Supplies

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There is something exciting about this time of year.  Summer is drawing to an end, school is starting, stores are filled with back to school clothes and supplies.  Oh the school supplies!  They call out to me.  I can’t help but take a look to see what new, colorful and unnecessary yet wonderful wares are for sale at the start of every year.  I was at Target with Jaime just a few weeks ago and when I mentioned I needed to check out the school section (for my tutoring business, naturally), a groan escaped the man’s lips.  I guess spending a lengthy amount of time browsing in the supply section wasn’t his idea of great time.  What?  Who doesn’t love school supplies?

Maybe I’m a little over the top.  I remember waiting eagerly for the supply list to arrive every August and poring over it as a child.  The list often gave a hint as to what the teacher might be like.  Did they require binders with dividers?  Were folders okay?  Were you allowed to use notebooks or did you have to have loose leaf paper?  I remember feeling proud and excited once I hit the age where pens made the list!  I always loved going to school and it was thrilling to have fresh, new things to take along on the first day.

I was a classroom teacher for seven years before cystic fibrosis caused my health to take a turn.  I left my job because I felt I needed to be away from the constraints of a full time job and especially away from the germs in the elementary setting.  While I was employed by the school district I spent all but one year teaching special education in a program that involved both instructing students in my own classroom, usually for some combination of reading, writing, and math, and supporting students in their general education classrooms for content areas such as science and social studies.  I loved teaching, and every year, when my former colleagues head back to work, I feel a bit wistful, and not just for the school supplies.

I remember clearly the feeling leading up to the end of summer.  I would simultaneously lament the loss of summer freedoms and feel excited and exhilarated as I headed back to begin a new year.  It’s nice to have a career where each year feels like a fresh start.  There were always new ideas to try out, new technologies available, new decor in the classroom, and new students to meet.  It was so much fun to go shopping, buy materials, and get all set up and ready for the students.  Things look so bright and shiny on the first day of school.  I would get there early, put a few finishing touches on the room, and wait.  The busses would pull up, the kids would file off, and the building would suddenly become alive with energy and chatter.  A new year!

I’m still a teacher even though I don’t work in a classroom anymore.  In many ways, tutoring is much the same as teaching special education only it’s one on one instead of small group instruction.  I get to foster relationships, target specific areas of need, and work on coming up with creative ideas, resources, and strategies to meet educational goals.  Tutoring is a bit more relaxed than teaching and there is more room for students to comfortably express themselves which I love.  I don’t have to attend long meetings, write IEP goals, mark report cards, or keep binders full of documentation anymore.  I don’t miss those things.

But there are things I miss.  I miss my colleagues.  It was fun to be part of a team of teachers, working together towards achieving the same goals of educating children and trying hard to make a positive difference in their lives for the time they were under our care.  I miss sharing daily life with those fellow workers and friends.  I miss being employed by a school district–being a part of a system that was working together for the greater good of the community and its families.  I also miss the classroom setting.  There was something deeply satisfying about smoothly running a special education room that included multiple grade levels, students with differing schedules and services, students with wildly different strengths and weaknesses.  I miss teaching groups of students–watching the dynamics between classmates, seeing relationships develop and blossom, observing the magic of children learning from one another.

It has been seven years since I resigned from my teaching job.  I can hardly fathom that.  When I left, I felt I had been teaching for so long, and now that amount of time has passed again in its entirety.  Giving up my job was very sad for me.  It was hard to lose a career that I loved, that fulfilled me, and that gave me a sense of purpose and a feeling of security.  I felt forced out by my my disease, strong armed by cystic fibrosis as it were.  Initially I felt defeated–like cystic fibrosis won and I lost.  Diseases do take.  They take away energy and strength, freedom, and sometimes dreams and aspirations.  But God gives.  The door closed on my classroom teaching career but God opened up new doors for me and gave me new things to do.  He gave me many wonderful students to tutor.  He gave me time to sleep, exercise, and focus on my health.  He gave me volunteer activites to pour myself into.  Four years after my resignation He gave me Lucas.  Being his mother has been my favorite vocation thus far.  Someday I’ll get to buy school supplies for him.

I actually bought some school supplies this year.  I couldn’t help it.  Here is what Lucas got:

An adorable pencil case creature (orange, of course!).

And here is what I got (for my business!  I promise!):

Ah, fresh folders and notebooks.

Ah, fresh folders and notebooks.

Gotta love new markers and a clean marker board with lines!

Gotta love new markers and a clean marker board with lines!

These pens may have been a bit superfluous.  But I like to make colorful notes for myself!

