Limping Together

It hurt to watch him.

The curled-over, life-worn man was practically crawling to his car in the parking lot. I handed off the buggy to the boys and began to approach him to help when he said thanks, but no thanks.

“Help is on the way, little lady.”

I took a step back as his “help” arrived.

His wife was almost as bent as he was. She grabbed his hand and they walked the few more steps to the car.

“We’re limping, but at least we’re limping together. We’ll get there,” he flung over his shoulder.

This was several years ago, and time had started to slowly erase the image in my mind, until the past few weeks. It’s back in my head now, as sharp as ever. I can see him struggling so badly on his own until she got there. She did not look like “help.” But when she arrived, he was okay, and they both made it to safety, albeit slowly.

They were limping, to put it mildly, but they were limping together, and they were okay.

If this isn’t us right now, I don’t know what is.

We are limping in our tragedy. We are limping in our sickness. We are limping in our rage, our confusion, our insecurities, our selfishness. We are limping in our need to be right, to win the argument either way.

We are a bent and broken people, and nothing we can ever do on our own will make us straighten up. We were made in the image of a Perfect One, but we are imperfect in our human nature.

So we must make our way with the Perfect One. The Creator of us all. He knew what limitations would cripple me, and which ones would cripple you. And He made us to fit together for each other.

For me to stumble along with you, and you to stumble along with me, especially when we’re hurting…that’s how He made us.

We especially need each other right now, because while the road to Home is straight, it’s also narrow, and there are many distractions along the way.

I will get distracted by myself and my own comforts, thoughts, and feelings. So will you.

I will probably fall and cause you to stumble more than once, and you may do the same to me. But here’s the best thing of all. There is One who walks with us, and His name is Jesus. Here’s what He says in Isaiah:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

He will keep us on the right path until we get Home, where we will finally be perfect in mind and body.

Until then, it looks like our path is getting pretty rocky right now. Instead of stumbling along by ourselves, why don’t you take my hand, and I’ll take yours, and we can walk beside one another, beside the One who made the path and walks before us, behind us, and beside us?

We may be limping, but at least we’ll be limping together.

woman walking on pathway under the sun

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Friends, if you don’t know this Jesus that I am talking about, He can everything to you that He is to me. He is my Savior, Redeemer, Lord, and Friend. Here’s how you can know Him: “9If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is LORD,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

 

 

 

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To My Child’s Teacher…Thank You

To my sons’ teachers:

I know you don’t have much time to stop and read this, but I want to say it anyway. Your job is underappreciated, overlooked, and underestimated so many times and in so many ways. You barely have time to eat and go to the restroom during the day, and yet so much is expected of you. You all are human, and sometimes your human-ness threatens to get in the way of your teaching, but you are a truly special breed of teachers.

You’re the kind who leave your personal troubles at the door when you walk into the classroom. You’re the kind who make my children feel like they are the most special students in the class. And what’s even better–you make every one of  “your kids” feel like they are the most special student in the class.

You are the kind of teachers who  don’t spend your day complaining about lack of resources, lack of respect, and lack of acknowledgement for teachers. You are too busy teaching your students, my sons, to complain about other things. Because you don’t ever complain, I think sometimes parents do forget to tell you a word of thanks now and then for the mammoth job that you seem to carry on your shoulders with the grace of a dancer.

Sometimes I forget to tell you.

But not today. I want to tell you thank you.

Thank you for waiting for my boy at the door so that you can tell him “Good Morning!”

Thank you for asking him how his ballgame went last night. 

Thank you for making him hang up his backpack when he lets it fall on the ground…because you want him to learn responsibility. 

Thank you for not allowing him to turn in half-effort work…because you want him to always do his best. I see his improvement, and I thank you for that.

Thank you for listening to him talk about the little things when you have attendance, grades, meetings, plans, and 30 other kids who want you to hear their little things, too (and if you’ve taught both my sons, you know which son I’m talking about, and which one I’m not talking about :))

Thank you for encouraging him when he is discouraged. 

Thank you for correcting him when he needs it. 

