Charlie Wilson...that name probably doesn't ring a bell. But for those of you close to my age, you'll most likely know who he is. Or at least know his voice and some of his songs. He was the lead singer of The Gap Band, one of the best funk bands ever: You Dropped a Bomb on Me, Party Train, Outstanding...
His story really resonates with me. Maybe it's because he's a Wilson, or maybe it's because I have a repressed funky side (I think that's it!). He had it all, lost it all and was changed by the power of God. You see, he was at the top of everything, got hooked on drugs, became homeless and then received blessings from God to change his life. It's a common story, I guess. But because he had it all and God resurrected him, it's a story filled with heart. Now, my life hasn't exactly had all of those situations, but his story of a life changed is very inspiring.
This time of year isn't always the easiest for many people - they may have lost a loved one, have bad memories or have no one to share the spirit with during the holidays. That's why a kind word or hello, a smile or a hug along the way, even with total strangers, is such a special thing to share. We never really know another's life story, just like they don't know ours. We don't know each others' past, present, hurts, joys, hopes or spirit. I didn't know his life had so many ups and downs until just a few days ago.
It reminds of my friend Keith who died a month ago (and who I wrote a message about just a few weeks ago). He went through a lot of ups and downs, but came through it changed by God. I am very grateful God can do that....for anyone, no matter what. I continue to pray for blessings, healing and love for others, and for my continued growth with all of those too. God is with us, no matter if we feel that way all of the time or not.
Blessings everyone, and Merry Christmas. XO
I'm including a Gap Band jam to remind everyone what his life was like (and how darn good old funk music was), and then including two of his current songs, which are beautiful. He is a changed man, which is pretty cool to see.
I have to say it again...love is everywhere. You tell me:
Watching a student who was about to take an ornament I gave my students, step aside so the last student called could make her choice first.
On the hospital elevator, a wife and her injured husband saying, "I wish there was button to Florida," and as I get off at my floor wishing me a "Merry Christmas."
In Urgent Care to see if there's a serious problem with my swallowing. As I leave I ask how much she thinks the visit will cost, the nurse says, "Don't worry about it, we're going to act like you weren't even here." (how about that one?!)
Watching my 9-10 year old students so excited to watch their teacher open the gifts that they gave him. It's pure, untarnished joy.
Steve Kerr's heartfelt speech about Craig Sager...see below.
Having a speech therapist giving me a fluoroscopy (video x-ray). I ask if I can get a hard copy photo for my students and she says, "I'll put a copy on a flash drive for you." (if you're wondering, my throat and swallowing are okay).
Uplifting texts from so many friends.
Having a co-worker unselfishly cover for me at the holiday concert.
When a shorter woman gives me an odd look as I pass her in the grocery store, and then asks, "Can you read that bottle up there and see if it says Caramel?" I say, "Yes it does, I'll get one down for you."
This one needs a prologue - I played the Grinch at my school's holiday concert three years. I was given a Grinch stuffed animal that I now hide each morning the week before Christmas break for the kids to find. A student surprises me with two boxes she made for me - a mean Grinch and a nice Grinch who's heart is now three times bigger. (see photo below).
Another student example - watching several students working hard to finish their "boxes" yesterday so they can give them to siblings or relatives as gifts.
You tell me ....is love all around us? You bet it is! And that's just what I've experienced - how about you?
Blessings everyone. XO
Following Steve Kerr's video below is a pretty mellow tune, but listen to the words...it has a lot of heart.
Any of you ever flip flop between glass half full or glass half empty views of life? When I think about it, I think I've lived leaning toward half empty more than I'd want to admit. But that is some serious craziness!
This morning I was in such a bad mood because I couldn't find a file for my next book while sitting at the coffee shop. I had to leave because of how frustrated I got. And that was after I left my house trusting that there was a plan for my life and was at peace with that and God. Wow, how things can change.
The reason I titled this with goodness is because it is everywhere if I get myself out of way! Getting so mad over a computer file? C'mon Pete. I'm sure many out there feel the same way about some trivial things. I'm not alone, am I?
I have had so many unexpected blessings over the last two weeks, it's crazy. I don't want to list them all, but here are a couple: a student from last year, who now spends his 5th grade days in another building on my school's campus, brought me a kringle because he saw one the night before (yes, I bring in kringles for my students, in this order: raspberry, almond, almond macaroon, and finally Napolean). Another crazy good blessing was hearing from a woman in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada that wants to Skype with my class about, you guessed it, the box project. How cool.
I could list more, but what I'm trying to say, which I've said before, is that blessings and goodness really are everywhere, if we trust in life. And come from the perspective of half full, or even 3/4 full. How about full?! This is what I'm really concentrating and know it will change my life. Thank you God.
