I've written a lot lately about ups and downs, God's blessings, and also tried to share some realness about all of it. That's why I write and share - to be real and open about what God is doing in my life. It can be dramatic, yes, but I'm also hoping the messages help readers in whatever they are going through.
Tonight I have somewhat of a different message and it comes from God's truth talking to me. This is the lesson that came to me tonight - don't you dare let codependency make you think your integrity is less than it is. I think I've mistakenly thought that, but tonight God was telling me that the integrity and class that's inside me, and that's also inside you, is so much stronger than any screwed up codependency we might have.
I'd have to say, I've let my thinking stray from what I know about myself. And I bet many of us have done that along the way. Because of decisions we've made, or emotions we've felt, we have thought, incorrectly, that we aren't good enough, strong enough, well-intentioned enough or loving enough. What a bunch of bull. We are all of those things and more, and don't let some lies or false thoughts get in the way of believing in yourself and your integrity.
That's the lesson I learned tonight as I thought about some mistakes I've made, but also about how I've handled those mistakes and rose above them, to be a man of prayer, love, caring, values, humility and change. I was letting codependency get in the way of seeing myself that way. No more. Integrity wins out. Make it win out for you too!
With all humility, I pray for God's blessings to you. XO
It's been an amazing, amazing week. Such blessings to relate that I can hardly keep them in, even with strangers sitting next to me at the coffeee shop (more on that later). But even with these amazing blessings, something has come to me over the last many months of how wrongly focused I can be. Maybe you'll be able to relate. I hope not so much, because if you do, we both need some changes to happen.
I'm talking about how my mind tends to focus on what I DON'T have in my life, instead of focusing on what I DO have in my life. And that just makes for depression, anxiety, self-centeredness and ingratitude. Is that how I really want to live my life and what I really believe in?! NO WAY! Because of this I've taken things and people for granted way too many times. This way of thinking undervalues too many things. So, for all the ungraciousness I've shown to friends, family, a girlfriend, co-workers, and other acquaintances, things are changing. I realize just how much of a blessing everyone has been to me, and now see what is IN my life. What is in my life is LOVE from so many people, and from God.
This way of wrongly thinking has also led me to try to be someone I'm not. Foolish at this age, huh?! I guess God is leading me more and more to be the person I am...and for that I am very grateful. Let's hope that comes across in all my life and in my relationships. I trust that it will, and wish you the peace that you can be just who you are too...and that is great! XO
Check out these blessings - they go on and on, so I'll make them short and sweet (sort of). Remember, I'm sharing these to show just how much love God is giving me, not to show me, but Him in my life.
1. Went on this crazy good trip to Colorado, all as a thank you to me for teaching someone's son, which I would continue to do even if I won the lottery. Teaching is my heart, so being thanked in such a gracious way for something that comes from the heart was very special. And as you can see, got to spend some serious play time with my two sisters. Plus, had the best experience on horseback, really connecting with my horse, Rimington. Thanks to Steve, Harrison and Justin too. Here are some photos from the trip. One more thing about leaving for this trip - many friends, including Tal and Claire, made sure my mom was okay while we were gone. Thank you!
2. At my Box Project session at Youth for Christ on Monday, with middle school boys, two boys had great comments/reactions: one said his box was the best thing he had ever made (!), and a second boy gave me a bro handshake, leaned over to give me a hug, and asked for graph paper to take home. So, so cool!
3. As many of you know, the Box Project from my class has really taken off. I'm working to get teachers from around the country to do this project with their students - it's that cool. So, I've been speaking at conferences, and am set to speak at two more so far. The idea came, I think, from two seeds: working with sixth graders at Golda Meir School in downtown Milwaukee six years ago, and inspiration coming to me while walking down a food aisle in a grocery store. Well, I always wished I had taken some photos of that sixth grade classroom project at Golda, because it would be nice to have documentation of the start of the Box Project. Which leads me to this crazy good story that happened two days ago.
As I was writing at Alterra/Colectivo, a student from that sixth grade class walked in with her mom and younger brother. Since she had just graduated from high school, I went over to say hi and congratulate her, and find out what the future holds. We talked and then they asked what I was up to. I explained where I teach and other things, and then asked the former student, Fiona, if she remembered the project we did in class, and she did. I then said I never took any photos and wished I had because of its connection to my current Box Project. Fiona thought for second, and then said she thought a friend of hers on Facebook had photos of the project on her page. And sure enough she did, as evidenced below. HOW COOL IS THAT?!! :) Great to see you Fiona and best of luck in the future.
And it was so cool after talking with that family that I leaned over to the guy next to me at the coffee shop and shared a bit. He had a couple of books about God on his table, so I asked him if he was studying to be a minister. He said he was studying theology, so I told him I just had a God moment and asked if he wanted to hear it. He was excited to hear and thanked me for sharing.
