Tuesday, March 25, 2008

GIFTS OF EASTER: The Two Gs...Grace and Gratitude!

When I was growing up we used to sing a song that went like this:
"The more we get together
Together, together.
The more we get together
The happier are we.

For your friends
Are my friends
And my friends
Are your friends.

The more we get together
The happier are we."

The melody and lyrics to this little "ditty", as my Mom used to call children's songs :), kept floating back to me after everyone left our Easter celebration late Sunday afternoon.

Not only was church totally amazing in the early am with incredible music and message, a reminder of God's love...so was our family Easter Celebration a miracle of sorts.

Now we often get together, and by together I mean ALL of us. Tim and Kris often host Christmas events that Bert and I love to be included in :). We often have joint birthday get togethers. I'm not sure why this one touched my heart so deeply. My guess is because resurrections are about new beginnings! Jesus had a resurrection...and so has our family!

Ever since I was a little girl I longed for, and prayed for, a big family where everyone loved each other. I was an only child, with almost no cousins, aunts or uncles that I knew. When Tim and I got married, I fell in love with him and every member of his larger family. I love them still to this day.

Yet when most couples go through divorces, family dynamics change. People who once were close struggle with how to be with each other. I know we certainly did. Old hurts can take over. Children can get caught in the middle. Some families stay like this forever. Peace and love are never restored.

Thank God, and I mean that literally, that there has been so much healing in our family! As Bert and I pondered the wonder of our Easter gathering...with us, Tim, Kris and Anna, Jessi, Rog and Emma, Amy, Ryan, Zac Kayla, Jacob and Jenna, Gary and Nancy Gossett (Ryan's folks),
Rog Sr,(we missed Eileen whose Mom had died) and Madison ..and Madison had just spent the night with Kayla :), and Grandma Phyllis (Kris' Mom)...we were awe struck by the wonder of it all.

This wasn't a "gathering of obligation"...this was a family celebrating Easter and each other. The healing that has taken place has been facilitated by many people over time...and God's love and grace has been the biggest factor in what has happened. Most people almost fall over when they hear that Kris and Tim's daughter, Anna, refers to me as "Grandma Linda"! And you know what...she feels in my heart like one of my own grandchildren.

The lessons are huge:
There is enough love to go around.
Forgiving yourself and others changes EVERYTHING.
God's love can heal things when humans are incapable of doing that.
When children see their parents role-model forgiveness, the children learn how to forgive
A "real family" stands together, even in tough times.

I remember a crucial moment in the change Bert and I made in moving toward family forgiveness. Jessi and Amy, who were both very young at the time, requested a "meeting" with Bert and me. Since we often had "family meetings" this wasn't a surprise. The "topic" of the meeting ,however, struck us like a bolt of lightening!

Jessi began first. She took a breath, found her courage and said in the sweetest voice, "I wonder if you could both be nicer to my Dad. You see I love all of you and when you are all mad at each other it hurts Amy's heart and my heart." We looked at Amy (who must have been about 5) and HUGE tears were streaming down her face. She nodded her agreement and said "Me too!"

That moment changed everything. Bert and I knew that there was so much truth and wisdom in this simple yet profound request. Out of the mouths of babes...my precious babes.

And while there have been ups and downs in the journey...we ALL work to be nice to each other. And as we do, we discover that each of us is God's child. Each of us is human. Each of us is imperfect. Each of us wants and needs to be loved.

So on Easter...we got together! We celebrated God's gift and with great gratitude I knew that my prayer uttered, so long ago, that God would find me a big family that loved each other...well that prayer had at last been answered.

They were all at my house for Easter!

God Bless!
Love and Hugs!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Say What You Need To Say: Random Thoughts on Easter Morning

I know a blog is not a diary or a journal. I also know that every time I sit down to this keyboard I have an opportunity to be authentic. It is always a choice. I can stick to safe topics or I can put myself out there for the bigger learnings. This morning I choose the latter.

Some days just are not easy. Some weeks aren't either. It is Easter morning, and my tears are flowing. I am so grateful for Jesus, for His death and resurrection. At the same time I am sad.

Not exactly sure of the reason, but I have some guesses.

In graduate school I took the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory. It measures areas of your personality and one part of the test looks at whether you are a "Thinker" or "Feeler". It doesn't mean that you don't do both, it just looks at what is your natural preference. What happens first for you. I measure off the charts as a feeler.

