Monday, August 21, 2017

WHO IS YOUR REMINDER?

KAREN COMBS is my reminder to be always at work for others.

This happened more regularly than I really want to admit. A moment of exhausted frustration reared its ugly head just when I wanted to make a hopefully simple, quick teacher trek to the copier and then run back to my room to accomplish a million other tasks.  

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But then that quick trip turned into a blind, confused, unbelieving stare at the copier. Sometimes, it was accompanied by guttural moans that I wished were silent. 




And then a calm voice nearby always offered, "Can I help you"  or "Is there something I can do for you?"  

I tried to be mindful that she, too, had a million things on her plate to accomplish along with answering the phone and buzzing people into the building and getting field trip drivers lined up and organizing a school wide fundraiser and ...  
Karen Combs helping another teacher problem solve.

So, my polite answer was that I was just trying to figure something out.

But then before I knew what to do, I felt her presence alongside me asking, "What have you tried?"  

As she miraculously worked her way through the quandary of the machine, her response to my frustrations were always in agreement, "I hear ya!"  While I pushed buttons at her prompting, she would say, "No worries, I've had to try this before."  



She ALWAYS gave me her good side.  
She ALWAYS made the time for my issues.  
She ALWAYS made it seem like I could accomplish things on my own, but she was just going to stand there beside me.
She ALWAYS made me feel like I was on the right track. 
She ALWAYS made me feel like I didn't need to get frustrated because I could master it.  
She ALWAYS offered a possible guess or solution.  
She ALWAYS validated my problems. 

She stayed with me through the problem until it was solved. On those days when my teacher time ran out at that copier, she even offered to complete my work and bring it to me! 

I know I fall very short of being that kind of a reminder for people, but I am ever grateful for the person she encourages me to be just upon every remembrance of her. 


She is my reminder to look around and see the needs people have.
She is my reminder to be a sounding board for others' frustrations.
She is my reminder to offer help to people. 
She is my reminder to put others before myself.

I'm thankful that our paths crossed and that she is all of those reminders for me. 

Who is your reminder to be a problem solver with others?


  




Thursday, July 20, 2017

EVEN IN THE CHAOS, IT ALL MATTERS...a note to my daughter


 TODAY REMEMBER THIS:   
YOU DO ALL YOU DO BECAUSE YOUR ARE BUILDING A LIFE, AND ALL OF IT MATTERS.

All your simple moments matter...

...Waiting and watching while she wipes her own bottom and puts on her own shoes
...Singing her four songs from a tired door frame lean to banish the bedtime wiggles
...Brushing teeth that will come out anyway
...Preparing the snack baggy to take in the car on your drive.
...Finding Horsey to take with her.
...Kissing boo boos
...Watching her dance to the music videos
...Letting her help load the dishwasher



Truthfully, many days in the lives of young moms and dads you just don't remember any of the many little things you did that seem equivalent to the spectacular, nothing earth shattering.

Sometimes, those many things that added up to a whole day just don't seem to have achieved even an honorable mention in this monumental parenting task.

Every day of parenting seems to have the possibility for a pop up thunderstorm that blurs your vision for that day, but especially when your babies are very young.

At the end of the day, patience is paper thin and energy is spent.

You have met demands all day from every corner with clear intentions to create moments to cherish.

Yet, during the deluge of parenting, life is full of the energy draining necessary trivial tasks which leave us with a myopic memory of those cherished events.

We swear we will slow the pace to hold everything faithfully dear, but our best hopes seem to glide down a steady hill.

All of it...all of it...all of it is part of the mysterious cosmic whirl at the center of your life's purpose...to build a life of purpose in our little babes.

Some day, as fast as these chaotic storms arose, they will fade. The energy expended will dissipate and not everything will be dizzy spinning out of control.

Just as surely as some chaotic day picking the right backpack and comforter for college will seem trivial in the scheme of their years ahead.  And your call to check in before finals will seem unnecessary.

But each moment of the controlled chaos of parenting is purposeful.

Rest assured, all of these big and small moments create what really matters: a life lived with the purpose to build a little life of purpose.



And even if you can't remember each special moment along life's way, you will always treasure that little life you purposefully nurtured.





Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A LETTER TO MY BROTHER ON HIS 50TH BIRTHDAY

                                              June 15, 2017

Dear Kevin,

Looking back at our 50 years together, I could delineate quite a few stories we’ve laughed about for many years.  As M2 (Mom 2), I  would start by reminiscing over the talented ways you could quickly finished your chore of taking out the trash by readily dumping it in our neighbors’ yard, entertain others with music by farting with your body parts (legs, elbows…), tease a cat, captivate the cousins with entertaining Barbie doll stories of "Little Batsy," consume two cheese hotdogs for a snack before eating a full dinner, get us all woke up at 6:30a.m. by hiding dad's comb or brush so he would yell up the steps, "Everyone up!," or even hold back your broom chasing sister after you walked across her newly mopped floor.  