Thank you for holding the garbage can for him and patting his back when he threw up in kindergarten.

Thank you for that time you stood at the bathroom door and walked him through how to change his own clothes (because he’d spilled milk all over himself and was having a breakdown) in preschool.

Thank you for teaching him to love reading…to love books, and to love learning.

Thank you for that time in first grade you made sure he had someone to be his friend at recess after weeks of him doing recess alone. You helped him learn how to find others to work with and play with. He hasn’t forgotten, and neither have I. Thank you.

Thank you for that time you set aside your own comfort to tell me about a problem you could foresee. Because you told me, we worked on it and avoided a big disaster. I haven’t forgotten about that, and I thank you.

Thank you for holding him in your lap when he fell and hurt his knee. 

Thank you for worrying over him–over all of them–when you were “signed out” for the day. You sent me videos of how to help him with his math homework, even though you were out to eat with your family. You did NOT have to do that, but you did and I remember. 

Thank you for trying something new when the old familiar way didn’t seem to be working for long addition problems in second grade. 

Thank you for emailing me to let me know that he was okay after a rough morning. You had so many things to do, and you thought of me. Thank you.

Thank you for telling him that you loved him, and he was so smart. He believed you, and he still does.

Thank you for pumping him full of creativity, for giving him an avenue to express his ideas in new ways that I would never even begin to think about. 

Thank you for drawing him out when he needed it.

Thank you for calming him down when he needed it. 

Thank you for calming me down when I needed it. 🙂 So many times. 

Thank you for keeping me informed. 

Thank you for convincing my boy that he could stand in front of his class and give a speech when he thought he couldn’t do it. You knew he could do it. 

Thank you for coming in and teaching your heart out when it was really breaking because your family members were ill. Or gone. 

Thank you for pushing the fundraisers when maybe you didn’t even want to, so that you could get him a new playground to play on, or new books in the library, and a new STEM lab. 

Thank you for rolling out the red carpet–literally–on the first day of middle school and cheering my boys’ names as they walked in the doors.

Thank you for those times you left your own little one sick at home in another’s care so that you could come and care for my boys. 

Thank you for celebrating the “little” things that aren’t even little, and bringing community and fun and wonder to my boys in elementary school. 

Thank you for putting his safety before yours in tornadoes, fire scares, and worse. 

Thank you for the hugs, the high-fives, the fist-bumps, the nods, the smiles, the kind words,  and the love that you have shown to my boys in more ways than I will ever know. 

A simple thank you is nowhere near enough for all that you’ve done. You have all changed my sons’ lives, changing my life and their dad’s life in the process. I pray that you will see the fruits of the seeds you have planted for the rest of your days, and that you will see thanks in the lives of your students and their families over and over again.

You’re the kind of teachers who didn’t go into teaching for the thank you’s.  But  I’m telling you anyway.

Thank you.

Thank a teacher today. 

 

 

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The Crayon Bucket

In my classroom, we have this bucket. We call it the crayon bucket. Its job is to hold two kinds of crayons: the broken ones and the forgotten ones.

When I started teaching it didn’t take me long to figure out that crayons are hard for five-year-olds to keep up with. Like… I found it out within thirty minutes!!! 🙂

We started out that first day and everyone had a brand new pack of shiny, beautiful, pointy crayons (by the way, I quickly learned that you don’t give a class full of kindergarteners an entire pack of crayons on day one…teaching 101). Now I do a crayon a day.  As we learn each color, if we treat our first crayon nicely, we get to keep it and eventually get more, but anyway, that’s another story!

So, after thirty minutes on that first day of school, I had a floor full of random crayons. And that bothered me! All during the school year, I would find crayons in the floor and I would hold them up and no one would claim them, even when they looked through their pouches. Even the kid with only two crayons in his pouch would be like, “No man, that’s not mine…” Hence, he always only had two crayons in his pouch. 🙂

So I started setting the lost crayons on my desk. But soon there were too many for my desk. And during my first year of teaching I had so many overwhelming roles to learn that even though I was bothered by these forgotten crayons, I didn’t have the time or energy to think of a solution for them. I got a cup, and they quickly filled up the cup. Then I got a basket, and they began to fill up the basket.

