Thursday, October 15, 2015

Maintenance Required


      I went back to the doctor at Baptist Hospital last week for my twice yearly check-up.   It seems that my blood test that gives me the "all clear -- no sign of recurrence of cancer" signal every six months was no longer in the good, safe place -- the number had increased quite a bit, and I was concerned.  My doctor looked at everything else and decided that we should re-check in 3 months before doing any further tests or treatment. Not an emergency, but not to be ignored,
     So I am kind of in the same place as my good old Highlander.  The "MAINT REQD" light came on this week, and Sam, my own personal mechanic, is gone on a fishing trip. We talked on the phone and he said it will be okay -- don't have to take it in for emergency repairs -- and he will look at it next week. Like me, the car has a lot of miles on it -- over 200,000.  But it still runs fine, and if the light didn't remind me, who knows when I would think about changing oil or doing whatever this light indicates. If I didn't have that blood test last week, I would think everything was fine.  No symptoms -- as a matter of fact, I feel better than I have in a long time.  I am eating healthy food and walking 4 or 5 miles -- or more -- every day. But yet -- something is needing attention. Every time I get in the car, the light reminds me. 
    I started thinking -- maybe God has been reminding me -- that there are other things in my life that need attention, too. During the last nearly 40 years of being a full time mom, and teaching school, that's where my focus has been. Now that I am retired, I am finally taking time to give some attention to other things that need maintenance.
  • My health -- like I said, I am walking more than ever in my life and making healthy choices when it comes to food -- after many years of junk food, fast food, and too much food. I;d like to have lots more years and I know I have to do better if I want to hang around a lot longer.
  • My family -- I've recently called or visited with 3 of my relatives who are over 80 years old.  Why didn't I stay in touch with these precious people? They remember my great and great-great grandparents and have shared stories and pictures that no one else could tell me about.
  • My spiritual life -- I'm spending more time in prayer and have started reading my Bible again. I plan to read it all the way through,  Because I go to church 3 times a week, I convinced myself that was enough, and I have been slack in my personal devotions. 
  • My personal surroundings -- house and yard have been neglected for years.  Weeds in one little flower garden have been replaced with pansies, but the big one needs major work.  And even after 4 months of retirement and many bags to Goodwill, I still have lots more tidying up to do.
  •  My Friends  -- friends need maintenance, too, and I have needed a warning light to remind me that if I don't spend time growing friendships, my friends won't know what a treasure they are to me.  But it takes effort, and I made the first step today by meeting with 2 of these treasured friends for a long walk and conversation. We enjoyed it so much that we made plans to do it every week.
  • My marriage -- after 41 years of living with my best friend and love of my life, I'm aware that there is no one I would rather spend time with, But usually I do what I like to do -- read, sing, write -- and he does what he wants to -- hunt, fish. fix things. This year -- no, I am NOT going hunting with him! But it won't kill me to go out in the boat with him, I guess -- he quit inviting me because I always had an excuse. One day I will surprise him by volunteering to go! We have spent time together more lately, and we need to do it more.  But really, if he is happy, then I am happy -- I really love that man!!    
               I was listening to a self-help podcast in the car -- "Achieve Your Goals" and Sara asked me why.  I told her I was trying to get better at some things,  She told me I was fine and didn't need any improvement.  I am so glad she feels that way -- guess I have done something right.  Or maybe she just didn't want to listen to it?  It was about procrastination, one of my worst faults.  I find that I constantly need inspiration -- or warning lights -- to stay focused. And no matter what anyone else thinks, I have lots of room for improvement!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

My Mother's Prayer


        My mother went to heaven in 1997 -- nearly 20 years ago. But she left behind dozens of journals that she had written over the years.  She battled breast cancer when she was my age, and after surgery and chemo and radiation, we thought she had won.  But then it came back, and she wrote this prayer in the front of a journal full of encouraging Bible verses, like Psalm 55: "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you."
     