But at this juncture, I would rather reminisce about something far more significant: the COURAGE you have shown throughout your life.  Each of these words from others about courage remind me of my simple hero brother:

Acts 4:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (NIV) 

Even in the midst of trying circumstances and personal anguish, your desire to laugh and easy nature have always invited others into your world and given them the courage to share their hearts and stories. They have not worried about feeling rejected by ears that don’t listen or a heart that doesn’t reach. Your courage empowers people to live real, out loud.  That emboldens others to live with the same courage. 


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ― Winston S. Churchill

Choosing to find success in serving others in your business venture stands as courageous in our financial world.   When the world’s business is about what people can get or take,  yours is about giving quality of life to others. Serving others needs has not been easy, but you have persevered with the heart of a lion.


“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” ― Maya Angelou

Your life is a testament to this type of courage— to trust your heart to love again after loss when pain and disappointment ramp up loudly in the ear.  Turning off that refrain of failure that tries to play in the background of your heart and to choose to believe you can give love well again is paramount courage. 



“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or… too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay

As we have aged through the years, I have watched you reinvent who you want to be, to find the courage to struggle to be the better man you envision, and live with the passion to make it happen. No man can be perfect, and most men live with scars if they engage in life with a purposeful passion. You capture the essence of living authentically and also galvanizing other men to this brave venture. You are one of the sincerest King’s men I know.   



“Courage is found in unlikely places.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

I can’t count the number of times you have provided perspective and wisdom and courage be it unknowingly through an uplifting or challenging comment to me as a teen girl or an emotional adult.  Know that your words and actions have provided courage, hope, and balance. 

In a day when we don’t credit heroes or knights in shining armor,
I proudly proclaim that you are one of mine in my life’s drama.  

Love today and on your special day,

Your sis (M2)
Cherie

Sunday, June 4, 2017

LIVING WITH THE BREAK AND THE ACHE

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If we live long enough, it seems heartache and heartbreak visit. Dark hours shrouded in loneliness when it seems taking a breath must be deliberately exercised.

Those moments of despair and depression when loved ones are lost and snatched from bosoms too early or within circumstances humanely unfair. Those moments when we were cheated out of the joy life was to guarantee us. Those moments when imagined family dreams were shattered. Those moments when innocence was violated. Those moments when friendships were splintered. Those moments which amass years discouraged by physical conditions without solutions.

The heart is broken and the ache is real. 

And our daily life journey can also seem like rough moguls pressed over broken ground. We are the weak kneed wounded whirling our way through days.

The crowd sees the hardened shell as we live as if all seems well. 
We know the inside mess where we wonder if we can survive this brokenness.  

And the lyrics resound, "We shall overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony." (Rev. 12:11)

We WONDER:  
We shall overcome shame, depressions, despair, sorrow, disappointment, distress, loss, suffering, grief, misery, problems, regret, pain, and heartache?

When our heart is broken open and aches from the tearing, it's at these fissures God fills our chasms. The imperfect wounded heart is filled with a super glue that holds it perfectly together.

It's at these tough trenches of the heart He suffuses a soil that sows a new life, a testimony that teaches us to live WITH the brokenness of this life. The scars a reminder of His power to hold our heart.

Jesus didn't just die for us. He SURVIVED for us to be our Overcomer in this life. 

We GROW and begin to KNOW:
We shall overcome shame, depressions, despair, sorrow, disappointment, distress, loss, suffering, grief, misery, problems, regret, pain, and heartache!

His OVERCOMING surgery connects His life marrow to our heart tissue.  He is our heart bypass. His Spirit fills us to live by His restoring. He takes His blood vessels and restores the flow of new life to our broken, throbbing hearts.

We may not escape this life without heartache or pain, but we can learn to LIVE with our brokenness as proof of Life---proof of His abundant life in us and proof that He heals our imperfect hearts whole.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

JUDGING TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS

After 29 years in education, I would have thought I perfected this teaching thing.Yet with my introspective nature, I don't  really expect that to have happened. I would like to think I've grown considerably and tried steadily to be a good teacher. In the hard drive of my brain, self-assessment is malware.  It's a constantly running program in the background of my brain. Truly, no one knows better than me my failures and weaknesses, and likewise no one knows better than me my desire to create a better version of me, the teacher, to improve the operating system.


As I wrap up this school year and my teacher career, this teacher evaluation component of a teacher's life has often been a quandary for me. I've thrived under systems that foster teacher learning. I've found myself more productive than those that that just gave check marks for teacher competence. Teachers that feel they are being judged by Simon Cowell work for the smile not the frown, but that's only when they feel critical information will help them develop to become more effective rock star teacher for  their students. 

As a teacher, I didn't mind being evaluated. However, I desired to develop not just be measured.  Measuring type evaluations left me feeling judged, while developing type assessments gave me a goal and knowledge of how to grow and administrators a place to provide input and assistance.


I know the value of words being motivators and confidence builders, words that create effort and a learning environment, words that challenge me to grow and continue to put forth every ounce of energy when my efforts might seem fruitless.   







