Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back in the Classroom

     When my first child was born, Sam and I decided that I should  be a full time stay-at-home mom, and I loved that job.  I had taught school for 4 years in West Virginia, then worked as a school librarian in North Carolina after we got married,  and as much as I enjoyed teaching, I liked being a mom even more. I eventually drew out the money I had in the school retirement system, because I didn't expect to ever go back.  So for the next 27 years I enjoyed being with my children full time -- even started home schooling them when we moved to Germany.  We lived out in a little German village, and the school was 2 hours away by school bus, so we had our own little schoolroom at home.After we came back to the states I continued to teach my kids -- loving the flexible schedule and differentiated teaching that was possible. As the kids got older, I did a little substitute teaching in the local school, and even taught a year in a Christian school after Sam retired from the army. But Andrew's ADHD kept him in time-out a lot during his kindergarten year at the Christian school, so I went back to home schooling for another 7 years.  Finally both girls finished college and Andrew started middle school, so I thought I could finally have some time to catch up on all the things that I couldn't do while I was teaching. But then we had a wedding to plan -- so exciting that our oldest was getting married -- and I started thinking that if I got a teaching job, we could have extra money to pay for the wedding. Although it had been 27 years since I had taught in public school, I turned in an application.  I left it in the hands of God -- figured if He thought I could handle teaching again after all those years, someone would call me.  Sure enough, I got a call for an interview at Valmead.  I was feeling a bit nervous as I sat in the principal's office -- it had been over 30 years since I got my teaching degree.  What if she asked me about Piaget or something else that I had long forgotten? I tried to think of a topic we had in common -- wasn't that what the job interview books suggested? That's when the coincidence Godwink happened -- the principal asked me where I had taught before, and I told her "Putnam County Schools in WV."  What a surprise -- she had moved here from WV and also taught in Putnam County -- same town where my dad lived!!  And she took a chance and offered me a job before I left that day. I was happy to know that God had confidence in me, The first year was hard -- I had so much to learn --- but I loved it.  That was 8 years ago -- the wedding was paid for, and I am still loving my job and not even thinking about retiring yet. This is another occasion when I know that God put me in just this place, and I am so grateful.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mission Trip to Ukraine

I've always liked to go on mission trips -- after all, I met Sam on my first one.  So when our pastor started calling for volunteers to go to Ukraine, I signed up.  It was a very rewarding experience, but difficult, especially since the food and water there did not agree with my system -- running to the bathroom every 15 minutes was not pleasant under any circumstances, but particularly bad when the toilet was just a hole in the floor that you had to hover over.  I know -- too graphic -- but it was bad. So when the next trip was announced, I was pretty hesitant about signing on.  This trip was going to head to a gypsy village on the western side of Ukraine, and I was really not very excited about it.  On the last day of sign ups, Sam asked me if I was going to go, and I said "I don't know -- it was really hard." We went on in to our Sunday School class and I open my lesson book to find the verse about Jesus sending out the disciples, telling them to take nothing with them.  I realized that Jesus didn't care if it was hard, He still told them to go.  As I was thinking about that, we turned the page and the next section had the verse about the harvest -- "the laborers are few" and now I was really getting uneasy.  So I turned to the next page, and what did I see?  A picture of a group of GYPSIES!  So I said, "OKAY!  I get the message -- I'll go!" I have never see a picture of Gypsies in a Sunday School book before in my whole life -- how did He manage to put it there on that day?? Anyway, I went, did not get sick even when I ate the food the Gypsies cooked for us in a big pot outdoors. And it was a wonderful opportunity to help some folks in terrible circumstances. I know that's where I was supposed to be -- I saw that big Godwink without a doubt!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Love Story

After college -- I got a degree in Elem. Education from WVU -- Go, Mountaineeers!!  -- I taught school for a year.  It was the summer of 1971 and just like every summer, I went back to work at church camp for a couple weeks. While I was there with my dear friend, Sheila, we met another counselor/medical student who invited us to go on a mission trip to the little mountain town of Richwood.  He said we would work in Bible School, a Youth for Christ Rally, and maybe have a coffeehouse.  Sounded good to me, so after a couple weeks, we drove over to Richwood to meet up with the :New Life Team" -- a group of mostly young professionals and college students.  Our lodging was rustic, to say the least.  Camp Splinter had beds without mattresses -- just a piece of cardboard to cover the wire. We bathed in the ice-cold Cranberry River, and got water from the pump.  There was no electricity -- we were really roughing it, but loved the people we were with, so we just made the best of it. During the day we went into town and held Bible school.  In the evening we set up a "coffeehouse" in the basement of the Methodist church. One evening a guy walked in and I met him at the door to welcome him,  We sat down in the circle on the floor and started talking -- he was a helicopter pilot in the Army, home on leave before going back to Viet Nam for the second tour. This just happened to be his home church where is parents were members.  We talked a LOT -- about being a Christain -- and I gave him a "Four Spiritual Laws" booklet to read.  He came back the next evening -- and said, "I read your book." Before the evening was over, I prayed with him for salvation -- it was kind of scary to have an altar call with no pastor or "Just as I Am" but he prayed with me and received Christ.  The rest of the week he spent a lot of time with us at the camp, but when it was time to leave, he asked me to write to him in Vietnam.  Of course I said yes.  So we wrote while he was gone and I was teaching school. He came to see me when he got back -- I was at camp again, as usual.  This time, the chemistry was there -- and we started dating -- long distance.  He drove up from Ft. Bragg every few weeks -- and eventually popped the question -- he must have been pretty confident, because he already bought the ring. After I could catch my breath, I said YES! I finished teaching that year, and applied for a job near Fort Bragg. We got married in June, 1974 and I moved to NC.
   This story is full of coincidences that God used to bring us together. I had always thought I'd like to teach on a base overseas. and had filled out the paperwork in triplicate that summer,  If I got a job overseas, I never would have seen Sam again. My friend Sheila  sent me a letter urging me to wait until Sam came home before I made that decision. Glad I listened.!  If I ever have doubts, this is a reminder of how my life was changed by God! It was like He looked down from heaven and winked at me -- "Your life is in my hands, and have I got a plan for you!" That was over 40 years ago, and what a plan it was!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Here's Your Sign

