Creating new things while allowing God to create a new me!!

The Importance Of Hope

I’ll admit it, life is feeling stressful these days.  I love my job but it is the source of great stress at times and can bring great discouragement.  I am sure many of you can relate to this.  This world can be very hard and I believe impossible with out having Hope in something bigger than me and the circumstances that surround me. The Bible is full of verses of Hope, stories of Hope, words of Hope and promises of reasons to Hope.  Many of my very favorite verses are those that offer Hope and encourage us to Hope.  When I am feeling frustrated or discouraged for whatever reason I find myself searching and leaning on those very verses.

Jeremiah 29:11  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I have been thinking about hope a lot the last few days.  The thoughts began after some simple, somewhat trivial activities. Two things I have been thinking of and working on lately got me thinking.

1. I longed deeply for snow.  (Let’s be honest here, from October to March I long for it.)  It gave me something to look forward to, a reason to run to the window first thing in the morning.  All that hope didn’t produce the results I had wanted but  there was some joy just in that simple hope.

2.  I have been working on Christmas pieces for my Etsy shop.  As i was looking for ideas and researching what was available, I began to notice how many things had the word hope in them.  Signs, ornaments, cards, posters, and decorations all shouting out the word hope.Clearly it is important to many of us and many of us cling to it.  Clearly it is important to me as I remember this isn’t the first time I have written about hope.

This all got me thinking about why Hope is so important to us.  As I pondered and used my own experience to gauge this I couldn’t think of one day that I didn’t have Hope for something.  Now don’t get me wrong on this, I have felt hopeless.  I have thought for brief moments here and there that things were never going to get better, that the darkness would last or the pain would never go away.  But even in those darkest of moments, way down in the depths of my heart……hope was there.  In fact there is no doubt that it was hope that sustained me.  I couldn’t always feel it and at times had to fight really hard for it, but it was always there.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is no secret that I love snow.  I don’t just mean that I think it’s pretty or prefer a white Christmas.  I mean I LOVE it.  When I see the flakes falling from the sky there is a joy that overcomes me that I can’t put into words.  As a small child I can remember looking and longing for it often.  I would check the window every few minutes.  I would make sure the clouds were still there and that the temp was just right.  One year on the day after Christmas I collapsed on my parents bed in tears.  It wasn’t that Christmas that was over that broke my heart, it was the bright sun that was melting all the snow.  Such deep sadness I felt at that moment of course exaggerated by an over tired child, but still heart break.

Psalms 39:7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you…..”

God knows his precious children in the most beautiful and intimate ways.  He created me and knows the innermost parts of my heart.  At moments that I needed Hope the most my Heavenly Father has provided it in only ways he can.

A number of years ago, on a particularly rough day when I was struggling the most to feel the comfort and presence of God, he reminded me in the gentlest and most perfect way.  I had been crying out to Him and felt as if my cries were going unheard and certainly unanswered.  Feeling distraught and discouraged and honestly hopeless, I stood at the window and just stared.   I remember very clearly saying “God I need to feel you, I need you to show me you are hearing me and that you are here.”   It was a prayer of great desperation. Just seconds after the words escaped my lips, I saw the very first snowflake of that year.  They began very slowly at first and quickly became larger and fell faster.  Suddenly I felt as if I was standing in a snow globe and as I stood staring at the same spot I had been for quite some time I began to feel hope swell up inside of my heart that moments before had felt quite hopeless.  It was God’s simple way of saying to be me “I’m here, I hear your cries, I’m working.”  My troubles and heartache didn’t all melt away in that moment but I began to lean on that hope that I felt like I had lost.

There has been a lot of rough news in our world lately.  So many burdens to bear.    Illness, war, school shootings, unspeakable tragedies all around.  So much heartache, so much sadness.  It’s hard not to be overwhelmed.  Yet in the midst of all of that I feel great hope.

I realize that for me Hope is everything.  Without it I have nothing.  Hope brings me to love others more, do my job better, be more thankful, forgive, heal and feel unbelievable joy!