4. And there's one more! A former student of mine, who is going into seventh grade, was playing guitar and singing at a small place in Waukesha that same night as the coffee shop story above. I thought I'd go and support him. As I was listening and chatting with his dad, Emmett dedicated a song to me: Superstition by Stevie Wonder, since I had asked him about the song when he was in my class. What a nice thing to do for a teacher, dedicate a song unexpectedly. Of course, I recorded it, and don't think Emmett would mind me sharing below.
And to top that day off, between the Alterra experience and seeing Emmett, I ran into an old high school friend of mine at Brookfield Square, who I hadn't seen in ten years. :)
See, what IS is what counts. I'm learning. Hope you are too. Blessings. XO
That's the way I heard it put during a sermon, and how right that is. Blessings are everywhere, if I am available to see them. Half an hour ago, I ran into the woman at Colectivo/Alterra that gives me a hug when I see her. We gave each other a hug and a nice "good morning." Know what her name is? Liv
Yep, "LIV(e)" That's the message to me.
Am off to Colorado this morning with my sister and sister-in-law - all through a blessing from a student's parent. How cool is that? Talk about a blessing. I've understood this week more than others that I am blessed beyond belief. I didn't always see it that way, as I looked at others and saw what I didn't have in my life. I knew that was not a good way of looking at things, but for some reason kept doing it.
So, that's what I've been praying about, to view life's blessings everywhere and know God's presence here and now, with deep gratitude. I also send out prayers to the people and families of Orlando and others, and for my old friends too.
After "putting my foot down" last week, it's gone well, but I caught myself using words the other day that kept me thinking old ways, like "change is not easy," or "it's not always easy." That is changing too. It's how you frame it and with the help of prayer, and friends, I'm seeing that more and more.
So, reframe it. I'll be unplugged in Colorado for five days. I could take that as a pain, but I'm going to rejoice at that instead. Shoot, I'll be in the mountains, time to soak it all in!
On another note, last week I also mentioned the heart needed to dig deep into to make decisions and get on with things. That heart is in all of us. I think it's our true, loving self, full of life and goodness. I read a church bulletin note from Racine's First Presbyterian Church's Pastor Gillian this week that talked about heart. She talked about running the race that is before us, and related the story of John Stephen Akhwari and his 1968 Olympic marathon race. It might not be what you think, so please check it out below. That is heart! I love it. It sure brought me goosebumps and helped inspire me this week. That's the kind of heart we all have and that can change life's perspective. Thank you Gillian.
I start out today with prayers about love and blessings and I send all of those out to whoever may be reading today, and all others too. Remember that heart we have, and the blessings of God. Have yourself a blessed week. I hope you know God's blessings in your life too. XO
It sounds like a good plan, changing some habits. Whether they are habits in thought, action or attitude, there are things I'd like to do to make my life better, happier, and more full of integrity, where my thoughts match my loving heart. Yep, that's the plan. But, I've said that to myself or others plenty of times, and some things have changed, while others seem stuck.
Some of those habits I'd like to see change are so engrained in my being, they seem unlikely to change. But after texting with a friend last night, about being on my own pity pot of feeling lonely, she said she was praying for me to get over the loneliness, the thoughts of someone else, and for a new joy to come alive. She also said she knows who I am and my heart, and that I was special to her and many people. It was a blessing to hear, and....it helped me understand that I was just stuck in my own crap. I texted her back a huge thank you, but it also made me think that although I pray and want to change, I also have to show some guts, determination and HEART! That's where "putting my foot down" comes into the picture.
I must not only pray for change or hope in a situation, but need to make a DECISION. And that decision is something from deep inside that says, "enough is enough." That decision puts my foot down to say I believe in myself, my future, my present, and my God. The God I believe in is so full of love, and quiet support, that I can trust He is giving me the power to live well.
I can decide not to drink soda, I can decide not to eat sweets, I can decide to concentrate on gratitude by writing it out, or letting others know, and I can decide to make some art or read. I CAN do those things. Instead of praying for those changes, I can DECIDE to do them. Sometimes, it's really easy to forget how powerful we are. We are the most amazing creatures and have the POWER to change and grow. Decide upon it!
It may actually sound like I'm talking myself into all of this, and maybe I am in a way giving myself a pep talk, but it's the truth too. "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7. And so when the time comes where emotions want to change my determination and heart, I need to remember this and my decision to trust, commit, and the truth.
Now live it! Thank you God.
The photo below was taken on my school's campus just a few days ago. Check out the baby herons that are growing up.
As I sat in an empty hallway yesterday, waiting for my new drumming teacher, I looked across the way to an empty room, and Marianne Williamson's quote was on the door. Love that!
The song below is supposedly about Albert Einstein, but I've always loved the words and thought it could fit Jesus too.