And then another thing started to happen all those years ago that really bothered me… when we went to do a special art activity, I’d say something like, “Get out your red…” and immediately several people would chorus “I don’t have a red!”–especially two crayon guy…he never had anything.

One day the light clicked on for me. The crayon basket, of course! It had all the reds we needed! I started a new procedure that has been tried and true since that first year I started teaching. We have the lost crayon basket for when someone is missing a color. The rule is if we are missing a color, we don’t yell out. We just go to the crayon basket and pick out what we need, and the best part of all is… we get to keep it! And do you know that the child who was so forgetful with her crayons earlier takes that “new” red one from the basket, uses it carefully, and then  puts it in her pouch and is sure to zip up her pouch this time so that she doesn’t lose it?

The rule at the crayon basket is that we can only stay there for five seconds, because we are guaranteed to find the needed color in five seconds. You know why? Because after fifteen years, this is my lost crayon basket bucket. It’s full of every color we would ever need!

I'm sure you think I shot the CapriSun beside the bucket for your viewing pleasure! Actually, that's just to let you know how big the bucket is. :) I’m sure you think I shot the CapriSun beside the bucket for your viewing pleasure. Actually, that’s just to let you know how big the bucket is. 🙂

A lot of crayons get forgotten. Until they are needed. And if a child has forgotten a blue crayon, when the teacher says to get a blue, the crayon becomes very important to the child, and it’s no longer forgotten. Especially when the child knows they get to keep the blue. It’s a treasure to them now, and they are glad to keep it.

The great things about the crayons in my class’s crayon  bucket is that they don’t stay forgotten. They sit in the bucket, ready for the time when someone needs their exact use. And then it’s their time to shine! They become very important to the ones who need them.

There’s another kind of crayon in the bucket…and that’s the broken crayon. Now, broken crayons are the most special ones of all! They may not be as pretty as the new ones; they may be missing their paper, their shine, their points, but they have a very special job.

You see, we have a lot of students coming to public school these days with certain learning, physical, and emotional needs. For a number of  reasons, they don’t have the fine motor abilities to color and cut and write like what society expects for a “typical” kindergartner. Some of them have never even held a crayon, so it’s hard for them to learn how to fill a picture with color. I remember the first time I had a student with a physical need that required more practice than what I was providing in the general setting. The wonderful occupational therapist for the county came in and looked over his workspace to help me and give me pointers on supporting him with writing, coloring, and other fine motor skills. And guess what she did first?

She took his brand new crayons and BROKE them. And I was horrified! One by one, as she was just talking to me, she just stood there breaking away, and I could only look on in horror! Finally, I found some words in my head and yelled “What are you doing?!?” And our awesome therapist said words that have stuck with me…she kept on breaking and she said, “Paige, broken crayons make weak hands strong.”

Broken crayons make weak hands strong.

Kids who can’t hold a pencil can grip a broken crayon. They have to bear down and hold it tightly with correct finger positioning when their crayon is broken.
And I have also learned that kids who need emotional and behavioral support love to use broken crayons. They can bear down and push and scribble and make really strong marks with broken crayons without fear of getting in trouble for tearing up something new.

I know that  some people reading this today feel like an old broken or forgotten crayon. You may be broken down by physical health problems or relationship issues. Or you may be chipped away by little things of life every day…a cruel word chips here, a busy schedule nicks there, until one day you look in the mirror and you are only half of the person that you thought you were.

I have great news for you, friends.

You are needed. God has an area of your life designed just for you. There is a need around you, and you are the perfect person to fill that void. There may be “weak hands” in your circle, or even outside of your comfort zone, and your brokenness might be exactly what those hands need to hold on tightly to in order to become strong. And if you feel forgotten? I can tell you with certainty that He did not forget you. You are never out of His sight, and He has something great in store for you! Here is what He says to His people in Isaiah 49:15-16 (NIV):

I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

You are not forgotten. You may feel that way, and feeling that way is hard–sometimes awful–but our human feelings are very fickle. They change with our circumstances like a tree sways in the wind. God’s word never changes, though, and He says that we are not forgotten.

