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.

Hope for the Mustard Seed Prayers

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Recently we traveled back to where this blog started, where my prayer was most alive. It was good to be there. The downside was the mustard was blooming, it was beautiful but I think it was really wreaking havoc with my sinuses. I wasn’t acclimated to it as I used to be. As my Grandmother used to say in German, “With beauty comes suffering” or some such thing. The mustard plants made me think of what Jesus said about having faith as small as a mustard seed:

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there, ‘ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matt. 17:20

I don’t know about you but that verse has always made me feel a little doomed. Who actually expects that they could move a mountain with a prayer? What did Jesus mean? I can imagine the disciples being a little exasperated. And yet when He sent them out two by two, they came back exhilarated…….the lame walked, demons cast out, hearings occurred right and left.

And later, when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost they found that their prayers did indeed produced great miracles. In fact, people had only to grab their garments and they were healed!

What does this mean for us today? Does this mean that we shouldn’t even pray? No indeed. It means that we should always pray for God to help our unbelief and increase our faith. Prayer transforms us from the inside out. There are so many people I know whose prayers began with: “If you are there Lord…….” Or just plain, “Help me, Lord!”

It means that God blesses even little scraps of faith. He takes those tiny seeds of hope and prayer that we send up and answers us with an assurance that He does indeed hear. In fact, He loves it when we acknowledge Him, however insignificant our words may seem. He can take that mustard seed and change a heart, change a life, and yes, move mountains in our lives. I have seen way too many lives changed (including my own) to not believe in prayer, however small and weak my faith might be.

Keep on praying. I can assure you that you will be blessed by God opening up a canyon in your heart. I love these quotes from Frederick Buechner:

According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it. The images He uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all. He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again.

Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-29)

May your day be peaceful. Talk to God today, even if you are not sure He’s there or even listening. You will be blessed!

Good Day (of) Sunshine

image For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land…..Song of Solomon 2:11,12

I know winter is not over yet but all over there are whispers of hope. I saw bulbs coming up, maybe narcissus the other day. We have had consecutive gray days and this morning, after a patter of steady but light rain the sun came out and the birds were giving their exuberant assent back and forth across the sky. Blue sky changes things. Just a smattering of sun reminds us that things just might be okay after all.

I was feeling thankful that this could bring me joy because to some in their minds all days are alike. I know this, I have seen that heartbreak. The thing that makes Christianity stand out so starkly in the climate of our world is that no matter our circumstance, the Holy Spirit lives and breathes within us and fans that flame alive even when life around us points to the contrary.

Satan can fling his accusations at us all he wants, just daring us to hope. He tries in vain to pull the shutters down from inside because he knows his time is short. He will settle for a few moments of despair here and there. He has lost, my friends, and he knows it. He lost long ago on that hallowed ground where Jesus gave His Momma over to the care of Mark and forgave the world, forgave us.  His last breath here was only His reentrance back Home, just as it will be for us.

For those who have followed my journey here, you know I have moved back where home once was, the only home I knew. I feel a bit like Bilbo Baggins describing his “There and back again” journey. I have met my own little Smaugs. I have been job searching. Going on job interviews feels like first dates from what I can remember.

You go through that exultation that you got the interview (the date) then you have the instant regret and desperation…….(will they, won’t they call.) The anxiety, the waiting for the email, the phone call. Hoping they will, hoping they won’t (when you think you made the wrong choice)

I am proud of myself and my milestones lately. They haven’t found me employment yet, but they have brought me something else. A victory that has grafted into myself that no one can take away. It’s God’s and mine. And everyone that prayed for me.

There was the 3 hour assessment test which I passed. And the typing test just the other day. Both times E said, just take them! And I was hoping for 45 words a minute on the typing test and I got 46! God is so generous. It was kind of surreal. It was a beautiful office and I could see other people settled happily in their suites, an architect here, a real estate office there, an attorney farther down. It was like entering another world.

And I greeted the two gals at Blue Ribbon Personnel. They were well dressed and standing at their ergonomically correct workstations, like the one I had when I had a job. It was like old home week.

Thankfully there were no numbers or special characters on the test. As Elaine said, Angels wings were there on the keyboards.

God has birthed a new day and I am going to step out in it and see where He wants me to go next. I don’t think I plagiarized the Beatles because I added the “of.” The lyrics are how I feel right this moment.

Peace on your day.

