What a Special Needs Classroom Taught Me

 

 

 

The job of Paraeducator had in its description many things, mostly categorizing what I would do to help out the teacher in the classroom and on the playground, and in turn the kids. What it left out was something it couldn’t possibly know or prepare me for. That was how those kids opened up a whole new place in my heart for love.

What it also left out was how I learned even more about grace working and playing with them for these past 4 months. That is, grace with a capital “G” as in God’s grace.

At first I had a hard time learning all their names. I got so and so mixed up with so and so. But then I got to know them as individuals. That was when my heart opened up. I found that I even came to love the ones who got on my last nerve and had to put in time out. Even when they looked right at me and did exactly what I told them not to!

How can you prepare your heart for how you’ll feel when they call your name and run to you with arms outstretched? How can you know what a good feeling it is when they give you a spontaneous kiss and hug even after you’ve had to scold them? That’s when I heard the Spirit whisper, “That is how God loves you, my child.”

I can honestly say that I loved each and every one of them in different ways. (Around 25 in all) I found myself calling them “my kids” more and more as the weeks wore on. As another school shooting happened and I found myself in a classroom, I couldn’t imagine someone threatening these little ones, so vulnerable between the ages of three and five.

They even found their way into my dreams.

Even now, almost a week later the songs that were part of the daily repertoire are still running through my head. “Chickarocka chickaboom” “Ladybug, ladybug” “Great White Shark” “The Jellybean Counting song” all still there.

I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to say goodbye the last day of school. They left so soon, each in different directions. And I wasn’t ready. Their faces, their voices, everything that is uniquely them, all gathered together in a string of memories I won’t let go of. I will miss reading to you Jonathan. I will miss you catching me when I miss a page. I will even miss your tantrums.

I will miss you Christopher and the impossibly cute way you talked, and the funny noises you made running on the playground. I know you all by name now. We are no longer strangers and I will wonder about you all my life.

You were my first class. And you taught me so much more than I could ever teach you. I will hold you in my heart and my prayers, and wonder about what you will grow up to be. Thank you for teaching me about how God loves us all. Each in our own uniqueness; each with our own bundle of idiosyncrasies and problems, insecurities and hangups.

Thank you God for shining down on me through those little ones. To show me how you love me. Even when I look right at you and defiantly insist on doing things my own way. I know now……I know more about how deep Your love really is and how much you thrill over my victories. And I know how you feel when I run to you with arms open wide and how you long for that.

Heart is where the Home is…….

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I flew in last night from spending a wonderful weekend at my cousin and his wife’s beautiful home in Sonoma, the heart of the wine country. The scenery was breathtaking, just as I remembered it when I was there too long ago at their wedding. More than that it was the faces I hadn’t seen, the greetings, the laughter, the joy of surprising everyone by showing up unexpectedly. The look on the faces of my family as they got out of the car and saw me were worth any amount to get there.

As wonderful as it all was, it was tiring. After the planes, shuttles, and rental cars it’s always good to get home. I have always thought being homeless would be the worst, having no place to belong, no place to get out of the storm, no place to call your own.

Scripture has much to say about home. Jesus had no physical dwelling place on this earth. About Himself he said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.” He knew His true home was Heaven, and so do we, if we belong to Him.

As I was meditating on the whole concept of home this morning at 2:30 AM when I couldn’t sleep, I was thinking that as believers, we carry “Home” around in the form of the Holy Spirit, who never leaves us. And since Heaven is our real permanent home, and Jesus continually said that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, right here and now, then it logically follows that our “real” home can never be snatched away. It’s here, it’s there it’s everywhere, kind of like the Beatles song of the same name. (Look it up those of you under 50)

As wonderful as it is to have a physical home right here and now, I know that if I lost it today it would be nothing compared to not having that home that never leaves me. there are few promises in Scripture better than the one that says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

Our future home in Heaven is more real than you can imagine. It’s not a figurative idea, it is a concrete place where nothing ever dies or rusts or wears out. While we are bound to this earth,  we are severely limited in what we can see and touch and feel. Our hope is in that better place. And yet Jesus said in many different ways, don’t just wander around dreaming of Heaven, but instead store up treasure there by helping those in need here. Look for opportunities to show God’s great love for humanity by being a conduit for His love yourself.

