Saying Goodbye

I was really looking forward to Spring Break but, as usual, life happened and changed it. My sweet Buddy started getting sick Friday night. This isn’t uncommon as he likes to eat grass and sticks outside. Neither is him opting not to eat for an occasional meal. By Monday, though, not only was he still not eating and still occasionally vomiting, he’d stopped drinking. Uh oh. Looks like a trip to the vet was in our future.

Buddy has only ever been to the vet three times other than for his regular vaccinations – 1) to be neutered, 2) surgery after getting hooked on the fence in the backyard, and 3) a foot infection after getting something stuck in his paw while hiking mountains in Colorado. This was the his fourth visit. Although we had to drag him through the door, he allowed the vet to lift him up and gave him no trouble, which is very unusual as he usually has to be muzzled to have his bordatella vaccination. Hmm, that’s not good. He definitely wasn’t feeling well.

After a thorough examination and blood work, it was determined that Buddy’s liver had failed. The whites of his eyes were yellow and even the inside of his ears were more yellow tinted than pink. The machine that did his blood work couldn’t register how high his bilirubin levels were as they were off the chart. If we left everything the way that it was, not only would he continue to be in pain, but he would die of starvation/thirst. Even if he had surgery, there was likely a tumor on his liver and his survival rate would be like playing roulette. Not good.

I took him home that evening to have the children say goodbye to our faithful family dog that we’ve had for thirteen years. Knowing what I would have to do in the morning was incredibly overwhelming, and looking into his pain-filled eyes kept my tears coming.

As he fell asleep in my arms the next morning, I whispered into his ear how much I loved him, and thanked him for his loyalty, love, and protection for the many years that he’d been with us. He was the best dog I’ve ever had and life isn’t the same without him. I will treasure the memories we made together forever.

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My One Word for 2019

ENDURANCE

Earlier this year when I was contemplating what my word should be for this year, I was struck by a phrase that I remembered from many years ago. Back when I was in 8th grade, I had a middle school Science teacher that had motivational posters all over her room. I loved them, and told her as much so the next time she received a catalog for them, she gave it to me. I promptly cut up the catalog and taped my favorites on the inside cover of my binder. I later transferred them to the inside cover of my photo album and they’re still there to this day.

“The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running.”

So the word endurance came to mind. I vaguely remembered a Bible verse saying something similar, so I checked Google to see what it says.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 New Living Translation (NLT)

11 I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time. (bolded emphasis mine)

Then one day Word on the Way came up below:

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I already know that this year may have its challenges. I started my Masters degree classes this month that I should finish by this December. I’m going to be a grandma at the end of April. My daughter is moving out. My youngest son just got his first car. My principal retires in May so we’ll have a new one come August. All that on top of the regular life with its stressors.

Hmmm . . . lots of things coming up. I’m hoping that my faith won’t be tested too much but I’m good for the growth part.  So I took it a little further and looked at the surrounding text around the above Bible verse.

Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Life happens. Not everything is sunshine and roses. But what we do with it and how we approach life in general makes a huge difference. I will focus on endurance this year, because it’s not about winning but how I approach the race.

Did you choose a word for your focus for 2019? I’d love to hear about it!

Merry Christmas?!

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How was your Christmas, friends?

I have a tendency of putting waaayyyyyy too much stress upon myself. School finished yet I still had to go in on my non-teaching duty day to do some paperwork and tidy up my classroom. By choice, though, as I could have just left it but then it would have awaited me in January. In the meantime a students’ book order came in, unfortunately not in time for me to give them to her on her last day of class, but yet since I knew she wanted them for Winter Break I got in touch with her Dad to get them to him. Did I mention that I work on the opposite side of town?

Did I mention that my stepdaughter was getting married that Friday? So the decorating, rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner was Thursday night. Although I haven’t known Abby and her fiance very long, they are very important part of my life, and other events have happened that have estranged her from her birth mother. Combine that with planning for a wedding and not having her mom involved would be hard on any daughter. I, for one, couldn’t imagine it, as I have a wonderfully, amazing relationship with my own mother. But yet as a stepmom, where do you draw the line as to where not to butt in where it’s not your role and keep the peace? I did my best to stay respectful in my role and help out the best way I could, a challenge, as I was super conscious of not sticking my nose in where it shouldn’t have been. Fortunately, it went off well, there weren’t any hurt feelings and I don’t think I did anything I shouldn’t have and intentionally offend anyone.

