Pursuing Creativity

19 05 2016

The following is a devotion I gave to the graduating senior class at my school yesterday.  Among the members was a group of seven students I have had the honor of “advising” for the past four years.

We’ve each had our own moments where “it” hit us – the realization that the end of their high school career is close.  Yesterday, when all of my advisees stood up during the convocation for me to address each personally was my moment. It took my breath away, and I’m glad to have made it through without completely breaking down.

 

Good morning,

I am honored to share a few thoughts with all of you today, only about half of which are actually mine.  The rest came from a book I recently read called Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Some of you may recognize that name from “Eat Pray Love” fame.  Big Magic, however, is not a novel nor memoir, but more a guidebook through the creative process.

ALL of you will go on to creative endeavors.  Hear me well, creativity is not limited to art or music or dance.  We as a culture have come to define it that way, but that definition is so, so limiting.  We often hear, or say ourselves, that someone is creative while another is not.  That is simply not true.

Among God’s many names are the author of Creation and Creator of heaven and earth.  We ourselves are created in the Creator’s image.  So by default, we are creative beings.  Whether we see ourselves that way or not, we are works of creation, and we are called to create.  “It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God.”

Now some of you will indeed go on to college and your careers after to create art or music or drama.  However, some of you will create new technology or apps or even new programming languages.  Who cares if what you create is done using a computer keyboard instead of a canvas or potter’s wheel?  It’s still a creation.

Some of you will create buildings and structures and incredible engineering feats.  Some of you may create a cure for cancer or the next, new wonder drug.  Some of you will create fashion trends.  Some of you will create through athletic endeavors.

Some of you will create order out of chaos and bring peace and healing in the brokenness in which our world lives.  That, too, is a work of creation, one I believe is near and dear to our own Creator’s heart.  If that is your gift, praise God!

Some of you will create with words and some with film and some with numbers and some with simply a smile.  And most of you I presume, will eventually create new life, though hopefully not for a long while.  You see, these are all creative works.  You are fashioning something new that didn’t exist before, and that, by definition, is creation.

In Big Magic, Gilbert states, “Sometimes I think the difference between a tormented creative life and a tranquil creative life is nothing more than the difference between the word awful and [the word] interesting. . .  A teacher once said that the biggest problem she sees with [her students] is that they quit just when things are starting to get interesting.  Which is to say, they quit as soon as it gets painful, or boring, or agitating.  They quit as soon as they see something in their minds that scares them or hurts them.  [In other words, awful.]  So they miss the good part—the part when you push past the difficulty and enter into some raw, new unexplored universe within yourself.”

So this is my prayer for all of you:  that you find your creative passion, be it through numbers, lyrics, running, or painting or a thousand other things.  I pray that you find what you love creating so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant.  I pray that you create anyways and always.  And most importantly, I pray that through this lifelong creative journey, you always remember your identity is found in no one except for the one who created you.

 

God bless.  I adore each one of you.

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Local Celebrities

3 07 2013

For the previous posts on our India trip, visit: An Introduction to India and Meeting Sai.

Wednesday, June 12
I awoke again several hours before dawn. This is getting old. I have one fresh outfit which I must save for tomorrow, so digging through my already-worn-but-could-wear-again clothing bag I go. Unfortunately everything smells weird, not disgusting, but definitely not fresh. Only two more days until we’ll be at a hotel where we can get laundry service, hopefully.

We were back at Vinay’s for breakfast, a feast for them. They normally only eat one item, but today we were served no fewer than seven dishes. After eating, I used their restroom, and then Suneetha invited me into their home. Their home and church are all the same building, and we had been only in the church up till this point. They have a very small home that includes a small kitchen, a bed/TV area, a bathroom, and another closet/storage/foyer area. Suneetha told me they’ve been living there only two years. Before that they were renting a house in town. It cost $17,000 to build the church and house. Like everyone I know, they aspire to build a bigger house someday. The difference is, they must wait till they have the money to complete it.