I feel everything, and I feel it with my whole heart. Most of the time I feel real joy...tons of JOY! I can also feel really irritated and seldom, sad.

Today, truth be told (and I am working on always telling the truth), I feel sad. I wish I felt joy, and I may feel joy in an hour, but right now...when it is dark outside, I feel sad.

What am I feeling sad about? Probably a myriad of things. Here are just a few random thoughts that may explain my feelings:

* I feel so, so sad that Eileen Thompson's Mom died. I know what it is like to lose a Mom, especially when you are an only child. I can't stop crying thinking about Eileen back at her Mom's home by herself on Easter. I feel so sad that I can't just fly back there and hold her hand. Eileen loves God and God is there holding her. But as I pulled out an old plastic Easter bunny this morning, one that my Mom always put on our Easter table, I burst into tears. I have been crying ever since. I miss my Mom every day. I miss talking to her. I miss that out of all the people in the world, she wanted to know every detail of my life. I miss her advice. I even miss the things about her that irritated me so much when she was alive. I miss the Easter basket she would have sent me on Easter morning.

* I feel sad that I sometimes take things so personally and that I haven't made more progress in growing in this area. I have been sick for three weeks, and got more sick yesterday, and I know that "colors" my view. But it hurts my feelings to write a blog post about what really matters to me and have people who really matter to me not comment on what matters to me! It may sound silly, once out in print, but do I say...well, you probably looked at it, but didn't comment...that hurts my heart? I haven't said anything because there is no "law" that they even have to look at it so I feel like a 61 year old "Wa Wa baby" as Jacob calls it. Does it make me sad? Yes it does. Do I try to comment and support them on the things that "Toot their horn" even if it isn't something that I do...I think so, but right now I'm not so sure.

* I feel sad that I have an "athletic injury". Now... I live in a family of "real athletes" that either play basketball like Michael Jordan :) or bike like Lance Armstrong :) or run like the wind. So "athletic injury" is relative for sure. I tried running yesterday for the first time since I broke my ankle. Seemed OK at the time, but my left knee got more and more sore as the day progressed, felt like it went "out" on me, and I had to go to Safeway and get an elastic knee "brace" to give it more support. No..I didn't "stretch" before running. It has been so long since I ran that I just didn't think of it? On top of being sick, I felt frustrated that this happened and mad at myself for not stretching.

* I feel sad that Amy and Ryan's cars got broken into. I feel sad for the violation that it is to them and their children. I feel sad at how sad it has made them. I feel sad for the hurting person who did this awful thing.

* I feel sad that I tried to do something nice for someone and it felt to me like it fell "flat". I may be oversensitive (probably am), but I somehow expected a reaction I didn't get and I almost felt embarrased that I did what I did.

* I feel sad that I got a nasty email last week. It came from someone in my "outer circle", but it hurt never the less. I wasn't blameless in what happened. God keeps working on me about being more kind, even to those I struggle with. This reminds me of the quote "God loves me completely, just as I am. But He loves me too much to leave me like this." I am such a "work in progress."

Just writing all of this makes me feel a bit better. Max Lucado says in Hope:

"Do yourself a favor; take your anxious moments to the cross.
Leave them there with your bad moments, sad moments, and mad moments." I think I just did.

Max Lucado also says:

"Nails didn't hold God to a cross. Love did."

That love sustains me this morning. That love and grace give me strength to face my fears and my sadness. That love and hope from God will give me courage to "Say What I Need To Say" to some of the people in my life." It may not be today...but I need to be transparent with them, no matter what the results are.

It is Easter morning. And "Christ's resurrection is an exploding flare announcing to all sincere seekers that it is safe to believe."

Thank goodness for Easter! Thank goodness for being a seeker. Thank goodness for Jesus and His resurrection!
God Bless! Happy Easter!
Love and hugs to all who read this, even if you don't comment :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Easter Approaches: Some Of My Favorite Thoughts About God!

I love every holiday, but two of my favorites are Christmas and Easter! Certainly I relish all of the secular parts of the celebrations: Santa Claus, reindeer, gifts, Easter bunnies and hiding and finding eggs! Yet truth be told, the spiritual celebrations are what capture my heart and soul. One holiday celebrates the humble birth of a Savior, the other His resurrection and hold over death.