When we came back from Germany in 1989, I was VERY pregnant.  We moved into a little motel/apartment while we were getting signed in to Fort Bragg, but I was eager to find a place to settle down before our baby came.  According to my count, I still had about a month to go, but our search for a house to rent was not going well, and I was getting kind of impatient.  One day as we were driving back to our motel, I asked Sam to drive through the housing development in the part of town we liked, just to see if there might be anything with a "for rent" sign. Wouldn't you know -- there was!!  The man next door had the key, and he let us look inside.  It had plenty of room, a nice yard, and reasonable rent -- but we are never quick to make a decision, so we thanked him and headed home. We had a realtor friend also looking for a place for us, so we were thinking about checking with him, too.  As we drove home, Sam prayed for God to give us a sign if that was the place for us. When we got back to the motel, there was a note on the door -- our friend had found a house that he thought we might like.  We checked the address -- it was the same house we had just looked at!!  We had quite literally gotten a SIGN with the address of our new house!! Coincidence? Nope -- it was a Godwink!!
And none too soon -- I had our baby 3 weeks early -- on the day before we were scheduled to move into our house.  So Sam and the girls moved our belonging and cleaned the motel rooms while  I was at the hospital, and I came home just in time to direct the movers who delivered our household goods. I sat in the recliner with Andrew and pointed out the destination for each box. It was a good place to live, and we knew that God met our needs once again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Flying squirrels and matters of faith

This was written by my friend, Arlene Neal, and published in the Lenoir News-Topic today -- she said I could share it -- another Godwink!!

A few days ago my husband walked across the backyard with a five-gallon bucket and called out to me.  “You’re not going to believe this!”  If the weather had been warmer, I would have assumed he’d captured a snake, one of his daring habits in summer; but given the cold temperature of the day, I couldn’t imagine what he carried.

I looked into the bucket only to see a mass of nesting materials and what appeared to be vacuum cleaner trash.  Then it moved and a pair of big black eyes and two cute little ears appeared—a flying squirrel!   Another popped out and another, six in all.  They had found a cozy place to winter over in an old shop vacuum in our outbuilding. 

Flying squirrels can be quite destructive if inhabiting the wrong place, but I couldn’t help but admire how cute they were. They reminded me of a time when a flying squirrel played an important role in my young life.

My high school guidance counselor encouraged me to go to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, so I ended up there, after spending my whole life to that point in Lawsonville, NC, out in the country.   College was a huge adjustment, but living in town proved harder than the academic part.

Traffic noise never ceased, day or night.  Radios blared, sirens screamed, and dark of night with starry sky did not exist since the campus lights remained on all night.  Dorm life got on my nerves when shrieking voices and door-slamming drama echoed down the hall frequently.  I missed quiet and hearing the wind blow and rain on the roof.

To compensate, I grew plants in my room and put bird seed on the window ledge to bring some nature into my life, but when early spring came around I missed the spring peepers calling from down on the creek back home and the smell of rain on plowed earth. I felt miserable.

One warm night my roommate and I left our third floor window open. She had fallen asleep while I stayed up reading.  In my groggy state I doubted what I saw sitting on the window ledge looking at me with huge black eyes.  A flying squirrel sat eating my bird seed, not in the least bothered by me.  I watched him for a long time until he had his fill and leaped with his velvety limbs spread wide to glide to the oak tree beside the dorm.

He returned night after night and became so accustomed to our presence that he actually crawled through the window and sat on the end of my bed. When I wiggled my toes, he held onto the quilt and took a ride. I realize that to some people that would be a repulsive thing, but I had bonded with that little creature, my ambassador of hope and a witness of wildness surviving in the city. 

At that point in my life I was not a spiritual person, but I felt somehow that maybe God sent the squirrel to me.  Looking back on that part of my life, theological analysis aside, I think the squirrel truly was a godsend. 