Dear Lord Jesus,                                                                                             March 8, 1994
     How you comfort my heart. I've had to accept twice that I have cancer and you have given me such peace and comfort it is beyond my weak understanding. I love you because you have given me blessed assurance and peace that surpasses all understanding and I am totally unworthy.  Hundreds of dedicated Christians have asked you to deliver me from cancer but what you have given me is Grace
to accept my plight.You have given me praying, loving, concerned children, husband, relatives and friends who have been total encouragement because they are your children. I love you, feel your presence and want to bring glory to your name. 
                                                                                            Amen
                                                                                            Mother of four

Here's another:
 Sunday, July 31, 1994
    What a wonderful Savior that loves me! It pays to serve him every step of the way. Knowing I had to go to the cancer doctor on Monday morning to get the "sad" answer, about this 4th knot in my neck, when I should have been so apprehensive and ice water in my blood, instead the blessed Lord flooded my soul, gave me peace that passes all understanding and stood with me through it all.  Oh! What a Prince of Peace! Oh! Just to know Him more and trust Him more.  Thanks! Beautiful Savior, Friend, and Life to me.

      Mother lived another 3 years after she wrote these words, and her faith never waivered -- she continued to teach the young adults and witnessed to so many about the faithfulness of God as long as she was able.  Her prayer was answered -- she brought glory to His name and was such an example to her children, family, and friends.  How I miss her!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Charleston Overcomes Evil with Good


  

   I love Charleston, South Carolina. I love the beautiful beaches, the rich history, the fabulous restaurants -- it has something for everyone. We usually come here at least twice a year, and by now we are familiar with the good parking places, the location of the candy store where we always stop for those yummy pralines, the route to the beach, the best place to get hot dogs, our favorite motel. We don't have to use the GPS every time we leave the motel now, and we don't have to read all the reviews to decide where to eat.  We have done the carriage rides, the Civil History walking tour, the boat ride out to Fort Sumter, and the museum. It is a wonderful place to come with the family to relax and explore.
     But last week the unthinkable happened in this lovely place -- the news is full of stories about the 9 people who were murdered inside their church during Bible study.  It was so sad -- and disturbing -- and totally horrible -- and I thought about canceling the reservation we made to celebrate our anniversary in Charleston.  I wondered if there would be riots or demonstrations like we had heard about in some other cities in recent years. So I watched the news carefully, and started hearing messages of forgiveness and those Christians showing the love of God even through heartbreak.
     We arrived on Sunday evening, and as we started across the big Ravenel bridge, we saw blue lights and thought there must be an accident on the bridge.  But as we drove further, we saw thousands of people walking the 2.7 miles across the bridge. Some were carrying signs and waving and singing -- we quickly "Googled it" and found that they had gathered to show support and unity with those who were grieving. It was an amazing sight.
      My heart was stirred to see all those people-- maybe 20,000 according to some estimates -- joining together to show that love overcomes evil.  And what the murderer meant for evil, God used for good. And even though we had not planned to be a part of this, we were touched and grateful to be on the bridge at that moment. What a great message to send to the haters! We are all in is together, and LOVE OVERCOMES EVIL!!


        All through the city we saw these big banners of support.


      All over town we saw stores donating to the AME church or to the families of the victims. We have seen such an outpouring of support! (And I did my part by eating one of these cupcakes.)

        Sam bought a Southern Gates heart for me for our anniversary and I love it a lot. But it will also remind me that the heart of Charleston is still strong.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The End of My Teaching Career -- Look at Those Faces!

   One month from today I will not set the alarm clock or pack my lunch. I won't wake up early thinking about what I will do in school today.  After 45 years of teaching -- public school, Christian school, home school -- I will be officially retired.  I have to turn in my iPad, clean out my desk, delete all the documents on my computer, give my goldfish away, and say goodbye to daily laughter and sharing life with my dear assistant and friend.
   Although I know it is time for me to step away from assessments and teacher evaluations and observations and faculty meetings and workshops and Common Core and report cards and lesson plans -- all the parts of the profession that I DONT like -- I am having a little trouble stepping away from the actual teaching. I mean, look at these faces!
  