I look to Jesus for how to live my life. I look to Jesus for how to love others when I feel irritated and spiteful. I look to Jesus for how to forgive myself and forgive those who have hurt me.
My walk with my Lord is the core of who I am. It isn't a perfect walk, not even close. Yet what I know for sure is that without that daily walk...I would be far more selfish, far more angry, far more unloving... Far less hopeful, far less joyful, far less optimistic and far less forgiving. For me...it's a hard walk, a disappointing walk when I fall so short of what God wants me to be. It's a faith walk, it's a daily workout and daily training. It just is NOT easy. It's often a struggle. I'm often not very good at putting God in the very center of all that I am and all that I do. Sometimes this Christian faith thing is not very pretty. But the remarkable gift...is that even when, as Ann Lamot says, "Jesus must be so disgusted with me that He could drink water from a dirty cat's dish"... I am deeply and forever God's child. I am deeply and forever loved!

And that makes ALL the difference in who I am and how I love others!

I love sayings that remind me about who God is and how He works in the world and works in my life. Here are a few of my recent favorites from the marvelous book HOPE...pure and simple by Max Lucado:

Allow God's love to change the way you look at you.

Before you go anywhere else with your disappointments, go to God.

Confession is telling God you did the thing he saw you do.
He doesn't need to hear it as much as you need to say it.

God never promises to remove us from our struggles.
He does promise, however,
to change the way we look at them.

God has plenty of compassion
He doesn't think your prayers are foolish or silly.

You aren't an accident or an incident;
you are a gift to the world, a divine work of art, signed by God.

If you think God's love for you would be stronger if your faith were,
you are wrong.
If you think His love would be deeper if your thoughts were,
wrong again.

The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes.
Not so with God's love.

We forget that "impossible" is one of God's favorite words.

Sow seeds of hope and enjoy optimism.
Sow seeds of doubt and expect insecurity.

Don't measure the size of the mountain;
talk to the One who can move it.

As heaven's advertising agency, we promote God in every area of life.

Try shifting your glance from the one who has hurt you
and settling your eyes on the One who has saved you.

Having trouble putting up with ungrateful relatives or cranky neighbors?
God puts up with you when you act the same way.

Our Savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives.
but rather than recoil in horror, He reaches out in kindness and says,
"I can clean that if you want."

When Jesus went home he left the front door open.

Any of these your favorite? I'd love to hear your response to any or all of them!

Have a blessed Easter. May your heart be open. May you see God's miracles every day in every corner of your life. May you know how deeply God loves you!

God bless! Love and hugs! Linda

Friday, March 14, 2008

IT'S FINALLY HERE: I Love This Day...I Dread This Day!

If you regularly read my blog, you know how I feel about being a teacher...God has called me to do this, and I love every minute of it! It is the hardest job in the world! It is the best job in the world! It is the most perfect job in the world for me!

I am passionate about every part of this job! I love my students. I love my classroom, I love what I teach, I love seeing my students come through the door every day! I love the halls in the school, I love the copy center and the people who work there, I love seeing a clock that says, "It's time for class to start!"

Before I enter my classroom I say this prayer every day:

"Lord, thank you for putting me here!
Thank you for every student who is here today!
help me to honor them!
help me to honor You!"

and then I say outloud..."It's SHOW TIME!! Let's give it 110%!!"

Today is the last day of winter quarter 2008. This quarter hasn't been easy. We've had lots of disruptions... bad weather, bad health, snow storms and major flu bugs! But none of those really matter, because every day I fall more and more in love with who my courageous, amazing and smart students are!

They bless me by their presence.
They honor me with their trust.
They encourage me with their support.

I am so grateful that I am often brought to tears!

And today is my last class day with all of them.

You might imagine that I am relieved. You might imagine that I am tired. You might imagine that I am still sick with this nasty, nasty bug! All of that would be true!

But what you can not imagine is how much they mean to me. I tell them over and over... you will ALWAYS be my students! Wherever you go, wherever you are...you can still count on me for love and support! I will always claim you as my own! I will always be proud that you have been in my class!

Letting go of 93 of them in one day almost always breaks my heart! I stand there and cry. They cry. We all know that these 12 weeks have changed all of us! I usually give them a "high five" every day as they leave my class! Today I give them a hug.

There just aren't words for how big a blessing God can bestow!

I have been grading much of last night! I only took a break to see Madison's Variety Show..and then I read journals far into the night! I heard in their own words about their joys, their wounds, their fears, their hopes! What an honor to be trusted in such a deep and abiding way!

