Sunday, April 24, 2011


     Peace... Jeremiah and David watching a movie. Phil resting after a long weekend.  The hiatus before another work week comes full force upon us.
     Wind...  As I sat in the swing outside just now, I felt the breeze stirring around me, unseen in the darkness and also, unseen in my heart, lifting, sweeping my thoughts towards the One who created all the things that eddy and circle around me... life in all it's complexity...He is the Creator/Sustainer.
     People... Lifting them up to Father God in the twilight,  crying out to Him for a child I've never met, for many that I love, and for those I once loved, once hated, and long to love again.. this time with the purity of His love.
    And I sense that He is working, that something more than the breeze is stirring..
    But then... later... in the light.... in the kitchen.... busy and already moving forward in mind's eye to the week ahead, I wonder:  is Aslan really on the move or was it my imagination?
    Was the breeze only.. .just a breeze?
    Still, something stirs in my heart..
    Hope that won't be denied..
    It is the Name of Jesus...
    Hope of earth and joy of Heaven.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

    In my marathon shopping spree yesterday, I hit quite a few stores.  In one, I found myself standing in line at the lingerie/sleep-wear counter staring at a larger-than-life, well-endowed woman who was about 1% covered.  The framed poster was hard to miss.  Which was why it was put there.
   When I finally got to the counter, I looked at the poster and blurted out, "Even when I was skinny, I never looked like that..."
   The young girl waiting on me was very pretty and... well, young.  So I thought she wouldn't "get" what I was saying.  Instead, to my surprise, she responded, "I'm glad you commented on that. They told us that in all the pictures  posted here, the women would have to be covered..."  She glanced back at the picture and said, "That picture... well, it looks to me like something is about to spill... if you know what I mean."
   I know I'm old-fashioned.  But as I was leaving I thought about my grandfather.  He loved movies, went to at least one a week and recorded the titles in the back of his diary faithfully.  When a blockbuster new film came out, he took my mom and her younger brother to see the film.  In the middle of it, he made his family get up and walk out of the theater.  Why? Because it was too graphic. One of the main characters, Melanie, was in obvious child birth and sweat was popping out on her face while there were close-ups of her hands wringing a twisted sheet together in her agony. The film?  Gone with the Wind.
   As I walked out of the store, I wondered what Grandpa would have had to say about the poster I had just seen.  And I wondered what young girls thought as they looked up at this air-brushed, scantily-clad, super-model beauty and then thought about their own faces and figures.
  But really, I mostly just thought that a person should be able to go into a department store with their kids  without having to look at trash.
  And maybe if enough moms comment on it, they would put up something a little more suitable for families.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Not TGIF but....

"...he grew up like a young plant,
like a root out of dry ground.
 He was not well-formed or especially handsome;
we saw him, but his appearance did not attract us.
People despised and avoided him,
a man of pains, well acquainted with illness.
Like someone from whom people turn their faces,
he was despised; we did not value him.

In fact, it was our diseases he bore,
our pains which he suffered;
yet we regarded him as punished,
stricken and afflicted by God.
But he was wounded because of our crimes,
crushed because of our sins;
the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him,
and by his bruises we are healed.

We all, like sheep, went astray;
we turned, each one, to his own way;
yet Adonai laid on him
the guilt of all of us.
Though mistreated, he was submissive -
he did not open his mouth.
Like a lamb led to be slaughtered,
like a sheep before his shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
After forcible arrest and sentencing,
he was taken away;
and none of his generation protested
his being cut off from the land of the living
for the crimes of my people, who deserved the punishment themselves.
He was given a grave among the wicked;
in his death, he was with a rich man.

Although he had done no violence
and had said nothing deceptive,
yet it pleased Adonai to crush him with illness,
to see if he would present himself as a guilt offering.."

Isaiah 53: 2 - 10a

Good Friday...
Thanking Him for....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Still workin' on it....