   

  
  
   Teaching kids to read and write stories and introducing them to everything from caterpillars to clouds -- seeing their eyes open to the world around them as they learn about growing seeds and building cubes and ocean life and Pilgrims and so many other things -- well, that is just such a joy!
    I'm not saying that it's all fun and games -- there are fusses and rule-breaking and saying "be quiet, keep your hands to yourself, sit down, stop tattling" about a hundred times a day.  There are kids who never do homework, kids who can't remember what a 4 is, kids who pinch and choke other kids, kids with head lice and pink eye, kids who have parents in jail, kids who need love but show it in the most difficult ways. I come home so tired and drained that I can hardly get off the couch some days. 
   But look at this face! Priceless and worth every hard day when you can see the wonder when they
accomplish something new!  

      So, as I walked through Target this week, I felt a little lost. Nothing I needed to buy, with less than 20 days of school left. Don't need to buy clothes for work. I saw some cute little red polka dotted buckets that I really wanted to buy, but knew that would be crazy. And that stuffed turtle at Kohls would have been great for the Franklin stories and reptiles unit. But I won't be teaching that again.
       Don't get me wrong. I am looking forward to retirement and having time and energy to clean my house and travel with my family and cook meals. I will finally empty the bookcases and closets and baskets full of teaching books and supplies that I have accumulated over the past 45 years. But I have been "Teacher" for so long -- it's who I am -- my identity -- and I don't exactly know who I will be when that is over. I am eager to find my new place in life -- time to read books just for fun, work at church, go to daytime activities, take vacations when everyone else is at school. I'm excited --and tired -- and counting the days. But I will miss my co-workers-- the lunch room ladies that fix my lunch, the custodians who clean my room, the office workers who keep everything running smoothly and intercept phone calls, the teachers who inspire me and especially the hard-working assistants who do so much to make life easier. My own assistant, Mrs. Awesome, is a treasure and the main reason I have kept teaching this long. And the kids who make me want to pull my hair out, beat my head against the wall, and cry -- and who greet me every morning with bright smiles when I walk in, and run to hug me and write love notes.  Look at these faces!!
   

    

   

   

   