Blessings to you all. XO
We are so similar, aren't we? Yes, we have plenty of differences: color, height, gender, income, etc. But when it comes down to it, we are all trying to live our best lives, and all have desires, dreams, doubts, and thoughts. I've been meeting with some pastors/rectors, wanting to connect more with people and God, and looking for a few more answers for myself. One thing has been obvious in all my talks with them, and with friends: we are not alone in our thoughts on faith, God and the mystery of it all. There are plenty of times when I'm alone that I tend to think what I'm going through is just my own drama (of course!), but then I talk with someone and it reminds me that we all go through ups and downs, and all could use a comforting hug, a good laugh, talk or cry.
Several books have been recommended to me, not to find answers, but to refine faith. All have been good in their own ways.
From the last one, I read about Jesus' life pre-Easter and post-Easter. Pretty deep stuff and wordy, but some things hit home. And one really hit home, especially for my stuffiness. I feel like I used to be a lot more light-hearted, and as I grew older, even as a teen, I became stiffer and wanted to do the "right thing." That even included not laughing when others seemed to be having a good time. What a crock that is, huh? I acted as if laughing didn't fit into my idea of what was "right." Talk about over-seriousness. That's why my friend Tally and I say, "Lighten up, Francis," when I get too stuffy (from the movie Stripes, if you didn't know). I have a new goal: laugh a lot more! :)
That was caused by lots of stuff, I think - home life, a Lutheran upbringing or whatever, but today I read about conventional wisdom vs. alternative wisdom. Pre-Easter Jesus grew up, as we all do, in conventional wisdom of our society. But Jesus had an alternative wisdom about life, that had more to do with Godly compassion, than rules and tradition. I feel like I've been living in too much of the conventional wisdom of life, even to the point of living with less joy than I could be because of some stringent internal rules I'm trying to live by, instead of living in the alternative wisdom of love and freedom of Jesus' teaching and God's love.
Okay, with all that said...gotta let go of the old ways and let God guide me in the other. Watch out world, I'm going to let laughter and joy into my life!
Example: on way to Minneapolis this weekend, my sister said, "I wonder what it's like to think like a cow." I said, "I'd love to find out, since my brain never stops!" Yes, we got a good laugh out of my over-working brain thinking like a cow! :)
Plenty of blessings to report too: my uncle is getting better, we had a chance to see our cousins and talk/laugh/hug, was accepted to speak about the box project in an independent school conference in Ohio, and heard from a teacher in Luck, WI who is now doing boxes with her students (see photos below).
Blessings to you all! XOXO Laughs too!
Prayer is an odd thing, don't you think? I pray for all kinds of things: my own peace, healing for many people, comfort for those who are suffering, patience, changes in me and others, a feeling of love for others, thanksgiving, a closer understanding of God and a better connection of knowing Him. My prayer life can be pretty selfish much of the time, which I'd like to change. Really, most of the time, I pray for a number of things and get somewhat lost in the confusion of it all. And I wonder if it helps at all. So, I'd say my faith is there about 75% of the time - I sure wish it were more.
I gave thanks as a prayer for my mom's healing this week, because a wound that was so bad we could actually see her Achilles tendon is now healed! That is a blessing worth every good prayer to God that I can muster. Where we were worried about some tragic outcome, a surgeon stepped in to open up a vessel for blood to flow. And that made all the difference. I remember being in that hospital room when we found out it could be done. I had to leave the room so my mother didn't see my tears of gratitude, and to send my faithful friends texts of the wonderful news (I didn't want my mom to see how choked up I got while she was lying there in her hospital bed). This healing is a miracle, and I thank all my friends for their prayers. My mom called me this week to let me know that the scab of the wound had fallen off and the wound was healed. You can imagine the relief in her voice and in my heart.
But then two days later, we heard some medical news about my mom's younger brother being admitted to the hospital. The outcome is still unknown as I write this, and without going into too much detail, it's really hard to pray right now. I don't know what God has planned, so I am just praying for God's presence and love to be with my uncle and the medical staff. To know that others are praying helps too.
Once again though, my prayer seems a bit wobbly, persistent yet shaky. I guess that's what faith is: praying anyway.
I have to add one more thing though, on a completely different note. When hearing preachers' sermons the last couple of weeks, I really loved one thing - as they preached about God's love, healing, and power, they both said faith in all of this is "RIGHT NOW"! I love that. I have to admit that my faith is there, but in a weird way. My faith sometimes thinks the blessings and love are off in some mirky future, but the sermons I heard woke up my faith to be in the current moment. That's what I need, and that's what I actually think is the truth too.
God is the God of RIGHT NOW. He can change things, or enter a heart, or give some wisdom right now. I really like that. Hope you do too.
