Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Super Lady of Ephesians

Sometimes, like many of you, it is easy for me to become discouraged.  My desk at work is piled high with things that need to be done, supper needs to be fixed, my house needs to be cleaned, piles of laundry surround me, and I have about 14 thousand or so projects going and several of them must be done by this weekend. My job is stressful and full of worry.  I worry about some of my kids leaving school for the night.  I worry about if I'm making the right choices for their education.  I worry if I'm handling multiple situations a day in the best possible way.  I worry if their learning.  I worry that I', not giving them what they need.  I worry about the new laws in special education and how I'm ever going to meet the new standards.  I worry.... all.... the... time.  It makes it easy to become worn down.  It makes it easy to want to give up and find a new life.  But I've found that in the moments that I just start to feel these awful things, I only need to take a moment to pray.  Have you ever heard that song, "If our God is with us, who could ever stop us?"  It's awesome.  I sing it when I'm stressed at work.  I sing it when I run.  I sing it when I start feeling depressed over the little things.  It helps to lighten my load.  

So I say all this back story to update you on one of my newest coping strategies.  We've been doing a study of Ephesians at church.  This past Sunday was chapter 5 (which will probably hit you just as hard as it hit me if you go take a little time to read it).  I was rereading it before bed on Sunday night and pushed on ahead and read chapter 6 as well.  OMGoodness.  I'm sure I'd read it before.  I'm sure I've actually heard it all my life.  However in that moment Ephesians 6:10-18 was exactly what I needed to hear.
Text pulled from Bible Gateway using the NIV translation.  If you prefer a different translation then by all means read it in that one, this just happens to be the type of bible I had my hands on last Sunday. :)

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people

Is it just me, or does this put the image of a Godly superhero in your head too? "Be strong in the Lord, put on the armor of God and stand against the Devil,  the belt of truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, take up the shield of Faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."  Holy Cow Ya'll! did you really read it?  Because the first time I think I actually read it was Sunday, and I've gone to church my whole life.  Where do I get a shield of faith?  How do I put on the armor of God?  Hook me up with it all, because I want to be this person right now!  I started to think about the things that were worrying me, and about how much they resembled those flaming arrows in this passage, and I've been digesting this passage ever since.  Honestly, I still don't have everything I believe God wants me to gain from this passage, but each time I read it, I get a little more. 

This evening after work I was sitting at my desk about to have a mini crying party.  I was just so overwhelmed.  I began to pray and the armor of God popped into my head.  I googled it since I didn't have my bible handy, and I began to sketch my idea of what a visual representation of this passage might look like.  

It's a very loose interpretation of reality and very much a first draft, but I've got ideas for her.  I'd like for my kids to someday have a super hero that I'm comfortable with them looking up to.  I'd like for them to have a character that will teach them Godly things, and lately I've seen less and less of an opportunity for them to have something like that in the world we live in.  For now I'm just going to call her Super Lady of Ephesians - but it's a bit long, so I'm open for suggestions. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Art

For as long as I can remember I have loved art.  I've loved creating. I've loved to imagine.  I've loved making something new.  Over the years I've gone through phases of art, and as I have grown and changed through the years, so have my creations.  Just like everyone else I got my start with a crayon.  The smell of a new box of Crayola's is still an instant inspiration full of memories and possibilities.  As illustrated by this painting I did last fall.
"Jared's Gift" Crayola on canvas, 2013
Jared surprised me with a new box of crayons and a sweet letter. In return I made this "painting" for him by coloring and then melting crayon onto canvas.

Through the years I've fallen in love with many forms of art.  I once made a Pluto the dog bust completely out of plaster of paris. But sadly he did not survive the years and multiple moves since high school. My senior year of high school I finally got to take art as an elective.  My major painting from the class was of my dream car at the time.

"Pink Bug" Acrylic on canvas, 2008
It's angles are a little off, but I love it.  Excuse the poor quality photo, but in person it has a very pop art appeal to it.  It reminds me each time I look at it of the teen girl I once was, and I smile.

My freshmen year of college I majored in art and took several classes: drawing, painting, clay, and 2D design.  I first fell in love with charcoal.  I enjoy the mess of it.  I really feel like I'm involved in the creation of a charcoal drawing.  I use my fingers and spend hours upon hours on any final piece.  My first semester I really learned the basics of creating good art pieces.
"In My Life" Charcoal on paper, 2008
This was my final project for drawing.  It's a still life portrait of Jared, using objects that represented his personality to me: Plant- a love of nature, Books - Knowledge, Pens - love of writing, Flower - romantic, Antique hutch - love of his roots and history, Photo of us - Our relationship (again excuse the poor photo, it is much sharper in person but the only working camera we have is on my phone.)