You know those crayons in the lost and found bucket? They’re really not forgotten, either. They are just waiting for their time to be used. Are you ready to be used?

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Sharing with friends at sweettothesoul.com, purposefulfaith.com, Tell His Story, and holleygerth.com.

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Preschool and Kindergarten: Becoming Writers

Whether they are learning at school or at home, young children love to write.

You don’t know my kid. He hates it. She just scribbles. He runs away when he sees a pencil. She screams when I say, “Let’s write.”

Maybe I’m being a little much here. Too dramatic?

But I know that some children have convinced their parents that they “can’t” write, or that they don’t enjoy it. Maybe their parents don’t enjoy it, either.

There is no such person as one who does not like to write. There are simply people who have not found what to write about yet.

If you are at home, guiding your preschool or kindergarten child through the end of the school year, and you want them to have better handwriting, better pencil grip, and more opportunities to sound out words, organize language, and record their thoughts to paper, then you should let them write. Just write.

Forget about perfection, and focus on progress.

Worry less over grammar, and focus more on grip–pencil grip, that is.

Instead of fostering caution in word choice, foster creativity.

And, perhaps the most curious of all (unless you’re an early childhood educator), stress LESS over conventional spelling, and stress SOUNDS more! What I mean is, when your child asks you, “How do I spell__________?” and believe me, they will—hold back from spelling the word for them. Ask them what SOUNDS they hear in the word and let them spell the word phonetically for now, resting assured that they will learn correct spelling patterns in first and second grades, when their writing brains are ready for those spelling patterns.

What are some ways that writing can be slipped into your home-learning routines right now?

1. Make lists. Of everything. List your family members, days of the week, months of the year, favorite foods, movies you like, songs you can sing.

2. Write stories about your life. Children are really good at telling others their personal experiences. They love to write about who they played with, or a new toy they received, or what they ate for dinner.

3. Write your opinion. It may sound fancy, but opinion writing for young children is as simple as writing, “I like ________________. I like it because_____________.”

4. Write true facts. Maybe your child loves frogs. Let him or her write several sentences telling all they know about frogs. This informational writing is a good way to see how much they learned from your recent science experiment or social studies chat.

5. Write real-life things. Whether we realize it or not, we write all the time. Let your child pretend to be a teacher and write lessons on the board; a police officer and write “tickets” for traffic offenders; a doctor and write a patient’s chart/diagnosis; a waiter and write customer’s orders…I could go on and on!

If your preschool child is not writing letters yet, don’t wait for her to go to school before you put a pencil in her hand. Give her one now and let her scribble, scribble, scribble. Let her “write” with a pen or marker. Have him create the above-mentioned things, even if it just looks like marks on a paper. He will learn that people put words on paper, and words and writing have meaning.

When your children come to the realization that what they put on paper has influence and meaning, it is a powerful moment. Their journey as an author has begun!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Peach Tree

We have an ancient peach tree in the yard. I mean, it’s old. It was here back when my great grandfather lived here, and at one time, it bore fruit and shone in all its glory.

Now it is stooped and aged and bent, and not even pretty. It’s had a long past that includes lightning strikes, thieving bulls (long story), and broken branches.

Yet it still bears fruit.

Every year we say we’re going to cut it down, but then we see the small section of it that’s left and STILL full of peaches, and we just can’t seem to do away with the peach tree.

I kind of like that peach tree. No, the more I think about it, I really like that peach tree.

Sometimes we all feel a little stooped. Aged. Ugly. We might even have a past full of un-lovely things. Heartache, shame, sickness, pain. We may feel like our time in the light is over, and it’s time to be cut down.

But we can still bear fruit.

The One who created us will never see us as “done,” until He calls us home. And He won’t cut us down, He will simply take us there, to heaven, and our seeds, our fruit will remain.

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

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To My Kindergartners: The Last Time We Were Together…

It wasn’t our final good-bye.