Attempting to plan around two different parenting plans as well as adult children made coordinating Christmas a little more difficult. We eventually settled on us hosting a Christmas lunch. Some of the children had their Christmas presents in the morning, others had them later in the afternoon once my 3 came home, and even more were later in the evening at the grandparents’ house. Unfortunately, Mike’s youngest wasn’t feeling well and by mid-afternoon was running a fever, putting a damper on his day, I’m sure. I guess I shouldn’t put as much pressure on myself but I put so much thought and effort into gifts and meals and making sure that everyone’s needs are met that I struggle with keeping my own head above water. By the time we were done volunteering in the nursery at church and home, I was in tears, overwhelmed with the many aspects of, well, everything!

Standing over the frying pan making pancakes Christmas morning, I prayed for God to change my heart. It was all so . . . different . . . After all, this time last year I was preparing for Christmas and my own out-of-town elopement ceremony. This year has been tumultuous but happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to change, and some changes are good but I wondered if Mike’s children were feeling the same as I was. This isn’t the way things have been. Blending families is challenge enough and for whatever reason, Christmas seems harder than other holidays. I tend to take things too personally. The reason why one of the boys was in a bad mood was because of me, not because they weren’t feeling well. The reason why the plates weren’t full was because they didn’t like what I had cooked, not because they’d eaten too many pancakes that morning. The reason why they didn’t say anything about their gift was because they didn’t like what I had picked, not because they were side-tracked by something else. See what I mean? Perception is something else.

I survived Christmas. There were no tears or arguing. There was lots of laughter and smiles with some reminiscing. Even playing Wii and competitive personalities didn’t dampen spirits! My overly sensitive smoke alarm only went off a few times when I was baking the apple pie but yet not because I was burning it. The food was delicious and I actually coordinated it all coming together at the same time (thank heavens for microwaves to help with potatoes that didn’t cook through in the crock pot even after being on for hours!). Everyone got along with everyone else. Who could ask for more? I am indeed blessed.

 

Letting Go

I stumbled upon this purely by accident on Pinterest.

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A year or so ago I was on a mission to find a better life. I actually don’t do a bad job of keeping clutter to a minimum. After all, there is NOTHING in my attic and my storage area you can walk into without any problems. Yet, it seems as if I had SO. MUCH. STUFF. Or I should say WE as I wasn’t the only one living in our home at the time, my 3 teenage children, 2 large dogs and 3 guinea pigs live there, too! I was fed up of cleaning, tidying, and maintaining our home.

Minimalism being my focus, I started slowly, filling a bag or two at a time and then dropping it off at Goodwill or having it picked up at the end of my driveway through Amvets. If the item didn’t have a purpose and didn’t bring me joy, it was gone. It was incredibly invigorating!   I had nearly an entire garage full of  things so I decided to turn as much of it as possible into cash and held a quick, one day only moving sale.  (I had put my home of nearly 14 years on the market in March and it sold in 4 days!) Now that I was downsizing to a smaller home, it made it much easier to let go of some things!

Fast forward to 2018 and now my new husband and I consolidated households. Thanks to Facebook Marketplace, we managed to sell items so we didn’t have to move them or find storage place for them when Mike vacated his town home. Gone were the dishes, extra 2 dressers, bed, dining table, and couch. Other practical items such as casserole dishes, silverware, pots and pans, etc. were packed into boxes to keep for when our older children decided they were ready to move out. Even today we continue to keep paring down our things. We think carefully as to whether or not something is a need or a want and where we will keep the item.

It’s much easier to declutter an unworn pair of pants or an out-of-style shirt. The emotional part of old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits weren’t as easy. Philippians 4:8 helped me to focus. Remembering I can only control my own actions and not of those around me. Surrounding myself with positive examples through email like Proverbs 31 and WAY-FM’s Word on the Way, Pinterest, and Instagram. Bible verses, songs, and pleasing pictures/photographs are in my feed. Workouts, inspirational quotes/pictures, and home improvement items are pinned in my Pinterest. My life isn’t dictated by how many “likes” I get on Instagram and Facebook. And in my reading pile beside the bed? My Bible, Lysa TerKeurst’s devotional book, Fierce Marriage’s book by Ryan and Selena Frederick, and Mark Hoover’s devotional, You Times Two. My husband and try to read something every night. Is what I’m doing what God intended and does it bring joy? That will certainly help!

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It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, though, and I had to be intentional about where my thoughts were taking me. If you tell yourself something often enough, it becomes a reality. My husband is amazing in helping me stay focused and keeping in mind what should be important and what isn’t. So are my parents. Surrounding yourself with a support system of people who know the real you and have the right intentions/motivations in which to help you is also important. As a result, I have been able to let go of people who used to be a big part of my life. They have made no effort to be a part of mine anymore so it was time to let go. Holding onto it was toxic and I must admit that it’s been freeing. As Philippians 4:13b says, “but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” . In Philippians 2:14-16 is also says: “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as Children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.”

Friends, I wish you a peace and joy that surpasses all understanding through the love of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Happy Teacher

Teaching is hard.