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tribute to My Mother


     It is Mother's Day Weekend, and I am thinking about my mother.  She died in 1997 -- 18 years ago -- but I still miss her.  In 1996, when she was 70 and battling breast cancer again, I heard a "Focus on the Family" radio broadcast about writing a tribute to your parents.  I took it to heart and wrote a tribute to my mom, had it framed, and read it out loud to her. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me, because that was our last Christmas together.  Later I wrote one for my dad, then helped Sam write one for his mom. I decide to share it with anyone who reads my "Godwinks" even though some of the references will mean nothing to those who weren't there. But I would encourage anyone who still has parents to think about writing a tribute while they can still appreciate it.
                                          To My Angel Mother -- A Tribute
    The Bible says,"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."  You said this for as long as I can remember. I can still hear the sound of the kitchen drawer being jerked out as you reach for the spatula to remind us.And I can't say that I loved that sound -- in fact, it still gives me a shiver -- but I will be eternally grateful for the lesson that it taught me. I learned that your word was good and that there would be consequences for any bad behavior. This was the beginning of a lifetime of training me, firmly, but always lovingly.
    You taught me practical things -- cooking, making the most of little, child care -- then let me practice on my brothers!  I learned responsibility at a young age when you trusted me to cook supper and watch the boys. You always made me feel grown up and encouraged me with praise for everything I did.
    You taught me values that I hope to pass on to my own children.  You always said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well."  I wish I had always listened to that advice -- but I am still trying. You brought me to church and taught classes and had parties and activities for all the kids at church.I KNEW that nothing was more important to you than your love for God -- I knew by the way you read your Bible early in the morning, shared your faith with friends... and even strangers--- ad passed that love on to the next generation, and the next.  I will always be in awe of  your faithfulness to God, church, kids, elderly, and family.
    You have amazed me over the years with your creativity -- you have always been able to make something out of nothing. How many times did we suddenly remember that we needed a science project, Halloween costume, etc. just as the bus went up the road.You could always come up with something!  And you can look in an almost empty refrigerator and come up with a delicious meal before I can make up a grocery list. We may not have had much, but I bet nobody else's mother could make grits and ketchup into a meal. And who else would dream up all the fun things we have done over the years? I still can't believe that you convinced Dottie Rambo to come to Red House! Or use an apple core for a washcloth!
     At Christmas I remember taking a doll or game to some child who wasn't getting much for Christmas __ kindness and consideration for others is another lesson you taught.  I know you have cut your daffodils to share with others, and you are always on of the "cheerful givers" that God loves. You look for ways to make people happy, and it is no wonder that you are loved by so many.
     You taught us to appreciate nature -- I loved the hikes we took to see wild flowers -- how did you learn so much? You always point out things that I would miss -- clouds, sunsets, wild flowers, birds -- and no mother could have appreciated a bouquet of dandelions as much as you did.
     You encouraged me to learn and expand my horizons -- even when it meant that I was so engrossed in a book that I really wasn't much help around the house. You sent me to camp and college, even though you could have insisted that I stay home ad help out.  I know now what a sacrifice that was, but I don't remember one complaint about the expense -- I just remember that you seemed proud of me, and that gave me the confidence to keep going.
    When I married Sam, you loved him, too -- and because of your example of commitment to your own marriage -- for better or worse-- I made a lifetime commitment, too, with confidence and hope.  What a heritage I have!
       When I was about to give birth to Sara, you swallowed your fear of flying and came all the way to Alaska to help by taking care of TJ... and to take care of me.  Oh, the inexpressible comfort of knowing that my mother was there when I needed a mother most!!! All my life, you have come when I needed you.
       One of the hardest lessons you've taught, "Don't worry until you know there is something to worry about" is one I am still working on. But you have given me optimism, and the assurance that God is in control, so I will continue to lean hard on the Lord, no matter what is ahead. I know God has his hand on your life, and I am who I am because of what He had done through you.
     Mother, I love you and am deeply grateful for the lessons you have taught me. I still have a lot to learn, so don't stop praying for me and teaching me how to live. I am proud and thankful that you are my mother and my friend and my biggest fan.  I hope I will be the kind of mother to my children that you have been to me. Proverbs 31, Her children rise up and call her blessed" was written about you.  I am blessed because you are my mother.
Love, Ann
December 1996

Monday, April 13, 2015

A bright spot!


         It was a dreary Monday morning -- dark and cloudy as I reluctant returned to school after a wonderfully refreshing Easter break.  The forecast called for rain, and that meant no outside recess for my kindergarten class. But all of a sudden, I noticed an amazing slit of brightness through the dark clouds.  As I drove, I kept turning my head to keep track of the bright spot, and finally pulled over so I could take a picture.  By the time I got to school, the clouds had closed over the opening and hidden the sunlight that was peeping through the hole.  But I knew the sun was still there if I just had a way to open the clouds.  
        Anytime the sky looks unusual, I wonder if this could be THE DAY when Jesus comes back. And this was one of those days -- it definitely crossed my mind.  But it also reminded me that even on the darkest day, the sun (and the SON) is still there, just behind those dark clouds. The clouds seemed to be so deep, but that shiny space was just enough to let me see what was behind the cloudy curtain.
     "Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me...put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 43:3,5.
       And another bright spot in this rainy day -- I drove up to see my thyroid doctor at Baptist Hospital and my blood work and checkup were all good. No sign of recurrence of my thyroid cancer. What a great day! Thank you, God!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fort Bragg and God

      My daughter Sara and I made a nostalgic trip to Fort Bragg, NC today.  We lived here for close to 10 years, and we took some time to drive past the places we lived and worshiped during those years.  As we reminisced, I was thinking of the way we grew spiritually at each stage of life.
     