It wasn’t even the last day of school.

But it was the last day we were together. I called for the “bus kids” to line up and high-fived them out the door.

“See you Monday!” I chirped as you skipped and shuffled out the door.

I walked the “car riders” out to meet the parents and happily waved good-bye to you.

I didn’t realize that we wouldn’t get to see each other face-to-face again this year. For a kindergartner, 7 weeks is a long time to go without seeing your teacher in person. The next time you see me in person, you will be a little shy and unsure of what to do, even though we both will be happy and excited to see each other.

To my kindergarten friends…

If I had known, I would have hugged you just a little longer and held on just a little bit tighter at the door.

I would have watched my words carefully that day, that whole week, that whole month.

I would have been slower to show frustration at running feet, loud voices, and sticky fingers.

I would have waited longer while you searched in your head for the right words to say.

I would have taken more time with that subtraction story, spent a few more minutes reading the next chapter that you wanted to hear so badly.

I would have given you your journals to take home, because you are so proud of your hard work. You are skilled authors, and the world is waiting to hear your stories.

I would have laughed a little louder at your silliness and smiled a little bigger at your giggles.

I would have said, “I love you!” a little bit louder to be heard over the din of your packing up, your busy classroom chores, and your focus on the tasks at hand.

I would have listened more carefully while you sang “God Bless America,” and I would have reveled in the sound of your sweet voices lifted together in song.

I would have been more patient with that crazy lunchroom. I would have explained more carefully why we should eat calmly and clean up after ourselves.

I would have taken another class picture, and then another, and probably a few more.

I would have let you stay outside for just a few more minutes at recess, because you love to run so much.

I would have gotten out the sidewalk chalk.

Oh, yeah. And the bubbles.

I would have let you sing as loudly as you wanted to during hand-washing time.

I would not have been satisfied with anyone “just not getting it,” and I would have been a little more urgent with my intervention lesson.

I would have sent you home with all the crayons, glue, paper, and pencils that I could stuff in your backpack.

And then I would have given you as many books and magazines to read as I could.

I would have done all of those things and more if I had known it was going to be the last day we’d get to be all together in one classroom.

But I should have done it anyway; that’s what a teacher is supposed to do.

Mrs. Givens loves you.

 

 

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Kindergarten: Getting Ready for Next Year

It’s been a busy week full of planning, scrapping the plan, planning again, scrapping again, and planning some more.

All in order to help our kindergarten friends continue to learn for the last nine weeks of school! I work with the best, and we’ve been working nonstop to figure out a way to answer one of our parents’ biggest worries.

How will my child be ready for next year?

I’ve also had some preschool mamas ask me for some ideas to get their babies ready to start kindergarten in the fall.

As a teacher, you get so involved in your daily routines that when it comes time to pick and choose what parts should go in the online instruction or send-home packets, you want to send it all. Every bit of it.

Every part of kindergarten is vital to public schooling.

But don’t despair, parents. A lot of the things that we do at school are routines that you can implement at home without a pencil and paper or worksheet. You may be doing some of these things already without even realizing it. The following list is not exhaustive; I’m sure that many things can be added. But if you are a parent who is worried that the packet won’t be enough–a parent who wants more than the videos and links and checklists, you can do these things daily and set your child up for success in Kindergarten and 1st grade.

1. Counting and Cardinality sounds like a fancy phrase, but it simply deals with counting in order. For the very young, count to 10 forwards and backwards. Make it fun, like a rocket blasting off! Give your child any number, like, 7, and have the child start there and count to 10 from there. Once 10 is mastered, move on to 20, and then 30! Ask your child what kind of patterns he notices as the numbers move up. For kindergartners going into first grade, you think of a “secret” number and let them guess the number by asking you yes/no questions. Is the number only one digit or two digits? Three digits? Is the number in the forties? Is it in the eighties? Does the number have a five in the one’s place? You can play a game called “Start With/Get to,” where the child pulls a number out of a bag, and that’s the number he starts with, and then pulls another number out of the bag, and that’s the number he gets to. This daily game will require him to count forwards and backwards from any given number within 100 to another given number within 100. Here is a great link you can go to so that your child can see a visual while counting to 100.