Vinay's home/office

Vinay’s home/office

foyer/closet/storage area - door opens into the church

foyer/closet/storage area – door opens into the church

kitchen

kitchen

bathroom

bathroom

some of Vinay & Suneetha's family who were staying with them for the time

some of Vinay & Suneetha’s family who were staying with them for the time

Our first stop was to a school for handicapped children in Gudur, about 1/2 hour north of Naidupet. Today was the first day of school for children in this Indian state, and Vinay customarily hands out gifts of school supplies and clothing to a few students. Vinay told the school administrators that we would be with him, and all the stops were pulled out. The news was there videotaping the ceremony and taking pictures. Apparently we will be on the news tonight and in the paper tomorrow.

school for handicapped children

school for handicapped children

students and their families

students and their families

students and their families

students and their families

chalk board in school - notice English equivalents to Telugu words

chalk board in school – notice English equivalents to Telugu words

all the students who received the goodie bags

all the students who received the goodie bags

On our way home, we stopped for ice cream. We had a good chuckle at the trash cans they used.

trash can - front

trash can - back

Vinay wanted to get Matthew an authentic Indian shirt so he took us to a local tailor’s shop. The whole process, start to finish, only took about 2 hours, and result was a beautifully hand-crafted shirt, the only tailor-made shirt Matthew has ever had, at least that we can remember.

making Matthew's Indian shirt

making Matthew’s Indian shirt

making Matthew's Indian shirt

making Matthew’s Indian shirt

Hari - Vinay's brother-in-law - a tailor and driver

Hari – Vinay’s brother-in-law – a tailor and driver

We rested this afternoon; I could have slept for hours, but didn’t. I really need a full night’s sleep. Tonight we feasted at another local preacher’s house with no fewer than nine dishes. God help my stomach.

Random thoughts for the day:
•Those horn sounds I thought interesting a few days ago, not so much anymore. Think of how often you change lanes, turn, or pass another vehicle on your way to work. Now imagine honking each time you do one of those things. Now imagine that every single vehicle honking at all those times, too. Yeah, that’s what honking is here.
•Speed breakers (speed bumps) are everywhere, even on the main highways. And why have just one when you can have 16? Not joking. 16. In. A. Row.
•Driving here is like a never-ending game of chicken. You must be fearless to operate a vehicle. I don’t know how many times I’ve uttered, “Oh dear God” after a near accident. Despite this, there are very few accidents each year.
•The scarecrows here are very unsettling; they remind me of Ku Klux Klan dolls.
•I am completely unaware of world events.

Thursday, June 13
Woke up at 2:00 a.m. Getting really sick of this. We really were on the news last night, and our photo was in the paper today. We were stared at on the streets even more than usual today. Who knew that we’d be local celebrities after just one week in India?

this is the photo that made it on the front of the local newspaper

this is the photo that made it on the front of the local newspaper

Suneetha took me to get a saree this morning. Sadly I forgot to bring the camera. They laid out a bunch of different designs, and I got to pick the one I wanted. They cut a length of fabric off for the “jacket,” but there wasn’t enough time to sew it, so we’ll have to figure that out later. I thought we were going back to their house after so she could show me how to wrap it, but Vinay dropped us off at the hotel for a short rest before heading to the Chennai train station. I missed saying an official goodbye to Suneetha and the other family that were staying with them, but on the other hand, there were no long, emotional goodbyes. I’m not good at those.

Vinay had to rent a car to get us back to Chennai as he only has the equivalent of a learner’s permit. Chennai seems to go on forever, even more so than American cities like Chicago and New York; probably because it’s population is over 13,000,000. At the train station, we saw a little more variety in clothing, but we were still he only white people around. We got our tickets, boarded the train, prayed with Vinay, and said goodbye . . . till September, God willing.

en route to Chennai train station

en route to Chennai train station

en route to Chennai train station

en route to Chennai train station

en route to Chennai train station

en route to Chennai train station

Proverbs 11:25 is definitely a theme so far on this trip, and it is my prayer for Vinay and Suneetha as well as Sai. May they all be blessed as they have blessed us.

Our express train from Chennai to Bangalore was five hours, and apparently all food, snacks, and drinks were included in the ticket price. I am really excited, though, that we’ll be in charge of our own diets from here on out. No more seven-dish feasts at every meal and eating dinner at 9:00 p.m. Except the train does offer a lot of food, including: a carrot sandwich, a spicy pastry, a cookie, coffee, tea, soup, water, and breadsticks–and that was before the main meal of chicken, rice, curry, vegetables, chipathi, and ice cream. Alan, our Compassion host, referred to this over-abundant feeding as “love torture.”