I had a great time in my clay class and considered making it my primary focus before switching to education.  I'd love to someday get back to working with clay, but that will require a kiln, so for now I can only reminisce.
"UnNamed Popular Turtle" Clay, 2009
Seriously - He is Epic, but to be honest I've never figured out what to do with him.  Anyone want to buy a turtle bust?
"Frog Pot" Clay, 2009
This was my favorite creation from my experiences in clay.  I love the form and hint of nature.  I think it speaks volumes more about my style and personality than any thing else I managed to produce in the class.

I also took an intro painting course.  I wasn't very good at the time, and most of the things I created aren't worth showing, but over the years I have reworked a few of the pieces, and I'm working out a few updates for others.  Looking at the things I created then I feel like I can see that I wasn't being true to myself at the time.  I didn't feel comfortable in the medium.  I didn't feel comfortable with myself.  I made almost every piece flat and boring - which was honestly how I felt at the time.  Today I am different and so is my art.
"Self-Portrait" Acrylic on Canvas, 2009
This was my original self-portrait for the class, the only part I didn't hate was my eyes, so the next year I dug it out and made it look like this instead.
"Updated Self Portrait" Acrylic on Canvas, finished 2010
During the time that I finished this portrait, I was battling depression.  I felt smothered.  Depression is a battle I first began to fight in my early teen years.  It haunted me throughout my teens and crept back up during the first years of our marriage.  I feel like this painting is the epitome of my struggle with it.  I wasn't being myself because I didn't know who I was. Today I am a different person.  With the help of God in my life, I realized that everyday I have to make a choice to be happy.  So each day I make a conscious decision to smile and be thankful.  I make a decision to see and believe that God can find good in all things.  I make a decision to let a light shine from me that only God can produce.  I try to be the sunshine in a dreary world.
"Palette Knife of Thomas Cole's 'The Oxbow' " Acrylic on canvas, 2009
This painting was the only one I completed during my class that I was happy to look at in the end.  It's a recreation of Thomas Cole's 'The Oxbow'.  Our assignment was to choose a master painting and recreate it using only a palette knife - a challenge at which I excelled.  I'm still not totally comfortable with a brush.  In most of my paintings you'll see the use of my fingers and palette knife mixed in.  I get frustrated when limited to a brush.  I used to get in trouble in my painting class for using my fingers, but now I do what I want. :)
"The Road Not Taken" Acrylic on canvas, 2009
This was one half of my final project for painting.  The assignment was to use two canvases to create a sort of series.  I was inspired by Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and created paintings of the two options. One was this surreal, colorful, if flat, option, while the other was the painting below, a darker more realistic option.
"The Road Not Taken" acrylic on canvas, 2009
The flatness of these paintings has always bothered me.  At the time I just couldn't get what was in my head onto the canvas.  This past spring I dug out the colorful option and finally fixed it.  The darker option is on my list to play with soon.
"The Road Taken" Acrylic on canvas, finished 2014
To me this painting symbolizes the road I decided to take in life.  I chose color.  I chose happiness.  I chose life. 

A friend of mine recently took a little art tour at our house.  She pointed out something I had never noticed about my art.  I have a color signature. Throughout my paintings I use a similar theme of colors and textures.  I love colors.  All of them.  I use them liberally and with little regard to nature.  I squeeze them right from the tube (another thing I used to get in trouble for in painting class, using colors straight from the tube in my paintings, they felt they were too vibrant) Sometimes I use a plate to mix the colors before they find their way to my work, but often I don't mix much at all until they are on my canvas.  I love to play and mix colors right where they will live.  I work with my paint wet.  I get messy, and sometimes I turn out something brilliant - but often I get frustrated and let things sit for a few years before I get back to them.
"Unfinished Love" Acrylic on canvas, started 2010, unfinished and frustrating
I started this painting years ago.  I'll finish it someday, but for now it festers in my mind and waits for inspiration. 