There is plenty of growth to happen. Gotta take it all in.
Blessings to everyone. XO
Check out this sunset as I left my school the other day.
And here's some Earth, Wind & Fire
I feel like I need to write tonight although I don't really know what to say. Many of us lost a friend last night. A friend of mine and former basketball teammate died last night. I say friend even though I didn't see him that much, but still got a brother handshake every time we ran into each other. I say hoops teammates because that's where we first met and connected. And he connected with a lot of people. And he could play some ball! His name was Keith Fenderson and it is a deep loss for a whole lot of people in Racine and other places too. Keith touched a lot of hearts in a lot of ways. Man, he had a great smile, and was always greeting you like a great friend. I know a lot of people feel the same way.
I wanted to write about "punching holes in the darkness" a second time because that's what Keith was doing for the last many years. Now that he's gone, it's been a sad day, but also a day thinking about the kind of "heart" he had. He was dedicated to helping the community and was punching holes wherever he was, sharing God's love. He spent his last many years supporting Racine's youth in many ways, and even wrote many plays. When I heard about his plays, I tried to get to as may as I could just to share some heart with him and let him know I supported him. He always made a point of letting me know he appreciated me coming, even pointing me out to the crowd as the only white brother in the crowd! But who cared, it was about love and heart. And he knew how to make you feel special, in his own cool way.
I spent my drive home thinking about "heart," what it means and wondering if I could do more with mine, and maybe smile a whole hellava lot more, like Keith did. I sure could. The "heart" thing was a bit odder to think about. We can't really compare hearts. We each have the heart we have, to punch holes in the darkness. Keith had his way. And we all have our own way. Not that we can't get wiser and less selfish, but I think he would want us to share "what we got."
We will miss Keith, and I hope we all can live more the way he did, with that big smile, laughing and sharing our "heart" the best we can. Keith reached the Highest Ground last night, and is helping us reach ours as we think about him, and pray. This salute is to Keith.
I think Keith would have loved this tune.
People usually give me, and others, that line when talking about meeting a significant other. And they're probably right, and I hope they are. But if any of you have been reading the blog for any time, you've heard me share some of my God moments that have happened when I least expected them.
Well, I had another, and before I could have even called it one, the new friend I met called it one to me. Over the last three days, I was in Columbus, OH speaking at conference about my box project to other educators. I was thrilled that more than one person was in the audience this time, rather than the one when I spoke in Minneapolis summer. That also turned out to be a God moment though since that one was a woman named Nicole, who happens to be the chair of education at Concordia University. For the new session, I was able to share that serendipitous story with the new audience, so they allowed me to take another selfie to compare the experiences. :) See below!
My workshop went well, and the 18 participants were stunned, in a good way, about the project. Many said they would take the project and establish it in their school, which is my goal. I think God was with me as I shared the cool thing that's happening in my class, but there was a real God moment at 7:00 am this morning, in the front row of a plane. And although the moment happened with a woman some of you may have heard of, the God moment is how it happened in the first place.
As I waited my turn to board the Southwest Airlines plane, a woman was brought on the plane in a wheelchair, carrying a guitar. It was a somewhat unusual sight. When I boarded the plane, she was in the front row aisle seat, and since I love the front row for leg room, of course I also took the window seat in the same row, leaving the middle seat open for another passenger. The plane was supposedly filled, but for some reason no one ever sat between us. Although we were both tired from getting up at 5 am, and each of us expected to take naps, we never got around to them, since we talked the whole way.
Our conversation ranged from my trip to Liberia a few years ago, to cooking, teaching, her kids, the box project, living your passion and almost everything in between. I told her about my book, so gave her my business card and asked if I could have her address to send her a book. She asked about the website, so I told her about the tabs on the site: teaching, boxes, videos, Imaginaction, but also about the God tab.
This really intriqued her, so I shared some of the God moments I've experienced over the last few months. We then of course started talking about God. As the minutes went by, in the back of my mind I was thinking we were having a God moment during these moments on the plane. The last thing I wanted as I boarded that plane this morning was a conversation, like most of us, because I wanted a nap. As we continued our talk, she stopped me and said, "The way we've connected is a God moment." She was so right. And it was all because no one sat in that middle seat between us in that front row.
Her name happens to me Ruth Ward, also known as Mama Bear in the duo group of Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. She was so gracious about that and didn't bring it up to impress me at all. She really just brought it up as we talked about passions in life and that she never thought in her lifetime she would be doing what she is doing. She was genuinely grateful, and I was very grateful to have such a cool conversation on a flight home. When I least expected it.
Photos below are from my last two workshops, and I've also included two songs from Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear!