I won't go into the blessings of the week, but know that they were there. I hope they were for you too. XO :)
I initially started this new blog posting less than 24 hours after the last one, because wow, things can change so quickly. My faith was a bit shaky last week, although still growing. Last Saturday morning, even though I had heard these bits of wisdom before, something happened to change my heart and mind. Two awarenesses hit me, and they are big. First, I realized just how often I want to get my happiness from other things in life, be it other people, praise, fitting in, texts, a tasty treat, Facebook "likes", whatever. I knew that kind of thinking was a joke, but not until that morning, for no apparent reason, did it become real and did I "get it." I knew it before, but now I KNOW it. Thank God for that!
The other bit of wisdom that finally hit me was that I have to do more of my own part to feel better - I can't expect God to do everything for me, although I know He cares and wants the best for me. I've always said, people need to walk, as well as pray, but I haven't been following my own words in some cases. Point of fact: I eat like crap! And exercise like crap! But I ask God to help me feel better. Wow, get it together, huh?! God isn't going to change how chips and salsa affect me, or that piece of tiramisu, or that Pepsi I have with a donut for breakfast. Oh yeah, that's up to me to change to feel better. I hope you're laughing with me, and not at me right now! :) I pray a lot and ask for a lot, but I really do need to do my part.
These two awarenesses will take some time to sink in, but I am so glad to finally understand.
- a 3rd grader stopped me in the hallway to say he's looking forward to next year
- good friends listen and support us all
- spending time with a new friend & letting her experience a real classroom
- seeing the "God blessed" license plate below
- being able to teach at my current school for five years now
- the State of Wisconsin INCREASING my tax refund after finding an error on my returns
- a family that supports no matter what
- pastors/rectors who really help me understand faith and keep it going
- getting a hug again this Friday morning from Liv at Alterra/Colectivo
- talking with coworkers and having one unexpectedly come up to me as I was leaving school today, saying, "If you need an ear, I'm here for you" - that was so meaningful for me and hug-worthy
- oh, and I almost forgot one...a former student came back to the classroom late on Friday to deliver his birthday treat...a donut! Right up my alley. :)
A big "thank you" goes out to all. Am keeping the faith, and just letting the concerns go, day by day.
Blessings to everyone!
When I read a blog, genuineness is appreciated. It doesn't have to be too personal, but sincerity is a must, don't you think? Well, this week was a little tougher than the last few, as I still look for peace in "singleness." It's definitely not always easy. That seems to be my biggest hurdle to peace, but I know there will be changes in me. And blessings from God.
Do we all go through times of "aloneness" where we feel like we are just on our own? Times where we become very humbled and realize just how many friends we have and how much love is really all around us? Probably.
There weren't huge blessings this week, but that doesn't mean there weren't a lot. I'm realizing that they are all around us, and that I want to acknowledge them more and more.
Really, we all have things going on in our lives that no one really knows about: doubts, hurts, joys, relief and longings. But that's why all blessings are so meaningful. I am blessed in many ways: students giving me laughs, plus their enthusiasm for life and learning, hugs and gifts from parents, and talks with coworkers. This week I also heard from two Wisconsin teachers who saw my box project workshop and are now doing the project in their classrooms (how cool is that?!). A new friend is thinking about becoming a teacher, and she will be visiting my classroom this coming Tuesday. I will also be able to ask some of my former students to help with the box project as I run it for UWM's College for Kids this summer.
And one more, with a prayer request: I will be running the box project this Monday night, in Racine, for Youth for Christ's young men's group. This is a group of middle and high schoolers who could use some guidance and inspiration. I'm hoping to take my heart for teaching & connecting with kids, and for this crazy cool box project, to help these young men see that they have potential and can have success, by starting with a cube and then reaching to make a basketball court box (since they all love hoops). See the photo below for the inspiration for that - a box made from one long piece of paper by my current student Alaina.
As you can probably tell, talking with and listening to God this week has been a challenge. My faith has been tested, but it is being refined and made deeper. And I am still very grateful for God working in my life and in me. I hope you can feel His presence, and I hope my words can be of some comfort wherever you may be. Blessings to you all.
I haven't written much in a week or so, because honestly it's been a few tough weeks. School has started, so that takes up a lot of time, as you can imagine! But 9-10 year olds are pretty cool. I've had some very sleepless nights, with my stomach in knots about another situation though. It's been hard to see where God is.
The entire week was filled with anxiety and an unknown. My mind and heart were very troubled. Today, there was a long conversation to resolve the situation, and it went very well. Not everything will improve right away, but it was a huge start.