While I've been judged many ways through the years and by many people, (administrators, teachers, parents, and students), the box I value most being checked is the one that a student says they had a great year.  It's usually accompanied by a hug and a great note. 


Cheers to those teachers striving to do their best for their students. May you know your efforts are developing you into that teacher your are imagining you can become.   



Sunday, October 30, 2016

THE DANCE WITH DOUBT (A TEACHER'S LIFE)

Maybe I'm speaking MOSTLY to the teachers now because their kind is who I know.  They are the life I've grown up in. They are the people I have become. They are the people my heart has learned to beat to, but it may be true, you feel more like a teacher than you know.


Teachers sometimes live in the cesspool of doubt...doubt that they are believed...doubt that they are heard...doubt that they are valued...doubt that they are enough.  


On more than one occasion through my teaching years (and admittedly it has been me on many),  a co-teacher has taken her precious time to come to my room, sighing or maybe crying, seeking grace to erase the sludge of sick thinking about herself that quickly accumulated in the pit of her soul. 


Whether she related a story in fury or declared it in defeat, her eyes showed that vulnerability that comes with over striving and being overwhelmed and overloaded.


Maybe it's the pressure of the expectations of five days for eight hours a day (plus the work at home at night) that she fill the roles to be the perfect mom,  mentor, doctor, disciplinarian, entertainer, preacher, and teacher to twenty-five or more students and their families.

And just like that cesspool, this doubt needs to be cleared, because the sickness drains out if not.  It leaks toxic and becomes vulnerable to the roots of doubt expanding until her soul system fails.


Have you danced with doubt in your life?


Our soul doubt needs to be frequently emptied because the cost of maintaining our soul is staggering if this is ignored.

The shadow of doubt accumulating in the muck of the mess must be cast out if we don't want her broken and collapsing. 

It's tough to be brave when confronted with brutal words of doubt.


While we can't remove others words from miring the doubt that contaminates our soul, we can saturate our soul with the words of grace. 

Teachers and all who feel like them at times, I can tell you that our soul tells us the truth. We are not enough. 

---WE ARE NOT ENOUGH---

We are not enough for any situation we will face. We are inherently riddled with mistakes, become short sighted, miss the obvious, try hard in many of the wrong places, judge others and ourselves by unbelievable standards, and work hard at working hard often to no avail, wishing others would notice our efforts.

AND THEN GRACE...
Grace percolates and our weaknesses are forgiven and perfected.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2Cor. 12:9)




Teachers need to speak words of grace and forgiveness every day to themselves. 

We cannot be stifled by the truth that we are not enough because the truth is what our soul has believed all along--- we are not enough!  


Yet, the freeing and deeper truth is that God will work through those weaknesses to accomplish His purpose.   

Our days of doubt serve to remind us of our need to clear the accumulated mire. Walk down the hallways and seek out those who will remind you for Whom you work and of the successes you've been afforded. 

When those days in teaching come (and they will) that you find yourself reviled and faced with reproach, and you cannot restrain harsh words being flung at you or replaying in your head, and you have no recourse, and you need to be rescued, may you be reminded that grace delivers you.

He continues to work in you in order to strengthen your work to fulfill purposes beyond your understanding.


"You have to say 
I am forgiven 
again and again 
until it becomes 
the story you believe 
about yourself."
--Cheryl Strayed













Tuesday, August 9, 2016

FIGURING OUT THIS GRANDPARENT LOVE


"There's nothing like it."
"You will love it."
"You will fall in love like never before."

Those are words others used to describe grandparenting to me before I became one. 

I've been pondering how to describe why this grandparenting is like no other love. It took me a year to be able to pen words that seemed to make sense about this love, this grandparent love.  It is a different glimpse at love.


I can't say it's stronger. I can't say it's fiercer. 

It's all I was for my kids and something more, and yet it's all I couldn't be for my kids. It's the best of me for her: my moments, my thoughts, my inclinations. 

It's the ethereal majestic of life. It's the unexplainable captured by the heart's eye. It's gifts of fast forward moments watching  a world of wonder unfold. It's being renewed to the miracle of the gift of life. 


It's being drawn toward  awe in a simple pleasure.

It's purpose and passion magnified without parent pressure.


It's flawless: seeing the shine, not the smudge; the sugar, not the sour.



It's the humble trust to comfort. It's working to the truth through the tantrum: silencing the pain by bandaging the hurt, hugging the sorrow, and rocking to a calm together.







It's seeing beyond the veil, seeing wonder in each new step, praising the fail because it started with a try.







It's stepping beyond the clutter of life, the mess, the dirt, the troubles to rest in middle of right now joy and dance with whatever balance and rhythm you have.







It's slowing the storm of life to a pace of breathing.



It's discovering joy from being greeted with a smile, kiss, and hug for simply walking through the door. 




It's seeing the hope in a future.




For every story my musing metaphors represent, this grandparent love is my openhearted surrender to a divine journey of seeing with a tender heart.