Well, this post has more to do with love, than God per se. Athough, many would say, me included, that love is God working through us.
I was talking with a mom of a student the other day about what it's like to be a teacher. Of the many things I had to learn when changing careers is that I obviously have a different kind of connection with kids than they do with their parents. But here's the deal - spending so much time with students for an entire school year allows for some really cool connections. But then the school year is over, and they are gone. Some stay in touch, and I get fistbumps from many former students.
I've thought about this a lot over the years, and what I've come to realize is that to be the type of teacher I want to be, with heart, I connect with them the best I can, loving on them, while I have them in class. I have them in my care for one school year, so I give it all I have for that year. And then I start again the next year - giving my heart to teaching them the best I can, so they learn as much as they can, and leading them to be great people too. That's my job, and I wouldn't do it any other way.
To live means I have to love and live with the outcomes. The reason I even bring this up is that some of you may be in a similar boat, even though you may not be teachers. You may be going through something right now, like I was, you may be trying to love but it just isn't happening, or you may be in a good spot, but it comes down to how you, and I, want to live our lives. It isn't easy, and there are days, weeks, or months that may not be what we want, but does that mean we don't be who we are, or don't live the way we want to live?
For me, I don't always love like I should or want to, but I'm striving. I guess that's all I can do, and really pray that I keep loving the best way I can. Now is the time. I have to keep remembering that. I hope you are too.
Blessings to everyone. XO
Some people asked me to post the invocation from my 35th HS reunion. We had a pretty cool class, played great sports, and had quite a few who partied, but a neat group of people. It was good night. Here's the opening prayer. I tried to make it meaningful, yet light.
We are here to celebrate a time when we had a common experience as the Class of ’81. It ties us together, but from there we’ve had lives to live, risks to take, love to share, visions and dreams to go after. Some things worked, and some didn’t, but each of us has a life worth sharing with each other. There’s a then and there’s a now… and it must be a miracle that we made it.
We did a lot of nothing during mod scheduling, hanging out in the commons, or other spots. There were things to learn, friends to make, sports and music played, theater and art created, but also beers drank, pranks pulled, cheers shouted and many laughs. In some cases, even vehicles flipped over. But we are still here. And we know You are here too. You are here because goodwill is in this place.
As we join with each other to reminisce, we ask that we also see each other for who we are now and then, and connect in a way that brings love into our hearts, and many laughs.
We ask that you bless those who are no longer with us, those who couldn’t make it this evening, and all of us who are here tonight.
Blessing to everyone. XO
I just wrote the invocation for my 35th high school reunion next weekend. I am no preacher, so it's quite an honor to be asked again to lead the crowd in a prayer.
There are many memories to think about, and for some of us in the Horlick Class of '81, it's amazing we are still here! God had to be with us. It's going to be nice to share memories and the "now" we all live in.
As I think of all of our now, many experiences have shaped us. For me, there have been ups and downs. Looking at my life now, it's obvious to me, family and friends that God is with us.
And the reunion gives me the chance to know God is here, because we will be sharing love among us all, and a lot of gratitude. Those are two of the biggest lessons I've learned over the last year. If you look at life with the attitude as interactions are really love being shared, with God shaping them, and with gratitude to God, even in tough times, it changes your life.
Huge blessings to you all. XO
Ever heard the Greek word "egeneto" before? I hadn't until I found an old sermon from years ago, that I downloaded to my computer. Another sermon talked of "punching holes in the darkness." Those are the two things I'd like to share this week.
Egeneto means "it happens." And the way it was used in the sermon was about the story of Saul, the biggest persecutor of early Christians becoming Paul, one of the most influential Christians of all time. Saul/Paul had an "egeneto" moment in his life. God stepped in to transform the man. Many people don't think this type of thing happens in present time or ever happened. But if you've read my blogs over the last few months, I believe they happen all the time either directly by God's spirit "talking" to you (as happened to me at the lowest point ever in my life last October as I barely could see from the tears streaming down my face as I drove to school, I "heard" Him say "I'm going to pluck you out of this hell hole to show you my power and be a witness), through people or through crazy good, unexplainable events that have no other reason to happen. Do you believe? I never did before, with my semi-faith, but now do with my 85% faith. How can I not with the events that have happened for me. FAITH, that's it.
And that brings me to "punching holes in the darkness" from another sermon. In that sermon, the pastor talks about people constantly punching holes in the darkness of our world. Examples are people who race into the damage done by bombs exploding in Boston during the end of marathon a few years ago, or athletes giving up their chance at glory to help a fallen competitor, or even something locally like a prayer meeting of all colors the night after the violence in Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago, which I was a part of. Now, I don't know how much the prayer actually helped, but I know it brought many different people together, and you should have seen the camaraderie of the people who showed up. There were people of different colors and even different faiths holding hands, or putting hands on other people's shoulders as we prayed and talked. Actually when a friend told me about the meeting, I was a little hesitant to go, but since I've been having so many God moments, I figured I might as well go. Even in the midst of possible trouble that night, I felt totally safe. That is punching holes in the darkness, however small.