        When Sam and I got married in 1974, I moved to Cambridge Arms Apartments in Fayetteville since Sam was serving in the Army at Fort Bragg. We started attending church together at the Main Post Chapel on the military base. I was used to going to church twice on Sunday and again on Wednesday night, so it was a little strange to only go once a week. So when the chaplain announced a home Bible study, I asked Sam if we could go.  We went, but we were surprised -- and a little intimidated --because the only others there were Col. Meeks, the head chaplain for all of Fort Bragg, his wife Alice, and the Sgt. Major of the CID, Ed King and his wife, Dot.  They were all the age of our parents and very high ranking in the Army. But they made us feel very welcome, and so our little group continued meeting and studying the Bible together.  Dot and Eddie became close friends, and they were such role models for us!  Later they moved to Washington, DC, where became the Sergeant Major of the Army CID and Dot worked in prison ministry with Chuck Colson.  And this young couple benefited greatly from both the chapel worship and the people who mentored us.
   
  
         We stayed at Fort Bragg for 2 years, then the Army moved us to Fairbanks, Alaska, where we lived for 4 years -- and our 2 daughters were born there.  When we got orders to move back to Fort Bragg, we were excited to think about renewing friendships and going back to our favorite restaurants and church.  But everything had changed during those 4 years.  Our friends had all been transferred to other places, our favorite restaurant had closed, and none of the chaplains or people we knew were there at the Main Post Chapel.  The addition of 2 children gave us a new viewpoint -- we needed a church with a strong ministry for children. We moved to a duplex on Fort Bragg, but started attending a Baptist Church in town.

   
         Our home at 108 Luzon Drive, Fort Bragg.
           This church gave us the opportunity to serve in new ways.  I taught Mission Friends, Training Union, sang in the choir, and eventually directed the children's choir. We loved the pastor and the kind people we knew there. They were so good to our children and it was a wonderful place to worship.
After 5 years, it was time for another transfer -- this time to Germany.  We were gone for 3 years, then we came back to Fort Bragg in 1989 -- just in time for our son Andrew to be born at Fort Bragg.

     

        We moved to Ashwood Circle, very close to our former church.  But while we were gone, they got a new pastor and evidently there was a split in the church and most of our friends were gone.  We attended a few times, but it just wasn't the same.  So, we found a new church called Church of the Open Door.  At this time I was home schooling, and there were several other home-schooling families attending his church. The senior pastor, Dr. Adams, was excellent.  It was during this time that Operation Desert Storm took my husband -- and many other military members of our church -- to Saudi Arabia.  It was a very difficult time for us, but Dr. Adams ministered to us so well. I still remember the sermon that gave me so much comfort. He reminded us of all the times God had taken care of us in the past, and asked us to trust in Him to take care of us all this time, too. I remember an older lady who handed me a note one  Sunday -- I didn't know her, but she just wanted me to know that she was praying for me. The girls were involved with the youth and AWANAS there, and it was the perfect church for this season of our lives.  It was during this time that my friend Linda and I renewed our friendship -- and she was a Godsend who also helped me get through the war months.

   

         Sam retired from the Army in 1991, and we moved away from Fort Bragg.  We have come back to visit a few times -- we especially like to celebrate the 4th of July here.  But this will always be a special place, full of memories and answered prayers and spiritual growth.  I am grateful for the years we spent here. Each time we came here, it was a totally different experience. But the same God has been with us, no matter where the Army sent us.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Close, but No Cigar -- or Medal -- Or Crown