I show you all this to say.... God gave me a gift.  Through his gift I get to bless others, and hopefully through my art you too will see his love.  My art has helped me cope with many things through the years.  It has grown and changed with me.  It is a part of me that until now I haven't shared with many.  It's personal.  God says we are to use our gifts for his glory, and while most of my paintings are not overtly religious, I can see and feel his presence in my most recent works.  I pray while I create.  I think about the use of color and the fact that God blessed us with more colors than my mind can even imagine.  I think about the way God created my hands - the perfect tools to create and form so many things - perfectly formed by a loving God.  I think about the beauty of the world I see around me and the creator who created it all.  I pray that the people who see my work, will see all of that in it.  I may not be a master, and I may never be famous for my artwork, but it is mine.  It is a part of me.  It is my gift from God to you, and I pray that you find joy and love through it.
"Reigning Love" Acrylic on Canvas, 2010


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Unexpected Blessings

This morning I was a grumpy person who didn't want to get out of bed.  You see this morning all I could see was the negative.  "It's the last day of summer break.  I have to go clean out and say goodbye to my totaled car.  I have to put on clothes and be nice to strangers."  I didn't want any of these things, but thanks to a kind and loving husband I got myself up and pretended to be a nice person for most of the morning.

By early afternoon I had said goodbye to my car (I only cried a little bit), talked to the insurance company(who were awesome), and ran all our errands.  
That used to be my muffler, but now it's in my trunk. :(

It was a beautiful day in Tennessee today.  It truly felt like fall decided to come a few months early.  So as we were leaving our last errand stop I didn't feel like going home yet and Jared was willing to humor me as long as my whims didn't cost any money. As we headed to the park for a walk I glanced over and saw a FREE sign and a pair of vintage chairs. HOT DIGGITY!  

We circled like buzzards back and forth along the busy street to get a better look.
Me: "What do you think?" 
Him: "They're free."
Me: "Ok, I like them. Will they fit in the wagon?"
Him: "I think so."
Me: "Then I want them."

So we pulled in and the people at the house came out to meet us. 

They ended up being nice people, but I gotta admit I was more than a little frightened.  You see I am a very modest country woman.  I hang out with other people who are, for the most part, like me. These people did not look like me, and well every stereotype of someone who would choose to put tattoos on their face came to mind.  Thankfully my initial fears were unwarranted and not only were the initial sidewalk furniture up for grabs, but they were totally redoing the house and had more inside we could look at for free.  YIPEEE!

So my total haul for the day:

A sturdy (if ugly) ottoman that I plan to totally strip bare and start off with just the hard bones of the piece.
Two vintage upholstered chairs the bones of which are in great condition, but they need a complete upholstery redo.

One vintage and one antique kitchen chair.  The newer of which (left) just needs a good scrubbing and refinish.  The older one (right) needs to be rewoven on the seat and one of the side bars needs repair, but the finish has worn in a beautiful way.

So today's lesson: God blesses in the most unexpected ways and through the most unexpected people.  These people didn't know that by placing what they thought was trash on the sidewalk they were giving me a blessing, but they did, and for that I am so very grateful.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

First Steps to Limiting Chemicals

So in my first ever post on this blog I mentioned that we were limiting chemicals in our home a little bit at a time.  We've been playing around with that idea and considering it for a few years now, but we really got started actually acting on the idea a couple months ago.  It kind of hit us as we were beginning to pick fresh produce grown from our garden. 

God had blessed us with food.  Food we were able to grow and eat at almost no cost.  While we didn't take the necessary steps to have an all organic garden, we at least knew that our food hadn't been covered in pesticides or chemicals.  It hadn't been genetically modified.  It was homegrown and fresh.  I felt totally comfortable eating it fresh from the garden with no need to try and scrub the chemical contaminates off.  I began to think about things differently.

As we were driving home from church one Sunday a couple months ago, we were listening to NPR.  They were doing an interview with a variety of people about the different chemicals found in the products we use on our bodies each day.  It was scary.  Am I really using that many things I can't pronounce?  I looked at my variety of bottles and the answer was astounding.  Yes, yes I am putting that on myself.  I've always known the my skin was an organ.  It absorbs everything it comes in contact with.  However when I really began to digest that that means when I slather shampoo, lotion, body wash, acne medicine, and heavy makeup on myself it doesn't just stay on the surface.  It leaches into my body. HOLY COW!