  I have a tee-shirt that is black with a green smiley face on it. But the mouth has duct tape over it and the basic message is - if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.  I bought it one year when I was stressing (now let's see.. which year would that be?  Any one of the past 30??? ) and I thought about hanging it over my desk as a reminder to watch my mouth. I don't have a lot of trouble controlling what I say in the classroom but out of it, I do.
  My mind seems at times to latch onto  negative things like a lint roller picks up lint.  And then, of course, I verbalize what is displeasing in the news, in my life, at home, whatever.  And then, I tell my poor husband that he is too negative...:(
  Today I  saw glasses, not  just half-empty but also leaking rapidly,  where ever I went... So I made an extra effort to compliment the kids on the work they were doing in class.  I also tried to keep a sense of humor.  And even when the fire alarm went off three times in my afternoon classes, I bit my tongue and just looked on the bright side.. yes, the alarm is amazingly, agonizingly loud - it's supposed to be - and standing out in the rain is a bit of a bummer...but my kids seem happy right now and they sure weren't enthused over the Industrial  Revolution a few minutes earlier... so, we're good!
   But of course I was complaining about everything before I got out of school and then rehearsing my complaints on the way home to no one in particular.. since I was the only one in the car.... (And why don't I rehearse the good things over and over ?????  I mean, does Joshua 1:8 tell us to meditate on the annoying things in life??? I really don't think so... And, sadly, that's my, uh, memory verse for this week...Ugh!!!!)
   On the way home, I stopped at the bus stop and waited for my niece.   Since it was raining, I thought it would be fun to pick her up and save her the half-mile walk to her house;, hear about her day at school.  But I got to the bus stop early and so I pulled out the ol' Kindle and started reading my new devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young - which I'm about 3 days behind on... And guess what?  Right in front of me is the passage I should have read this morning and it is about letting God control my thoughts and fill my mind with life and peace.
    Then I looked at the one that I should have read yesterday... and it was about not being afraid.  Mrs. Young used the verse Mark 4:39 where Jesus says  "Peace be still!" and the wind does what he tells it to do.  Smart wind...
     Maybe that would have helped me when I was cowering in the hallway the other night while the sirens were going off....
     Ya reckon???
      Just a slow learner, like Guinness-Book-of-World-Records slow...
      I've heard God writes straight with crooked sticks.. hope that is true.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Foolish enough to "get it"....