A friend of mine, Ann Spencer, writes a blog called “God Winks.”  Godwinks, she explains, are those moments in life when God shows up in special ways for people at just the right time.  Check out her site for true stories that are heart-felt and inspiring.  She helped me realize that my squirrel visitation was definitely a Godwink. 

Lots of people deny the existence of God because He doesn’t show up at times when they need him.  I will never understand all the ways of God, but I do know He does care and will go to great lengths to reach us in whatever way we can respond.  For me, that meant a little night visitor covered in fur, perhaps even winking at me.

A Change of Plans

     When I was about 10 years old, I started going to church camp for a week every summer. Our camp was called EvUnBreth Acres, and it was in Buckhannon , West Virginia -- a small town in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains and a beautiful location for a camp.There was a peaceful lake with rowboats and a  big chapel with blue stained glass windows. The year I graduated from high school, my pastor volunteered to direct a camp there, and when he invited me to go back to camp as a counselor, I was glad for another opportunity to spend time at one of my favorite places. We had a great week, and I hoped I could go back again after my first year in college. I was about to go off to college at West Virginia University in the fall, and planned to become a physical therapist. I had dreamed of working in the medical field ever since I read the "Cherry Ames, Student Nurse" book in junior high school.
     I don't exactly remember how it happened -- it's been a LONG time ago --but after my freshman year, I got a summer job as counselor again -- this time as a paid job ($35./ week!)for the whole summer.  I'm sure my pastor had something to do with it -- thank you, Rev. Bragg! Anyway, it was one of the best times of my life -- there were many times when I felt so close to God -- during morning devotions outside under a tree, sitting in the chapel with the blue light streaming through the windows, rowing across the lake for a Galilean service -- and I cried when the summer was over. 
    Something happened that summer, though -- I knew that my dreams of a career in physical therapy were fading, and I would be changing my major to education. I can remember the moment when I realized that the camp kids were looking to me for leadership, and suddenly I had the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and become the leader. It was a wonderful feeling to know that I could influence those children, and I knew that God had just changed my career plans. Little did I know that a large part of my teaching career would be spent home-schooling my own children as we moved to Germany and back with my soldier husband.  I am so grateful for the Godwinks at EvUnBreth Acres -- my life was changed in more ways than one -- but that's another story...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Mother's Godwink

My mother became a believer when I was too young to understand, but I loved hearing the story.  I don't know all the details, and there is no one left to ask, but this is what I know.  She evidently prayed for assurance that God had heard her prayer for salvation.  Like Gideon in the Bible, she asked for a sign.  She didn't tell anyone that night, but she asked God to let her hear a fire siren in the morning to let her know that she was really saved. We lived in a small town in rural West Virginia -- population about 350 -- so we rarely heard the sound of a siren there since the nearest fire station was several miles away. And, like Gideon, she thought that could actually happen by coincidence, so she added one more requirement.  The second sign would be for my dad to ask her about the weather -- something that also was not common.  The next morning, she woke up to the sound of a siren, and Daddy turned over and asked her "What's the weather like today?" She said she "shouted all the way to Grandad's house!" Now, I guess that could have been a "coincidence" but you would never have been able to convince Mother that it was anything other than a direct message from God -- telling her that she really was His child.  Her faith remained unshakable for the rest of her life, and many, many lives were touched by her faith through some really hard times.  When her prayers for healing from breast cancer seemed to be unanswered, she said that she knew God heard the prayers of all the people who were praying for her, and she just had to trust His plan, even though it was not our desire. I think that "Godwink" she felt back in the '50's carried her through the rest of her life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When God Winks

        I'm reading a little book that I got at Dollar General this week called,"When God Winks at You." It made me remember a wink from my Mema Frazier a long, LONG time ago -- just a little thing, but she was looking directly at me and sending a message that no one else saw.  It made me smile just thinking about it.  The author says,"Every time you receive what some call a coincidence or an answer prayer, it's a direct and personal message of reassurance from God to you -- what I call a godwink." Out of all the billions of people in the world, He is making a direct personal connection to ME -- He KNOWS me and cares about me -- and is sending a silent communication -- like a wink -- to let me know.
So I've been thinking about those times in my life when I experienced that "coincidence" -- and seeing it in a different way.
The first Godwink I remember happened when I was a little girl in grade school, probably. My dad was out of work, again -- and there were 6 of us in the family depending on his paycheck.  Mother asked me to pray that Daddy would get a job, so I earnestly asked God to please give my daddy a job.
The next morning when I got up and asked where Daddy was, Mother said he had 2 job offers that morning and was gone to work. Coincidence? Not a chance!!  That was God saying "I hear you and I want you to know that I am REAL and I care about you."  This little girl KNEW that God heard the simple prayers of a child. I intend to search my memory for more Godwinks, now that I know what to call them.  Comments are welcome -- I know I'm not the only one God has winked at, but it sure feels good to remind myself that the great God of the universe cares enough to give me these moments of assurance and certainty.