This week, I HAD to let go of something very personal and what I falsely thought was crucial to my life. In the same punching holes sermon, the pastor talked about asking God in prayers for help, but then how we also have to help those prayers work to transform ourselves or the circumstances, by some work ourselves. That makes sense - punching our own holes in the darkness, or friends of ours punching holes in the darkness to help us. That's what I've experienced from prayers, texts, talks, hugs, or phone calls from others this week. And also from taking the focus off of me to others, be it my students, friends or even strangers.
That's how I experience egeneto overlapping with punching holes in the darkness. Let's believe in both and help them happen through prayer and action. Just this morning I remembered the Bible verse Matthew 17:20: He replied, "...Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." That's what I'm believing at this very moment to punch a hole in the darkness of my memories, tough feelings and view of the world. I hope this helps you believe in egeneto and the experience of punching holes in the darkness.
Below is the sunset the night of the prayer meeting. And here's a classic song to get all of us going.
Blessings to all. XO
I found an old sermon on my computer the other day - actually a few of them, that I've been listening to in my car. In one, the pastor talks about big feats of daring, like the landing on Normandy on D- Day, or people doing crazy stunts that you see on Youtube. But he also talks about the daring of everyday people, like you and me, who deal with everyday things with courage that we might not even think about - the person who deals with anxiety that goes to a social function anyway, or the person who changes careers because she knows she has too, or a kid entering a new school for a first time, nervous but still walking in. Daring is also coming up with ideas to help a community, and following through with them. Those are daring moves, full of courage that sometimes goes unnoticed and unrecognized. On this eve of a new school year, there is some real daring taking place, with plenty of courage. I want to acknowledge it and say my blessings and God's blessings are with you!
Since I deal with anxiety and slight depression myself, I know what it's like to need courage. Even when I changed careers to become a teacher, many people told me I had a lot of courage to do it. Maybe I did, but I didn't feel that way - I just was doing what I HAD to do. As I had brunch with someone yesterday who I've met over the last few months, the word "risk" came up in our discussion about courage. What I realized is that what may seem like a risk, is really a choice. A choice to change and trust you can handle the things that come your way. That is courage.
In my own case this week, I also used what some may say is courage, by taking my box project into the corporate world to create a training workshop. But it didn't seem that way. Although it caused a bit of nervousness, it really wasn't that much, and I was pleased with the outcome. I think the employees I worked with thought so too. I guess my point is this...you have courage even if you don't think so. And I believe God is with us, helping us move forward in our lives, providing love and peace where we surrender to the idea that we must make the choices and trust in our own ability to handle things.
One more thing about another sermon I heard. It included a story of Mary Ann Bird, who was a disfigured young woman who had a teacher whisper to her, "I wish you were my little girl." And that whispered comment changed her life, affecting how she thought about herself, letting her know she had inner beauty and worth. What courage and inner strength she had to have to live her life.
Below are some photos from the training, and a song I've been listening to all week too. I've realized by listening to this song, that although I believe it, it takes a lot of inner courage to let go. It's something I don't find easy to do, but probably takes a lot of courage, that I don't know if I have, but sure hope I do. Maybe you are in the same position. If so, I send my prayers to you to have plenty of courage, even if you don't feel that way. Blessings to everyone. XO
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 Greek 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
That is a term used in the book, "The Heart of Christianity," by Marcus Borg. It's a pretty deep book, put together by a major theologian. His description of "thin places" is where our reality in the visual world overlaps with God to make a moment into something deeper and spiritual. I've written somewhat about this in the past. It matches with what I call God moments, where good things just happen out of nowhere, seem more than just circumstantial, and bring a certain surrealness and gratitude with them. As examples this week:
1. Receiving a card from a new student's past teacher, to wish me luck with him (he's a good student) and to tell me she is friends with a family in which I've taught their daughter and will teach their son this year. This is the same daughter who helped me with UWM's College for Kids box project two weeks ago. That card came out of the blue. When you have so many of these types of things happen, you have to think more about God and His blessings.
2. Spent time with a former student who is leaving my school. He was a good egg, who I happened to nickname Pizza! Pizza! while in class. Of course, he had to get a pizza slice floatie for his pool. I was invited over for dinner and gave him a bald eagle box as a going away gift and some inspiration. What a fun time we had swimming together, with me on the pizza slice floatie, of course eating dinner and conversing with his grandparents. It was a wonderful night and I was filled with gratitude for the invite and conversation.