These pens may have been a bit superfluous. But I like to make colorful notes for myself!

I still miss my old job, but I adore my new one.  God is in the supplies business too.  He has supplied all my needs–for a purpose, for vocation, for things to do, and for people to love and serve.

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Operation Lace Up Update (2)

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I did it!  I ran two miles without stopping…a week earlier than planned!  I’m stunned.  I thought if I could meet this goal it was going to take a lot longer.  I’m so glad I was wrong!

I followed a couch to 5K program with the intention of stopping at the two mile mark.  I was hoping to be able to run the two miles in about six weeks using this program.  I spent the first four weeks running inside on the treadmill. I don’t prefer running on the treadmill because running in place with my basement walls to stare at–not exactly food for the soul.  However with the program I was combining running and walking and it made sense to have a timer right in front of my face.  Also, with the warm summer weather, I didn’t think I’d be able to run outdoors.  Heat and humidity sap my energy pretty quickly, so jogging in a cool basement with a fan blowing on my face seemed like a better option.

Overall I was really happy with how things progressed. Out of the first 13 workouts, I only had two bad ones.  One time I had to get off the treadmill because I was coughing so hard.  I had made it 17 minutes into the workout and doubted whether I could get through the last five.  But I got back on and finished.  Sometimes you just have to fight through it.  The second bad workout came on the heels of a very difficult and tiring week.  I hadn’t slept well and I just didn’t have any extra energy to give to running.  I had to hold onto the handles of the treadmill to get through the longer running stretches.

Once I got to the week five workouts, I knew I wanted to try running outside.  The first day I was supposed to jog for five minute stretches and the second day, eight minute stretches.  I seriously doubted whether I could run for eight minutes on the treadmill.  So I headed outside last Thursday.  The weather was perfect–72 degrees and 35% humidity with a light breeze (in August!).  I started running and a few minutes in, I realized I wasn’t getting tired.  I decided rather than run for five minutes, I’d run until I felt I needed to stop and see where I was at.  Much to my surprise, it kept going well.  It went well up the small hills in the neighborhood and went great down them.  The further I got the more I wanted to run the whole way.  At around a mile and a half it started to get pretty difficult but there was no way I was stopping at that point.  I can be stubborn too (although Lucas gets his stubbornness from Jaime 😉 ).  I pushed through and completed the run in 27 minutes and 5 seconds.

Tonight I ran again and completed the two miles for the second time.  Despite warmer temps (77 degrees) and much higher humidity (73%), the run actually felt easier than Thursday’s run.  Hooray!  I completed tonight’s run in 27 minutes 8 seconds.  I went a bit later tonight and was amused and pleased to find that the beautiful, bright pink shoes Lucas bought for me glow in the dark :).

imageI’m not going to say that I’ve completed Operation Lace Up yet.  I would like to shave a minute or two off my time if I can, and more than anything, I want to stay consistent with my jogging.

I’ve learned a few things through this process.  This is probably the first time I’ve made a reasonable, sustainable exercise goal.  Instead of trying to do it all–weight training, plus running a 5K, plus one day of yoga, plus working out five days a week…I kept it simple.  I am working out just three days a week.  I started with just 20 minutes.  I’m only doing the jogging right now.  Making it feasible based on my health and lifestyle was key, I think.

Also, although I’m a positive and optimistic person, I really doubted whether I could run again.  I just wasn’t sure I could after so many years of not running.  I didn’t know if my lungs could handle it, and I didn’t know if I had enough stamina given the challenges of caring for a busy boy.  I almost didn’t even try.  It is possible that I could have tried and failed, and that would have been alright too. The mistake would have been not trying.  And one more thing I learned: I am finally at the point where I can be proud of what I am able to achieve now without getting caught up on how it compares to my abilities of the past, or how it compares to the abilities of others.  I know that a 13.5 minute mile is slow for most people.  It is far slower than what I used to be able to run.  But for me, right now, it’s a big accomplishment, and I am proud of it.

What about you?  Is there anything you’ve been wanting to do?  Any goals you’ve been putting off?  Maybe you need to modify them to make them realistic.  Maybe your accomplishments won’t be as impressive as someone else’s.  But don’t be afraid to try.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  ~Winston Churchill

Three Years Old

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Our boy is three years old today!  I’ll skip the “time flies” and “this is going too fast” sentiments and get down to telling you how great he is and how much we love him.

Here are a few things that make Lucas, Lucas!