2. Counting to tell how many is an easy way to practice one-to-one correspondence at home. Have your child count anything and everything! Point out things that are obvious to you, that may not be quite as obvious to your child. Oh, I like the way you touched every single thing when you counted it. That’s what good counters do. Look how I am lining up my pennies to count them. That way I won’t count the same penny twice. Let’s make sure we only say one number for each pebble, and that we stop saying numbers when we run out of pebbles. Then we know how many we have. For very young children, start with no more than five objects. The more successful they become, add a larger number of objects. Cereal pieces, toys, rocks, coins, anything is fair game when you’re counting to tell how many! For kindergartners going into 1st grade, you can give them a large collection of objects, like 50 pennies. See how they organize their counting. Do they put objects in groups of five or ten? If they are still trying to count each object one at a time, you can encourage them to organize their collection into groups and then use what they know about counting by twos, fives, and tens to count correctly. If they have studied the 100 chart, students can organize their objects in rows of tens, like a 100 chart.

3. Acting out addition and subtraction stories  can help the very young child understand the concepts of taking away and adding more. Your family members can act out stories where three were playing and one more joined them. How many people are playing now? How did we figure this out? You can also use toys to act out addition and subtraction stories!

4. Listening for sounds in words can help your very young child get ready to read and write in kindergarten. Pointing out words that rhyme, reading rhyming stories, and singing songs with rhyming words can get your child started with listening to sounds. Once she can find rhymes, you can point out word parts, or syllables. Apple–did you hear how that word has two parts? ap–ple. Hey what would happen if we took off the “mail” part of “mailbox?”  What would be left? Just “box!” Right! For older kindergartners, you can point out individual sounds in words. Cat has three sounds. c….a….t (not letters, sounds). Can you write the letters that make those sounds? c…a…t. What sounds do you hear in log?

5. Reading to your child is good for EVERYTHING. When you think you’ve read enough books for one day, read some more. Your child will hear sounds, words, and phrases that will strengthen their vocabulary, comprehension, and even their awareness of sounds in words! Your child will learn to love books and reading, and when the time comes for them to take a book in hand to read on their own, they will be ready to take off!

6. Playing with your child can encompass 1-5 with little to no effort. While you are playing “restaurant” with your child, she can count utensils and you can point out words that rhyme with plate. 🙂 She can write a “list” of favorite foods, whether the list looks like scribbling, has some legible letters, or was copied from things in your own pantry. Her hand muscles got stronger in the play, and she wrote something that had meaning to her, in turn, showing her that words have meaning. With the extra time we have at home right now, using some of that time to play with your child just might get them ready for the next year ahead! And, it’s fun, too! 🙂

7. Working on self-help skills is always a bonus to your child that lasts through the years past kindergarten. Buttoning buttons, zipping zippers, tying shoes, and knowing how to pronounce their full name can help a child in innumerable ways.

 

These activities may not be sent home next week via the internet or a work packet. You may be thinking, “I already do this stuff!” If so, good for you! Keep it up and do the packet and don’t worry about next year. If you’re not doing these things and you are concerned about your child’s learning and growth towards the next school year, you could try adding these routines in your everyday life until they come naturally to both you and your child. Above all, any extra time you spend with your child is time well-spent that will benefit them in many ways!

 

 

 

 

 

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But if not…

I love the story of Daniel and his friends, young Jewish men who found themselves in a strange land, under close rule of a strange king, and worse, surrounded by people who worshiped strange gods.

I would have been shaking in my shoes, especially as a young person. But when the king commanded Daniel and his friends to worship a pagan Babylonian god, they refused. The king was furious and threatened to throw them into a fiery furnace.

Again, I would have been shaking in my shoes. And again, here is Daniel’s response to the king:

“We have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

Daniel had full belief that the God he worshiped and served would deliver him from the fiery furnace. That’s a strong faith! But here is the best part of the whole set of verses…

But if not…

Daniel didn’t say, “But if not, then we will bow down to your god.”