Anyway back to the interview.  The people ranged from those who never ever bathed, one described her smell as one in which people either complimented her "natural" aroma or stayed away, to those who had actual practical solutions to the problem. I had heard about a few of the alternatives already but thought they were jokes.  If you've ever clicked on the "health and beauty" tab on Pinterest you have surely seen something called "No Poo".  It's a trendy name for going without shampoo.  I had never bothered to actually read the things about it, and merely assumed anyone who didn't wash their hair with shampoo was a crazed hippie who must surely not have a real job.  Until I heard this interview, I never thought it was something for me, but what the people had to say about it made sense.  

I immediately began googling as soon as we got home.  The articles I read said that "No Poo-ing" would leave your hair shiny, gorgeous, strong, and chemical free.  The chemicals found in most commercial shampoos are actually quite strong and result in dry hair and scalp - hence the need for expensive creams and conditioners.  The blog posts were a bit more honest.  They said that it would take time, but eventually you would love it, but you had to hang out through the "transition".  They stated that if your hair was used to being washed every single day that you needed to slowly transition into no-pooing or you would seriously hate your life as your head would be just one big giant ball of greasy messy nastiness.  They also said that if you have chemically processed hair this likely isn't something you should try.  Dyed hair doesn't react well to no longer having the strong chemicals that keep it maintained as the chemicals used to dye it leach out the natural oils and dry out the hair even more than the regular shampoos.  

Luckily neither of these conditions applied to me.  I'd already learned that I could not wash my hair daily.  It was much too fragile and thin to stand up to even gentle shampoos, and my scalp was too sensitive and flaky.  I also vowed to never again dye my hair about 3 years ago.  I like my natural color much better than spending a fortune trying to change it and keep it looking nice and non-rooty. (It may be the color of dirty straw, but God thought it was pretty enough to give it to me, so I'll smile and call it "golden".)

So after reading tons of articles and blogs I decided to go for it.  The method I chose to try first was the simplest.  All I needed was 2 applicator bottles (I found mine at Sally Beauty for $2 each, but I've recently found empty condiment bottles at Walmart for just $1 each that will do the same thing.)  I had everything else in my pantry.  Jared and I have both been using it exclusively for at least two months now.

The bottle on the left (clear) is a mixture of baking soda and water. I'm still working on the perfect mix for us but right now I'm using:

1 1/2 T. Baking Soda
8 oz. of water
I apply it directly to my roots, scalp, and the first couple inches of my hair then comb it through using my fingers.  I do this first thing after wetting my hair so that it can sit on my hair for a few minutes while I take care of other shower activities, then I rinse it very thoroughly.  You don't want to leave any on your hair as it does leave a bit of a build up behind if not rinsed well. Make sure you gently shake the bottle before applying.

The bottle on the right is used as a "conditioner/clarifier" for the rest of my hair.

I fill the bottle about halfway (4oz) with apple cider vinegar then finish filling the bottle with water (4oz).

I then apply it to only the length of my hair taking care to avoid my scalp and roots most of the time.  (The only time I apply it to my roots is if I've had any sort of chemical build up, such as hair spray, since the last time I washed my hair.  I'm generally a brush go and kind of girl so this isn't very often.)  I again run my fingers through my hair making sure to coat the strands evenly and let it sit while I finish the rest of my shower and then rinse well.

I'm not gonna lie, while in the shower it does smell like vinegar, and even once I'm out of the shower my hair has a faint, but not unpleasant smell of it as well.  However, once my hair dries (I no longer use my hair dryer unless it's a hair emergency) it has no smell at all.  

So our results:

Our dandruff/dry scalp isn't gone, but it's SOOO much better.  No need for gory details of the before, but in comparison it's totally manageable.  My hair isn't thicker, longer, and more gorgeous as some the misleading articles would claim.  I didn't become a super model overnight and gain hair extensions, but after just the first use my hair was much softer.  It's stayed that way too. It's softer and healthier looking.  Even though my hair wasn't as used to as many chemicals as most women's, I did have about a week of extra oily hair as my hair got used to it.  My scalp had to readjust to not having the onslaught of the chemicals found in my previous hair products, and now that it's adjusted my hair is softer and less oily.  I can go longer without washing my hair (about 3 days, or 4 if I use a spray dry shampoo on the 4th) and it has more body.  It's still not going to hold a curl or do anything super fantastic on it's own, but it's not sad and straw-like anymore.  

