Sometimes…ya just gotta wait

And so I begin a new chapter.  I like the use of the word chapter to describe a life change.  The beginning parts of the story are still there.  The previous narrative was leading up to this point in the plot.

Those of you who know me professionally, know that I have been a teacher who has used technology in my classroom for over 18 years.  Even 15 years ago, my students were using laptops in the classroom to complete research and writing.  During that time, I had opportunities to support teachers in their use of technology, and I began dreaming of a job that would allow me to work with teachers full-time doing professional development, instructional support, and technology integration.  Over the years, I felt burnout and explored new professional options.  More than once, I was offered a position working in curriculum or technology, but it never felt right or did not make sense financially.

Thirteen years ago I began teaching at my current school.  I have worked with juniors and seniors from 13 different districts who are choosing to begin training in a career.  My students were from a variety of experiences with a variety of abilities and learning needs.  I can say I was an effective educator who met the needs of the students and gave them the power to be better readers and writers while feeling success.   While doing this most important work, my district gave me access to all kinds of technology and resources. And I allowed my students to teach me about technology, and they allowed me to test many tools. Three years ago, I also began a supplemental position supporting teachers.  My focus included working with all new teachers, keeping teachers up-to-date on educational changes, training staff on technology, and collaborating with administration to manage new educational mandates.  I was expanding my training sessions to state conferences and other districts.  I am very good at seeing the big picture and considering all the elements that need to come together for school success.  In the last few years, my dreams to work full-time with curriculum and professional development became stronger.

And now, I open a new chapter.  I am officially the Technology Integration Specialist and Curriculum Coordinator for Vantage Career Center.  What does that mean?  It means two changes.  First, I will not have students in my classroom full-time.  Yes, my heart is heavy.  I mourn the loss of the daily interaction with students.  Second, I get to do my dream job full-time.  I get to help teachers be the best they can be for the students.

It has been an empowering summer for me professionally as I was able to choose my next step.  I look forward to the important work I will do.  And I am clearly reminded that God does not work in my time.  I am now beginning the job I dreamed of 18 years ago.  And the timing is perfect.

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Merry Christmas!!!

Let us be thankful for the blessings we have been given.  Tonight I have family and health and warmth, both spiritual and physical, and a purpose and gifts for my children.  Tonight I will pray for the weary, the heartbroken, the lost, the cold, the hungry, the sick, the lonely, those who cannot find the words to say thanks.  

Life is never easy.  It is not meant to be.  We wish for things to be easy and stay the way we like them.  This is not possible.  My mind wanders to Mary who did not plan to be the mother of Jesus.  God does not move life by our plans but by His.  I believe God has a plan for my life, and at times, that plan includes rough patches.  Christmas, for me, is a time of joy and sorrow at the same time.  I suppose it was the same for God….how could you not feel joy and sorrow as you sent your Son to live and die on earth to save all those who would believe in the power of God’s sacrifice. 

And, so, I am thankful.  Just thankful.  I have become keenly aware this year that life is NEVER exactly like I want it to be.  Not at home, not at work, not as a parent, not as a daughter, not as a wife.  So as I sit by our tree coughing my lungs out four hours before the church service of lessons and carols….I know I cannot control life….but I can ALWAYS cling to this promise….

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas!!! Fear not!!! Be thankful…..

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Get ready to breathe…

Tomorrow marks my last day with my juniors.  I did not allow myself to get too attached this year.  Maybe it felt like a year of loss for me or maybe it was just the finale of slow losses over a decade.  One’s heart only can be divided so many ways, I suppose.  I am hoping as I close this school year in a few days, I will allow a few chapters to close.  I hope my heart will grow (I mean after all even the famous Grinch’s heart grew a few sizes) by being filled with new joys.

Next year promises to be an exciting one professionally.  I, like many teachers in Ohio, am feeling very scattered and pulled in so many different directions:  a new teacher evaluation system based half on student growth; a new set a learning standards that represent a shift in teaching emphasis, intense increase in rigor, and completely new units and teaching activities; a new set of nationally normed assessments which will be completed online;   another year of the four-year new teacher residency program revealed; redesigned district report cards; technology changes and opportunities; and more unfunded mandates.  These just represent what I call the controlled changes….the ones someone or some body planned for.  The other changes are significant.  I can clearly say that this year, more than any other, I have had more students who simply refused to take responsibility for completing their work.  I am going to have to find a way to manage that issue because soon their performance will be the basis for my evaluation.

What I find myself doing is grasping onto those things that excite me again about teaching…those things that renew and refresh me.   I will spend the summer training teachers to use technology and attending training to become better informed about the changes in education.  I will also work with colleagues to develop new units and find ways to better assess students.  And I hope I can revive myself enough to be ready to greet the young people who walk through my door next fall.  I pray for FOCUS.  I am scattered and need to regroup.  No, I do not get June, July, and August off.  I will be working on getting ready and working on refreshing me.

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The Lord is My Shepherd–EVERY DAY, ALL DAY!

