Friday, April 18, 2014

Hope in Death

It seems appropriate that I'm writing this on Good Friday, but several thoughts and circumstances collided. That's how God works.

Typically, my least favorite season is Fall.  Everything is dying, no new life.  Many family members have left this earth during the autumn months.  Each year that gets easier for me.  But, a good friend called me last night grieving and told me that her least favorite time was Spring for the very same reason.  She was in the midst of writing something for her grandmother's memorial service.

As death is not an easy subject and so much grief goes along with it, we STILL have reason to rejoice! Here is comfort to you, my friends!

Today Jesus died on the cross; an undeserved, cruel, gruesome, painful death.  But, Jesus did it willingly following His Father's desires.  In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul writes "For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ."  Jesus died for us so "that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right" 1 Peter 2:24. Galatians 3:13.

And because He died for us, we have HOPE.  That is what Easter is about!

Jesus gives us victory over sin and death through his death and resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:57.

And the Good News is that this world is not our permanent home.  Thank goodness!  We have an eternal home with Him when we believe in the Good Friday sacrifice and the Easter resurrection!  Hebrews 13:14, John 3:16.  

One day when Jesus returns "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever."  Revelations 21:4  This is our hope!  This is what gives us relief for our suffering, dying loved ones and we too can look forward that home yet to come.

Remember, friends.  We are citizens of heaven, not of this world.  And we are eagerly waiting for His return. He will take our weak and mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.  Philippians 4:20-21.

Death of a loved one can be very difficult.  Remembering and reading about Christ's suffering and death on the cross for us is excruciating.   But, because God gave us this free Easter gift of mercy and grace and love, we can have HOPE and comfort in knowing that he raises us from the dead along with Christ and seats us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 2:4-6.

God showed his great LOVE for us by giving us His only Son.  This is His greatest free, gift to you.  John 3:16

Do you choose to accept it?  Take hold of this HOPE that is available to you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Standardized Testing

It seems I have a bit to say lately and that's ok.  I'm now a parent AND a teacher.  I now see how the other half lives.

Cavett came home today with his "binder signed."  This usually means that he misbehaved, did something disrespectful, didn't follow rules, etc.  He has learned how a 3rd grader should behave and might have the binder signed once or twice a 9 weeks.   This normally wouldn't be a huge deal, except, it is the beginning of the 4th 9 weeks and he has had his binder signed 4 times now.  I'm not saying the teacher is wrong by any means!  I expect him to be RESPECTFUL in any situation and that includes sitting on his hands staring out the window while others finish taking tests or whatever it is, then by all means.  But his comment was "she has become more strict since we have been practice testing."

Here's the deal.  Practice testing has now been going on in his classroom for a full 2 weeks with 3 more days to go.  He's tired of it and bored.  After answering and checking, he wants to get to what he would rather do: expanding his mind and imagination by reading.  Oh, for shame!  The teacher, I get it.  She is tired too. Stressed, yes.  And, I'm sure she hates it as much as the kids.

I know.  Remember I am a former teacher, too.

However, my son is stressed as well.  When you continually practice test you are putting entirely too much emphasis on the wrong thing, taking away perfectly good teaching time and opportunities.  We are teaching our kids how to be lab rats and push the right button.  For the past two weeks, I have been trying to temper his comments by returning them with, "They just want to see what you have learned."  "There is no reason to be worried, just do the best and don't care about the rest."  But, I'm at the end of my rope.

Here is the analogy I gave him, of course.  This is good!

Think about when you sing or play an instrument in an ensemble.  The conductor can teach you the right notes, how to hold your instrument, show you the fingerings, teach you the rhythm, show you how to sit, practice putting it all together with others, add in crescendos and decrescendos and musicality, and check practice reports everyday, etc.   When it comes down to concert time, the conductor has to let go.  If a member makes the wrong sound or note, is it because the conductor didn't do his job?  No.  That is a reflection on the member, not the group or the conductor.  The concert is a test.  But there isn't 2-3 weeks worth of dress rehearsals or practice concerts, (maybe just 1 and there again it is usually do to the space they are performing in.  It literally sounds different).

