Twenty Years

Twenty years ago I packed my bags and moved home after serving in voluntary service at Hillcrest Home. I was planning on spending the summer at home, then returning to teach school in the fall. I was excited about teaching again after taking a two-year break, and I had fallen in love with beautiful Arkansas. I had even entertained thoughts of making it my permanent home. But Hillcrest is a place that is constantly changing, and into my second year of teaching I felt the urge to move on.
After receiving a call to teach at a school closer to home, I started making plans in that direction. With six years of experience teaching, and two years in voluntary service under my belt, I felt like an elderly maiden ready to settle in for long term. Little did I know how long that would be!
Now, eighteen years later I have packed my bags again. This time the future looks a little more uncertain. Maybe teaching in a different culture; maybe my days of teaching in Mennonite schools is at an end. I’m not sure what all is in store and what all the Father has for me. But one consolation I have: If I follow His will, then He will be with me; and with Him, nothing is impossible!
During the time I taught, I lived at a small house close to school during the week. I also had a lot of things stored at school. Sorting through those things and packing them up, has taken me down memory lane many times. Good memories. The vase-not very attractive-but makes me think of the student who gave it. The pointer that was always in my chalk tray. The favorite puzzle that has been put together by students hundreds of times. So many things that mean little to anyone else, but hold memories for me. I put a lot of those things on a garage sale and am letting someone else enjoy them. But the memories I can keep forever.
Two weeks ago we had a reunion for those who worked at Hillcrest Home 20 years ago. Much mention was made of the things that have changed. Some have less hair, some changed hair color. Most are married and have children. Life has brought challenges and things that have strengthened us. Many are still faithful in following God. On Friday evening, the first person from our group of staff, passed away after a battle with cancer.
In looking back, I don’t think I really put much thought into where I expected to be in 20 years. But maybe there is value in considering this. Instead of aimlessly living life, have long-term purpose and goals. What will the next 20 years hold? Only God knows. My goal is to live, so that if we meet again in 20 years, I will be found among the faithful.

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Final Graduation

Last night I attended a graduation ceremony where four former students of mine graduated.  As I sat and listened to their senior challenges, a host of memories came flooding back.  Each one has grown and matured, yet they still have the unique characteristics that make them who they are. I smile when I recall humorous incidents, and I can’t help but shed a few tears when I see how they have matured.  I feel happy that I have been privileged to walk part of their journey with them.

Amy is petite and still has her sunny smile.  She has a gift for blessing and encouraging others.  She is not speedy, but is persevering.  In her challenge about contentment, she challenged us that if we are not contented with the way we are but do nothing about it, then we are just plain lazy.
Diane…determined and persevering in spite of difficulties.  All through school she struggled with seizures and headaches, which accounted for numerous doctor visits and surgeries.  But Diane never wanted to do less than anyone else.  It took her 12 years, but she has her diploma!  Her challenge about attitude is something that she has lived out in her own life.  Her determination will take her far in life, and her pain and difficulties have made her very sensitive to others who struggle.
I call Jason the Gentle Giant.  The student with whom I could see eye-to-eye in 4th grade-literally!  He is so honest and transparent.  I remember the day he went home and told his mom that they had a bad day because Miss Miller forgot to pray in the morning.  This past year he worked through some difficult relationship issues, and then he challenged us that happiness is a choice.
Josh was only in my class for one year, but I have watched him grow and mature in the years following.  He was a hero that the younger fellows looked up to, and it was not unusual to see him giving one of them a high-five.  This past year he faced some mountains in his life, but with encouragement from others he faced them.  He is a stronger person because of it.
Speaking of mountains, those were addressed in the Commencement Address.  If a first grader would look at the number of books to complete until graduation, it would seem impossible.  But lesson by lesson, year by year, it gets done.  He challenged us that when there are mountains to move, God gives us a shovel.  Little by little, day by day, the mountain gets moved.
I look forward to my final graduation day!  Only God knows what lessons I need to learn yet before that day.  I want Him to be a part of my journey and I want to have Him to be the one that gives me the congratulatory handshake with the words, “Well done!”  But now is not that day, I still have a shovel in my hand and lessons to learn.  I will continue to persevere!
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On Death & Dying

In the last 5 weeks I have attended 4 different viewings or funerals.  I have again been reminded of some realities of life and death.

For some, they are ill and know that their time is short. Others, may be having a normal day when suddenly the summons comes.

Death is no respecter of age, gender, status, or race.

Some leave behind many friends; some leave only a few.

Some fight to live, while others are at peace with the will of God.

It may seem like the end of a healthy life, or a release to healing never experienced on this earth.

Death is such a mystery because none of us have been there.  We can speculate and prepare, but we don’t have any past experience to rely on.  And we only die once.  If I make a mistake about my destiny, I don’t have another opportunity.

Sooner or later, death will be reality for each of us unless the Lord returns first.  It is so easy to become wrapped up in my life, subconsciously knowing that death is stalking, yet outwardly living as if I planned to be here forever. Yet when I look on someone else who has moved on, it reminds me once again of my own mortality.

I like the words of Gladys Aylward, missionary to China, who prayed, “Lord, I don’t mind dying, but let there be meaning in my death.”

Tulips and Happiness

Last Saturday I stopped in at a local grocery story to pick up a few items.  Right inside the door they have their array of floral bouquets, and I just couldn’t help but take a look.  The spring flowers were all in bloom: crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips.  As I browsed around the display-there they were!  A bunch of pink tulips!  I am not usually a fan of pink, but for some reason those caught my eye.  They just looked so delicate and spring-like.  Not bold like the red, or classy like the purple.  Just quiet and soft, an elegant spot in the midst of the bright colors.  I pulled them out and looked at the price. I debated about whether I should get them or not.  I thought about how beautiful they would look on my desk at school, and it was my birthday, after all!  I thought about how happy they would make me….to see those beauties all day long.  Common sense finally ruled out my wishful thinking and I left them there and hurried off before I changed my mind.