I wanted to write about how I went into the day though, even though I wasn't feeling God's presence much this week. Since it was Packer Day, I wore my old #87 jersey (in honor of Robert Brooks). Underneath that jersey, I wore the shirt shown below. "Egeneto" is Hebrew for "it happens" in reference to God being involved the world. In my pocket, I also carried with me a smooth stone with the word "Faith" engraved. I also prayed while sitting on a bench outside my school before students came out for recess. It must have it worked because I got three fortunes in my fortune cookie at lunch!
But seriously, during the meeting I wasn't defensive, but was a little leery at first. As things progressed in a frank way, things got better. We'll see that the future holds, but it seems positive. Then my sister happened to find some quotes from a recovery book that talked about not trying to change others, and also about acceptance of things. I am not in control of others, because God has created others, not me!
I've been listening to a lot gospel music and Joel Olsteen to try to be positive.
Below is a song by one of my favorite singers, Helen Baylor, who brings me hope. Although she mentions it for a woman, I think it still applies to men too. :)
I'm still having great blessings, but some emotions are getting in the way of appreciating them as much as I could be. Now that the discussion is over, I think the weekend will by much more peaceful.
Keep the faith.
I hope you continue to receive blessings too, and enjoy them! XO
Well folks, life is pretty challenging. Like I've said in other posts, life is still not quite the way I'd like it to be. I better get used to it, huh?! I'm having my perceptions of things challenged and molded, while still receiving just incredible blessings. I'm sharing all of these, not to say "look at me," but rather to say, "look at what God is doing for me." There is a HUGE difference. I'm also sharing because I hope they help you with your faith, and in all honesty, sharing them helps reinforce my own too.
As I was driving to the Wisconsin Math Conference, I listened to a Joel Olsteen sermon about peace, and letting go of my "gods" of problems and wanting to control too many things. When I get into certain moods, nothing is good enough and I want, want, want my way. It may not come across outwardly, but internally there is a huge struggle sometimes. Anybody else feel that way?!
Well, listening to that sermon helped tremendously as I let go of my emotional desires and some of the mind games I play with myself. I'm hoping these new habits help me see the world in a whole new, abundant and loving way. I'm praying for that and trusting God to help me with that. I'm hoping you are seeing abundance too.
Here are a few blessings to share:
1. I spent the afternoon with my sister, driving to Madison to see my god-daughter's art exhibit. What a great afternoon.
2. A former student, who now goes to UW-Madison, wrote to me and several other teachers, to thank us for guiding her and helping her be the successful woman she has become. Keep it up Taylor!
3. I got the chance to speak at the Wisconsin Math Conference on Thursday and had three really cool things happen. My talk went so-so, as the crowd was somewhat small, didn't ask a lot of questions and my delivery didn't match my standards. I wasn't totally "on," and thought the topic of boxes, and my enthusiasm would carry the day. Well, things could have gone better, but I did receive some feedback that will help me in the future (even that was a blessing).
a.) A few minutes before I spoke, a woman approached me to say she had been in my workshop last year, and went back to her school the following week to do "Boxes" with her sixth graders. She made a point to track me down and show me photos on her ipad! Now, THAT was cool and it's why I present. See the photo below.
b.) A man sitting in the back of my presentation raised his hand and said. "I may be sitting here with an odd look on my face, but it's because I am so impressed. I am not a teacher, but own a business, and with the amount of problem-solving your students are learning with this project, I would hire all of them for my company. I've been hiring adults who can't problem-solve like they are doing." On his feedback form, he wrote, "There should be 100 people sitting in on this workshop!" Thank you, sir.
c.) Before leaving the conference area, I walked to the lake to sit and reflect for a few minutes. As I was sitting there, six women were sitting at a picnic table about fifty feet away. All of a sudden I heard the words "Peter" and "Jennings," so of course my ears perked up and I turned to see what else they were saying. I couldn't quite tell, so I turned toward the lake, very curious, wondering if maybe one of them had been in my workshop and had seen this website. Ever been in a situation where you want to do something kind of odd, or out of your comfort zone? That's where I was as I sat on the park bench, going back and forth in my mind about whether I should go interrupt them to find out what they were talking about. Finally, I said, "screw it, I'm going over there." I asked to talk to them all and they were very courteous about it. I asked, "Did you guys just say Peter and Jennings about five minutes ago?" They had, and I explained my name and how funny it was to hear. We all had a good laugh and talked for just a bit. I also gave each of them my card, so maybe some of them will even read this posting. It was all very fun! But if I wouldn't have approached them, I would have missed this fun, short-lived interaction.
4. When I got back to my school yesterday afternoon about 4:30, I went to my classroom to see how things looked and get ready for the upcoming spring concert. The photo below shows what I saw when I opened my classroom door. That young man got a big hug when I saw him at the concert, and when I see his parents, I'll express to them just how special that was. Thank you!
All of these are in addition to the messages and gifts I received as part of Teacher Appreciation Week. I'm very grateful. Each day these blessings, and even challenges, are transforming my faith and perspective on life. I hope they help you too.