Chennai train station - it is rare to see couples touching in public

Chennai train station – it is rare to see couples touching in public

Chennai train station

Chennai train station

our train from Chennai to Bangalore

our train from Chennai to Bangalore

our train from Chennai to Bangalore

our train from Chennai to Bangalore

our train from Chennai to Bangalore - each carriage posts all the passengers, their ages, and their seats

our train from Chennai to Bangalore – each carriage posts all the passengers, their ages, and their seats

train toilet - they also had a squat toilet across the hall, and this was one of the nicest trains in all of India

train toilet – they also had a squat toilet across the hall, and this was one of the nicest trains in all of India

eating dinner on the train - we were once again given a ridiculous amount of food

eating dinner on the train – we were once again given a ridiculous amount of food

Random thoughts for the day:
•I will miss the ring tone on Vinay’s phone (la la la la, la la la la)
•No one wears sunglasses here, except this American.
•Despite how heart-attack-inducing driving is here, drivers are pretty polite to one another.
•Air conditioning is really cold here, like at my parent’s house. Even Matthew gets chilly sometimes, which means it really is cold.
•I’m amazed there is not more obesity in India. We definitely saw some overweight people, but obesity hasn’t made its mark on the country like it has in the US. I’m always shocked coming back to America by just how prevalent obesity is here compared to most of the rest of the world.





A Teacher’s Prayer

17 08 2011

Lord God,

Thank you for giving me another day on your creation.  Help me not to take advantage of your many blessings. 

Help me to be the teacher you want me to be—kind, patient, compassionate, gentle, and humble, yet firm and steadfast in the Truth.

May the words of my mouth be beneficial to the listener; encouraging and always building my students up, never tearing down.

Be at the forefront of my mind in all I say and do today.  Help me to use the gifts you have given me to bring glory to you in my teaching.  May I continually be a model of your unconditional love.

I pray for your peace, grace, mercy and perfect order to permeate my classroom.  May this space be a refuge to those who enter in.  Send your angels to protect us all from Satan’s tricks and deceptions.

Infuse me with energy, stamina, and perseverance to sustain me throughout the day.  When I am weary, rejuvenate me.  When I am frustrated, calm me.  When I am confused, guide me.

As you multiplied the fishes and loaves to feed thousands, take my meager efforts and bless my students abundantly.  Turn my failures into victories.  Satisfy the needs I have not met.  Remind my students of your presence when they stand at the crossroads of right and wrong.  

All I can give is my best, and I will continue to do that.  Help me to train my students in the way they should go so that when they are no longer under the roof of our school building, they will not wander off the right path.

I submit my students to you now and rededicate myself to the task you have placed before me.

Amen.





Master Teacher (Part 2)

7 03 2011

“Teach them his decrees and instructions
and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.”
-Exodus 18:20

Continuing my post from last week, I am examining the teaching methodologies of Jesus based on a reading through the gospel of Luke.  In Master Teacher (Part 1), I talked about:

  • How Jesus took time to deal with each person on their schedule, not his.
  • Silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • The art of answering questions with questions.
  • Using parables to get a point across.

A fourth strategy I employ is answering questions with scripture.  During my three years in the public school, I was too frightened to share anything about my faith in the classroom.  Now that I work in a private Christian school, I have come out of my shell and am quoting from and referring to scripture more often in class.  The old “WWJD” is a little trite, but I do quote scripture when talking about cyber-bullying, sexting, plagiarism, or the like.

I am also not as afraid of being politically incorrect; Jesus never was.  My school’s mission statement speaks to the fact that we are to instill in our students Christian values and beliefs, and I am supported in doing so.  I know this is a huge privilege to be able to speak so freely about Christ, but it is also a daunting task to teach and train my students in the way they should go before the Lord. 

A very interesting attribute of Jesus I had never really considered is the fact that he was not immune from frustration.  As with any teacher, he experienced confused students who questioned him time and again over concepts he had repeatedly discussed.  His disciples in particular often didn’t “get it” and were sometimes embarrassed to ask for further explanation.  He was quick to rebuke when necessary, yet even in his frustration, he never sinned against those whom he was teaching.

I cannot say this has always been true in my classroom, but God and my students have been very gracious with me in this respect.  I am usually humbled quickly, and I publicly apologize when I have wronged a student.

One unique characteristic of Jesus that had a major impact on his teaching was the time he spent in prayer.  This trait wouldn’t be included in any contemporary pedagogy books, but I know it played a key part in his ministry.  Prayer is an important part of any Christian’s life, but I believe doubly so for anyone who is responsible for the care and training of others, be they teachers or parents.

Time and again Jesus retreated to pray early in the morning before he would begin teaching and ministering, as well as at night, after he undoubtedly had a very full day of attending to people’s physical and spiritual needs.

I desire strongly to have the kind of prayer life Jesus had.  I do pray a lot for my students and for myself.  I make it a point to pray for each one by name in class when they are testing, but I really need to do this more often, not just on the “important” days or for the “big grades.”