  • Lucas loves to sing and breaks into song regularly. Sometimes he uses a sweet little voice or hums and other times he belts it out, usually in the library or some other place where quietness is encouraged. He sings along with us in church even though he doesn’t know the words. His favorite songs are Jesus Loves Me and the ABC song. Lucas is also well versed in several classics by The Beatles, Oasis, and Arctic Monkeys after a few years of Jaime selecting his “lullabies” before bed. Lucas will regularly ask me to sing a song about something random. The expectation is that if there isn’t an existing song about said topic, I will create one on the spot and be prepared to sing it exactly the same way the next time he asks.
  • Lucas’s favorite color is orange.  And it’s a very strong preference.  We have orange plates, orange bowls, orange diapers, orange shirts, orange shoes, orange toothbrushes, orange balls, orange blocks, a plethora of orange vehicles…you get the idea.  I’m pretty sure there’s an orange bedroom in our future.
  • Lucas is the snuggliest kid I know.  We still cuddle him to sleep every night. He enjoys the comfort of our laps while listening to stories or watching TV (on the rare occasion we can convince him to sit and watch TV). He loves to hold, hug and climb all over his favorite people.  I love his little proclamations: “I hug you.  I kiss you.  I ‘nuggle’ you, Mommy.”
  • He almost always uses the word “okay” instead of yes.  I have no idea why but it’s really cute.  There is the sad, tearful “okay” that almost breaks your heart and the “OH-KAY!” spoken with great gusto when he’s excited.
  • Lucas loves to go out.  This is interesting because he is not an extrovert by any means.  But he loves to play outside, ride buses around town, visit Daddy at work, play at friends’ houses, go to the library, museums, the zoo, the pool, etc.  The only place he detests is the mall.  Don’t take him to the mall; you will regret it.
  • He has a lot of little routines that he loves–like going in “Daddy’s gray car” to look for deer, or waking me up every morning, or going to the three neighborhood parks in the correct order (first green slide, next blue slide, then red slide as he calls them).  He prefers to take the same route to his frequented hangouts and will let us know if we deviate.  (“DAT WAY!!!”).
  • Lucas usually calls us Mommy and Daddy but sometimes its Mom and Dad and other times it’s “guys.”  “Come on guys!”  “Let’s go guys!”
  • He has had a few different obsessions in his lifetime.  In the past they were trashcans, rocks (as in landscaping rocks which he liked to walk on), fire hydrants, Sesame Street characters, animals, and car he called “dirty car”  (a rusty old station wagon parked on the street around the corner from our house).  His current obsession is pickup trucks. It’s nearly impossible for us to drive anywhere without having to search the parking lot for a pickup truck to park by (preferably red, but black, white, and silver are also acceptable). Heaven help us if we ever find an orange one.  Lucas insists on getting out, standing next to the truck and claiming it as “Lucas’s pickup truck” before we are allowed to continue on our way.
  • Lucas has strong emotions.  He is very stubborn and hot tempered at times.  He can be impatient and gets frustrated easily.  On the flip side he’s extremely loving and affectionate.  He’s exuberant, enthusiastic, joyful…there’s never a dull moment around here!

It’s hard to remember exactly what life was like before Lucas.  I’m pretty sure I was more rested and had less wrinkles.  I vaguely remember something called “free time.”  The house was organized and clean, there was more money in the bank and less food in the fridge.  I think I did laundry once a week.  Now that we have Lucas, that’s all changed!  We have traded an organized house for one strewn with toys, folded laundry in our drawers for diapers straight out of the laundry basket.  We spend our money on things like orange Hot Wheels cars and Sesame Street themed squeezy packs because seeing Lucas’s face light up–well, there’s nothing quite like it.  Raising Lucas has been challenging, bewildering, downright maddening at times but more than anything it has been fulfilling, rewarding and absolutely wonderful. Our hearts are filled to the brim with joy and thankfulness, and at the end of the day, we wouldn’t change a thing.  Okay, maybe one or two things…

Lucas, you are our precious gift from God. We can no longer imagine our lives without your smiles and laughs; you light up our world. You have given us God’s riches, we love you so much. Happy third birthday!

Newborn Lucas

Newborn Lucas

First Birthday

First Birthday

Second Birthday

Second Birthday

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Three!

An Inheritance of One

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downloadI don’t know if it ever happens to you…you are reading and all of a sudden the words seem to jump off the page.  It is as if they were written just for you.  This happened to me recently.  I was reading a devotional that has different scriptures listed one after another, each selected by the author who reportedly prayed for specific revelation for each day and then recorded the verses he was given.  Here is what I jumped out at me:

“We do not know what we ought to pray for–He shall choose our inheritance for us.”  (Taken from Romans 8:26 and Psalm 47:4).