If you've read any of the last few weeks' posts, you might think the blessings couldn't be any more outrageous, but listen to these. But first off, I want to share the lesson from all of these - it's called Abundance. I'm no expert at the Bible, but I sure had heard this verse before: "...I have come that they might have life, and have it in abundance." (John 10:10)
My lesson is as simple as that - my life is being blessed with abundance in a variety of ways. And I am accepting, hopeful and very grateful. That's what I hope you get from these too.
Four big blessings (even one you'll have to listen to):
1. My mother's wound on her heel is healing. You could actually see her Achilles tendon and the healing was iffy for a while, but she is now to the point where it doesn't even need a bandage! Yes!
2. Friends Jane and Donna once again ran a volleyball tournament to support Imaginaction. Through their efforts, about forty people played in a blind draw fours tourney all day long on Saturday, with all the money raised going to our cause. It's a lot more work for them than it looks like, and they both do it without fanfare. I am very grateful to them.
3. While working at the volleyball tourney, I received a FB message to listen to a few minutes of a radio program from Racine. A former student of mine, David, was being interviewed as the Pick 'n Save Student Athlete of the Week on W105.7, The Fan. Listen to the first six minutes of this link here, and you'll understand the goosebumps I got. Congratulations David - it was a pleasure to teach you.
4. Was asked to video the JV and Varsity girls' soccer games of Milwaukee Reagan High School by my friend Corey, since he's the JV coach. He wanted to show his girls their positions on the field during games as a learning experience. So, on that beautiful Monday night this week, I was there to video a few minutes of each game. The next day, people from the PBS show "Around the Corner with John McGivern" called the school and asked for footage of the girls' soccer team to include in its sports section of the show. How cool is that?!
Are these crazy, or what? Crazy cool and good. Life is good. God is good. Thank you for the light. I sure hope you are receiving light in your life. Which makes me think of one more Bible verse: "The light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)
You really can't argue with that. I think I used to, but not anymore.
Blessings and Light to you too.
Okay, it was another crazy week...great blessings and quite the lessons to learn. Let me share some of both. But before I start, I must say that growth sure is a challenge. Even with all the blessings I am receiving, and am so grateful for, my heart and thinking have a long way to go.
There is no way I could share all the blessings I am experiencing via a blog, and some are just a bit too personal right now, but there are still some biggies to at least mention.
1. Met with my editor and had such a nice conversation.
2. I received a request from a woman who read my blog, and would like some inspiration to go into teaching. You bet I can do that!
3. Received another request, this time to present the box project to another group of students outside of my school.
4. Received a really nice email from a former co-worker of mine.
5. Ran into the mom of a former student, who said she read an article about my teaching in a local magazine, and brought it in for me.
There are so many that God is blowing me away. Thank you God for giving me light in my days.
Lessons in the midst of those blessings:
1. Blessings may not be what I expected or what I wanted, but I need to NOT take them for granted. I used to do that and how wrong that was. Joy is when blessings are accepted and received with humility and gratitude, not when I say with attitude "when will I get exactly what I want?" My distorted perspective is getting transformed in a very good way. It was much needed.
2. I am very trusting of friends and know that we are there for each other. I know they will hold up their end of the bargain, or in other words they'll do what they say they'll do. They are good. Has my trust in God been that way? In all honesty, not even close. Although God is perfect love, I don't always trust Him, although He is the most trustworthy being ever. I'm working on changing my trust in God, because if I can trust my great friends, then I definitely can trust God.
With all this change, the only way it's happening is by something bigger than me transforming me, because I can't do it alone.
I hope blessings and lessons keep coming your way, like they have been for me.
I woke up this morning, prayed and ended up saying to myself "Life is good." And then this happens - I cannot make these up!! Just now, ordering my mocha at the coffee shop, a woman walks behind me and says, "Hi Pete." It's Cindy from a church in Milwaukee I attended five years ago. She asks me what's new, so I share a few of the cool things that have happened in the last few months after much pain. She then shares that my name came up at her new place of employment since December, Wauwatosa Presbyterian Church. The pastor was talking to her about visitors that have come and gone, and mentions a tall, Pete...and she knows who he's talking about! And then she runs into me. Crazy!! I have tears in my eyes because God is doing what He said He would do....pull me out of the hell I was in.
You see, when my girlfriend and I broke up in October, I was going through hell. I was so down, I could barely function. Then one morning while driving to work with tears streaming down my cheeks, barely able to see, God spoke to me in a quiet, inaudible voice, saying, "I am going to pull you out of this hell, to show you the power I have to help and change you." In the state I was in, there's no way I could have just thought that. I don't mind sharing this, no matter your beliefs, because I am a witness to that Power right here and now. What's happening is personal, but also needs to be shared. These seemingly small blessings are not small at all, especially when viewed from where I was just a few short months ago. I surrendered control and am now counting on God, and....am so grateful, I have tears of joy coming down my cheeks this time, knowing God's love is winning out. Not everything is the way I want it, but He is with me. He's with you too!
