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Finishing the race

Just a couple of days ago, my daughter was cleaning out a closet and found a large brown folder containing items from my early childhood.  There were many pictures, certificates, and several report cards.  My second grade report card stood out as one that demonstrated myself as a student.

Apparently, I had difficulty with most subjects earning primarily C’s and a scattering of B’s and D’s. My teacher wrote, “Cora has worked hard to improve her work. I am so proud of her. She has excellent study habits, and tries real hard to do her best.” Even though I struggled in school, I always knew in the back of mind that I would attend college.

I think it was when I transferred my junior year of college to East Carolina that I finally figured out how to actually study in a manner that produced high grades.  I had to work really hard and stay focused on my goal of graduating.  I remember having to give up a lot of parties and trips with my future husband in order to maintain a strong GPA.  It was these habits that I developed during this time that allowed me to pursue a master’s degree in Special Education.

Because of my slow start and strong finish, I feel that God has given me the right attributes to work with students with special needs.  Going through my own struggles, I could relate to the students that I worked with and provide a nurturing environment.  There were many students with different types of disabilities and hardships that came into my classroom.  Even so, I gave them a place where they could encounter a sense of accomplishment and experience academic success.

I have come to believe that by working hard and never giving up, God will direct us towards the Promised Land that He has chosen for us. This may not mean a life defined by prosperity but instead a land that meets our needs and builds our character.  As I reflect on my own journey, I have to say that I am grateful that school didn’t come easily. If it had, I may have missed the gift of understanding how God wants us to rely on him and not on ourselves.

We are all on our own unique journey and if we can slow down and reflect on the past, present, and our creator, we can experience the fullness of life.

My Personal Thunderstorm

Have you ever had days where you seem to be stepping from one problem to the next and haven’t a clue on how to get back on solid ground? This is how I have felt today. I do find it humorous that this morning I was reading a book by Joyce Meyer called Power Thoughts. Maybe God wanted to give me an opportunity to practice being positive so he set up a perfect storm just for me.

We all face crisis of many shapes and sizes in our lifetime, but it just seems like lately, I have had an extra helping. Okay, don’t laugh at my most recent thunderstorm. I woke up this morning to Carl, our six month old French Bull dog throwing up. I could tell he wasn’t feeling well because he didn’t want to eat. This typically wouldn’t be alarming except that he is still recovering from having his tail surgically removed. For the last two and half weeks, we have had to closely monitor him because it is easy for infection to set in around where his tail used to be.

He was sleeping peacefully when I left to go to the grocery store. When I returned, the vomiting was now being accompanied by diarrhea. I am probably grossing you out but if you had seen how it was just oozing out of his bottom, with no tail to cover up the mess, you would understand why I thought of this as a crisis.

It was so bad that we couldn’t do anything but clean one spot off the floor and then move to the next one. Jay and I were pretty concerned about our little pup so we called the doctor and are taking him in. We truly love this little guy and would be crushed if something happens to him.

Maybe it is the unknown part of the situation that I don’t like. And I am sure it was the unknown that scared the Israelites when the twelve spies came back to tell them that they were like grasshoppers to the people that occupied the land that God had promised them. If I am not careful I could be just like the Israelites and turn my fear into grumbling. But as I read in the book of Numbers, grumbling will only give you more time in the desert. So, I think I will keep working on being positive and wait for the storm to pass.

Meat on a Stick

Meat on a Stick

What keeps us from reaching our “promised land”? I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. Everyone has something that is just out of reach. It reminds me of dog races I have seen in the past where there is a stick with a tasty piece of meat dangling in front of the dogs. When the race begins the stick moves just ahead of the dogs coaxing them around and around the race track until the finish line. To this day, I am not sure if the winning dog receives even a bite of the tasty incentive.

What is your meat on the stick that keeps dangling in front of you or the Promised Land that you are striving to reach? I’ve been thinking about the men that were directed by God to go out and investigate the Promised Land. Why did they come back scared out of their minds and unwilling to go forth? Why were they willing to just stay put circling in the desert for forty years until all of their generation died off?

Before being hard on them, I must ask myself if I am putting off my Promised Land for the comfort of the known. Am I going around in circles because I don’t dare reach out of my comfort zone for a life of unexplored challenges?

In Psalm 37:3-4, David writes, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I believe the key to the door that will open up my new journey starts here. The first step begins with trusting, dwelling, and delighting in the Lord. And then he will bless me by giving me the desires of my heart.

Now all I need to do is turn the key, open the door and walk through.

The Unwanted Friend

The Unwanted Friend

As we walk through this desert together, we have made a new friend that won’t leave us alone. He persistently is in our lives every waking moment. Our journey has been challenging but now with the addition of our new friend, it can be seen as unbearable. We are constantly asking our friend to give us some space but he is relentless.

Our friend’s name is pain. Not just the coming and going kind but the constant, unbearable type that starts in the lower back and reaches over to the hip and down the leg. Every once in a while, a little relief is found and a glimmer of hope comes to the surface. Will our friend finally leave us alone? But then as if the thought is too much to ask for, the pain comes back in a vengeance.

How can this be a friend and not an enemy? Isn’t a friend someone you hold with personal regard or affection? Isn’t a friend someone who gives assistance and support? What type of help can we be receiving from this unwanted intruder? Could it be a new perspective of life that only our pain can give us? Could God be using this friend to help us desperately seek him? To humble us to our knees and keep us constantly aware of his presence?