     I'm really tired so this may not make a lot of sense.  But I want to try to get this down before the moment passes - which may happen quickly since a nap is definitely on my agenda for the near future...!
     I didn't want to go to the Beth Moore conference this weekend simply because of the time it would take, plus, I'm not a big fan of Verizon Arena - my knees don't do stairs well anymore.  (If you don't already know it: weekends are for catching up on sleep :)
     This week it seemed that something happened almost every night to disturb our rest and Thursday's storms were the coup d'grace.   Friday I just kept thinking that when I got the e-mail from the church several weeks ago saying someone had paid for me to go to the conference, I should have responded with, "I really appreciate it but I can't go," and left it at that.   As tired as I was, in retrospect, it seemed like the wisest thing I could have done.
      And so now I'm wondering how often "foolish" passes for "wise" with me... So thankful I didn't do the "wise" thing in this case.
     At any rate, seeing 8,000 women - young mothers with babies, elderly women in wheel chairs and every age person in-between  in the arena was a powerful thing, truly.  Listening to thousands of sweet voices raised together in song was amazing.  I looked around this morning at all the women in those stands and thought, "This is what Heaven is going to be like, only oh, so much greater..."  (Not that I mean only women are going to be in Heaven...:)
     But the big thing I noticed was that I didn't see any perfect women.  And I always see perfect women - especially at Dillards and on t.v..  Which is maybe why I don't shop at Dillard's much and I prefer to read books as opposed to watching the telly..
    Anyway, maybe it was just me - but I didn't feel like anyone this weekend was putting on a show or trying to impress.  When Beth said, "Maybe you don't have any big problems in your life; maybe your marriage has been problem-free..." and then added, "I guess that could happen..."  we all started laughing. And I mean, we all started laughing... Well, perhaps I should amend that to all the married women:)
     When Beth asked for women to stand to be prayed over, she prefaced that by saying, "And Ladies, if someone in your group stands for prayer, don't ask them later why they stood!"  When she called my "number", I stood with several hundred other women for prayer and as soon as a I sat down, my friend leaned over and said, "So, why did you stand???" and we both cracked up.
    At another time, during break, they were showing a video of several hundred people - in ordinary clothes - doing a choreographed dance to Christian music. In the background were some high rise buildings.  I heard my friend say, "I think that must be a city in the South..."  She was serious and I was too as I asked why she thought that. She paused for a minute and then said, "Well, I don't think people in the North do things like that..." and we started laughing again. Laughter is good and acceptance is precious...freeing... And I"m thinking maybe it's a diminishing quality in our Madison Avenue society....
    I figure  Beth's transparency and certainly the prayers blanketing the conference, set the tone for the whole weekend -where we could just be ourselves, laugh, listen, and even cry.  (It was all okay!)  And I guess I'm  saying that the relaxed atmosphere, the honesty, and just knowing that I belong to such a large group of women (who are really only just a drop in the bucket when you think of all our sisters throughout the world who are trying hard to follow after Him) - all of that made attending this conference sooo much smarter than doing my usual Friday night/Sat. morning routine.  Most weekends provide stare-at-the-wall time and that's good. But this weekend was stare-at-God time and that was needed, at least by me.
    At one point this morning, when Beth was saying that it wasn't us or our friend or the church that brought us to the conference but God... it suddenly dawned on me... God really did bring me! Tears started flowing (I hate it when  that happens but, again, it was really okay!). Why did the tears pop out?  Because it hit me: I never intended to go.  IN fact, I fully intended not to go.  Seriously,  I thought I had turned down the first offer of the free ticket but apparently I hadn't...  And I'm telling you, if I had bought my own ticket, as tired as I was yesterday, I would have just opted out at the last minute. But I couldn't waste someone else's money...
   So God did bring me to the conference at this time and He brought me there for a reason, which I'll probably write about some day, after I've had time to process it..
   And in the meantime, I'm grateful.. for Beth Moore, for the conference, for the fact that God shows up in unexpected ways, for the fact that I'm not the only imperfect person on the planet but actually there are a bunch of us :) :) And, obviously, I'm also  thankful  for the unknown person who said, "I will" when God impressed them to buy a ticket for me.
   Next time, maybe it will be my turn to do the buying at His bidding ... If that happens, hope I'm "foolish" enough to "get it..."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ten on the Ninth in anticipation of.. the tenth...

1.  I am thankful that my parents let me sit in the balcony at church under the supervision of my older sister when I was small.  Trust me -that took a HUGE leap of faith on their part:)  To this day, I still prefer to sit in the balcony b/c of the memories it brings back to my heart and mind - mostly of the organist playing the Doxology every Sunday, no holds barred while I swung my legs back and forth and longed for the day when my feet would touch the floor... I thought every church started off with the Doxology every Sunday morning and I fully expect to hear it when I enter Heaven..

2.  Speaking of which,  I am thankful that my sister is living in Heaven right now.  She struggled with mental illness from the time she was 27 until she died in 2008 at the age of 60.  Before she was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic,  she was pretty,  hard-working, smart and fun to be around. She was a great mom and wife and for me, the perfect older sis.   I look forward to the day when I will see her restored physically and mentally to the way she was in her prime. Great times are ahead!  Of this I have no doubt!