3. My friend Corey, who I met at Cardinal Stritch as a professor, teaches in the Education Dept. Yesterday, he was helping to lead a conference at Stritch for newer education students. But he had a flat tire when he got there, so needed some help. I drove over to help him, followed him to a tire place that was close and then drove him back to Stritch. We re-entered the conference as four newer teachers who had recently graduated from Stritch master's program, as I did ten years ago, were sitting up front of all the newer students, as a panel to answer questions. After I met the facilitator of the room, I mentioned to her that I had been teaching now for twelve years, and also received my MAT from Stritch. She said, "Do you want to join the panel?" So, I did! And I just happened to be wearing my red Cardinal Stritch t-shirt yesterday. That is crazy. And I consider it a thin place.
I hope you have a thin place this week. I will be presenting my first corporate box workshop tomorrow, so expect a thin place tomorrow as well. We shall see, but I trust.
Blessings to you all. XO
My devotional this morning had this verse..."The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1) It sure reminded me of the sunset the other night at the prayer meeting near the gas station in Milwaukee that was burned. It felt like that sunset was there on Purpose. Do I know that? Not really, but I took it that way. Below is the photo again. It was just an awesome sight.
As I left my mom's place yesterday, I saw a community garden across the street. The flowers caught my eye, so I had to get over there for a few photos. They're below too. And from the take-out Chinese we had, my fortune cookie said, "Listen to what you know, instead of what you fear." That is profound!
I needed more surrender yesterday, and it sure helped. You may know this feeling - bad mood in the morning, and the day continues that way for a while. Something had to change for me, and it did. I listened to the funky song below several times. The singer, Helen Baylor, had a transformation from an addict to a gospel singer many years ago. Listen to that voice! I still ponder the meaning of Jesus and don't know where my faith is with Him, but I do have the faith in God and His transformational power. This is enough for now, as I continue to let things soak in and nourish me in whatever ways they do. After getting over myself and my trivial concerns, it gave me a chance to reach out to others with love to see how they were doing. That felt right.
Today started out well, with a devotional time where I read this: "Sometimes you have to say No, so you can say Yes to God," followed by a nice God moment. I was wondering which Alterra/Colectivo coffee cafe to go to today, since I have tutoring this afternoon at one that is a bit closer to my apartment, but is not my normal location. I decided to go to my normal one, after stopping at a Walgreens, which had "Walking on Sunshine" playing. Yep, I was one of the only customers in the store, and walked with a little hop in my steps as I listened to the song. Am I a goofball?
As soon as I got my mocha (!) at the coffee shop, I ran into another teacher named Barbara (it's so obvious to notice a group of teachers as they meet for planning for the year). She mentioned her daughter is also a teacher who is starting at a new charter school, has been in professional development for a month, and teaches sixth grade math. Of course, my ears perked up. I had to give her my card, tell her about the box project, asked them to visit this website and left her with my book, which talks about teaching math creatively. I sure hope they look it all.
Blessings to you all. Have a great day. XO
Have you ever walked by someone and wanted to say hello, but they never look at you, or the moment just doesn't seem right, so you say nothing? Or sat in a coffee shop and wanted to just share a hello or send love to everyone sitting there? I've had the first example happen many times, and have now started having the second example happen all the time.
The first is easier to change...you can just say hello and smile anyway, even if the other person isn't ready for it. Now, maybe they are thinking about something, or might be dealing with something tough. We have to be mindful about these things. But we can't always be waiting for the other person to be the instigator of goodness either. So, I look for just a small moment to say hello anyway. I hope the other person does appreciate it anyway. Now, I did do this the other day, and had a woman who obviously had some tough issues in her life yell at me to leave her alone. Others who witnessed this laughed at her reaction, and mentioned she is just like that. I had to really tell myself not to laugh or have a bad reaction, but send a prayer instead.
The second example is what's been making me think, and leaves me wanting. And this wanting is to share love and a caring word with almost everybody I see, whether in a store or sitting here at the coffee shop. I guess our social norms are keeping me from just approaching people and sharing a kind word. I'm sad about this, because I think almost everyone could use a caring word. I'm trying to figure out how to share love and still be acceptable to others. And I'm not thinking about sharing God or trying to sway someone toward Jesus or anything. I just want to share a loving compliment, a smile or share a moment. Maybe it's fear of looking foolish (which happened when I went to share some teaching experiences with some younger teachers talking next to me and they smirked at me) or maybe I just don't know how to approach the moments yet. But I hope to find a way to share this kind of love.