I recently read a book about a girl who was studying psychology.  For one assignment she had to keep track of things each day that made her happy.  At first she found it difficult, but as time went on, she found it made her appreciate the many little parts of life that brought joy.  It got me thinking.  What would I write down that made me happy today?  I was thinking along these lines when I walked into that grocery store and saw the tulips.  I decided I could be happy just enjoying them in the store.

That evening I had some friends over to play games.  One friend brought me a beautiful card.  Guess what-it had pink tulips on it!

What made you happy today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healing

Since I recently had a major surgery, I’ve been mulling over how this compares to my spiritual life and the body of Christ.

I had a growth in my body that was not serving any purpose except causing me problems and discomfort. It didn’t appear with a grand entrance, but rather just slowly sneaked its way in.  Isn’t that how sin is? It’s not supposed to be there and only causes problems; but it can just slide in slowly if we are not being alert.

The doctor caused me some pain in order to get rid of the growth.  Sometimes it is painful when God does surgery on me.  But if I can trust Him to have my good in mind, than I can be longsuffering through the painful times.  In Psalm 23 He assures me that he will be with me through the valley.

Then there must be a time of healing.  Restoring. It takes time.  It takes rest.  But while the body may appear outwardly to be resting, there is inner work that is being done.  Maybe sometimes my work for God is not so obvious because I need time to restore the inner man.  Gradually, my responsibilities are resumed as my muscles are strengthened.  Even though it may be painful, I must exercise to increase strength.

Sometimes a brace or bandage is needed.  I have been so grateful for those people who have been that “brace” in my life and have supported me those times that I felt weak and unable to do it on my own.

Of course, there must be an absorption of proper nutrients.  Food that will strengthen and heal.  Lots of water.  Jesus told the woman at the well, “If thou wouldest have asked, I would have given thee living water.”  Immersing myself in the Word of God is healing.

The wound must be cared for.  It must be kept clean so that infection doesn’t set in.  When I am healing, it seems that Satan sees those weak spots and tries to attack it in some other way.  It helps to be aware of what my weaknesses are, so that I can identify attacks from the enemy.  As the wound heals, it will scab.  Scabs are ugly and can be annoying, but if I continually pick at them then it will slow the healing process.  Sometimes there are hurts that Satan would like for us to “pick open” again, but that will not bring healing.  We need the healing salve of love and forgiveness to bring about complete healing.

Yes the scar will always be there, but as time goes on there is no pain.  I can choose how I want to view the scars.  Will they remind me of how I have been hurt?  Will they remind me of the effects of sin?  Will they speak of the goodness and healing power of God?  Also, I must not neglect my regular check-ups with the Great Physician.  Daily time with God is the best maintenance program there is!

Marshmallows, Toothpicks, & Triangles

 

Yesterday was the 100th day of school for this year!  We had several activities planned to make the day exciting.  My students came up with a list of 100 Bible names…they were excited—mostly because each name they contributed earned them a jelly bean. J  I also had slips for them to draw every 100 min. which contained special activities or prizes.

We had a hot lunch with 100 on the pizza burgers and the cupcakes.  While the students ate, they worked on coming up with 100 words made from the letters of “One Hundred Days.”  After lunch they were divided into groups for a contest.  Each group of three or four students had 100 toothpicks and a bag of mini marshmallows.  The challenge was to make the tallest free-standing structure.  Some groups set to work right away and later were seen totally redoing their structure.  Some helplessly looked at the bag of marshmallows.  When the timer buzzed, Mr. Troyer went around and measured the structure or heap—whichever it happened to be.  The winner was around 12 inches.  According to the students, the best part came next. A mini marshmallow fight and toss-and-catch-in-your-mouth practice!

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This morning, Mr. Troyer showed me a structure built later in the day.  This structure was still standing and actually kept its shape.  What was the difference?  This structure was almost entire composed of triangles.  Think about bridges and trusses.  There is strength in triangles.  A square will easily fold, but a triangle doesn’t.

I thought about how we often see the Godhead represented as a triangle.  I suppose it largely has to do with the fact that God is a trinity.  But as I pondered this, I thought about the beauty in the comparison.  What strength and support we get from God!  When I try to add myself as the fourth part, things just collapse.  Another one of those subtle lessons from creation that teach us about the greatness of our God!

A New Charge

I have always considered my classroom to be a bright place.  That is, until just before vacation when we changed lights in the building.  As I entered the building one morning, I was keenly aware of a difference in the lighting in the hallway.  As I stepped inside my room, it seemed rather dim.  Nothing had changed, except with what I was comparing it. Gradually, these lights had become dimmer, and I had slowly adapted.

In Matthew, Jesus says we are the light of the world.  It is easy for me to see this light in others.  Sometimes I meet someone who seems to be glowing and I find myself feeling dim in comparison.  But it does challenge me to dig in God’s Word and find some new inspiration.  I hope I can glow and inspire others also!

I hope you will find a new charge in God’s Word each day this year that will make you glow!

P.S. The lights in my room are changed now, too, so I have the bright lights also!

 

 

 

 

Dewdrops

Maybe this should be snowflakes instead of dewdrops!  As I look out the window I see snowflakes slowly drifting down.  Snowflakes, dewdrops, gentle rain…they water the earth in a gentle way.  Not forcing the moisture upon us, but softly letting it settle; giving the earth time to absorb the rich nutrients.

I hope my words and my teaching are like the dew and snow.  Gently falling, not harsh or forceful.  May they bless the ears they fall on today.