Kinda like Heaven

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My brother and I with Thunder, circa 1965 or so……

There used to be a row of houses on the next block over from where I lived. We knew every family that lived there very well. The houses were owned by the adjacent hospital but I never knew that.  About 10 or 15 years ago now, one by one all the current occupants moved out and the houses themselves were physically moved to a neighboring town.

Growing up, I spent hours inside every one of those houses. Some of them many, many hours. Starting from left to right, there were the Meier’s, then the Matsumoto’s, (whose kids were almost part of the family since my Mom watched Rhonda and Jeff when their Mom went to work.) Next to them were the Merry’s, then the Dillon’s. It was quite a spectacle to watch those houses be readied for a move.

I was reminded of all this yesterday when I took Mom to the store and saw Harriet and Sam Matsumoto. Sam has cancer now, on chemo. I can remember when he used to drive Rhonda and I to school sometimes, he would turn on the vents and stuff would fly out.

I was thinking of those houses, those people, this morning at 3:00 AM when I couldn’t sleep. In my memory I see every house, every family. I remember the night our dog got hit by a car and we mourned the loss sitting in Rhonda’s room. I remember the day I was swimming in the back yard of the Meier’s when the Dollinger boy came with a boa wrapped around his neck. I remember Todd Dillon running home when he cracked his chin in our driveway. So many memories.

I was thinking that in those days I could have knocked on any one of those doors and would have been welcomed. Offered a cooky or ice-cream bar. I would have listened and respected those parents like my own.

It struck me that must be a little of what Heaven is like. Being able to knock on any door and be welcomed. Now it seems few neighbors know each other. My folks just about have to flag the younger people down to talk to them before the garage swallows them up in the evenings. It’s sad.

I am not in John Lennon’s camp, even though I loved the Beatles back in the day.  I love to imagine Heaven because for me it’s just as real as this world, more real in fact. The Bible says in Heaven we will be fully known.

No worries about money, no mortgage, no war, no death, no homelessness, no crime, no pain or sadness. No loneliness or heartache for what might have been. No disease or any kind.

And God will wipe every tear. That sounds pretty darn good to me right now. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of good still left in this world, and much to celebrate. But I don’t think anyone would argue that it needs some redeeming right about now.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him…….1 Corinthians 2:9

Rediscovering an old friend

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Elaine, my BFF bought me this Raleigh (I think maybe for my Birthday) around 27 years ago and its served me well. I remember the day I wheeled it off the lot shiny new and sparkling, gears clicking promise of miles to come. I loved it then and I love it still. The bike shop where it was purchased is still there, in fact. I’ve had offers to sell it, but I wouldn’t dream of it. We’ve been through too much together.

When I lived up in Payson, Arizona I put some fatter mountain-bikey tires on it for the decomposed granite that was everywhere there. That was years ago now. I think of all the ground that was covered since, and I can hardly believe it.

Just about a year ago, we wrestled the bikes onto the back of the Motorhome when we moved back here. How well I remember that day. It was beastly hot and we were physically and emotionally exhausted. E was in a boot for her plantar fasciitis.

Leaving home and people and things we loved and then a terrible moving experience all fed into it. But as the last cable was lashed on and they were secure we breathed a sigh of relief. After we got here they each received a tune-up and were rested in their new temporary home in my Aunt’s garage. To me they looked relieved if such a thing is possible.

And my bike and I, we have gotten reacquainted this year. Now I can bike places again and I am loving it. I am recovering ground I went over years ago as a kid, then as a teen, and later a twenty-something. Then, I rode my bike everywhere.  I still remember the time my friend and I were riding to school and she dropped her purse  in the middle of the street and a car ran over it. She had a jar of Vaseline which broke all over everything.

I still get a little thrill when I ride across the railroad tracks, like I am crossing over another side of the world. I rode downtown yesterday morning. I felt the kind of freedom biking gives that you just can’t get in a car. Perfect weather………a perfect slice of a cool early fall day and the trees are just thinking of maybe dropping a few leaves here and there. I made a dog friend and saw my baby kitties in the pet grooming place. And I saw my co-worker and his girlfriend at the coffee shop.

Later I rode to the lake to meet family for a picnic. The only thing I had to worry about was not hitting the telephone poles spaced just so on the sidewalk between the yards. Funny how you know you have room but tuck your elbows in and wobble a bit just the same. I only had to touch down once or twice. Afterwards I rode home and parked her in her spot.

I added a new accessory this year, a white basket which I can carry stuff in. Not too big, just enough room for my phone and a book or lunch. Bikes are a little bit magic I think. Each time I get on and ride, I think of Christmas long ago when I was ten and my big present that year was a blue Schwinn. Somewhere there is a picture of me in my faux fur white coat with the silver buttons and my teeth sticking out (before braces) smiling big with the wind in my hair.

