but when she looked out and saw it right up to the door and higher she didn't want to go out.  So, I did what I have done before when the snow is too high for her, I got in front of her and started to make a path with my feet.  Then she felt comfortable enough to come out and down the stairs to the driveway.  She couldn't journey through it and wouldn't even attempt to until I had a slight path for her.  Even if the path was a little rough for her, she would still try to keep trudging along.  As I was sharing that with a friend on Facebook, I thought about what a great picture that is.  Christ has laid out a path for us, it may not always look the way we like, it may be a little scary to follow, and it may look rough sometimes, but He would never lead us someplace where He couldn't take care of us.  Do I trust Him like I should...like Bella trusted me this morning?  Do I feel confident in following the path He has for me?  Am I willing to keep on that path even though at times it may seem rough?  He knows where I need to be, where I should go, and how to get there, I just need to trust and follow Him.
Lord, thank you for my precious pup and all that she means to me, especially now!  Thank you for the lessons that I can learn from her.  Thank you for showing me things through her, that you want me to remember.  Help me to keep these lessons learned close to my heart!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I have been quite the emotional wreck the past couple of weeks...crying over sad things, crying over beautiful things, crying over funny things...it just seems to be a never-ending saga with me lately.   I'm surprised I'm not all shriveled up with nothing left to push out of my eye sockets, but....that's definitely not the case.  Once again tonight I found myself crying.  No, it had nothing to do with a death, anniversary of a death, birthday, or other sad, beautiful, or funny event really.  You see I was at church, this is our Winter Revival.  I went praying to get just what I needed out of the message, not having any thought that whatever it was would just about make me cry through the whole service.  Evangelist Morris Gleiser is here speaking for the revival and tonight he had us turn to Luke 18:1-8.  By the time he got to verse 7..."And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" ....and then the first part of verse 8..."I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.", the tears had already started.  And I already knew this was going to be a message I needed!  He said that "It's not just about prayer, it's about faith in prayer."  And he reminded me that..."My God answers prayer."  Or as I wrote in my notebook..."MY GOD ANSWERS PRAYER!"
His first point was that we need to "have an expectant faith", and I loved that he said I should ask, so I can receive, and that my joy might be full!
He told the story of a little girl who saw a doll in a store window and begged her mother to just go inside to look at it, but her mother wasn't going inside, but she persisted and mentioned that she just wanted to hold it.  Mom gave in, but told her, she wasn't going to buy it.  After holding it the girl looked at her mom and asked about getting it and asked how much it cost, the mom said she was not going to be able to get it, and the cost was $14.  The little girl asked how much that would be in pennies and the mom told her 1,400 pennies.  So the little girl asked her mom if she thought that if she prayed and asked Jesus for 1,400 pennies He would give it to her, and of course the mother said yes.  But she wasn't really thinking the girl would even follow through with praying, and then would not have a clue where 1,400 pennies would come from.  But the girl did pray, and one night a neighbor came over with a gift for the little girl from her and her husband...wouldn't you know they had been collecting pennies for years.  They had a big glass jar they had been keeping them in, and since the jar was full they wondered what to do with it, and they thought of her and asked her if she wanted it.  Of course she did.  Her and her mother started counting those coins, and I am sure you are already with me, there were exactly 1,400 pennies in that jar!  He said many times in our prayer lives we are not devoted to prayer or praying specific prayers.  This little girl did and God answered her exactly as she asked.
He also stated that we need to "have enlarged faith".  There is nothing too hard for the Lord, but so often we forget that!  In Luke 18 it says we need to pray and not faint.  The widow in chapter 18 kept going to the judge and asking him to avenge her of her adversary....continually...troubling him about it constantly.  She was not even supposed to be allowed to go before the judge and was probably ignored or pushed away several times, until he finally did give in.  That chapter says God is nothing at all like this judge and wants to hear and answer our prayers.  And verse 8 says God will avenge speedily, but Bro. Gleiser said that doesn't mean right when we want it, we'll just get what we prayed for, it means in God's time table, His calendar, but in a sudden way.  He also told another story of a young lady that at the age of 19 with her parents consent moved from a small town in Texas to Dallas.  She found a job at a restaurant, and found a place to live.  The lady that she lived with asked her to come to church with her.  This young lady had been saved, but hadn't been going to church faithfully and started going with the owner of the house.  She started reading the Bible more and praying more, and one of the things she asked the Lord for one night was a godly husband to serve the Lord with.  The NEXT DAY at work a salesman came in, looking for the manager, but ended up talking to her.  They spent a good amount of time talking and ended up going out on a date that night to another restaurant.  They really started to like one another and TEN DAYS later they were married!!  Now so many times we hear of stories like that and it usually doesn't last, but Bro. Gleiser shocked me by saying, his parents were two of the most godly people he knew and he witnessed their love for each other.  His dad is in heaven now, but his mom is still living.  What a precious story of God's grace, and hearing and answering prayers!