Texas Public Schools will spend one of every five days or nearly 20% of the school year conducting tests. According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas public schools will spend 34 out of the 185 day long year conducting tests mandated by the state government. This does not include the regular testing in schools such as six-weeks tests, quizzes, and final exams.  Ridiculous!  Test them once at the end and be done.
Testing has changed dramatically over the last 30 years.  What used to "see where the child is and what he has learned" has turned into partially determining teacher's pay, superintendent bonuses and even home values.  The No Child Left Behind Law has affected the schools and the children negatively and placed too much emphasis on standardized testing.   They should be tested on what they are taught and what they have learned from that teaching and it shouldn't be tied to anything else.  There is no collective here.  It is each child and did they improve.

Take my Mom's work with low income, poverty students who can hardly read and have major disabilities. She is a phenomenal teacher and it is truly the gift God gave to her to use to spread His light in the world. She can teach that child until she is blue in the face, and maybe that child improves a little bit.  Great!   But can you really say that she is a bad teacher because he still can't do XYZ?  And, if you have a whole school of that type of kid, can you say that about the entire school?

I don't mean to sound like every one should be given excuses and exceptions.  On the contrary, I just want every child to be met where they are and taught from there, whether that is at a high or a low level and then test them on what was taught.  ONCE.  NO PRACTICE TESTING.  That is what all that "other" teaching time and homework is.

Maybe your instructions are too complicated if a 3rd grader can't read them and answer correctly without extreme practice.  They learned in Kindergarten how to color in a circle.  Why does all the practice have to happen 2 weeks prior to the real thing and then try and glamorize and costume it call it "Reading and Math Olympics?"

It's fine to teach them strategies for understanding.  For example, Cavett has to underline every single item in a mathematical word problem and circle numbers and show every single thought process to get all 3 points of the problem counted correctly.  Nevermind that he got the right answer!  He's bright and understands. His education is being dumbed down.  Maybe he has a better way.  But again, meet the student where they are.

The problem is....where are the real world skills?  I asked Cavett, "when have I had to take a test after leaving school?"  Hmmmm.....haven't.  He says, "But we are building stamina."  For what, sitting on your hands, staring out the window, waiting for the EXTREMELY LONG AMOUNT of TESTING TIME to go by after he has finished and checked his work several times?  Stop.  I understand.  Some kids need that long.  Fine.  Send the finished ones to a different place.   When do we need this "stamina" in real life?  Ok, running a marathon, finishing a project, following through on something you are supposed to do, YES!  If you want to teach a kid how to sit still start by taking them to church and listen to the sermon with nothing else to do.

Does the real world ask you to show your work?  Nope, they don't care.  It's the bottom line.  Does the real world ask you to take all day or are some situations so fast paced that you don't even get to finish?  Is life a balance of collaborative work and individual?  Of course.

I'm just struggling with this testing thing.  I'm not sure I want them to completely opt-out, because I want to know that their grades do mean something and that they have learned something.  I came across this quote from the Texas Observer as I was reading and it describes me perfectly.  I don't want to harm my child's future by bucking the system.

"Even the most vocal opt-outers—former teachers, usually, who wrestle mightily with the decision—often settle for symbolic half-measures when faced with the reality that their protest could harm their children’s futures."

So, bottom line.  Here's what I want.  I want a full, rich, creative, liberating education preparing my child to think critically while preparing him for real life in a democracy, not a test-taker.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Responsibility of Glorifying God

It's been a while since I have written, but God has been stirring in my heart.  Not that he hasn't been in the past several months, but many Bible lessons and experiences and opportunities have all collided that have made me dig deeper wondering why I have been so incredibly blessed by God and sometimes, you just need to put it down on "paper" to straighten out your thoughts.