So where does that hope come from?

1 Peter 1:3  Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

This life is hard, so very hard some days.  We need hope so that we can move on to things we can’t even begin to imagine.

Romans 8:24-25  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

So I live with Hope.  Hope in things that I don’t know or things I can’t imagine.  I have hope because of the promises that God has made.  He is the source of my hope and the joy that often accompanies it.

The importance of Hope often overwhelms me.

Lord it’s in your hands!

Grieving with hope isn’t pain free

Standing at the front door of the local hospital, I feel a tug in both directions.  One pulls me back to my car, where it’s safe and you don’t have to see the pain.  The other pulls me towards my dear friend whom I love and miss.  The heart longs to take that elevator ride and yet the head keeps trying to persuade me to walk the other way.  Thankfully the heart is more powerful and I make my way to check in.

There is a woman sitting with her attention full on the tiny baby in the car seat placed on the neighboring chair.  She is clearly tuned in to a new love in her life.  I guess it is her grandchild…..maybe her first?  Maybe I couldn’t be more wrong but the emotion is what catches my attention.  So much hope for a future full of love, laughter, misadventure and life.  It strikes me with it’s beauty.  

I’m drawn back to my reality as I can hear and feel the heaviness in my own breath.   I remember where I am going and what I have come to do.  As I gather my thoughts I can hear myself say ….”be strong”…..this is not the time to feel what I am feeling.  Or is it?  I don’t know. 

A nurse is pushing a wheel chair towards the door.  Another patient on the road to recovery, another family reunited.  Thankful indeed……hopeful for sure……relieved at last.  I find myself thinking “that’s the way it should be.”

It won’t be for all.  Some won’t go home, won’t be “fixed”, families  won’t leave together and I allow the thought to creep in…….it’s not fair.  Suddenly my mom’s voice rings in my head “life is not fair”.  She’s right I know she is, but I don’t want to hear it, not today, not now. I am snapped out of my thoughts once again by the pregnant lady in the elevator who is sharing her labor pains with everyone around her.  I think “pain with a purpose.”  Is all pain with a purpose?  It has to be……right?  If not then what is the point?  It has to have a purpose, it just does.

The room is dark and the bed is still.  The silhouette of a visitor sitting by the window reminds me that there is another dear hurting friend.  I’m taken out of my own pain to the pain of others, oh so much pain.  We sit together in mostly silence.  The original three, reunited.  A new strength rises within me.  I go into care taking mode, it’s all I know to do at the time.  Are you cold? Are you hot?  Can I get you some ice chips?  Communication with words is strained, I can’t understand the faint responses.  I pour out what I have and soak in what I can.  Each look, each word uttered, no matter how strained, is ingrained in my thoughts.  I know time is short and yet my prayers for a miracle are even more fervent.  “God hears the cries of the hurting.” 