3.  I'm not always thankful that my dad was abusive but I am thankful for this:  that because he was a bad father in some ways, I had to find another father and through BSF, I was led to trust God for all things fatherly.    And to this day, I still remember specific ways that He helped me - even involving such practical dilemmas as car repairs on a nothing budget or being swamped with feelings of jealousy as I saw my peers being hugged by their dads and then, later, being swamped by feelings of amazing love as I felt His invisible arms just wrapped around me.. Woo Hoo!! I found I had the best dad in the whole world!!!

4. And then, as if that weren't enough, He gave me a real earthly father. Another thing to be thankful for!!!   When  I got married I soon  realized that I got a two-for-one deal - a husband in Phil and a dad in our neighbor, Cecil.  Cecil and Thelma became like second parents to me and I loved it.  I have to admit that it was a little startling to hear my "dad" tell me that he loved me or that I was  a great mom or that I was beautiful.  But so neat!!!  When God restores what is lost, He doesn't do a half-way job!

5.  And then, guess what?  He also gave me another sister and for her, I am eternally thankful!!!  She's a  beautiful, smart, funny, hard-working Jewish lady who entered my life via the net  in June of 2001.  Over the years we've shared everything from notes on menopause to cancer diagnoses to dilemmas with our sons to comparing notes about our twin careers as teachers.   How neat is that????   On the other side of the world, I have a sweet sister!!! And when I retire, look out Tel Aviv!!! Here I come!!! (But first I have to lose 50 pounds, change my hair color and get a new wardrobe.. it's a tough life but someone has to live it ;>)

6. And since this "tenth" seems to be evolving into being thankful for negatives turned into positives, I guess I should mention that I'm thankful for living in the 'Hood. (Obviously, it wasn't the 'hood when Phil bought this place but over time...)  This is the deal: when I first moved in here, I was scared of my own shadow. Truly!  I remember freaking out one day because  a neighborhood kid was running down the street with a beebe gun for Pete's sake... Well, guess what??? Got over that!!!!  Seriously, with a meth house next door for 9 years, you have great opportunities to learn to trust Him!

7.  Another negative turned positive?  In the summer of 2001, not only did my "second mom" Thelma move away, but my sweet sister-in-law moved also - within a week or so of each other.  I hated seeing my family break up like this!!!  I couldn't even look at Thelma's house without crying at first (and that was before the cops started coming all the time).  But in Feb. 2010, our meth neighbors were suddenly gone and exactly a week later, my sister-in-law moved back to this area.  In 2001, she was within walking distance of our house and now.. guess what? She is again!! Meth labs gone... Family close by...  Am I thankful?  You bet!!!!  Was all that a coincidence??  Don't think so...

8.  Hmmmm... What else??  Well, it's 24 years and counting and I'm still married to my best friend....  When I was in college, I learned from psychology that coming from a dysfunctional home like mine, the chances were slim and none that I would be able to have a good marriage.  So what did I do? I went out and married a guy who had alcoholism and clinical depression running rampant in his family... Ha!  (I guess I thought the odds were too high in my favor so just to make things interesting....)  Seriously,  we knew God was leading us together and the years since then have confirmed that.  Basically, the reason for our successful marriage (against the odds) can be found in   two words ... But God.. (Ephesians 2:4). Soooooo thankful that God isn't into statistics... Aren't you?

9.  What other negative am I positively thankful for?  Well, when I was forty, my dad came back to Arkansas.  I hadn't seen him since I was a teen-ager. In fact, the last I had heard of him was 21 years earlier when  he opted to become a dead-beat dad so that he wouldn't have to help pay my way through college. (I was a freshman in college at the time and already working 37 hours a week to help support myself).   Sooo.... many years later, when I was forty and I  had a mom dying of pancreatic cancer and a four-year-old son and a   full-time job, I was stunned to have my dad turn up, also on Hospice, wanting me to take him in and care for him.    It was one of those times when I thought the whole world was going crazy and taking me along with it.  What did I do?  I called every friend I had and cried on their shoulders repeatedly, seeking sympathy, which they readily gave.  All except for one.  When I told this friend about my sad state of affairs, she responded with, "How I envy you!!!"  What???? Honestly, her response made me thoroughly angry.  But in retrospect,  it was the one comment that helped bring me through... What did she mean by it?  Her dad, to my surprise, had also been abusive.  She ran away from home as a teen and later became a Christian.  As a new Christian, she took the verse seriously that said to honor your father and your mother. She grieved because she had never shown honor to her father - not for the abuse - but simply because he did give her life and because  the Bible said to do that.  She hunted for him and finally found that he had died ten years earlier.  IN her words, she never felt she had closure.  When my dad showed up, I did get closure. I was able to tell him that I forgave him and I was able to give him the gospel. To this day, I don't know if he took to heart what I said but I have no regrets.  And for that, I'm thankful...