As I've been saying the last few weeks, blessings are everywhere and my faith has been growing through receiving them. Not everything is great still, but I wanted to share these two because they are blowing me away. Thank you God. Along the way, I'm learning some lessons too. Hope these are uplifting.
1. On Tuesday, I went to my favorite coffee shop for my usual baby mocha on the way to work. The woman in front of me looked back, and thinking I was a friend of hers, almost gave me a hug. We laughed about it and went to get our drinks, but with no hug. BUT, on Thursday morning, she was there again and as I walked by her, I said, "No hug?" with open arms. This time, we hugged and I found out her name was Liv. Now, that's the way to start the morning! Thanks Liv. (The coffee shop workers got a kick out of it too!). Lesson? Get out of bed like I want to! I'm not a morning person, although I wake up early. Usually I lay there and ruminate about useless things and finally drag myself out of the bed. That day, I made the decision to get up and go, and look what happened?
2. This next God moment is even wilder, but I need to preface it with the note that I never talk about God in class - I tell students that subject is personal and is something they need to talk to their parents about. Also, as I teach fourth grade, I tend to tell a lot of stories and mix many things together to make lessons enjoyable, interesting and unusual. This time, in a math lesson, House of Sandwiches submarine sandwiches were brought up, and that somehow led to a story of the Jeep accident I was in during high school. One of my best friends to this day was driving that night and rolled a brand new Jeep on Hoffert Drive in Racine, the Friday after Thanksgiving. As I told the story (that was relayed to me by witnesses), I mentioned to students that from the time we got in the Jeep until I ended up in the hospital, I don't remember a thing of it because of the concussion I sustained. When I mentioned to students how freaky it feels to know there are 2-3 hours of my life that I have no recollection of, a student says, "Mr. Wilson, I think God made it so you wouldn't remember, so it wouldn't be traumatic for you." That bit of wisdom came from a ten year old! Wow, I was stunned and thought he had a pretty good point.
As always, this week has also brought growth in faith and living that I'm still trying to wrap my head around. For instance, listening to two sermons guided my heart and mind this week, each providing some wisdom about getting past old habits in thinking. I began to see more that we all have shortcomings, but they don't limit God's blessings. He is not expecting perfection from me to earn blessings. He is blessing me, period. I'm still growing in my discernment of what I should be doing in a few areas of life. But I am very grateful to God, family and great friends for support and blessings. Blessings to everyone!
Here are a few photos too, and below those is a song from Amy Grant. Check it out!
Two weeks away from school/work is a wonderful spring break, but it sure can be hard to get back into the swing of things! You mean all of life isn't just walking beaches, listening to waves, seeing sunsets, and photographing it all?!
Since coming back, blessings are still coming and I hope they are for you too. I've realized that God's blessings are there, and that faith is the key to recognizing them. I'm learning to not try too hard, don't base my self-worth on acknowledgment from anyone, but rather on God's love and integrity, and to be happier, I'm going to look at what IS in my life, rather than what's NOT in my life. In this journey, hope you are learning some things too.
An unexpected blessing yesterday was two of my old high school basketball teammates texting me from out of the blue, to say hello. How cool is that?!
The book shown below, But God, was in the Airbnb place where I stayed in Cannon Beach. It talked about the Bible mentioning many calamities happening to people, BUT GOD was with them. Very cool to know and trust. As I was reading it, a note written by an earlier guest fell out, talking about his journey to Cannon Beach and the answers he found in his search. It was very cool!
With the way life works, going to Oregon was a way to get away, refresh my spirit, and get closer to God. The sights were incredible, and there were several God moments as I was grateful to experience all the beauty. It was definitely great to see and experience, but I also found myself a bit stuck in emotions and thoughts at different times. Sometimes, life is a bit scattered. I want answers now, but that's not how it happens and I had to remind myself to..."Lighten up, Francis!" On a cool trip, some of that craziness still crept in, but still God was there - in the green greens, the coolness of seeing a herd of elk at 6:30 am with no one else around, the sound of the waves, the sheer beauty of the coastline and even in the doubtful, anxious me.
I went to a different church in Wauwatosa this morning, and heard a great sermon. The pastor said, “Maybe we’ve had it wrong - I used to think if I came to believe then I would show my faithfulness. But really, I think it’s the other way around – by striving toward more faithfulness, I will come to believe more and more.” That really hit me, and gives me hope for my trust. God can do things way beyond me and for me that I cannot do, and for that I am faithful and grateful. Here’s to all of us trusting more, letting go more and being at peace, no matter the circumstances, emotions or thoughts.