I hope we are all trying to find ways to do this, and I am open to suggestions. We need to share more moments with each other. I pray about this, because it would bring more blessings to others. Let's at least try to improve on this.
Blessings to you all. XO
In addition to hanging with some old friends, being unbelievably grateful for our local guide (Cassidy, the son of a friend on the trip) and pushing ourselves on some serious hikes at higher altitude, three of the coolest, God moments on the trip:
1. Taking the sunset photo below while warm rain was falling...so peaceful and inspiring...
2. Swimming in a mountain lake just in awe of the sites shown below...
3. Stopping to get gas and while washing our windshield, the guy getting gas next to me joked that I should do his. After I finished my windshield, to his surprise, I ran over to do his too. He was very appreciative and offered me his hand for a handshake. I think his name was Dan, from somewhere in southern CA. Why not do a cool thing like that, huh? That's just fun and warmness coming out. Thank you God for providing me heart.
Blessings to everyone and enjoy the photos. XO
Ever been stuck seeing the challenging side of life? I can't be the only one! :)
Well, with the help of friends and family, and much prayer, guidance and signs from God, my entire outlook on everyday life is in the process of flipping. And that's a darn good thing!
After dealing with some tough emotions for many years, my outlook on life was pretty negative, even though I am very blessed. Well, now that those emotions are becoming healthier, and because of the many blessings God has provided, I am seeing the world as an expression of His spirit and presence. And I am seeing God's love work through people. It's amazing to look for God in people, because He's there. People are constantly showing love to others. You just have to really pay attention to it, even in small things. Life is goodness.
I was noticing people at the coffee shop, acknowledging each other. Shoot, I even noticed a guy's crazy socks and made a point of mentioning it to him. For a long time, even though I can be outgoing, I would have kept my kind comments to myself out of anxiety. No more. I'm getting a real kick out becoming more involved in everyday life with people and am seeing a whole new level of love, for me and for others.
I hope this little testimony makes a difference for you too, to see that all kinds of people are showing God's love daily and hourly.
Unexpected blessings this week, you ask?
Well, let's see, I was invited to see a former student play piano today, and it was awesome to see her play, with no music in front of her.
My good friend Corey brought over a chocolate pie that his mom had made for me, and also gave me two pair of crazy socks. She knows me well! :)
Ran into Tom Pipines from Fox 6 News and am working on getting a story made of the Box Project in my 4th grade classroom at University Lake School.
Saw the goodness and willingness of people to make a difference in the community as my sister and others worked to create painted boards for new picnic tables to be placed in West Park, in Racine. It's called Art to Table Picnic Table Project.
Click here to see Art to Table.
I am very grateful for all, and am really glad to be seeing the world in this new loving way. Blessings to all of you. XO
And it's been a few weeks since I included a God works! photo. Here's a classic from Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park, WA. Look at those blues!
That's the name of the book recommended to me by Pastor Gillian of First Presbyterian Church in Racine (she is an awesome preacher and pastor). The book is a compilation of thoughts and writings on prayer by the well-known Henri Nouwen, although I had never heard of him. He is real - that's a high praise compliment, because he's truthful about his spirituality, doubts, struggles, and triumphs, but full of wisdom too.
The reason I mention all of this because he writes a chapter on forgiveness that really hits home. The chapter speaks on forgiveness of myself, but also of others, and how powerful it can be. He talks about forgiving by praying and getting in touch with God - the same God for me and you, but also for the other person I need to forgive. He mentions that it may be the hardest thing in the world to do, to really pray for someone else, even if they hurt me or see things in a different way. God loves that person too, even if it's hard to understand with the pain or trouble they may have caused. Praying for the good of that person is hard, yet isn't that love? He is honest about that, and how hard it can be, but how freeing it can be too. I need to do it, and let God work out life's details as I let go. This is a very intimate thing to share, but some boundaries are worth breaking, to share real love.
While I prayed about that, I also realized not only do I need to forgive, but also have an attitude of thankfulness for people who may have hurt me, because in the long run, through it all, comes healing and growth. The outcome of love is not always known, but we need to love anyway. It's a process, and we could all use prayers.
Deep stuff, I know! But real joy is coming out of all of this, I can tell you that. It's joy that doesn't come from getting what I want, but the peace of God, with much gratitude.
You may think that because of the some of the songs include that I have become a Jesus freak. In all honesty, I wouldn't say that. I believe in God and that He is pulling me out of the hell and deep sadness I was in. I still struggle with the exact meaning of and faith in Jesus, but still listen to His message and life. I have doubts, but I also have faith. There have been many talks and prayers with pastors, friends and family as my faith continues to grow. I guess you could say I'm open to Jesus. Is that faith?
Below are two songs by Helen Baylor, sandwiched around her testimony, which brings tears to my eyes everytime hear it. Give them a listen.