Where to begin....

BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) lesson last week hit me.  (Shameless plug--BEST BIBLE STUDY EVER!)
Matthew 25:29 says "For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them."  This comes from the Parable of the Talents.  It's not your talents as we think today, this was a weight of gold or silver.  But that's really not the point either. Rather than a person's natural gifts, the money more likely represents God's truth, the Bible and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  God has entrusted his poverty-the gospel-to His servants.  God holds us responsible for the treasure (His word and grace) He gives us.  We are to use the opportunities He gives, grow in our knowledge of Him and give His treasure to the world.

I want God to open my eyes to the opportunities He gives me.  I want Him to help me use them so the gospel is reproduced in the lives of others.  I want to be useful to Him, because really, what else is our point in life?  Serving Him is the reason we are here.  I recognize that ALL I have (knowledge of Him, relationships, and earthly things) are a result of the Master's provision; yet He has rewarded me with even greater abundance.  I am to be responsible for what He has given and share my Master's joy.

Then the sermon on Sunday was on the scene in Bethany where Mary pours our expensive perfume on Jesus. See Matthew 26:1-16, Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:1-11.  Today, I'm working on my BSF lesson for this week and its the same Matthew 26 passage.

Jesus is worthy to be praised and deserves every lick of it!  Mary didn't expect to be rewarded for giving Jesus something so luxurious and expensive. She didn't expect to be payed back.  She also didn't do it so she would be talked about it for thousands of years to come!  She did it out of LOVE for Him.  She wanted to honor, praise and worship Jesus. Maybe that was all she had, a year's wages tied up in a little perfume bottle.  But, she gave it all to Him, to glorify Him.  And, she trusted Jesus that He would provide and didn't ask anything in return, even when others criticized.

Still my "easy and blessed" life was bugging me.  Don't get me wrong, I have TOTALLY had my share of hardships.  But, why is it so easy right now?  Why am I the blessed one when so many others are troubled?

Baby Boy Crum
A pregnant, long-time, good friend of mine needs encouragement and prayer for her "to-be-born" child.

A friend reaches out to me for verses as her grandmother struggles with holding onto life.
Lily Anne

A relative discovers cancer.

Another distant friend needs financial help in adopting another child, this time from China.

The world is full of pain, agony, despair and longs to be made right again.  Romans 8:23, 2 Corinthians 5:4, Revelation 21:4

Then with the Talent parable in mind another verse jumped in from 2 Corinthians 1:4.  "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled , we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."  Comfort comes in all forms just like God's love.  So, maybe it's a verse shared, a note written, a prayer prayed or a check to cover some costs.

God has entrusted ALL gifts given to me to use them to glorify Him, NOT ME.  In this day and age, that last bit is the part people just don't seem to understand.  I don't do any of this because I want people to know what I'm doing or giving. Matthew 6:1-2. I do it because I want to glorify God and spread His comfort, love and treasure (scripturally and financially).

And, God HAS blessed us financially beyond what we deserve with studied talent and new business opportunities and ideas, but I'm struggling with how I can make it all glorify God, and NOT ME.  We have these businesses and opportunities not because we need or even want more money.  It's because God has entrusted us with both his word and his dime to use them to help his children and in turn glorify him.

So, I'm figuring it out.  I am finding exciting new things to be a part of to glorify God and help His children, more than just that regular tithing-to-the-church-thing-nobody-likes-to-talk-about.  I'm a work in progress and I don't have it all right, but I ask for your prayers for guidance as to where those "talents" go and who is to benefit in scripture, in words, in deeds, and in weight of silver and gold.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Top 10 Things I Learned This Week

10. Technology in the class room can be helpful.
9. Boys still like to punch
each other and fart in class.
8. Girls still like to braid one another's hair.
7. The first week of school is still wrought with paperwork and money.