He didn’t say, “But if not, we will rethink this decision.”

Nor did he say, “But if not, we will reconsider our thoughts on the one true God.”

No.

Daniel said that even if God did not deliver him from the fiery furnace, He would still be the same God that He’s always been. He would still be the only God worthy of worship. He would be the only God that Daniel would praise, no matter the outcome.

Do we have that kind of faith in the God we serve today, friends?

I mean, we’re not facing a fiery furnace. But we are facing many unknowns. A furnace of it’s own kind. We are facing worldwide changes and challenges that no one in our society has seen the likes of before.

Daily, in my prayer time, I have had to face my fears and doubts. I end by saying to God  that I know He could make all of this go away with a snap of His fingers. Just a word from Him. A thought. I have every belief that He could do it in an instant.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to questions that ask why. Why would He let it happen in the first place…That’s not where my thoughts head. I do know we live in a fallen world, and imperfect world full of sickness and strife.

But my thoughts head towards a place of faith in a God who is in control of my life, the world, and a tiny virus.

The life of Daniel has been on my heart and mind in the last week, and so I’ve begun to add this  to my prayers. “God, I know You can end this in an instant. But God, if not, You are still God. You are still in control. You are still greater than the idols of fear and anxiety.”

So let’s pray, friends. Let’s pray that God would take this thing away. This crisis, this panic, this sickness, this depression. Let’s pray that He would wipe it out quickly. Because He can!

But if not, let’s continue to praise His name for what He is doing every day in our lives.

And if not, let’s look for His fingerprints in the unknown, and see what new things He is doing, and how He is refining us through this fire.

If not, let’s not begin to worship the worldy images of money, health, economy, and busy-ness.

Because, if not, He is still good, and He is still God.

time lapse photography of flame

Photo by Igor Haritanovich on Pexels.com

 

 

By the way, if you want to see how Daniel’s situation ends, look up Daniel chapter 3 in the Old Testament!

 

 

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The Little Things

Five-year-olds can teach us so many lessons!

My students constantly inspire me with their love for little things. My classroom has tubs upon tubs that are full of tiny manipulatives, and a favorite activity for the whole class is “tub time,” where, if we are done with other jobs for the day, each student gets to pick a tub to have all to himself or herself, even if it’s just for five minutes. The students will choose from small people, cars, dinosaurs, blocks, textured materials, animals, and the list goes on. Some students like to sort their little things, some make patterns, and others compose addition/subtraction stories. Still others like to have dramatic play with the tiny things in their boxes, creating a whole story of their own.

Tiny manipulatives aren’t the only little things that can bring instantaneous joy to my kindergarten students, though. Any small thing can brighten their day if it is presented to them in the right way. 

After lunch every day, we have a “dessert” of one tiny chocolate chip. Just one tiny chocolate chip from the baking ailse. The students eagerly hold their hands out and their eyes light up as I give them one tiny chocolate chip each. They savor each morsel. One time, I ran out of chocolate chips and instead of buying new ones, I brought in a bag of mini marshmallows. When it came time for “dessert,” I told the kids that I had a surprise for them and pulled out the marshmellaws with a flourish. I was met with gasps and cheers and excitment, and my heart just swelled at their joy that they are so willing to give!

One time at Christmas, a sweet student had left her nap mat on the bus. Our PE teacher brought it down to our room and instead of just walking in and handing it to the student, she said, “Special delivery from the North Pole!” The kids all gazed in wide-eyed wonder as the owner of the mat jumped up and said, “Oh my gosh. I cannot believe this. Thank you!!!!!” It made their day, which made my day. Just a few simple words. Little things, really.

One day, we were learning about clouds and I decided to haul out some cotton balls so that students could create clouds of their own. One sweet boy said that he’d “never forget this day as long as he lived.”

I have a student who is known for saying that each day is “the best day of her life,” because she can find wonder if every tiny peice of something. On rainy days, if we glimpse a break in the clouds and “sneak” outside for a few minutes, she always celebrates. On special days like the 100th day of school or Valentines Day, she is over the moon with excitement. She exclaims over her friends’ accomplishments, especially the little milestones that have such a big impact. She allows the little things to make her day full of joy!