Jesus’ treatment of people is another appealing quality that would be desirable for any teacher to emulate.  Not that I have any students of ill-repute to deal with on a daily basis, but I do have some who would be considered “social rejects” by their peers:  those who are overweight, unattractive, socially awkward or in one past instance, one poor youth who had bad body odor; he came to my class right after P.E., and avoiding him was very tempting even for me.

None of this would have mattered in the least to Jesus, nor should they matter to me.  Even in Jesus’ day, the leaders, teachers, and his own disciples were quick to judge and dismiss the outsiders, but he always sought to meet their needs and didn’t care if he was being “politically correct.”  I should rely on his example—and only his—when it comes to treating all people with the respect and dignity that are due them.

Perhaps one of the most challenging methods of Jesus to imitate is how he taught different groups of people.  He often taught his disciples very differently compared to how he taught the religious leaders.  With his disciples, Jesus was very patient, would explain his parables, and frequently taught them alone, away from the public.  On the other hand, he usually angered the religious leaders with his parables and was very public when doing so.

People two millennia ago are the same as today; they have different learning styles.  I do not have the omniscience Christ did to be able to immediately distinguish what method or what words would best get the point across to my listeners.  I do, however, have modern research to enlighten me on the diverse learning styles our children have:  some are auditory, some are tactile, some are visual, etc.  One size does not fit all in the classroom.

I have the responsibility to know my students and do what I can to help them learn, and if I am not paying attention to their diverse needs, some may fail simply because I have failed them.

Possibly, the most crucial trait Jesus passed on to his followers was that he modeled for them what he wanted them to do.  Teachers and especially parents—whom I consider the most important teachers in a child’s life—should be very sensitive to this.  As the mother of a 3-year-old and an 8-year-old, I can attest to the fact that children do imitate what they are shown and speak what they hear.

God has placed on me as a parent and as a teacher of other people’s children an amazing responsibility to teach and train His children in the paths they should go in life.

  • I can help, or I can hinder.
  • I can praise, or I can discourage.
  • I can teach and model kingdom living, or I can become an obstacle to following Christ. 

In my home and in my classroom, I must never forget this responsibility.  If my two year old can pick up on my attitudes, speech, and behaviors when I think he’s not paying attention, how much more will my teenage students pick up?  In this respect, Christ was the ultimate teacher.  He modeled rightly for us what he wanted us to do—even to the death.

So how has Christ’s teaching methodology made a difference in my life?

  • He humbly served his followers.
  • He often put their needs before his own.
  • He listened to, prayed for, and respected those who chose to listen.
  • He met the individual’s needs amidst the masses.
  • He spoke directly to the heart of the matter at hand.
  • He was patient and yet was not afraid to discipline and rebuke when necessary. 

All these things he has done for me, and he has reminded me of my calling as a teacher to do all these things for those whom he has placed in my care.

To close, I would like to include a prayer that I read in the Focus on the Family monthly magazine some years ago, written by an anonymous source.  It was originally written as a prayer for parents, but it is dually applicable for teachers. 

LORD,
You know my inadequacies. 
You know my weaknesses, not only in teaching,
but in every area of my life.
I’m doing the best I can to teach my kids properly,
but it may not be good enough.
As You broke the fishes and the loaves
to feed the five thousand hungry people,
now take my meager effort and use it to bless my students. 
Make up for the things I do wrong.
Satisfy the needs that I have not met.
Compensate for my blunders and mistakes.
Wrap you great arms around my students,
and draw them close to You.
And be there when they stand
at the great crossroads between right and wrong.
All I can give them is my best,
and I will continue to do that.
I submit them to You, now,
and rededicate myself to the task You have placed before me. 





Master Teacher (Part 1)

3 03 2011

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers,
because you know that we who teach
will be judged more strictly.”
-James 3:1

In 2005, I began working on my Masters of Education degree at Lipscomb University.  The first class I took was called the Master Teacher, and it was honestly life-changing.  Not many people can say that about any college class they’ve ever taken.

Our one major paper had to do with reading through the gospel of Luke in one sitting and then writing about the methodologies Jesus used as a teacher. 

I haven’t read this paper since I turned it in to my professors six years ago, but I find the material just as relevant to my teaching and parenting today as it was then.

Because this was originally a 10-page paper, I have split it up into several shorter posts.  So whether you are a teacher in a private or public school, at the elementary or university level, teach science or fine arts, Christian or not, or even if you are not a teacher but are a parent, I believe the methodologies Jesus used are applicable to all of us.