This post deserves some background.  You see, I love children.  I love the children I teach.  I love the children in my family.  I love my friends’ children.  And oh, do I love my own child.  I can’t begin to put that into words.  I always imagined that I would have a house full of kids: the pitter patter of several sets of feet.  Some years into our marriage, Jaime and I felt we were ready for children.  I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t conceive right away.  I knew that I may have some challenges getting pregnant because of my cystic fibrosis.  However, I had no idea that a perforated appendix followed by an emergency appendectomy I had when I was 18 had wreaked havoc in my abdomen.  What I thought might be a few minor fertility issues turned out to be a complicated nightmare.

It took us nearly six years of trying various interventions to conceive Lucas, although we weren’t always actively trying for a pregnancy during that time.  There were other storms we were weathering–my CF health crises, another major emergency abdominal surgery, the death of my beloved sister–at times it seemed best to put the dream of children and the effort of trying to conceive on the back burner.  I was happy without children.  Jaime and I had a wonderful and full life together.  However, having a child was a dream I just couldn’t give up.  I didn’t need a baby to be happy, but I felt that motherhood was a part of me.  I was a mother waiting for a child.  We were elated when we found out that I was pregnant with Lucas.  All those years of trying, trusting, hoping, praying, fearing, all came to a sudden, sweet and blessed end.

When I was reading my devotional the other day, I was dealing with some emotional pain.  You see, we would really love to have another child.  We always wished for multiple children, and those feelings intensified after we had Lucas.  Parenting has been grueling at times, but we adore Lucas and have loved watching him grow.  We wish to have that experience again.  We want another child for ourselves and we want a sibling for Lucas.  But it looks as though that is not God’s plan for us.

I was surprised at how devastated I was when this became clear to us. After all, I am a mother now just as I’d always hoped.  But giving up the dream of another baby was awful.  I felt angry, cheated, confused, and broken.  Why wouldn’t God give me this good gift?  Why?

Time has passed and some healing has taken place.  Most days I’m content with just having my sweet boy Lucas.  He is a blessing and a miracle–a precious gift.  We have a wonderful and happy life, the three of us.  There are things I can do with one child that I probably couldn’t do with multiple children.  I don’t pretend to know the ramifications more children would have on my health, our lifestyle, or our future.  Still, there are times when that pain comes back, grabs me by the throat and takes my breath away.  There are times when I grieve the loss of the children that I want, that my heart longs to love, but that I will never have.

Here is the entire devotional from that day (taken from A Daily Light on the Daily Path, compiled by Samuel Bagster):

Let your requests be made known to God.

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”—A thorn was given me in the flesh. . . . Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses.

I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.—Hannah . . . was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and . . . will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.” . . . and the Lord remembered her.—We do not know what we ought to pray for–He shall choose our inheritance for us.

(References: Philippians 4:6; Mark 14:36; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Psalm 142:2; 1 Samuel 1:9-11, 19; Romans 8:26; Psalm 47:4)

I could write an entire post about each of these verses.  There is so much truth, so much comfort, and so much of my life in these verses.  That night, it was the last two that stuck out to me.  Part of living a life of faith is trusting that God’s plan is best, letting Him choose, and being willing to surrender our lives to His plan.  That is so difficult when what He allows in our lives involves pain and hardship.  It’s hard when His plan is a diversion from what we long for, dream of and expect.  Many times I have prayed for what I thought was best only to see that God had a different, better plan for me or for those I love.  It’s not always obvious though.  Sometimes I can see God’s purposes and sometimes I can’t.  But whether or not I can see it, whether or not I understand, God’s plan is best.  His plan is best even when the path is wrought with suffering, even when I face bitter disappointment. 

I don’t mean to suggest that God causes the heartache in our lives.  We live in a broken world and we can’t escape the repercussions of that.  God doesn’t always prevent our pain, however, and that can be very hard to swallow.  I have been disappointed with God, angry at Him and confused by Him.  I have questioned Him.  But ultimately, it’s the experience of His love for me and the memory of His great faithfulness that brings me back to the place of trust.  God lives in eternity and I am bound by time.  He sees the big picture; I can only see what’s right in front of me.  He is sovereign and I am finite.

I don’t know why God has not given us another child, but He owes me no explanation.  I know He loves me and I know he has a purpose and a plan for me. That is enough.  Children are an inheritance from the Lord (Psalm 127:3).  They are an allotted portion, a gift, a blessing.  I trust my Savior.  He has chosen our legacy for us.  He has chosen to give us the rich inheritance of one.