Enjoy these Oregon photos, in order of my trip!!
On my way to Cannon Beach, I thought the most unexpected blessing came at O'Hare, when the cashier at Dunkin' Donuts gave me a free extra donut, with a smile. That was until I saw this sunset from the plane...Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier. Wow! Such a blessing, and I haven't even seen the beaches yet. Gratitude.
People have always told be blessings are everywhere, but I think my sometimes mixed up emotions would get in the way of recognizing them. Now, with God's help, I've learned that no matter what I may be feeling at the moment or during the day, those blessings are always there. My job is to get out of the way and be content with what is going on in my life, as I also always strive to be better and more loving. Today's blessings included:
1. The woman behind the counter at Colectivo (Kate at Alterra), who knows me by name and about my book/mission, told me she saw my flyer on the bulletin board, and rearranged the other flyers so mine could be seen better! Thanks Kate.
2. While I took my mom to the dentist, I asked the receptionist to change the time for my next appointment. To do that, she had to switch another patient with my time, so she called the other patient right then, and she agreed to switch times.
3. Ran into a former colleague of mine from Golda Meir School, as I was having dinner with another colleague from the same school!
There are more, but these jump out at me. I hope you are seeing many blessings in your life.
Like I mentioned in my first post, I have come to realize, almost forced to realize, that God is guiding me and blessing me beyond my emotions or current circumstances. When I let go of my want to control too many things, and boldly, yet humbly, pray for transformation and hope, I feel God's presence in my life and His blessings are revealed to me more. The journey will go on for the rest of my life. While many God moments are very personal, others are so cool that I feel the need to share them to show just how blessed I have been, and to give hope to anyone who might be going through tough times. Plus, here are a few more photos!
Here are just a few of my latest God moments, unexplained any other way. They are too implausible and timely, especially over the last two months after surrendering even more, to just say they are luck. You get one or two occurrences, maybe it's luck. You keep receiving blessings, something else is going on. And remember, there are many, many more that I am not sharing here.
1. After already having three tickets, all in separate spots in the theater, for my school's sold-out Wizard of Oz final performance, I call my sister to see if she was okay with the seats. When I go back to talk to the director prior to the show, a volunteer couple walks in while I am on the phone and starts talking to the director before I finish my phone conversation with my sister. Since I'm a bit hurried, I am sort of annoyed that they get in front of me to talk with the director, until they say they bought tickets and want to donate them back to the director for someone else to use.
The director looks at me, as if to say, "Here are two tickets together! Isn't that crazy?" Wow! I was amazed. She exchanged two of my other tickets, and my sister and mom are then able to sit next to each other for the show.
2. Driving to get gas close to my home, I was unable to turn into the gas station so kept driving. About ten blocks later, I decide to turn back and go back to the same gas station. As I'm pumping gas, a man says "'hello" as he goes to pay for his gas. As he returns to his car, he looks at me and says, "Imaginaction!" He was a dad of a girl who was part of the first Imaginaction trip to Olympic National Park. He informs me that his family took a trip out west last summer, based partly on his daughter's eyes being opened to what's out there during her participation in the program.
2a. Another young man from that same first group emails me about a week later to say hi, let me know how he is doing and asking how I am doing.
3. As I am talking with an old friend I haven't seen in many years, I mention Imaginaction and also the box project I do in my class. After I show him some photos of boxes on my phone, he gets very excited and says he has been looking for a program that can help the middle and high school students he works with after school, who could use some inspiration to challenge themselves academically. We talk more, and he thinks the box project is just what he's been looking for. So, we are figuring out a way for me to work with his students!
I believe all of these are blessings to help my faith, and I am very grateful.
Many years ago, after returning from my first photographic trip to the Pacific Northwest, I was driving down the road in Racine wondering what I could call a small photographic business. Without much thought at all, "God Works!" came to me, as if God himself had put it in my mind. At first, I was hesitant to use the name, but then thought it fit perfectly, since the outdoor photos I wanted to share were works of God, plus I was learning that God really does work for us. I tried my hand at a small photo business, selling a few photos to local magazines and in art fairs. And I used "God Works!" proudly. But then I decided to change careers to be a teacher, and although I have continued to take photos, the idea of the small business kind of faded.
Now, as a way to tell my story, I'm taking "God Works!" out of the shadows, because God has stepped back into my life in a big way. You see, this year has been a year of deep sorrow and confusion for me, but because of God's grace He is changing me and my life. I am becoming more and more dependent on God in my life, and I cannot possibly explain the blessings He is providing me on a daily basis. I hope by bringing "God Works!" back to my website here that readers can experience God's beauty in photographs, but also in words and shared experiences, to feel God's love and also share love among each other.