Blessings and joy to everyone. XO
Yep, plans don't always work out, that's for sure. My plan was to talk with 20-30 people about the box project while at a math conference in Minneapolis.
Well, one participant showed up. But, in the same way that all these God moments have happened, with no control or forcing from me, the one participant happened to be from Concordia University in Mequon. Yep, we both drove 300 or so miles from the Milwaukee area to a conference in Minneapolis, only to run into each other in this conference room. Pretty cool.
I didn't actually take it as a God moment at first, because I was a little disappointed at the turnout for my workshop. But meeting Nicole was great and we had a wonderful discussion. She was impressed by the boxes of my students, took photos and handouts, and is going to try it with her pre-service college students.
Plus, she won a free book as a door prize, since no one else was in the raffle for it!
Great to meet her and hope to work with her down the line. I'll help in any way I can. Learned some good things myself this weekend too. Excellent conference.
Blessings to everyone. XO
I had an "aha" moment this morning. If I was in my class, I'd stop and hit the gong. I guess this is my gong. In my classroom, students who have an "aha" moment can get up in the middle of a lesson to hit the gong, to signify that they learned something. Then we give them applause to celebrate. Sometimes, they learn something new that everyone already knew, but it doesn't matter, because they finally got it.
Well, I finally got it this morning. And that is: I can't control everything, and almost as importantly can't force things either. Anybody else have this problem? You want it the way you want it, and you want it now. That isn't the way the world works, so I'm finally owning up to that and accepting it.
Want to know what really made me see that I can't force things? Seeing a mother deer and her fawn in the park last night, for another God moment. It was probably the coolest thing I've ever seen. While walking with a friend Corey, he stopped us when he saw the mother only twenty feet from us. We froze and for the next half an hour watched as her fawn ran toward her, nursed for a minute and then continued their wondering in the forest, all as they got closer to us. At the end, this mother and fawn were within 5-6 feet of us. We stood in awe the whole time.
And here's thing: I didn't force that to happen or control any of it. And that is the way it is for these God moments that have been occuring over the last many months. None of them were me forcing the issue - they all came when I wasn't forcing the issue.
Hmm, there's a lesson there. I'm letting that sink in today.
Blessings everyone! XO
My eagle will be traveling with me, reminding me that..."those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles..." Watch for Francis the eagle to show up in many places, constantly watching for God moments to occur and to remind me that God is there with me and others.
By the way, Francis comes from Stripes..."Lighten up Francis!"
And this message really helped today.
As you know, I've been writing about the love and presence of God in my life and those of others. With all the killings going on in our world, the terrorism and senseless deaths all over the place, it may seem that God is not here or He just doesn't care. Those are worldly things we see and hear about. Plus there are all of our own personal concerns and pains - plenty of those. And no one really has answers for most of these things. There are serious issues in our world today. But I think God is here, even in the midst of all the human tragedy and fear. In the midst of all the pain we see and hear about, I want to offer a different perspective.
I truly believe God works through people, and if you look around there is much more love working through people in the world than there is evil. It may not seem that way, because we hear so much negative news, and things definitely need to get better, but He is here. He is a God of love, wisdom and change, even if it takes time and we never really understand it all.
By writing today, I'm hoping to really put a different spin on viewing the world, because that is what's happening for me. You see, God is changing my life and the way I see the world, and it's blowing me away. Instead of trying to find fun and happiness by trying too hard, which can be fleeting and empty in the long run or at the end of a night, He is bringing me joy in life itself, which builds upon itself. I hope sharing this perspective will make sense to demonstrate why I think God is here even in the midst of all the worldly pain.
I have a pretty blessed life - a great job and passion, great friends and family, dreams, a future, my health, plus plenty more. So, maybe I have a skewed view because I have it pretty good. But I've also dealt with some things that really make no sense and cause confusion and some tough emotions. All of that has skewed my perspective too. This is where God comes in. He is taking all of my views of life and flipping them around toward love, and that is making all the difference in the world.
Ever since a painful chapter started in my life last fall, I've been searching for peace. At a most unexpected time, I "heard" a voice telling me He was going to pull me out of my hell hole, to show me His power to give me peace and so I could share it with the world. Over the months, I have surrendered more and more, giving my life and outcomes I'm concerned with to God and believing in His healing. Some of it has included me fighting and screaming inside. This somewhat humble surrender has made me let go of being right, lots of ego and stubbornness. And let me tell you, it's a process! And I'm not always happy about it! BUT...during this time, which is no coincidence, God has been blessing me more and more. If you've read any previous posts, you know of the blessings.