6. It still hurts not to be chosen as a cheerleader.
5. Singing even in a group of 4 is still intimidating.
4. I've improved my teaching skills in the past 8 years without even being in the public school setting.
3. These kids are really fairly well behaved, respectful and ready to learn.
2. I miss teaching.
1. I don't want to return full time...yet.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

God's Word Speaking to Me

I don't know how many people actually take notice or follow my photos and scripture from my 365 Project. In fact, it doesn't even matter.

However, I am astonished by how God speaks to me and assures me through the verses when I'm not even trying to "find" something. For example, today I began the tedious and meticulous task of cutting out the pieces for Kendrick's new full size bed quilt as he was napping in my sewing chair. It's usually early afternoon when I begin thinking about a picture, if I hadn't already captured one. Of course my mind goes straight to the sweet boy catching some Z's 8 feet away from me. But, I have just about exhausted all of the sleeping verses.

Then I turned to what I was doing-cutting. Surely there was a verse there. So, I snapped and edited my photo and began to search for the scripture to accompany it.

Proverbs jumped right out at me. I wasn't even looking for anything within this context.

"Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing." Proverbs 12:18.

Not only have I been praying for wise words for a week, but also for healing through those words. God is so good to give us reassurance through scripture, to validate our requests and give us His words to pray.

May you find random blessings through His word as well.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Renewed Hope

I decided to pick up quilting again, now that I have my own huge craft room and I
needed some new bedding. 

Guest Bedroom Argyle Pattern

Most of the home decorating was done in the recently added part of the upstairs and I
was looking for a new project to enjoy in my newly organized and spacious room. 

Back in the fall I had decorated my craft room with a pretty Moroccan print made of
gold, black and a brownish-gray for the valance and add a throw pillow of the same
fabric.  On the walls I  used Gran's pencil sketches blown up on large canvas.  I
wanted to keep it fairly neutral since it was a walk through room and yellow and
grey seem to be a go-to color combo currently. 

As the queen size quilt came together for the spare bedroom,  I needed to find
fabric for the backing. This warranted a trip to the quilt store. If anyone knows
me, a trip to a quilt store is like putting a kid in a candy store with all of the
beautiful colors and prints.  Of course I found a jelly roll of modern prints as
well.  Since I had never tried a jelly roll quilt I thought I would try out one pattern
as a great addition for my upstairs little throw when I'm chilly.
Moda Jelly Roll

The fabric sat for a good month while I finished hand quilting the original queen.
But two weeks ago,  I had some extra time and I decided to get started.  Naturally,
I chose a chevron Art Deco pattern using all the grey, black and gold colors in the
roll.  I only barely got started before my grandmother was in the hospital in
Dallas.  So, there it sat for another week. 

With so many troubles on my mind and the after math of tornadic destruction just 2
hours north of us, I cut and pieced and sewed with a heavy heart. Sewing is so good
for a time of prayer and thought.  There were many mentioned as well as my own
emotional well being.  Little did I know I was sewing God's answer for me. 

Today I went to my last BSF meeting today and it was "Share Day"-- meaning you share
what you learned, appreciated or what God taught you through the study.  One lady
spoke of Genesis 1 and specifically verse 2-3.  It stayed with me and resonated in
my head later this afternoon as I was finishing putting the pieces together.
Art Deco Chevron pattern

The verses speaks about the Spirit hovering over the darkness of the deep.   That is
exactly what I have felt like over the past week.  I have been deep in darkness but
have also felt the Spirit hovering over me knowing He has been there the whole time
in control--from the beginning.

But, as I remembered verse 3 looking at my finished quilt God smacked me on the
forehead.  Let there be light!  There is hope!  And then I was taken to John 1. 

Because the Spirit is with us today and hovers over us--no matter what happened, is
happening or will happen--we can have hope because the Light always overcomes the

What a reassurance that is!  We can have hope no matter how bad things seem.  (See 1
Thes. 4:13)

I typically have a hard time coming up with a creative quilting idea once the
piecing of the top is finished.  But, this time I knew exactly what design it needed
to be--a sun (son) with rays of hope.