Those sweet kiddos, they can teach us so many things. They love every little thing, they celebrate the little things, and they acknowledge the little things. And by the end of the day, all the little things become one big thing…a great day that they don’t forget. Teachers and adults alike, we have the power to change the lives around us.

All because of the little things.

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Be the Hummingbird

Several weeks ago, I heard our Associate Pastor Jacob Elliott speak on having a mindset that doesn’t conform to this world. During his lesson, he spoke about two kinds of birds: vultures and hummingbirds.

He pointed out that vultures continuously search for things that are dead and decaying to feed on. They get their life from rotten things. They circle and hover until they can feast on the worst, and then they go and search for more decay.

Hummingbirds are different. They spend their life looking for sweet things. They hover over flowers and colorful feeders, waiting to get a sip of nectar. They are energized from this, and then they zoom away to find more sweet things.

I remember the conviction on his face and in his words as he urged us all to be like the hummingbirds. I tucked this away in the “school” section of my brain.

School is so much of my life, but this mindset applies to everything we do! In schools, workplaces, even churches everywhere, we will run into both vultures and hummingbirds. Our own minds can be a tug-of-war between the two.

While “vulture” might seem to be a rather harsh word for some, the term does describe some who are constantly negative, always looking for something to call rotten, always seeking out the bad things, and worse, once they’ve had their fill, leaving those things for dead, a lost cause.

On the other hand, I’m sure you can picture a “hummingbird” in your life right now. You see their face, their smile, and you hear their encouragement. They make it their life’s goal to find the sweet things in almost any situation. And while I’m not so optimistic that I think bad things can’t happen and shouldn’t be addressed, I do hold to the belief that “God is working all things together for our good, according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

We’re living in some crazy days right now, my friends. There is this tiny virus that is affecting the entire world’s health, economy, and way of life. I can face the truth of that. In fact, I can think about it so much that I can pick apart every news story and social media post like a vulture, looking for every bit of destruction to feed on for the coming days, until I see another news story with more death and destruction.

Or, I can be like the hummingbird. I can find some sweet bits of life here and there that grow into nourishment for my heart and soul. I think I’ll make a list right now of some of just some of the nectar that I’ve found so far…

–Many of us have spent more time in conversation with the Lord; being still, listening to His still, small voice. 

 –Yesterday, my church posted it’s first Youtube service, possibly reaching more people across the community, state, and world than we’ve ever had the capability to before! Churches EVERYWHERE went online and continued assembling together in a virtual sense.

–Families have spent time together, had meals together, and had conversations. I have spent more face-to-face time with my sons and husband in the last week than I have in a looooonnnnggg time. And I have loved it!

–Teachers’ hearts have broken and grown even bigger for their profession. I have really started to re-think how children learn, and while I will always appreciate structure and routine, I see that my own kids learn differently at different times that are –surprise!–not regular school hours! I will be changed as a teacher, for sure. I miss my students more than I thought possible, and when I get to step foot back into that classroom, my heart will overflow with joy.

–I have spent more time outside in my own yard than I did in any of the last four springs. My friends have, too. I’ve seen pictures of sunrises, nature trails, new blooms, and glorious sunsets.

–Social media has become more social, but more hopeful. Across my newsfeed, I’ve seen messages of hope, scripture promises of strength and endurance, and songs of praise and adoration to the God who works all things for our good. I’m sure if I was in a vulturous state of mind, I could quickly find some rotten things, but I’ve noticed a sweeter trend for sure.

–We’ve looked closely at the things that we used to take for granted, and we’ve started to count our many blessings and truly see what the Lord has done.

What am I leaving out? What sweet things have you found in the past few days that have energized you for the days ahead? I’m urging you to be like the hummingbird. Find your strength in the good that God has placed before you, and you will find LIFE!

brown hummingbird selective focus photography

Photo by Philippe Donn on Pexels.com

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