The Twenty-third Psalm is so comforting and uplifting.  The choir sang the Rutter version a couple Sundays ago.  The song pushes forward gently and yet holds back quietly….much like our relationship with God.  Click here to watch a video of the performance.  I am not sure why this Psalm is so often read at funerals.  It is life giving to me.  Less about death and more about life.  This is how the 23 Psalm speaks to me. The words in green represent the meaning, as I see it.

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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  God takes care of my EVERY need.  I am His and he protects and guides me always.  I can DEPEND on God to take care of me. 

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:  he leadeth me beside the still waters.  My life is prospering because of my God.  He gives me calm and peace in all areas of my life.  

He restoreth my soul: He restores me on earth and will restore me in heaven.

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  I am righteous through the power of God to whom I belong.  The prophecy here was fulfilled in Jesus Christ who purchased my pardon.   I can do good works with Him and for him. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:  I am not meant for this world.  Ultimately, I will be with God in Heaven.  There is nothing to fear.  Not failure, not sadness, not hurt, not temptation, not hunger, not hurtful words, not gossip, not those you fail me, and not pain because God is with me at every moment. 

for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Yes, God is always with me.  He gives me free will but his Word is a guide for my life.  This guide helps me know what is most important and set my priorities, and when I live according to His Word, I am most fulfilled and prosper.   In addition, the staff is a protection.  God protects me. 

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:  The table, for me, speaks of celebration and bounty.  Even among enemies (those who wrong me or hurt me or tempt me), I will have the bounty that God has planned for me. 

thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  I am chosen and sanctified by God. I am His.  My life is a fruitful expression of God’s love for ME. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  Because I am a child of God, I will have all I need.  These things FOLLOW me.  I do not have to fight for or chase them.  They are mine.  God gives them to me out of his love for me.  Now that is something amazing.  

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Today, as many days, I stand in awe of the love of God.  I know I disappoint him.  I know I am not fulfilling my full potential which God has planned for me.  And on those days when life feels oppressive, I think of the 23 Psalm and let the peace of God wash over me.

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Letting Go–Quitting with Purpose

No…I am not about to quit anything (well, maybe I should quit eating so much sugar).  I came across the article linked here.  (Some of you could not open the blog–it is heavy with photos and Flash ads… so try this link instead). It was part of one of my many professional development articles I read on Twitter everyday.

I have come across, and been praying for, many people who are at a crossroads in their lives.  They may need to let go and move on.  This article made sense to me.  The blog this is posted on is not Biblical in nature, but the considerations and questions are solid.  What is holding us back from moving in a new direction?  Is God nudging you to do something else or something new?  I felt so compelled to post this link today.  I pray it is meaningful to you.

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Does God give us more than we can handle?

Last Sunday, the leader of my Sunday School class brought forth a discussion about why our God allows bad things to happen?  We discussed tragic events in our own community… young mothers killed, teenagers dying in accidents….and we had the Boston marathon bombing and the explosions in West, Texas on our minds as well.  We studied scripture, discussed, asked more questions, and ended in prayer for those who are suffering.  I have learned to embrace suffering in the last few years.  I do not like to suffer or see those I love suffer, but it has opened my heart to God and his power.  And I know that through my weakness Christ’s power is made perfect.  When I am weak, he is strongest.

Today a friend posted the link below on Facebook.  I felt compelled to share.

Click here to read the post by Nate Pyle on his blog From One Degree to Another.

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Grouchy

Wow!!!  Have I been grouchy for two days.  And tired. And overworked. And behind. And out of sync.  And lazy. And unmotivated. And blah.   I was so grouchy yesterday, I did not even like being around myself.  Even my reactions to events and details and crisis are out of line.

I get this way every spring.  Grouchy and out of sync.  I become especially out of touch with God.  I think even God hangs back a little at this time of year with me and says, “OK, Mary Ann, be a grouch, forget about the blessings in your life, and stew a little…. I will just hang here until you are ready to get back in touch.”   I felt the strong presence of the Holy Spirit all last week, but I did not hear God much this week.  It was not because God was not near me.  He was there….I have just been really busy having my own loud, grouch party.

So tonight, I am going to remember the words of Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  I am going to focus on the blessings in  my life.  I am going to put lavender on my pillow.  I am going to set a reminder on my phone for tomorrow morning that says, “Fear not, for I am with you.”   And I am going to ask God to quiet me and give me the focus to move out of my grouchiness because I have a lot of meaningful work to do.

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Death is necessary

I have had a new perspective on death in the last year.  I prayed that God would allow my mother to have her physical, earthly death because I knew it would free her.  And when her death came, the feeling of freedom and the realization of the amazing gift my God had given to her through eternal life was all so overwhelming.   Today, I am thinking heavily about Death.  It is Good Friday. And without this day, there is NO resurrection.  Without the sacrifice of God’s own son, there is no eternal life.

I find it so intriguing that we as humans hate when things end.   Yes, the pleasant thing in life could go on longer from time to time.  Even when something is not pleasant, there is often a part of the experience that holds us there because we know we will miss that.   But to have true fulfillment we MUST live in Christ and die to the world.