The doctor walks in and walks back out. I feel like I don’t belong but I can’t be anywhere else. Watching from the hall, my heart knows what he is going to say and yet I hang on to the hope that his message will be exactly what we all long to hear.  It is not. 
Doctors…there mission is to save lives.  They train, work, study and strive to achieve that goal with each patient that walks through the door.  I feel a tinge of pain for him as I think what it must be like to deliver the news no one wants to hear. I think about what it must feel like to know you couldn’t fix it this time. You had given hope, you were so sure things could and would get better. You too must be grieving at the same moment you offer words of little hope. An unwavering voice that must share the one thing the listener dreads hearing most. The one thing you have dreaded having to say. Then you must walk to the next room and offer more hope. Will this time be different? Can you fix this one? Or will you repeat the dreaded conversation you just had? The shock of the first time I heard still hasn’t worn off and yet I know as I gaze at a pale and weak body that this will be the last visit. This will be my last chance. What do you say? What can you say? I choose to not say much. The visit isn’t long and drawn out and I say my goodbyes as if I’ll be back tomorrow but I know the tomorrows are very few.
How do you offer comfort when you grieve yourself? How do you console a breaking heart when yours is hanging on by threads?
There is a point where auto pilot kicks in and you don’t know how exactly you get down the hall. The elevator ride is non existent and yet here you are standing in the lobby. As we stand there sharing so much with out uttering many words, familiar faces appear. The first one looking to you for hope. Have you been up there? How is it? There isn’t much to say, the tears do the talking and the listener understands. Now they too must fight the pull out the front door and instead take the walk to what they know may be their last as well. This repeats another time to another hopeful face.
Now that familiar pull is back. I can’t leave, I want to but I can’t….I need to but I don’t. There are more tears, a little more conversation. Again I don’t know how it happens but I now stand in the parking lot. Already we have hugged and said goodbye to the father who is facing the loss of his daughter less than six months after he squeezed his wife’s hand for the last time. Hugged the husband of 40+ years who has no idea how tomorrow will happen.
It was less than two months ago, everything changed. So sudden. So brutal. How did we not know? How could we not see the beast that had already done such irreversible damage? How did everyone miss it? I want to know….it doesn’t matter….
Now the son. The brave one who has held together all the others is weeping as he wraps his arms around us. We all weep. Sometimes words say a lot less than actions and tears.
I grieve with hope, this is true. For I know as I stand in the parking lot that in the end she will be pain free. Surrounded by peace and beauty. She will be…..home…..the home her heart has longed for though she wasn’t ready to leave just yet. This is the hope, this is what I hold onto. But in that hope, in that assurance one thing is crystal clear. To grieve with hope is not to grieve pain free. It doesn’t make everything pretty, it doesn’t dry the tears. It doesn’t make it “all okay.” It certainly doesn’t keep my heart from breaking not does it act as a bandaid. This is real oh so real. I feel it now like never before. I have longed for and hoped for a different outcome. I have prayed. Cried out on my knees to the One I know and believe can change it all. I don’t trust him any less when his answer is no but it hurts…..so deeply it hurts.
It’s been six months and it still hurts. Yet there is still hope. I hang on to both. I need them both. I need the hope to get through the pain and I need the pain to remember why to hope. I need the comfort of a savior who’s plans are wiser than mine and more perfect than I can imagine. I will continue to grieve with hope. I wish I understood more, could answer more questions, could see more of the puzzle. Yet I feel privileged to have just been a part.
Lord it’s in your hands.

Words Matter

Words matter.  I have always known this but so often forget before I speak or before I listen.  Some of my deepest hurts in life have come from the words of another.   I have trouble remembering what my work email password is over summer break but I remember vividly the person, tone, location, and time from which the words that hurt me come from.  If I allow myself I can feel the pain I felt in some of those very moments.  Those memories fade with more effort than many other things my brain processes. 

Words can also bring you joy and comfort.  They can lift you up, make you see things in a different light.  They can connect you to a complete stranger and can erase negative thoughts you might be having about yourself.  Words are powerful and words matter.

I gave myself complete permission to be lazy today.  Take my time unpacking and doing my vacation laundry.  There were a few errands I wanted to run but nothing was pressing or something that needed to be done today.  I made a stop at the post office to pick up my mail.  It was a last minute decision to make the turn into the parking lot, I had tried to talk myself out of it. 

“You can go another time.”

“it’s mostly junk anyway.”

“It’s only been a week and a half.”

Thankfully I pushed those thoughts away.   I mean seriously Anita you have two minutes to pull over and run in.  How lazy are you?    I walked at my usual rapid pace as if on a mission.  Get in and get out.  That was the plan, not because I had somewhere to be but because I often am in a hurry when I really have no reason to be.  I was the only car in the parking lot, but as I began to walk across the sidewalk I noticed another vehicle out of the corner of my eye.  I thought nothing of it.  No thought about who was in the car or any realization that this encounter may be important, it may matter.