Magic then, and a little bit of magic still.

Chess, old cars and a reunion

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Two things I don’t know much about: Classic car engines and chess. But yesterday I learned a little about both. I learned that it’s a common thing for chess players to set up a board and wait for an opponent to show up. I had no idea. That’s so cool.

I learned about these types of engines…..

 

A friend’s husband and son had a couple corvettes at the local Car Show downtown so we decided to go see what was what. I was staggered at the amount of classic cars buffed and polished, lining the street like artwork. I snapped way too many pictures. It was hard not to, they don’t make these beauties anymore. As we passed by the different engines, Elaine was explaining how they worked. (She inherited her Dad’s talent for engineering and making anything run.)

The one on the left in her words:

“Three two barrel carburetors which in the car world is called a six-pack (more power, hence more fuel to the engine) The 442 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a Dynaglide transmission which was patented by Oldsmobile.”

And the one on the right:

“A 496 cubic inch twelve-hundred horse power turbo charged engine.” Very fast. (Most cars today maybe push 200 horse power tops.)

We looked at cars in between ducking into some local antique shops for about two hours when we saw the little Cellar with tables that looked very inviting right on the street. It was a perfect place to rest awhile and another excuse celebrate my Birthday early. We sat there enjoying Champagne like rich people who don’t have a care in the world. (Is that ever not true!) I wondered out loud about the Cheese Shop next door, but they didn’t have anything ready-made, so Elaine ventured further down and brought back a wonderful appetizer plate with meats, cheese and crackers which was perfect. She was like an explorer coming back from an expedition.

So now for the story about the Chess guy. He was an older gentleman who came walking up to the table adjacent to ours with his duffel bag in tow. He proceeded to set up his chess board in preparation for a game, as if waiting for some competition.

While we were sipping and talking I asked Elaine if that was something chess people did and she said yes. Sometimes whole mini worlds open up to me that I never knew existed. I love when that happens.

We noticed a young couple walk by and make a comment to the elderly man, it sounded like a throw-down to me. I kinda thought it was all in jest, but by and by they came back and the young man sat down facing the elderly man on the “white” side of the chess board. He said with a smile, “Do you remember me?” Turns out, years ago the kid’s father thought it would be a good thing for him to get his hands dirty harvesting potatoes on this farmer’s land and this elderly gentlemen was that farmer!

Well, then he said his name and his eyes lit up in disbelief and ours did too. I was thinking that we were witnessing something really special. They commenced to play, but not before I snapped this photo. I will treasure it and the memory of that day.

When we had champagne and cheese in the middle of the afternoon. And for a little while, all was right with the world. We had witnessed a Divine connection, what can really happen when people choose to reconnect and remember a simpler time and bring it all back to the present.

Restoration…….(kind of like what God does with us.)

Behold, I show you a new thing……..Isaiah 43:19

Just a very partial showing of Elaine’s restoration projects I thought I would showcase today……..My Prayer Closet out of her Mom’s old beat up dresser, a window covering you can open and close, a candy scale that was sad, corroded and forgotten, and a new table for my Aunt’s wash area! It is amazing living with a restorer and creator.

And her latest, the iron was weathered and tarnished and the wood just about gone…….we were about to throw out until I said (as we were dragging it to the scrap heap)……..”Wow, this iron frame is heavy, it’s a shame to not save it!”

And the newest Lubester……..

I love how she sees things. A piece of wood is never tossed out……she has a vision for what it could be made into. And the old rusty and forgotten is seen for what it once was and what it can be again.

This is the beauty of what God longs to do in each of our lives, my friends.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

And now she is outside building a cat house for the neighbor’s cats. They have the whole acreage here to run around in but they have decided home base is the Motorhome. Well, they were neglected and the neighbor is hardly ever home so a handful of food here and there become a twice daily regular feeding time.

Like I said, this is just a sampling of what she’s done over the years and for many recipients other than myself over the years, given away as labors of love. God has blessed the work of her hands as she blesses others. She amazes me.

I am so glad God has chosen not to leave me on the scrap heap. He is the Creator and Restorer of all times and all seasons, and that includes me and you.

“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Always just a little bit of mystery isn’t there? God has the right to keep some things under wraps, but someday all will be perfectly explained and understood.

Enjoy the beauty of His creation this weekend. I leave you peace…….