Galatians 2: 20-21 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

It is not what I do but what Christ did that saves me.  This year, unlike any other, I am clinging to the joy of Good Friday…the amazing joy of this day.  Yes, the resurrection is my ultimate goal, but no resurrection occurs without death.  In my life, I am examining what things I need to let die….or maybe work to allow to die.  What am I clinging to that is separating me from true fulfillment in Christ?  This life is NOT about ME….it is about Christ living in me.  If something in my life is moving Christ off-center, how can I put Christ back in focus?  The answer may be to re-organize or re-prioritize that part of my life….or, I may need to allow that thing to die.  What is becoming master of my life?  There can only be one Master….Christ.  And, God wants me to live life to the fullest.  Sometimes that means shedding the things that are holding me back.

John 10:10 says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Having Christ as our Master does not hold us back.  Dying to ourselves does not hold us back.  And so, the Death before Easter is so beautiful.  I pray that God in His wisdom and mercy will help me shed that which is holding me back…shed that which turns my eyes away from Jesus….shed my bondage to the sins of this world….shed that which is denying me my abundant life in Christ.

Today I look full into the face of my crucified Christ.  Resurrection is beautiful, but death is necessary to reach the beauty.

As you pray this week, speak the name Brittney. You, who read my blog, know what I am going to say….God knows which Brittney.   Speak her name often…we need to lift her up.   Pray that God may release her from her bondage and show her the full purpose of her life.  Pray for those who love her that they may ask God to do the work.

 

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How’s Harold doing?

We used to spend a lot of time updating people on Arla’s status.  Now people often ask, “How is Harold doing?”  The basic is answer is that he is doing great.  In fact, he is hard to pin down many days.  During Arla’s time at Lutheran, the Rehab Hospital, and Vancrest, Harold was Arla’s number one caregiver.  He was with her every day from right after breakfast until she was in bed for the night.  Her care, while very good at Vancrest, would not have been nearly as seamless without Harold there everyday.

He became an unofficial member of the staff by helping the aides with Arla, helping other residents with minor issues, and being a new face to socialize with the residents.  He developed strong relationships with everyone there.  So, it would be no surprise that, since Arla’s death, Vancrest has enlisted his help as a volunteer.  Within two weeks of Arla’s death, Harold started driving Vancrest residents on outings and to doctor’s appointments.   On Wednesdays, you may see him at Walmart with the Assisted Living residents.  You may see him at the Medical Arts building (or whatever they call it now) taking a resident to a doctor’s appointment.   In addition, he takes a gentleman who lives in Van Wert to a dialysis appointment three days a week.  The man has to be at the appointment (which is located in Van Wert) at 6 a.m.  Between Vancrest and getting someone to dialysis, Harold might be doing up to three transports a day.

He is doing odd jobs for a few people here and there, making his rounds to his old haunts, eating lunch with his friends, spending time with family, and starting an active life without Arla.  Life is good for Harold.  God allowed all of us to grieve long before her death.  We, as Harold, miss her everyday, but we are glad that her time of being trapped in her body is over.

So, how is Harold?  He is great.  Call him if you need something….but he may already be booked up.

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Be thankful

One evening after I had been out running an errand, I walked into the back hallway from the garage and Erik ran out of his bedroom and threw his arms around me.  Now any of you who know Erik realize that he is my non-demonstrative child.  He likes your attention and is affectionate but on his terms.  So having Erik bound out to hug me was a surprise.  I remember asking, “Hey, what’s that for?”  He said, “I am glad you are home.”   I know Erik loves me and needs me.  When things really get tough–cut finger, scraped knee, missing headphones,upset stomach, bedtime thirst–Erik heads to Mom.  Otherwise, he knows what I do for him everyday and assumes I’ll be there to take care of his daily needs.

Erik’s reactions to me remind me of my relationship with God….I tell him when I am really glad he is there; I call on him for the life emergencies; and I assume He is going to be there to take of my daily needs.  I am guessing God feels much as I do in the role of Mother.  Some days I get bogged down in taking care of the business of the day without much thanks.  I feel appreciated and fulfilled when I am there to bring peace and comfort in the emergencies no matter how small.  But the joy I remember are a spontaneous heart-felt thank you from my children….”Mom, I am just glad you’re home.”  Simple, in the moment, pure love.

Today, I have more than one moment of abandon when I just praised God and thanked him for so much.  I was praying for a beautiful young girl named Kayla and her family today.  You can pray for Kayla, too.  God knows which Kayla and what needs to be done.  Kayla is improving tonight, so thank God for His healing touch, as well.   I thanked God today for  simplicity, health, warmth, compliance, and trust.   I also thanked him for putting trials in my path that are designed for ME.  Trials that I have handled.  Trials given to me because I would be able to walk through them and become better because of them.  God does not promise we will live without strife.  But he does promise we will not be given more than we can handle.  What would break me, will not break another.  My life may seem overwhelming to others.

Remember to thank God tonight for what you take for granted.  It does not have to be a long drawn out prayer.  Be like a child…run to God, tell him thank you and that you are glad He is with you.  He is but a whisper away.

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