In the past 16 years since becoming a born-again follower of Christ, I have learned much about what it means to be a disciple of Christ, but the old saying is true for me:  “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.”

One example to illustrate this is in my teaching.  I am in my fifteenth year of teaching, and it does get better and easier each year.  I am more relaxed with my students, and I can get the information out a little better each semester.  I thought I had my job pretty well under control.  I know I’m not at the level of a “master” or “expert” teacher, but I don’t consider myself a rookie anymore, either.  Until I studied Jesus as a teacher, that is. 

Since my first graduate assignment of reading the Gospel of Luke, I have critiqued myself in the classroom more than I have ever done since I began teaching in 1996.  God has shown me weaknesses in my teaching that I didn’t know I had—nothing devastating—but areas I can improve upon nonetheless.  He has also reaffirmed to me the things I am doing right to glorify Him in my classroom.  My time in the Master Teacher class showed me many facets of Jesus as a teacher that I had never thought about, but that do directly affect who I am in the classroom.

Perhaps the most important teaching point that is relevant to me as a teacher is the fact that Jesus always took time to hear an individual’s problem, despite the time or the crowds around him.  Often, it was necessary for Jesus to teach the masses—the modern approach could be classified as lecturing.  This is not a bad methodology; it is simply one way to get information out to a multitude of people at one time.

However, when I lecture, if a student had a question, I would often ask him to wait until I finished.  Sometimes this was necessary, sometimes it was not.  I still find myself thinking about this principle every time I tell a student to “hold on—let me finish this” or “I’ll be there in one minute.”  I really can’t imagine Jesus telling another person to “wait a second.”  This point more than any other has deeply convicted me.  Far too often I have made students wait until it was convenient for me to help them.  Since becoming aware of this practice six years ago in my classroom, I often find that answering the question then and there is the best course of action.  I don’t have a chance to forget, as has happened far too frequently, and my students certainly appreciate the attention given to them when they really need it.

A second teaching point I learned from studying Jesus’ teaching methodologies is that silence is sometimes the best answer.  Jesus frequently used silence in response to a question as is illustrated in his encounter with the angry mob who wanted to stone the unfaithful wife or when he was falsely accused during his trials before his crucifixion.  I find myself using silence more for several reasons. 

  1. If I think a student already knows the answer, I will often wait before jumping in.  This has proven quite successful.  I have been too quick to answer a question from a student when I know she knows the answer.  I now simply give my students “the look,” and they know that I’m not going to give them the easy way out.
  2. Another positive aspect of this methodology is that the number of “stupid questions” I get has decreased.  My students think more before they speak which is always a good thing.
  3. Silence is a great way to get someone’s attention.  My students know that when I’m not talking but am standing and ready, what I’ve got to say next is important.  They settle down quicker and listen more attentively.

A third methodology  is the art of answering questions with questions.  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I used to be way too quick to want to jump right in with the answer.  Most of the time, I have discovered, this habit stemmed from laziness.  I didn’t want to have to help or explain something again; giving the answer directly was just quicker and easier.

I have worked on this greatly over the years—using leading questions and learning to use the Socratic method with my students.  These are great strategies if you ask the right questions.  However, asking the right questions to direct the student’s thinking is the difficult part.

Jesus was the master at this.  Of course, his being God, in nature all-knowing, was very helpful.  He knew the hearts of the men and women he spoke with so he could easily pinpoint the source of conflict and ask a pointed question right to the heart of the matter.  If I don’t really know my students and their abilities, asking leading questions could be frustrating for all of us.

To go along with answering questions with questions is Jesus’ use of parables as a way of teaching new or difficult concepts by using common and relevant ideas.  While Jesus was a master at this, I am not, but I do tell personal stories whenever possible if they help get the point across.  In fact, I find my students repeating examples from such stories on their essays and quizzes.  The personal touch resonates much stronger with my students than a general Power Point presentation.

I hope you stay tuned for my next few posts on this topic in which I will address:

  • Answering questions with scripture.
  • Jesus was not immune from frustration.
  • The importance of pro-active prayer.
  • Did Jesus treat everyone the same?
  • Using different learning and teaching styles to your advantage.
  • We teach by example.




Bucket List

13 01 2011

My bucket list is in no particular order, and it changes often.  Many items have to do with travel, a passion of mine, and some are slightly off-the-wall.