I was sorting through my mail, recycling the junk and making sure there wasn’t anything that needed my immediate attention.  I admit I was startled by the little old lady that quickly approached me.  She loudly struck up a conversation about voting and the heat outside.  Could I believe it was 100 degrees again today?  So many days in a row, she couldn’t remember the last time it was that many days in a row.  I was polite and smiled, nodded, laughed.  But I was in a hurry……for no reason.  We walked out of the post office together.  She was sweet and upbeat, a little of a spit fire I remember thinking but just a stranger.  A nice stranger.

As we walked out the door she turned and grabbed my hand.  Turning and looking in my eyes she smiled from ear to ear.  She said “you’re just a baby.”  This may have been the first time in a long time I haven’t hesitated when asked my age.  I trusted her and had a feeling she was going to tell me something important.  We spoke briefly about her daughter who died when she was 19.  She didn’t speak with pain but with joy.  Remembering her daughter brought her joy in that moment.  

By this time she had both of her hands around my left hand.  A sweet and comforting grasp that didn’t seem at all intrusive or unwelcome.  Already feeling blessed by our meeting I was unprepared for what came next.

She said “I need to tell you something.”  “You my darling are beautiful, you are stunning.  You have a wonderful personality  and I am so happy I met you today.”  She ended with “God bless you and have a fabulous day.”  I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a giant hug, yes I hugged a complete stranger.  As I walked away my day was changed.

It wasn’t that she said I was beautiful that stuck with me, although that is always nice to hear, it was that she took the time to say what she was thinking, to share what was on her mind.  She took the time to bless me.  I am sure she has done this over and over again.  I am guessing that many have walked away from her feeling blessed. 

My least favorite saying EVER is “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  In my opinion it is one of the worst lies we often teach our children.  Words can hurt and it’s okay that they hurt.  I think if we truly understand and believe that words can and do hurt we may be more likely to think about what we say before we say it.  I try to be careful not to hurt with my words but how often do I try to bless or bring joy with my words?

As I drove away I thought, “what if I put that much thought into all my random encounters?”  What if I took the time in the grocery store to tell the busy mom that her children were polite?  What if I took the moment to compliment the lady in line in front of me when I notice her kind and gentle spirit?  How could I change someones day for the better with the words I say.  What if I slow down my pace so I can make eye contact with the tired and ragged individual I pass in the hall?  What if I really listen when I ask someone how their day was?  What if I took the time to tell each student everyday just how fabulous I think they are?  That sweet old lady and I will probably never cross paths again.  She took the time today to make our encounter matter.  What if I was intentional about making my encounters matter?

What if I remember my words matter……..my words are powerful?

 

Lord it’s in your hands!

A piece of the masterpiece

A couple of years ago I heard a young man, in the midst of unbelievable grief, say something that has now been engrained on my heart and mind.  He shared that when tragedy and horrific things strike we have to remember that it is just a small piece of the masterpiece God is creating.

When you are in an art gallery there is often a rope that keeps you from getting too close to the painting or work of art you are looking at.  I always thought it was there to keep you from touching the art and somehow messing it up, but now I see it so differently.  Maybe it is there so you will stand back and take in the piece as a whole.  If you were close and could only see a small piece or part of it, I can’t help but think it would be messy and often ugly, maybe not even make sense.  Yet when you can see the whole thing, all the small parts come together to make a masterpiece.  I trust that God is creating a masterpiece that we will someday be able to see in whole but can now only see in part.

There is a lot you think about when you get ready to enter your first year of teaching.  Will I know what to do?  Will my students respond to me?  Am I crazy?  What in the world was I thinking?  I remember clearly the day I got offered my first teaching job. After hanging up the phone, the initial response was pure joy and thankfulness.  I was a real adult with a real job. I recognized how blessed I was to get a position so quickly and to actually have options of where I wanted to work. It didn’t take but hours for sheer terror to set in.  All the questions and fears overwhelmed me.  I began to pray that I would be surrounded by good people and phenomenal teachers.  I believed that if I was surrounded by solid teachers I could watch them, learn, grow and be supported in my own teaching.

Thirteen years ago my request was answered in a big way.  Not only did God answer my prayers but did so in a way that far exceeded what I could hope for.  I met a group of people that not only made me a better teacher but more importantly a better person.  They have become dear life long friends.