10.  Bottom line: I'm thankful that God is in the business of taking sows' ears and making silk purses out of them  (that would be me!) and that He is also in the business of making all things work for good to those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes (by His grace, that would also be me!!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This is how I feel...

       I don't think anyone worth their salt goes into teaching expecting it to be just an 8 hour day.  But it bothers me that teaching is rapidly becoming a 13 to 14 hour day minimum.   The way I see it, as the basic fabric of our society - the family - breaks down, teachers are being asked to take up the slack and this has been going on for a long time.
      And, honestly, most of the teachers I know, amazingly enough,  really want to do that. They see kids coming to school from broken homes, abusive situations, latch-key kids, kids that are out of control because there is little or no parental supervision, parents who are heartbroken because they see their children  heading for trouble but they honestly  don't know how to prevent it. Most teachers hurt for these kids and for their parents and I think all teachers wish they could come up with some program, plan, magic potion or whatever that would put troubled kids on the right path to a decent life.
     But additional paperwork, deadlines, duties, and did I mention additional paperwork? isn't the solution - it only adds to the problem.  A wise person once told me that one of the most difficult things about teaching is that on any given day you will have 50 or 60 different teen-agers tugging at you at a minimum. By "tugging at you", I mean that kids come to school with their own agendas and personalities.   Some are perfectionists and simply want reassurance that they are doing every  assignment right. Others want to act out to get attention. Some honestly can't figure out how to do the assignment and need simple verbal redirection.  Others may want to try to sleep because they are staying up too late at night. Others may want to spend their time socializing.  Some may be upset because of what happened at breakfast or at lunch or even about something that happened the night before. And you have to deal with each of these needs, behaviors, attitudes while still keeping 25 to 30 kids per period on task in meaningful work that will help them master their subject matter.  You also have to prepare lessons, run off handouts, grade lessons, take roll, record grades,  etc.
     All of that amounts to a full-time job.
     Then you have kids who need extra help  before school or after school.  With the advent of e-mail, you also have parents making regular inquiries about their children and these need to be answered. When e-mail doesn't solve the problem, you need to have one-on-one conferences.  Which may be hard to schedule because you have lunch duty, morning duty, bus duty, whatever.
     Then you have to document for the state department that you've taught various strands among other things.
     Then you have to document that you've modified lessons, tests, etc. But before you do that, you have to actually modify or change lesson plans and/or tests.
     Then you have to gather material for kids who are absent or in in-school suspension and see that those materials get to the right place.
      Then you have to get the requisite in-service hours which may or may not be practical, doable, i.e., worthwhile.
     And meanwhile, you may see a positive pregnancy test lying on the floor of the girl's bathroom or overhear  a group of kids talking about being busted at a party by the police or notice that a kid is sitting in your classroom with suspicious bruises on their arms  or wonder why this normally quiet kid suddenly went ballistic in class and had to be written up for discipline - but....
     you have miles of paperwork and forms to fill out before you sleep soooo.... by the time you get all that done, get home, get supper fixed, help your own kids with their work and are getting ready for bed, the image of that troubled student may suddenly flit through your mind causing you to  fall asleep to the mental refrain of, "I mustn't forget to check on So-and-So tomorrow..."
     We have a lot of bright, energetic young teachers coming into the profession because they love kids and they want to make a difference.   Sometimes I wonder how long that enthusiasm can last under the current onslaught of extra work and the unrelenting demand to  do more and more things that teachers were never meant to do in the first place.
     It's not a cliche that kids are our greatest investment in the future.  To protect and enhance that investment, we need to untie the hands of the young professionals coming into the classroom and do whatever is necessary to free them up so that they can  actually  concentrate on kids!
     I guess what I'm saying is that the state and national governments can't have it both ways.  They can't continue to place more and more bureaucratic red tape on teachers  and at the same time, demand/recommend that teachers do more one-on-one remediation, tutoring, counseling, mentoring, curriculum advising, etc.  without having something break.  And the something that breaks, I'm afraid, will be our up-and-coming young teachers.
    Before that happens, I hope that we, as a nation, will wise-up and give them a break...