1.  Launch a grenade.
2.  Dance a Viennese waltz in Vienna  on New Year’s Eve at the largest Viennese Ball in the world.
3.  See Taming of the Shrew at the Globe Theater in London.
4.  Visit Venice during Carnival.
5.  Ride on the back of a motorcycle at a sport bike track day.
6.  Sky dive someplace amazing like in New Zealand.
7.  Hike the entire Appalachian Trail.
8.  Ride the Orient Express in first class.
9.  Fly first-class on an international flight.
10.  Learn to play the piano without effort.
11.  Learn to dance as if I were in the finals of Dancing with the Stars.  (Derrick Hough
would be my partner.)
12.  Run a Victorian bed and breakfast on a lake.
13.  Teach at a missionary school in Indonesia.
14.  Run an 8-minute mile for a 5K.
15.  Retire to Costa Rica.
16.  Learn to cut an onion efficiently, like they do in infomercials for Ginsu knives.
17.  Bungee jump someplace amazing like in New Zealand.
18.  See a lion capture a zebra on a safari somewhere in Africa.
19.  Visit every “Wonder of the World” old and new.
20.  Learn to speak, read and write fluent German, Chinese, Polish, Swahili, Spanish, and French.
21.  Give 50% of my income to charitable organizations.
22.  Grow my hair back to the length it was on my wedding day.
23.  Earn my MBA.
24.  Earn my Ph.D.
25.  Fly in outer space.





Overflowing with Thankfulness

22 11 2010

“So then . . .
continue to live your lives . . .
overflowing with thankfulness.”
Colossians 2:6-7

As Thanksgiving approaches in a few days, the question “What are you thankful for?” has been entering many conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks.  Here is a sampling of what I am thankful for.

  1. The cross.  The blood of Christ.  He who died for my sins.
  2. God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness that he offers me on a daily basis.
  3. Peace and joy that God offers me on a daily basis, if only I am willing to accept it.
  4. The working of the Holy Spirit in my life.  Hearing that still, quite voice convict me when I need to be convicted and encourage me when I need to be encouraged.  Taking my heart’s cries to the Lord when I’m not sure what I even need, but knowing God does.
  5. God’s word.  Life-giving, life-sustaining, life-changing word.
  6. My husband.  Renaissance Man.  Wonderer and wanderer.  Creator and blower-upper.  Pyromaniac.  Stargazer.  Talker and listener.  Coffee brewer extraordinaire.  Pig manipulator.  Man of God.  My foundation.
  7. Caleb.  My sensitive, creative, artistic, inquisitive, perceptive, insightful, inventive, imaginative, resourceful one.  Expert Lego builder.  Walking Star Wars and Pokémon encyclopedias.  Comic book author and illustrator.  Top popcorn salesman.  Giver of amazing hugs.
  8. Jason. My stubborn, headstrong, fierce, funny one.  Thomas the Train lover.  Busy, busy, busy little boy who needs far too little sleep, especially on the weekends.  Creator and perfector of silliness, chaos and messes.
  9. Passing on a legacy of following Christ and serving Him to my children.
  10. My parents and their unconditional love and support and the way they love and adore my children. 
  11. My job.  My amazing coworkers.  My students and their parents.  I am having the best semester I’ve ever had and am completely refreshed by my choice of career.  I am confident I am where I am supposed to be.
  12. FRA education for my sons.  An amazing education at an amazing school with amazing teachers.  You are my second family.
  13. My home and the place of rest and refuge it is for me.
  14. My neighbors.  I can’t begin to tell them thank you enough for the way they take care of us and love on my boys.
  15. My friends, teamship, and community that matters.  They have opened my closet, pulled out and dusted off the skeletons, and walked with me in love and grace through the mess of dealing with them.  What a blessing it is to be free to be real, ugly, messed up and still adored.
  16. Financial discipline.  We have been tremendously blessed living with the philosophy of “if we can’t afford to pay for it in full right now, we can’t afford it.”
  17. Giving of our time and resources.  We are usually blessed more than those to whom we are giving and serving.
  18. Good health.  Even amidst the colds and sniffles, we enjoy tremendously good health.
  19. Running and being able to physically challenge my body in ways a few years ago I would have thought impossible.
  20. Music.  How quiet and sad my world would be without the music of my husband, my sons’ silly songs or the CD in my car (or even ridiculous commercial jingles that stay in my head for hours on end.)
  21. Learning and reading; they have transformed my life.
  22. Traveling the world.  Nothing compares with being able to experience a life drastically different from my own.
  23. Hope.  Without it, where would I be?

What are you thankful for?