Cathie is one of these people.  The program in which we taught was a challenge to say the least.  Working with some of life’s most damaged and precious children was exhausting, rewarding, terrifying and hands down one of the toughest things I have ever faced.  I can still remember watching her in complete awe.  The calm and confidence with which she worked with those children is etched in my brain.  We would have meetings every Friday afternoon.   It was an opportunity to vent, problem solve, laugh and most importantly for me, to learn.  There was not a situation that came up that Cathie couldn’t offer advice on. I knew that she was a special teacher and coworker from the first year I knew her. She commanded respect in the most gentle way.  Even now I have a picture that sticks in my mind.  She is walking down the halls, a student in each hand.  They are reluctantly walking with her, scowls of disappointment burned on their faces.  I make eye contact and she smiles and shrugs.  It was not more than she could handle, nothing they could throw at her was.   One thing I always knew about her was how much she loved her students.  They could swear, kick, throw, treat her with unbelievable disrespect and yet……….she loved them.

It is so easy for us to want our feelings and emotions heard.  We want people to listen to us, understand us, agree with us.  We feel the need for others to know what we are thinking or what we think should happen. Cathie was quiet and gentle with never much to say in meetings.  That was until it needed to be said.  She chose very carefully when to speak up.  That restraint caused others to listen when she spoke.  What an amazing trait that is.  She was an incredible listener, whether I was talking to her about a frustration in the classroom or something completely unrelated to work, I knew she heard every word.  Not only did she hear it but she remembered it.   I am sure there were times she sat listening to me and thinking how crazy I was.  Then again she probably didn’t.  Her heart was kind and gentle I am not sure she had a lot of ill to think or share about anyone.

After just a couple years went by, our work relationship became something so much more.  She became a dear friend.  Cathie was close to my parents age, her son’s the same age as me, but that never mattered in our friendship.  she never treated me like a child, never tried to mother me or correct my sometimes misguided moments.  She was just my friend.  It’s hard not to look back and think about all the birthday’s of mine she remembered and recognized compared to all of hers that I let slip by.  She was faithful and committed to her friends and co-workers.  I knew that she cared about me, not just teacher me, but person me.  She cared how my heart felt, how my day went, how my family was and most importantly how strong my faith was.

Cathie and I had the opportunity to have classrooms next door to each other for a couple of years.  The adjoining door was rarely closed when we were not teaching.  Over time we began to share with one another our commitment and struggles in our faith.  When I think about her the one very clear thing that I admire the most in her is her faith.  That is saying a lot because the list of things I admire about her is long.  When I start listing those things I realize that they can all be brought back to one place……her faith.  All of those things, those qualities I admired, I believe, were there because of her faith.  There was no doubt to me and I know all who knew her that her faith was the one most important thing in her life.  She loved the Lord and it showed.  She was committed to God and being who he wanted her to to be.  In my mind I remember several very vivid conversations about God and faith.  We talked a lot about trust.  Those conversations now rest in my mind and heart as precious and sacred memories.  I long for more of those conversations with her.  I miss them most.  I wish there had been more of them, I wish……..

Every year I knew Cathie I can think of at least one thing in her life that was a hardship or struggle.  In all of that her faith was strong, unwavering.  On more than one occasion I walked away from conversations thinking that I wanted faith like that.  She would never offer up the struggles she was facing but would share when asked.  I think honestly I learned about a lot of them after a conversation in which I was sharing one of my own, usually petty struggles.  I knew without a doubt that when she said “I will pray for you” she meant it.  It wasn’t a passing thing to say or just the right thing to say.  She meant it and I know faithfully followed through on that promise.  This was an incredible way that she challenged me in my own faith.  She taught me not just to say you will pray for someone but to actually do it.

I have been blessed to grow up around strong, faithful people.  My family heritage has been a gift, my friends have molded and shaped me as I have grown, I have been blessed with spiritual leaders and examples in every stage of my life. It is not a little thing to say that Cathie has been among one of the top people to influence my faith.  To try and thank her for that, would always fall short this side of heaven.  Maybe this is why my heart is so broken, maybe this is why the loss is so deep or maybe it’s just because of her, because she was, because she loved me and was my friend.