And I guess now we're heading toward what I want to really share today. And that is: God is here, working through us. It's really that simple, but that profound and meaningful. His love is working through us. Whether the moments are small or large, He is there. He may be working through friends or strangers. You just never know. Over the years, I have always wanted gratitude in my life and being, the kind my mom shows every day. Well, it's taken pain and surrender, but I have finally found a grateful attitude that is blowing away the way I use to take things for granted. One thing is for sure, when LOVE is working through us, love cannot and should not be taken for granted. We have to stop to take it in. And I mean really take it in - let it change and mold us.
Since I've been sharing God moments with people, many have asked if I am just noticing them more, meaning they have always been there, or if they are happening more. I think it's a combination. God's love working through people has definitely always been there, and maybe I just didn't notice it enough before. That's true. But since surrendering more of my life to God, it's really undeniable that God's favor and blessings have increased in my life. I don't think God was holding back before, but it's really that I am now open more to His loving blessings coming my way. He is blessing me and changing me, helping me find peace and joy.
Here are some examples from my life that show God is working through people. On the Fourth of July, I was in a weird mood, grateful but a bit lonely. Wanting to be with people, but not wanting to talk too much. Thinking about love and integrity helping me become a stronger person, more confident, but also more at peace. At a house party on the parade route, even early in the day, my feet were sore (am I really that old?!). I found an out-of-the-way place to sit on the front steps of the house. This spot was behind a canopy and food tables, took a little coordinated footwork to get to it, yet I could still see the parade. While seated, I watched the parade, tried to calm my emotions a bit and watched others talking and laughing. Then within a half an hour, two friends made their way through the obstacle course to join me on the steps. This is the type of thing I'm talking about, with God working through people. Both of these men had to take action to go out of their way to talk to me. That is love at work in people. Yes, love is an emotion, but also really an action.
Also, just the other day, two moments happened that showed me God's love working through people. A rector of a church agreed to meet me for breakfast. The last time we talked, he recommended a Christian book to me, so I had emailed him that I had started reading it and it was helping refine my faith. When we met the other day, after we shared how life was going, he pulled out another book by the same author, as a gift for me. That just blew me away. He went out of his way to find a book and bring it to me. THANK YOU! Not only for the book, but also for thinking of me.
Later that day, Joe, a student who was in my class just this year, was playing baseball at the small stadium in front of Miller Park. I had texted his mom to see how he was doing this summer, and she invited me to come see him play. When I got there, I didn't see him or his parents right away, but then saw his dad in the bleachers, so went to sit by him. When his mom swung by a few minutes later, she said hi and then asked her husband for the car keys. When she returned, she had a gift of crazy socks for me. How cool is that? She was thinking of me, and what a demonstration of God's love it was. THANK YOU!
These are demonstrations of kindness that are really God working through people. And THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. I am grateful to know God is here, He is guiding people and He brings peace. I sure hope these thoughts bring peace and understanding. Blessings to all of you. XO
In the last three weeks, I've had two hummingbirds fly by me in the oddest spots. They've hovered for just a few seconds, let me see them, and then just taken off. For that, I thought the first song below might be appropriate.
And while I was writing this blog, the second song came on to Youtube.
Here are two of my favorite songs of all time - appropriate for this long weekend's celebration.
Happy Fourth of July everyone. His truth is marching on!
That integrity and "unhealthy codependency" post written the other night, helped me make a tough, tough decision this week. It's even hard to write tonight because of it.
Ever have a time in your life where you had to discern things to figure out how to take action to change? That was my week. Sometimes, it's just too hard to make a move - this week pushed me to the limit since some unhealthiness was really keeping me from growing, moving on and from God's better life for me. I prayed for strength and dug down deep for determination to take action that I knew was the best course. My entire insides were shaky and doubtful, and I almost didn't take the action, but was finally able to make a decision, and let go of the outcome, by having faith that God would make things work out correctly. That's what faith is, right? Integrity has to win out, thanks to God.
Below is a video of Joel Olsteen talking about "faith in fear vs. faith in God." It hits home. I don't see everything the same way he does in this sermon, but overall he has a good point.
Had some crazy God moments this week, but will only explain one. They are so cool, and I hope they give you faith to see how God is working in our world.
I'm lying in the dentist chair yesterday, getting a cleaning, and my dentist walks in and HAS to tell me a story. He says he was at a going away party for a woman in the dental field. As he's leaving the party, the woman the party was for comes up to him and says, "when you told me a while back about the patient who changed careers into teaching, it changed my life." She is now going into teaching and the story my dentist told her about was mine. He then gave her my book too. He couldn't wait to tell me and we both had goosebumps. Tears in the eyes too. Where do these come from? I think it's God working in the world.
Blessings to you all and Happy 4th weekend. XO