Sunday, April 3, 2011


... I do know my name!  I think I'm having a belated mid-life crisis.  Either that or I'm a very sloooowww thinker and am just now figuring out how to spell my name.
    When I was a child, I hated my name because it sounded stuffy: Catherine Elizabeth. Plus I was named for my paternal grandmother who, I would have to say, was definitely a few French fries shy of a Happy Meal. Which, as a kid, that didn't bother me too much - what did bother me was that when we made the annual  trek to Idaho to see her (no freeway, three kids fighting in the backseat of the car, parents arguing in the front seat, and no air conditioning for three whole days)  she was stingy with food. No, I don't think it was that either - she couldn't cook so I don't really remember us  begging for seconds at meal time.  Maybe it was because she was gullible - a guy sold her a Great Dane that was half-blind and said it was a registered chihuahua... But I don't think it was that either because I actually liked the dog.
    At any rate, my mother convinced me that Catherine Elizabeth was actually a  royal name and then backed this up by telling me about Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great (although she left out most of Catherine's personal life when she told me about this historical figure).  To have names that belonged to queens!!!  I  so went from  loathing my name to loving it.
     When I learned to write my name in cursive, no less :), I experimented with various ways to spell Cathy, Catherine, Elizabeth and derivatives thereof until I was actually impressed with my moniker!  None of my friends could fill up a whole page of notebook paper with their names and never spell it the same way twice!  Only I couldn't make up my mind how I wanted to spell my first name and by that time I was "Cathy" to everyone, friends and family, so I stayed with it.
    Until a few years ago when I began to use the spelling that I've come to prefer:  "Cathie".  I put it on this blog, had it stamped on my new Bible, and such.  But I'm afraid if I change it at the bank, they won't know who I am.  Or the insurance company - what about them?  Bill collectors - nah!  They'll find me one way or the other.... And what about my long-term friends - will this signal that along with retirement, I am.. uh... losing it?  HItting mid-life crisis  a little late as I approach, let's see... the big six 0?
     But then I think about a verse somewhere in the Bible that says He has names engraved on the palms of His hands - that even if a mother should forget her child, He will never forget His.  I've seen aging relatives lose their faculties - Grandma DAvis being a case in point.  I know that right now I'm toying with whether to change the spelling of my name -just having fun with it.  But I also know that  in ten years or so, I seriously may not know my own name, your name, my kid's name, or how to spell "cat", let alone "Cathie".
      And every time I walk into a room and forget why I went in there in the first place, this realization hits me more and more.
      So it's kind of comforting to know that even if someday all names should be erased from my memory bank, they'll still be engraved on His palms, imprinted on His heart and I'll still be okay. I guess I'm saying - my security doesn't lie in my mental capabilities - it lies in His.
      By the way, a wonderful little book dealing with the loss of memory in a spouse is A Promise Kept by Robertson McQuilkin. It's also, now that I think about it, a great picture of how a spouse can reflect the infinite patience and unending love that God has for us - how He will always know us, even if we reach the place where we no longer know ourselves.