Jared says he hasn't noticed a huge difference with his hair, just his scalp, but he's definitely won over with the price difference.  We never spent a huge amount on shampoo.  Usually about $6 for a good size bottle every couple of months, but now it literally costs us pennies each month.  I know that it doesn't seem like a huge deal saving about $3 each month, but that adds up to about $36 a year or $360 every 10 years.  Still not a huge amount for us, but if you are someone who is used to washing your hair daily with nicer shampoo this could end up being a huge cost saving measure.  We are also using other home made products now that are adding to our cost savings gradually, but those are posts for another day.  So far I've swapped almost all my acne/skin care, shampoo, body wash, dish detergent, and even our all purpose cleaners have been supplemented to limit the use of chemicals.  I'm looking into more things to swap out as we run out of the products we have been using.  For us it isn't just about saving money.  It's also about living a simpler life in a world that has become too harsh.  It's about living a life that matters.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

God's Love

On Saturday Jared and I had quite the adventure.  

That is my car, Kate the Corolla.  She's hanging out in the median of I40 in this picture.  

This is the trail she left on the path to her final resting place. 

We started out by just barely hitting the rumble strip on the right hand side of this slight curve, but with the rain it was enough to send us spinning.  If you look closely you can see the tracks where our car entered the median after hydroplaning out of control.  God was watching over us.  We crossed the left lane, but there were no other cars around us at 6:30ish in the morning on a Saturday.  Had it been a weekday, our story would likely be much different. We missed hitting either the hillside or guardrail head-on and instead "glided" down a drainage ditch until our car buried up in the muddy bank at the bottom.  Again, another section of this part of the interstate or even a few feet in either direction and I doubt I'd be able to write this story.  I say, "glided" but, well, it felt like I was strapped into a bouncy ball.  You can see from the tire tracks that we bounced between the sides of the ditch back and forth on our way down.  But the wasn't the only thing we were hitting. 

The ditch is lined with large rocks and jagged slabs of concrete to help with drainage, and it felt like our car was hitting them, bouncing upward into the air, and then down upon the next one all the way down as we were move in a back and forth motion between the sides of the ditch. So in a count of the motions we took: 1. Spin, 2. Horizontal impacts, 3. Vertical impacts, and 4. Rotation. We never made a full rotation but it felt like I was on this part of a roller coaster with our car careening up and down in the air.

I know it all happened very quickly, but it feels like it took at least 5 solid minutes to stop.  Jared was driving and I was looking down as we hit the rumble strip and I felt us begin to spin.  I can remember screaming and trying to look out and see what was happening but everything outside my window was a blur.  However everything in the car was in slow motion.  I had a cup of gas station coffee in my hand, and I can remember watching my lid fly off and my coffee become a fountain.  As the coffee was hitting me I remember thinking, "That's hot, but not burning." I remember wondering if we were going to roll and beginning to pray.  According to Jared all I was saying aloud was, "Oh God", and to be honest all I could add in my head was "HELP", but even in the 10 seconds or less it took for all this to happen I knew that God was with us no matter what happened.  
Once we stopped I remember looking down at myself, breathing in, and thinking, "I'm alive." My next action was to look at Jared and start screaming, "Are you ok?" over and over while he did the same to me. Once we were reassured the other had made it we got out of the car very quickly to assess things.  This required finding my shoes since I had taken off my sandals while Jared was driving.  

Some motorists in the oncoming lanes had seen us have the accident and had already called 911 and were coming to check on us.  One man waited with us until we saw help pass us in the oncoming lanes - they had to drive and extra five miles to the next exit to turn and come back to us so we waited at least 15 minutes for emergency help to arrive - but since we were walking around and could convince him we were fine he went on his way.

Help finally arrived.  We didn't need any medical treatment - I wan't a bit sore right after the accident thanks to adrenaline, but I had a very sore neck and back the next day (I'm down to just being a bit stiff today).  We waited for 2 hours for the tow truck to make it and figure out how to get us out of our hole, but the State Troopers were very nice, and I got the experience of sitting in the back of a squad car for over an hour, since it was still raining.  It was quite the novel experience for me, but I hope to never be in one again.  The saddest part was watching my car drag it's exhaust along the road the five miles to the Carthage exit on the back of a tow truck.  I loved that car.

All I can think about is how blessed we are.  God spared us for a reason on Saturday, and I know that he has something planned for our lives.  I know that good will come from our experience, because my God plans all things for good.  I can't begin to understand how this fits into the bigger plans for our future, but even with bruises on my knees and elbows and a slightly stiff body, I will praise him.  