I’m a firm believer that God places people in your lives for a reason.  Sometimes that reason is a mystery that is never solved here on earth and other times the reason is crystal clear.  I know without a doubt why God placed Cathie in my life.  It was to make me a better teacher and to draw me closer to the Lord.

To my friend, thank you for allowing God to use you in that way.  Thank you for being open to this young, naive and often confused woman and teacher who needed you as her friend and mentor.  Thank you for loving your  students in a way that challenges me everyday.  Thank you for loving your co-workers even on the days that they (me) were hard to love.  Thank you for not reacting in anger or frustration but rather with grace and compassion. Most of all thank you for being my friend.  I have been blessed beyond what I can express.  I know this clearer now than ever.

I miss her, oh how I miss her.  Today I am choosing not to ask why.  Not because I don’t want to know, because I so badly do.  I don’t get it, I don’t understand why she gone, I struggle to see the purpose of all of this. I am not asking, because of the very thing that I learned the most from her……..faith.   She lived out her faith in beautiful ways and now I must do that as well.  I know if I could sit down and talk with her now, have that one more conversation I long for, she would say that we just have to trust.  I can actually here the words coming out of her mouth.  God has a plan and it is not for us to understand, it is for us to trust.  I so look forward to the day that I can see the completed masterpiece from heaven.  Until then I will trust that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

Cathie, my friend…….I love you……I miss you……I thank God for you!

Lord it’s in your hands.

Why a classroom elf?

It’s what I call the doldrums of the year.  February and March.  Snow is melting (if there was any), grass not yet green, trees still bare of their leaves and the rare chirping bird still seems out of place. Our favorite winter clothes are getting old and tiring and even I begin to think about the spring and summer.  I will be honest it is not my favorite time of year.  Occasionally snow falls and brightens up the landscape or the sun shines brightly tempting us with a tiny taste of spring but for the most part, it just is.

So that being said it is the perfect time to bringing a little Christmas cheer right?  Okay maybe not, but better late than never I guess.

For the last few years I have seen that mischievous little elf pop his head up in lots of places and have always secretly thought it would be fun to participate.  Not having children of my own at home meant that my classroom would be the place for his visits.  I got my elf as a gift for Christmas the year before (thanks little brother) and in the beginning of November I begin to plan and plot his appearances.  I will admit it was really fun to think of fun creative ways to use him.  That being said I knew I didn’t really want him to be the “naughty elf”. I wanted him to be fun and a little extra motivation.

So why did I decide to bring an elf on the shelf into our classroom?  School is hard, let’s be honest.  We have very high demands on our students and our teachers and it can be stressful for all.  My fear is with all the pressure and requirements of our students we forget to just let kids be kids and have a little fun.  We study and work and study and work some more and by December I think we are all ready for a little distraction and extra motivation.  I was hoping that he would create just that for us all without taking away learning time.  He came through for me.  The students loved writing in their elf journals and I loved giving them more writing practice without them knowing it.  Over all I think it was a success.  I will change some things next time but I do think another elf is in my teaching future.

Day 1

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Our Elf appeared on day one with a wrapped gift (his book), a small Christmas tree and a Santa bag with a writing journal for each student. We spent some time reading the book and coming up with a name.  I let the students give suggestions for names and vote on them.  We were in the midst of the best ever Seattle Seahawk’s season and this of course led my students to the perfect name……Russell……after Russell Wilson of course.  This was a very proud moment for this teacher I must say.

Day 2

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We found Russell making snowmen out of powdered sugar donuts.  I’m not the only one who loves snow apparently.

Day 3

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After picking out his favorite colors, Russell used some of our math manipulatives to build his own fort under the corner of my desk.  We had a near tragedy today when a backpack accidentally brushed into Russell causing him to shift slightly.  Whew that was a close one.