I guess you could say, we are all like the prodigal son who finally came to his senses and went back home. As wonderful as this world was to him at first, sooner or later it chewed him up and spit him out. He knew where he had to go. To His father’s waiting arms.

And while he expected to be treated like a servant, His Father ended up treating him like a prince. Listen to what the Bible says about how our Heavenly Father views us, friends:

“So he got up and went to His Father, “But while He was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Kind of like the greeting I got from my family as they saw me and gasped and then held out their arms open wide.

That kind of love is our real home. That’s the kind of love the Father’s has for us, and all we have to do is turn to Him and receive Him. That’s our hope. No matter how wonderful this world is, we have a better one coming.

You might feel like you are a long way off from God right now. Maybe it’s been years since you darkened the door of a church. Maybe you never have. But all it involves is one small step toward him, and like the father gazing out the window looking for his son (or daughter) He’s waiting.

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Photos from the home and property of John and Jean Painter………I sincerely hope they don’t mind.

How we can best honor the children

Delighting in the way....

In church yesterday there was a Dad sitting a seat away from me. Right next to him was his little boy, around aged 8 I would guess. I couldn’t help but notice that when we stood to pray or sing, that Dad had his arm around his son……and not in a casual way, tightly…….like he didn’t want to let him go. In fact, everywhere I looked, I seemed to see people holding their kids a bit closer. The question keeps framing itself in my mind…….How can we best honor to these children too soon gone?

The parents will be going through a horrific memorial service today, and it will be unspeakably sad. But the truth is, they will need our support much more in the months and years to come. When all the shock has worn off. I know this. They will need the support of friends and family. They will need to talk about how wonderful their kids were…….even when it makes others uncomfortable. By letting them talk, letting them remember, we honor the special light that belonged to their child and their child alone.

And we need to keep going and never give up, for them. They would want us to keep standing up for what’s right, and to never stop fighting that battle. Being light in a dark work is the most important thing we can do for them, and for our own kids. We need to be the answer for them, and the answer always holds hope

Most of all, we need to keep enjoying life, as they were surely doing their last hours on this earth. The excitement of Christmas hung in the air at that school.  I remember that feeling oh so well. I remember the Christmas concert we gave, and the big reindeer I got to decorate with red, green, and blue glitter when I was about their age. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And I think my parents did too. My Mom didn’t even mind the glitter that fell off everywhere that thing went.

If their voices had not been silenced by evil, I could imagine them saying to us all……..”Don’t be sad.” Kids hate when people are sad. And they are very happy now.

They would say, “Let’s go outside and play.” And they would teach us to run and jump in puddles and remember how that felt. They would teach us how to love all over again. Yes, the best way we can honor them is to honor the kid still inside us and be a beacon of light in a world that can be very dark sometimes.

It was a good day yesterday……and it felt good to have a good day.

Sitting at Cost Plus sipping my tea, I glanced at my phone and saw that I had a new voice mail from my brother’s phone. It was my niece and a big goofy smile spread across my face right there and my heart melted when I heard: “Hi Lowwie, C’mon call me kay…..call me Dad’s phone, Daddy’s phone….thank you, bye.”

And I never ever want to erase it. I want to freeze her innocence forever. I also thought of the kids, whose innocence was taken and yet now is perfectly preserved in Heaven, where nothing but innocence and love live on.

I called her back and we had a conversation in which she told me about her “babies, and baby kitty and Mima…..” and how we are going to have a party when I get there.

And later, as we made Christmas bags for the kids on Elaine’s route, her kids she calls them, I thought of those kids again and how right it was to be doing that for them.

So today, I will carry on and treasure the kids in my life, and yours. I will have a good day and do kid things and continue to shine the light of love whenever I can and hold out the hope that we always have in Christ.

To honor them.

And to honor Him.