So we are perfectly fine, happy, and healthy.  We are grateful for all things and have faith that even amid chaos, God loves us and will provide for our needs.  We are waiting on the insurance company to have our car towed to Cookeville to a local body shop for an estimate on the damage to determine if it is totaled or not.  

We believe the frame is likely bent, even though it looks like the body is in good condition from the pictures. 
We also know that the undercarriage and exhaust are trashed as it was dragging down the road as it was towed.  The front wheels also no longer turned, so the front suspension must be ruined.  The force of the crash popped our trunk open, which left a trail of stuff in the median.  There is no visible damage to the trunk lid itself, but it will no longer shut, and when it was being towed it looked as though the back end was hanging at a different angle than the rest of the car.  

However it was still running (roughly) when Jared turned the engine off after we stopped, so Toyota built us a beast of a car.  Our passenger area stayed completely intact and protected us well, while the outer parts of the car absorbed most of the forces.  We are praying that if the frame has been damaged that the car will be ruled as totaled.  I don't feel comfortable driving a car with a reshaped frame, and I wouldn't feel ok with selling it to someone else to drive either.  If it is totaled then our full coverage will pay most of the rest of our loan, and our Gap coverage will cover not only the rest of what we owe on the car, but also our insurance deductible, meaning we will break out even, and only need to save a down payment on a new car.  If it can be repaired, we will only owe our deductible, but at this point we are praying that she will be totaled.  Kate was a wonderful car, and I loved her, but she's done her job, and those are forces a car is only designed to get you through one time.

On Sunday, the day after our wreck, we were blessed with the opportunity to serve with our church.  We've been on the planning team for months helping to put things together for The River Community Church's SummerFest at the fairgrounds.  We were able to give away 1000 gift certificates to kids in our area so that they could buy new shoes to start school with.  Jared and I were in charge of the bouncy houses, and while things started off a little rocky, with bouncies full of water from the night's rain, we got them up and running and I got the chance to mingle with some families.  I'm not sure I've ever felt more blessed to serve my God.  I hurt the whole day, and that slowed me down a bit, but being able to walk around and love on people was wonderful.  How blessed are we to be here, to have another beautiful day to worship a loving God who cares for our every need.  How blessed am I that I can help other people by providing, not just a new pair of shoes, but also a warm smile and a safe place to bring their children to play.  How blessed am I that I can sit in a seat and listen to music that glorifies my loving God, and know that the people around me who are ready to accept God's love are listening, and that I got to help provide that opportunity.  I was surrounded by people all day who would never consider stepping inside a church to hear the word of God, but I was given the platform to show them God's love through my actions, and hopefully make God a little less scary and a lot more real for them. We were blessed to be alive and share God's love this past Sunday.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A New Year

        A new school year is quickly approaching and I'm filled with mixed feelings.  I'm starting at a new school, in a new county, doing a job that is inherently stressful and time consuming.  I'm filled with excitement at new opportunities, sorrow over leaving behind friends and favorite students at my old school, and relief at being able to work close to home.  I love my new 1/2 classroom filled with giant windows, high ceilings, and happy colors.  Yet I dread the thought of everything left to do before school begins in just two short weeks.  I'm determined to make this classroom reflect me and my passion for my kids and what I do.  I don't think I even got close to that in my first classroom.  It was a hodge-podge of random things, and cluttered piles of paper the whole year long.  My brain couldn't focus, and I never felt relaxed in the space.  But here in my new room, even among the piles of boxes and things left to be done, I feel a calm sense of knowing I'm right at home.  

      If you'd asked me two years ago if I could teach special education I'd have laughed at you.... "Of course I can't do that.  I'm going to teach happy, well functioning, imaginary gen-ed students, duh!"  

      But in time God changed me: my dreams and my abilities.  I love what I do.  I love my students, and I haven't even met them yet.  I know we will face enormous challenges this year.  I know I will have to work to teach them far more than letter sounds of basic math facts. I will have to teach them to fight.  My students must learn to conquer enormous struggles in order to learn the things that come naturally to their peers.  For some they will struggle to read, others will lack number sense.  It's likely that some of my students will face physical limitations or lack control over their own body for a variety of reasons.  Some of my students will have trouble expressing themselves, understanding others, or interacting with their peers or adults.  So each of my students must learn to be strong.  They must be taught to fight through their struggles to win the battle against the odds they face.  But, my students are very young to have to fight this battle.  So each day they need me to help guide them.  They need me to listen patiently, coax them to speak, to be tough on them sometimes.  They need me to slowly teach them that they can succeed.  They can do anything.  To teach them this I have to go to work and believe it myself.  I'll know their test scores, their diagnosis, their background.  I'll know what the papers say they can do, but in order to set their goals high and make them believe they can do more, I have to believe that myself each and every day.  So if you happen to enter my classroom, you will see a little alcove between the door and my room.  My plan - wallpaper it with as many motivational, positive, believe in yourself saying and printable as the fire marshal will allow.  Because while most of my students will not be able to read them yet, I can, and their fight to learn and achieve begins with me.