Pattern to be stiched as the quilting

Maybe this speaks to you right now but truly this was a reminder to me because
usually I give away quilts or they are for some specific purpose.  This one was
always going to be mine though.  It was God's little quilted reminder  just for me.

Just remember that His Spirit is always hovering over you no matter the
circumstances and He has the ultimate plan in mind for all things to work for the
good of those who love Him. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Big Milestones

I know what you are thinking...."Two posts in two weeks!"  Don't get too excited.  We will see how long this lasts.  But, the past two days were too big not to mention.

Yesterday, Cavett headed off to his first day of second grade.

He was a bit timid about the day to start off. So I let him know. I LOVED 2nd grade. I LOVED my teacher, Mrs. Stinson. I LOVED making my new best friend for life, Sarah Grace. I had great kids in my class. I just knew that Cavett would have the same experience. We filled him with homemade Cinnamon Raisin Bread made into French Toast and made it to school without a hitch.

At the end of the day, when I picked him up, the first response was, "All we did today was learned the rules."  After a bit of coaxing with frest baked chocolate chip cookies, we learned he has a new best friend, Tyler Douglas whom he sits next to.

 He did a bar graph learning about how students got home: car riders, bus riders, walkers, day care.  They organized their school supplies.  But, recess was still the best part of the day.  And, oh, Miss Horton is pretty nice and she is engaged, so her name might change at some point this year. 

All in all, a good start to the year.

Today however left us with some challenges.  Luckily, I was up when Stephen was and prepped for Kendrick's Big 5th Birthday.  He awoke to 5 balloons in his room and a big banner and presents in the living room.

It was "Yes Day" for him which means that he can ask any reasonable question and the answer will be YES! But, before that was to begin we had to get Cavett to school. Unfortunately, I had a dead battery in my car. Fortunately though, I called a dear friend and she swung by and picked him up just in the nick of time! 

Kendrick's fun day began by asking for Max's Donuts for breakfast.  (For you Shreveporters, these rival Southern Maid.  Best in Allen, TX)  He ordered two chocolate with sprinkles and a chocolate milk, while I had my protein bar...he ended up only eating one. 

A present was what he wanted next but Dad wanted to be there, so we took one present to his office and opened it there.  A new duffle bag for all his karate gear.

Next up was a playdate at the park meeting all his students in his new Transitional Kindergarten class.  I just couldn't see sending a 4 year old to public Kindergarten even if he was going to turn 5 the next day.  He's not ready anyway and I know I won't regret this choice.  His best bud, Luke was there who we will carpool with this year and we made a couple of new friends-Matthew, McKenna and Hank. 

Best Buddy, Luke
New Friends!
Lunch with Dad was requested at Chick-Fil-A with a Brownie Sundea to follow.  The eyes after all that excitement were looking weary, so I suggested a movie on my bed.  Looney Tunes were the choice of the afternoon.  No nap was taken, but the down time was needed. 
The afternoon entailed the usual-Karate lessons.
For dinner he chose "Peanuts Roadhouse," a.k.a. Texas Roadhouse in McKinney, but earlier in the day their had been a gas leak/explosion near the restaurant, so they were closed.  Luckily, we have another "peanut" place near us-Logan's Roadhouse.  Definitely not as good, but fit the bill.  We had fun dropping peanuts from our noses at targets, playing tic-tac-toe with peanuts and shells, and creating designs and pictures from them.  Who cares if he ate his Mac-N-Cheese?
After dinner we opened his other presents.  Clothes, a crazy fort building thing-a-ma-jig, and WALKIE TALKIES!
Truly, Kendrick's only request for "Yes Day" other than food was to stay up late and watch a movie.  So, wish granted, even though his brother cried himself to sleep.
Happy Birthday, to my baby.  I can't even believe it's been 5 years.