You’re constantly reflecting on what you can do better and how to meet each students’ needs on a variety of different levels and subjects.

This week in our professional development, our leader provided us with a grid for The 30 Day Happy Teacher Challenge. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day grind of teaching so this was refreshing to help us take time for ourselves and focus. We were challenged to get a Bingo and then we’ll get a prize. Since I enjoy a challenge and I liked what was on this chart, I figured I’d go for it. Besides, who can’t use a bit of positivity?

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Yesterday I gave my students an index card with the prompt “I am happiest when . . .” I enjoyed reading their responses and they made me smile.

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If you’re a teacher, thank you for all that you do. I know it’s hard work. If you like a challenge and need a positive boost, try this 30 Day Happy Teacher Challenge!

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Labor Day in St. Louis

A long weekend. Yeeeesssssss . . .

Mike and I hit the road for a trip to St. Louis, Missouri to do some site-seeing and go somewhere I’ve never been before. We had looked into going before but apparently it’s a hopping place as economical hotels were already booked up. So for this trip, we planned ahead and booked early!

I had worked all day teaching the Friday we left and didn’t arrive in St. Louis until after midnight, but at least we got a jump on our mini vacay. Our hotel was lovely so if you have a chance to visit St. Louis, I would highly recommend La Quinta. Saturday morning we visited the iconic Arch, of course! So did a lot of other people . . . but now it’s a national monument that I have seen and been inside of! A little scary, I might add, and crowded at the top but great views!

 

Next up, the Basilica Cathedral.  Wow. All of those mosiac tiles! There was a wedding ceremony there when we were but after it was over, we were able to go into the sanctuary. Absolutely incredible.

 

The next day we headed to the St. Louis Zoo. So did everyone else (free admission? Yep, gotta go!) so we went to Plan B, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. We went on a tour and saw the Clydesdales horses as well as ate outside at the patio BBQ, got free beer, and enjoyed a free concert. Although I had been hesitant about going, I think it was one of my favorite parts of our trip! I had been to the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO and thought it might have been similar but this was much better! We did, however, go back to the zoo later in the day and were thrilled to see the penguins and a polar bear.

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Mike and I with Bruce the Clydesdale!

I loved what I saw of St. Louis in the short time we were there. The architecture and buildings were wonderful. There were many bike paths and lots of trees. Downtown was neat, although parking was a nightmare to get to the Arch. There were plenty of highways to get around with although I’m thankful for Google Maps that helped us navigate the city.

Mike and I enjoy our traveling and try to take advantage of a trip out of town every other month or so, schedule permitting! With us having the kids alternate weekends and Mike having to work another weekend, we’re typically limited to one weekend a month. Taking time out of our hectic schedules to see something new and enjoy each other’s company is wonderful and does our marriage so much good! It’s energizing and gives me a refreshing change with what else is going on in our lives.

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Deep Waters

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The swirling waters of a full Arkansas River.

Have you ever felt that the waters are just deep and life is just too tough? You can’t catch your breath. You feel as if you’re drowning. You’re trying to fight your way out.

Yep, I have. And it seems it’s more and more these days.

When my word for the year came to me (strength), I had no idea that it would be as needed as it was. I guess that’s the way the Lord works, though, when He puts ideas in your head! It seems to be one challenge after another with little to no break in between. Geesh.

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I found this bracelet at JCPenney earlier this year and have worn it every day!

So what does one do?

You MUST relinquish control to the One who loves you. I’m one to hold on to worries and struggle with releasing it. The thing is, many of the issues I’m having to deal with I have absolutely NO CONTROL OVER. How are you to solve a problem if you don’t have any control over it? You can’t.

I was running by the river earlier this week after an exhausting day of teaching, my main goal of alleviating the stress of the day. As I frequently do, I pray but last night I had no words. My sentences wouldn’t come. My words seems to freeze. I was frantically searching for guidance yet found none. I glanced at the river, noticing the rushing current and the swollen banks. Under water. That was what I felt like.

Psalm 121 says the following: I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you–the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Isn’t that so reassuring?

My second tattoo was inspired by Isaiah 41:13 (NLT) – For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God, And I say to you, Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. 

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An infiniti symbol in the shape of a heart on my right wrist, perfect for inspiration of Isaiah 41:13.

I have to keep in mind, however, that there are reasons I am going through the trials that I am. Maybe not reasons that I understand yet, but reasons. 2 Corinthians 13:8-9 (NLT) says: Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. Okay, so I’m not to the boasting part about my weaknesses, but I will pray for His power to work in my weakness.

I hope that you are able to place your hope and trust in Christ. Life is hard enough to manage it alone; grasp tight to His hand and His grace will guide you.

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