His last point was that we need to "have enduring faith".  Ask, and keep on asking....seek, and keep on seeking...knock, and keep on knocking...and it SHALL be opened.  He said there are times when we get so overwhelmed that we just stop asking, but the Lord wants us to ask.  What father would not want to hear his children's needs and take care of them for them.  That's how our Heavenly Father wants to care for us.  He also told another story of a soldier who had just come back from serving in a war.  He was walking down the road toward his home when a nice car pulled over to give him a ride.  A very well dressed man was in the car and was ready to take him to his house before he went to his home in Chicago.  At one point in the conversation, the soldier asked the man if he knew Jesus as His Savior...if he knew where he would go if he were to die.  The wealthy man pulled the car over and the soldier just knew he was most likely going to have to walk the rest of the way or find another ride home because he figured he had offended the man.  But the man turned off the car, looked into the soldiers eyes with tears in his and said he didn't know, but thought it was about time he did know, and asked him to help him.  The soldier pulled out his Bible and shared with the man how he could be saved and there in the car the man accepted Christ.  They started back on the road to the soldiers house and the soldier shared as much as he could with this man about the next steps he needed to take.  When they got to the soldiers house, the man handed the soldier his business card and told them if he ever got to Chicago to look him up, because he would love to see him again.  It wasn't until 5 years later that the soldier got to Chicago and thought about this man.  He went to the address on the card and asked the receptionist to see this man, and explained how he knew him.  The receptionist said he wasn't there, but his wife was.  He went to go talk to her in hopes that maybe the man would eventually get back from where he was.  When he talked to the wife and told her how he knew her husband because of getting a ride from him and then leading him to the Lord, she was shocked and asked if he did accept Christ.  The soldier was shocked she didn't know, he had told the man to make sure to go home and tell his wife because she was already saved and she would love to hear that news, he was so surprised that he failed to tell her all this time.  When she asked the date of their meeting and he told her, she broke down weeping.  She told the soldier that that day on the highway into Chicago her husband had gotten in a terrible accident and died, he never came home.  And she said she had been angry with God for five years because she didn't know that her husband had accepted Christ.  She had prayed for him for 12-15 years.  She was so thrilled to get the news that the Lord had answered her prayers!
That story reminds me of another woman who prayed 12 years for her husband, every day.  Once she came to know Christ and her husband hadn't, she knew she had to pray for him.  Times were hard as he didn't want anything to do with church and didn't want her or their child to have anything to do with church.  He did let them go most of the time, but at times tried to keep them from going.  Yet she wouldn't be wavered and stayed strong and faithful, and continued to lovingly pray for him.  With his drinking many times it was difficult and scary to be around him, or to have the courage to still try to get to church, but she bravely did her part.  After 12 long years he finally came out to a service (he had been to a few here and there, but nothing consistent, and still showed no interest in godly things), but after this service that was a dedication of a new church building the Lord provided, this man went forward during the invitation to be saved!  What a huge blessing after so many years!  And can I just say...I'm so thankful my mom was willing to be consistent in that prayer, so I could have the blessing of seeing the faithful prayer of a righteous woman availing much, and so I could have the peace and joy of knowing my dad was going to heaven.  And today I have the blessed peace that both of them are there waiting for me!  So now can you see where those tears were coming from.  I think so many people needed that tonight and were so blessed by it!
Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful reminders about prayer!  So many things that in my weakness and frailty and humanity I forget.  Help me to remember You are my Father and You want to give good things to me because I am Your child!  Help me to have that expectant faith, and stop doubting that you will answer my prayers; help me to enlarge my faith in you, and not get weary in asking for sometimes the same thing over and over; and help me to have enduring faith as my mom had, and to come before continuing to ask, seek, and knock, until you show me suddenly what blessings you have in store for me.