I have made many mistakes in my life. I have learned some tough lessons. I have been molded, broken, loved, shunned, cared for, and encouraged! I have tried to learn from every mistake. It hurts my heart to think that I have hurt others with the mistakes I have made. What I know for sure is that I am not perfect, and God isn't done with me yet!

But one mistake I DIDN'T make was in becoming a teacher! God called me to do this, put a deep love for it in my heart, and EVERY day I give it all that I have to give!

I love this last day, and at the same time I dread saying goodbye!
But every minute of this Friday, March 14th, 2008 I am thanking God for each of these 93 blessings He brought my way!

In a few hours I will say that prayer, enter room 239 at SCC and say " It's SHOWTIME! Let's give it 110%!" How blessed can one "girl" get!

God Bless! Love and hugs to all who read this!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

THE END OF THE QUARTER: "Linda, You Are An Animal !!!"

I love the African American spiritual that we sing at my church. The chorus says:

I am pressing my way
I won't turn around
I won't look back
I won't be afraid
I will move ahead
I'll rely on God
I am pressing my way!

When we sing that song the congregation jumps with energy and expectation! We dance in our seats. When we say the line "I am pressing my way!" we move our arms like we are moving an obstacle! This song is so symbolic of meeting and overcoming daily obsstacles for everyone there. It is a blessing for me to recall this song this morning! It is an anthem for the end of the quarter!

Unless you go through the end of a college quarter...you just can't understand the magnitude of it! It is like the training schedule before a big race. There is no letup! There are what feel like endless papers to grade and deadlines to meet. It is the last push with 93 students.

Unless you go through the end of the quarter with this nasty flu bug...you can't get how great it is to be able to call out for God's help and say, "Ok, Lord. I have to give this to you! I have to ask for YOUR strength to get this done, because believe me I don't have it!"

At SCC when we are ill, there are no substitute teachers. If we miss class, so do our students. This has been a very strange quarter with missed snow days and one illness after another. Students and faculty are struggling to get to the end of this in one piece.

I came down with this bug awhile back. What started as a cold became a bronchial illness etc (I'll spare you the details). If you know anyone who has this "thing" and you look at them, that is how I have felt. I rested and graded over the weekend. I even went to the doctor, got help, and made sure I wasn't contagious. Yet I have not missed one day of school! I am there, with God's help and antibiotics, motivating my students and giving them high fives as they leave the classroom!

I am telling them:

"We are pressing our way
We won't look back
We will move on
We will get this done
We are pressing our way!"

I am playing music, Tina Turner and Sheryl Crow, to get us going! We are eating healthy snacks and hydrating our brains! They are producing exceptional college-level work at every turn! I am reminding them that I am so, so proud of them, that they are a miracle, and that it is an honor for me to be their teacher!

Lots of tears have flowed recently in my classes...including mine!
I have done this for 41 years and I love this job every day, even when I am sick!

At the end of one class yesterday one of my student athletes raised his hand. Now mind you this basketball player is a bit of an introvert and usually doesn't say much. On top of that, SCC just lost a major basketball championship in the last second by one point and he was heartbroken. It was his first day back in class and we clapped when Eric came in. He looked miserable, but he was smiling again , after countless hugs from me and others, as we got close to the end of class.

At the end of the hour I always ask.."Any last questions that if you don't ask them you won't be able to sleep tonight?" I then finish by saying "How many of you learned something new in here today that you can use in your life?" When all the hand shoot up...we applaud.

Crazy you say? Is she running a pep rally you might ask? Nope...just how I teach...even when I am sick!

When I asked if there were any questions yesterday, Eric's hand came up and everyone looked at him. He said "You know Linda"...and he started to smile..."You are an animal!" And he got up and gave me a high five!

Did I say that I love this job!

Ok, I want you to know that this is a high compliment. It means, in basketball talk, that I have guts! It means that I am courageous! It means that when I expect students to show up, I don't just talk that talk...I walk that walk! It means that it is all worth it! It means that he and the rest of my students know how much they mean to me!

Did I say that I love this job!

I walked around all day with a smile! Yup, I AM an animal!!

God Bless!
Love and hugs to all who read this! Linda

Finding Comfort in Kindness...sharing from the heart

                                If every person made it a rule that                          wherever you are, whenever you              ...