Day 4

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Apparently our elf was not afraid of heights as he spent the day watching from the ceiling.

Day 5

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With a name like Russell how could he not celebrate Blue Friday.  He redecorated our tree in blue and green, hung signs, brought his football and helmet and even baked football shaped cake pops for the students who did their homework.  This was the day that I was most excited about the whole time.  Who knew I would wake up with the stomach flu that morning.  Not cool.  Between making sub plans in the wee hours of the morning and frequent trips to be ill, I was able to pull together his little display.  This was the day I was most thankful for the work done ahead of time.  Saddest part was not seeing their reaction when they arrived.  Most maddening part was the students reporting to me that the sub told them the elf was a fake and that I was behind it all.  REALLY??  Why I wonder?  I mean, I never really tried to convince the kids that there was “elf magic” or push Santa on them and I knew some of the students had things figured out but we were having fun with it.  Oh well.

Day 6

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Okay maybe this was the day I was most excited about, close call.  Russell was found in our homework file and upon closer inspection we noticed he had photo copied a picture of himself to the back of our reading homework.  We also discovered that one lucky student got a little help on his math homework that night.

Day 7

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Our city does monthly character traits and our school gives away awards each month to those students that display these character traits.  On this day we found that he was teaching the character trait of December, Generosity, to some little friends.  I was a little worried about my job to be honest but my students assured me I was the better teacher.  Sorry Russell stick to football.

Day 8

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Even elves get tired and need to find a place to rest.  We all decided we wanted pajamas just like his.

Day 9

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This was the morning we discovered that the best elves have trouble sneaking in sometimes.  Poor guy, at least he was dressed warmly.

Day 10

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Truly the saddest day of the whole time was this one.  After a week that brought more that one report of disrespectful behavior to others, the elf was saddened by watching it and did not show up.  We spent the morning looking for him but after first recess a note arrived that explained it all.  Even classes with elves are held to high expectations of being respectful and following school and classroom rules.   Tough day, hard lesson…….necessary evil.  We spent the weekend wondering if he would ever come back again.

Day 11

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I don’t remember ever living here and not having snow by at least November.  This was a crazy weather winter and we were really missing it by this time.  Russell tried to cheer us up by bringing his own twist on a winter wonderland.  He is quit the snowflake making wizard by the way.

Day 12

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We had won the “Awesome Eagle” award the month before.  Elf learned what it would feel like to ride on the back of an eagle.  Hang on little buddy.

Day 13

Good to know that elves realize the importance and the magic of reading a good book.

Day 14

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Elves get the coolest sleds.

Day 15

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The last day was bitter sweet for sure.  It had been a lot of extra work but I had loved it.  The kids knew he would not be back after break but I think they were okay with it to.  We all agreed he needed to get Santa’s suit back to him real soon.

Lord it’s in your hands.

Day 10

Today I am thankful for the ability to worship freely in a church full of other believers.  I have experience what it is like to be told how and where and what you can worship and then to feel watched and scrutinized for it.  Our freedom of religion is often taken for granted and even criticized but it is something that many will never experience.

Day 11

Today I am thankful for all of those that serve and protect us.  I know there must be times when they wonder what they are fighting for.  Yet they never waver.  Never question and never regret.  I am so grateful for all they do and for the freedom for which they fight.

Day 12

Today I am so thankful for the opportunity to create.  For some it is just work, for some a mess.  For me it is those things and so much more.  It brings me joy, gives me something to do and helps me keep my focus. Now to clean up.  😦

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Lord its in your hands!

 

Four beats of my heart!

Day 9

Today I am thankful for my nephews.  Although it would be wonderful if we lived in the same town I love that I can jump in my car, drive over for the day and come back.  Today we had the pleasure of celebrating Andrew’s 5th birthday.  Wow five.  I love these boys so much.  Each unique and wonderful in their own way.