        So I'll leave you with a link to one of the printables I'll be using.  I'd post the image here, but it's not mine so I'll simply link you to it.  I'll be using the "Believe you can" in my room, but there are others here that you may like for your classroom or even your own home. 


This is another poster I made for my room.  Feel free to print it and use it for your own if you wish.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

New Life

A couple years back my husband and I lost a collective total of almost 150 lbs.  Awesome right?  I had hit my goal weight and continued to crave to lose just a little more.  I was thin.  I had an almost flat stomach, svelte legs, perfect curves, awesome right?

Not really.  I couldn't sleep well.  Even our plush mattress hurt my protruding hip bones.  I couldn't sit in a regular dining chair without a pillow.  It hurt my new (bony) bottom. Even still, I found myself continuing to see the "fat" girl in the mirror.  Occasionally I would walk by my mirror and not recognize the thin person staring back at me.  I didn't look sick, but I could hear inside my own head and I suddenly realized where I was headed and how close I was to hurting myself.  The whole reason I decided I needed to lose weight was to become healthy.  I was healthier, but a lack of the ability to stop at healthy was suddenly staring me in the face.  It scared me.  I was terrified.  I knew what I had to do.  I drove to my favorite cheeseburger stop and chowed down.  A GIANT bacon cheeseburger and an order of cajun fries for desert became my new diet plan.

For the last two years I've continued a cycle.  At first I was eating anything and everything to gain back five pounds and get back to healthy.  It took a few months, but I got there.  However I didn't stop eating everything I had let back into my life.  In the last two years I've gained back 20 pounds. My acne has worsened. I'm sore when I get out of bed, and I get winded going up stairs again.  My need to gain weight and then lack of control in maintaining healthy has affected my husband as well.  We make a wonderful team in this life, and I can see that by "falling of the wagon" I made it easy for him to as well.  We are each others support in all ways. Without him I am not myself. I am not whole.  And I know that he feels the same when I am gone.  So by failing myself, I failed him as well, without either of us realizing what was happening.

In the past two years we've had major changes happen.  We both graduated college and began our careers in special education.  God blessed us with the ability to purchase a home, and we've become more and more involved with our church.  Our goals, our dreams, and our values are evolving in ways we never saw coming just two years ago.

Over the last couple of months we've been able to take a few steps back and breathe (YAY Summer break). In doing research for natural ways to treat my variety of lovely skin conditions, I began to read blogs and articles about the different chemicals found in the products we use everyday.  It was scary.  If my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit of God living in me, then what am I doing to it?  What am I doing with it?  Am I honoring God and his holy presence?  Am I really letting God lead me in all areas of my life?  Am I living the life God wants me to have?  The answer to my searching was a simple no.  So little by little our home is changing.  We are eliminating as many chemicals as we can, one thing at a time.  We are looking into ways to grow and produce more of our own food and buy more local natural products.  We aren't striving for 100% organic living, or any crazy fad diet, but we do feel a need to return to our roots and live a simple life.  A life and set of values we will be proud to pass on to our children.

I don't know why I remembered this page I started almost a year ago and never used until this morning.  I felt a need to find it and write this story.  I felt a need to share our lives and our ideas.  I felt a need to share our story.  I don't know what the future holds, or what I'll share next, but I know that at least for now God has something he would like for me to share, and I will do anything to bring glory to my loving God.

And for today I'll leave you with my favorite part of the Bible.  It's from Isaiah 40, and really I love the entire chapter. It's all about how big God is, his majestic power, and how much he loves us.  So if you have a bible handy go start at the beginning and spend some time studying this chapter.  If your bible isn't handy then you can easily just click on the link I've posted at the bottom. :)

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Click Here to read Isaiah 40
Isn't he majestic?