         This weekend was the Sweet Adelines regional competition in Winston-Salem, NC.  We have been practicing our 2 contest songs all year.  I have gone to 3 all day Saturday coaching sessions. I had a personal voice lesson from one of the coaches. I prepared my new costume shirt. I got a manicure and painted my toenails red. I have listened to the songs in the car, in bed, and throughout the day. I even made tapes to send to my section leader so she could tell me what I needed to improve. I paid for my ticket, made a reservation at the hotel, bought a new curling iron. I was READY!
But when the chorus stood on the stage in front of the judges, I was sitting in the audience. They poured it all out, singing with passion and enthusiasm, remembering everything we had practiced, and it was wonderful.  And the judges recognized their excellence and awarded them first place in the AA Division, and 2nd place overall, with the highest score we had ever achieved.  And at the end, they all received the coveted medals to wear for the next year.
          The reason I was not on stage was a good one -- I contracted pinkeye from one of my kindergarten students, and I had laryngitis that was made worse by trying to continue teaching even when I had no voice. I thought about going on stage anyway, but I wouldn't have been able to wear my false eyelashes, and my voice was terrible. I was afraid I would squeak and cause my chorus to lose points -- or give someone else pinkeye.
           So, when they all got medals, I was a little envious. I had done all the work, prepared,and practiced. But when it came down to it, I was not on that stage, in front of the judges.  I had gone through all the motions, but I didn't take the final step.
            As I was sitting in church this morning, I started thinking about people who have gone through the motions spiritually. They may come to church faithfully-- or watch it on TV. They might teach a class or work in the nursery or sing in the choir. They might put Bible verses on Facebook or even go on mission trips. But if they have not taken the final step of surrendering their lives to Jesus, I'm afraid they will be like me. When the crowns are handed out in Heaven, they will not get one. They won't be at the celebration at all, because there is only one way, and all the church work you do means nothing when the judge looks at your life. There an old song that we used to sing at the little church I attended as a child in WV-- "when the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there." As I watched my friends put on their medals, I was glad to remember that I will be ready when I stand before God -- I will not miss out when the crowns are passed out! The blood of Christ has redeemed me, nothing good I have done.  Oh, what a Savior!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Why Were You Worried?



       My youngest child -- who is no longer a child -- went to work this week delivering pizzas for Dominos. Last night he went to work at 5:00, so I intended to wait up to hear about his evening. When he didn't get home by midnight, I checked the pizza website to see what time they closed.  It said 12:00, so I thought he'd be home soon. I wrapped up in a blanket to watch late night tv - tried to call him but no answer. Not exactly worried, but starting to pray for his safe return home. Still not home by 2:00 am, so now it was time for serious prayer.  I heard the car door shut at 2:30 -- he said they didn't close until 1:00 on weekends, then he volunteered to stay and clean up."Must have left my phone in the car," he said.
        I was so grateful for prayer -- it kept me from walking the floor, but didn't keep me from imaging wrecks, robbery, and various other dangers. I started writing "Godwinks" for this very reason -- to remind myself of the times when my Heavenly Father watched over me. And even with a long history of  answered prayers, sometimes I still forget.
       When my oldest daughter was about 3 or 4 years old, she got away from her grandma in the mall, and I nearly panicked as I started walking down the crowded mall, looking for her. I spotted her about 4 stores away, holding the hand of a security guard who was helping her look for me. I dropped to my knees and hugged her tight, telling her how worried I was.  She said,"Why were you worried? Didn't you know Jesus was with me?" 
         And so here I am, over 30 years later, still having trouble remembering that. I know His eye is on the sparrow, but when my kids are out of touch, I find that I still have a tendency to start worrying. But what would I be doing if I couldn't pray? I find comfort in the Anchor for my soul -- and dozed off several times while waiting for my baby to come home. I will not wait up for him tonight -- my Heavenly Father will keep an eye on him this night! 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Packing up Christmas



      After church tonight our music minister announced that it was time to pack up all the Christmas decorations.  Our church is so beautiful at Christmas with so many poinsettias and wonderfully decorated trees and angels -- and especially the manger scene -- I love how it looks.  Since I had a sick day and a trip out of town, I didn't feel like I had seen it all enough yet -- I am definitely not ready for Christmas to be over. But even with all the red and green packed away -- and Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus safely tucked away for another year -- I think I will try to keep that Christmas feeling in my heart for a while longer.  "Joy to the world, the Lord has come! " "Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay close by me forever and love me I pray." I'm not taking the Christmas cd out of the CD player yet! I want to sing"peace on the earth, good will to men." for a while longer.