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Ten and a half years ago I  became an aunt for the first time.  I still remember the 7 hour drive to meet you my Sam.  You were sleeping in a bed in the living room and I gently placed your very first baseball in your hand and you grabbed it tightly.  4 days old and you stole my heart in that moment.  You are growing into a pretty amazing young man.   You are athletic and competitive and I love to watch you spend great amounts of time bouncing a ball off the side of the house and catching it.  Reminds me of your dad in so many ways.  You have an amazingly tender heart and already show a wonderful passion for the Lord.  A natural born leader and care taker, there will be so many friends in your life that you will have the opportunity to lead by example.  I hope you continue to dream big while keeping your eyes on the Lord.  Oh and when you make it to the big leagues don’t forget who first placed that baseball in your hand.  I will be there to cheer you on all the way no matter where you end up.

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Tyler you and I spent a lot of hours together that first night home, sitting in the rocker in the living room, me holding you as you had no desire to sleep.   You looked into my eyes and just studied them.  I loved every minute of it, I didn’t want the night to end.  You are so smart and one of the most talented people I know.  You can build anything from nothing over and over again.  Your ability to take a box of legos and make them into a intricate creation astounds me.   I can’t wait to live in a house you built or drive a car you engineered, maybe even visit an amusement park you designed.  Your quiet leadership is something to be admired and your sweet thoughtful ways should be emulated.  You are deep and thoughtful and I know how much you love your Jesus and I hope you know how much he loves you.  I enjoy each moment I have with you and could listen to you explaining how something works for hours.   That is saying a lot as listening to how things work is one of my least favorite things to do unless it is you doing the explaining.   I’ve always got your back.

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Owen “Little O” (at some point I will have to stop calling you that.)  I am pretty sure you came out smiling and you haven’t stopped yet.  You bring joy to people the first time you meet them and have a way of brightening up the darkest days.   You came into our lives during a year that was full of a lot of loss and hurt for our family.  You were the baby that we passed around at Grandma Hires’ funeral.  It seemed like whoever was hurting the most at the moment would wind up holding you somehow and the tears on their face would slowly dry as you smiled and giggled and snuggled their hurting hearts.  You continue to bring that same joy and love everywhere you go.  I know I have been the recipient many many times.   You were the only one that could talk me into making a Phineas and Ferb cake and I would do it all over again for you.  I also don’t remember the last six year old I met that had as good of a sense of style as you. You pull off a hat like no other.   I can’t wait to see you continue to demonstrate the love of Jesus to everyone you meet.  I hope you someday get to experience ownership of a real turtle while never forgetting about Max and the journey he took to get to you.  🙂

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Andrew “Drew Boo”  (yeah that will have to stop too I suppose)  you are one of a kind for sure.  A very awesome kind for sure.  From day one you were ready to grow up.  Keeping up with your big brothers and soon bowling them over.  Barely a year old, I was rocking you and saying “who’s my baby” when you clearly and shockingly said back “I’m a big boy”.  Your determination and passion will send you as far as you want to go.  A comedian who can make me laugh with just one look.  You can tell me fart jokes anytime, we will keep it our little secret.  I can’t wait to see the great things your stubbornness and drive do for God’s kingdom.  From across the room you saw my sadness and came to me to simply sit and love me.  Your presence and hugs helped to heal my hurting heart at that moment.  A little boy following the nudge of his tender and loving heart.  It was moments after that you whispered the word “eyeball” and cracked your self up.  You are welcome at my home anytime, even if it is to have birthday party #4.  Don’t let anyone tamper your passion or steal your joy.  Never stop making your Tia laugh.  Your jokes are my favorite and always will be.

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Oh and Happy Birthday Sweet Drew!!

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Having these four little men in my life has changed me completely.  Made me stronger, helped me to love more, challenged me to live with character and to be a strong Godly example.  I am a work in progress.  But for you four I will never stop trying, I will never stop growing.

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I don’t know what God has for my future, whether I will have children of my own or not, but one thing I know for sure.  No matter what happens each of you owns your very own heartbeat  of mine and always will.  It will be yours forever!  I love you with all my heart even when you are too big for kisses from your Tia!

Lord it’s in your hands!