I have heard people say that we don’t leave God when we are facing adversity. But people tend to place him on a shelf when they are in the midst of prosperity. If this is true, maybe our friend has a new name? Could his name be God’s sovereignty in our life? If so, let us be thankful for his desire to draw us close to him, even if we have to share it with our unwanted friend.

But

Have you ever had an idea that you initially thought would be a great way to move forward in your life? The only problem was that you didn’t follow through with it because of the huge obstacles you perceived would cause it to fail.

I was reading today about how God commanded men to be sent out ahead to discover the land that he had promised them. They went out for 40 days to explore this land and came back and reported what they had seen to the people.

Now these are the same people that had seen incredible acts of God towards the Egyptians when Moses was trying to persuade Pharaoh to let them leave. These are also the same people that experienced the miracle of the parting of the sea. But even so, the majority of the people who went out to explore only saw the obstacles and not the promise that God had given to them.

I have given these people a lot of thought in the last couple of years. First of all, I have been plagued by an uncertainty of where my promised land is and how to go there. Should I go back to teaching in some format or should I take a totally different direction in my new life?

The other day I was watching a movie about a talented young basketball player who was the highest scorer for his high school team. When he was a freshman in college he had a stroke which left him with seizures and a limp. For most of the movie he was trying to return to being what he was before the stroke. At the end of the movie he realized that he was now a different person, one that was better because of his situation.

Am I now a different person because my identity as a special educator is in the past? What can I say I am today as I seek out my new life? Will I be willing to look beyond the obstacles and pursue it? I hope that blogging about my own personal situation can promote the confidence I need to look beyond my own obstacles and travel down a unique path that has been created just for me.

My Daughter

It is hard to believe that 24 years ago today, my daughter was born. I want to laugh sometimes when she tells me that she is getting old. If she is getting old, what does that make me? Ancient. I feel so blessed to have her living at home with us. To many people that sounds crazy. Our generation has been trained to believe that a child and the parents are failures if the adult child has to live at home after they have left. I see it as a gift.

Hannah left home at the age of 15 to go to a state supported boarding school for talented high school students who wanted to pursue the arts. She did extremely well in this environment and left for New York to go to college at NYU. After only a semester, she realized that she was tired of juggling both dance and academics and decided to leave school and pursue a career in the Big Apple. She was able to survive by teaching classes and working at odd jobs. After three years of living off the bare minimum, she moved home.

Since being home, she has been dancing for a company and pursuing her love for clay animation. She has taken over the upstairs and created a studio in one room and a place to sleep in the other. Just last year, I wrote a children’s book called Broccoli Trees. It is about a little boy who has terrible eating habits and doesn’t do well in school. After seeing a transformation by a friend, he decides to make some changes in his eating habits. Well, Hannah started illustrating the book by creating clay figures and taking pictures of them. We were moving right along with this project until she was asked by a rock band to do a clay animation video.

Now, she has begun to work on the book again. I am both excited and scared about when she finishes this project. I believe the unknown can be a very frightening state to be in. What will this book mean to my journey through the desert? Just like the Israelites who heard about the land of milk and honey, they were hesitant to go there. It was a lot easier for them to just stay put. That is exactly how I feel. I am very comfy being just where I am right now. But then again, what if this book is a way to step towards the Promised Land? Does God want me to publish this book as a way to move me into unchartered waters? I believe if it is meant to be, I will be given the tools and support to make it happen. Time will only tell.

If you want to explore Hannah’s work, visit her website at Hannahdarrah.com.

Our Frenchie is losing his tail

Something as simple as a tail can be so complicated. Carl, our five month old French bull dog has to go in for surgery today to have his tail cut off. If you looked at him, you would say, “What tail?” He only has a little flap compared to Bee’s tail. Her little stub can be seen moving up and down when she is excited or on alert. But not Carl’s. His stays in place. That’s the problem. When he goes out and does his business, his little flap gets in the way. So after months of staying still, an infection has set in and we have problems.

Carl is a fawn color with a narrow head for a Frenchie. He has deep brown eyes and a white marking on his forehead. He loves to do the Carl dance which is a little shuffle when he wants to jump but has been told to sit. He loves Bee, our older Frenchie. She is a black and white dog with a narrow tummy. She is calm and tolerates Carl when he is playing with her when all she wants to do is sleep.

Today, I take Carl to the surgical center where a board surgeon will do the surgery. Apparently, the tail has a lot of nerves that can be very tricky when you take a tail off. I didn’t realize until just recently that Frenchies are born with the stub or no tail. Some people think they are cut but they are not.

Carl is now sleeping in his bed, oblivious to the fact that his world is getting ready to change. Bee on the other hand, is sitting beside me getting ready for the life she knew before Carl. Sleeping in our bed… Once Carl came into our home, Bee has sacrificed the dream sleeping arrangements to sleeping in the crate out in the garage with Carl.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Carl howls. Not just for a couple of minutes of ear piercing moments but for up to an hour. So they had to be banished to the garage until Carl grows out of it. They don’t seem to mind. Once the blankets our pulled over the metal bars, it can appear to be the same as inside. Jay makes sure the heater is on and they are nice and comfy.

Later today, I will pack Carl and a three day supply of food and take him to the doggy hospital. Please pray for our little guy and I will keep you informed of his progress.

Our Trip to New Bern

It is Saturday and my husband and I are headed to New Bern to see his dad. It seems like yesterday when we received the call from him that he had lung cancer. Little did we know then that our lives would be drastically changed. Last March, Joe, Jay’s father, let us know that he had stage three cancer and that the doctor wanted to operate. He found out when he saw a commercial about asbestos. Since he worked on pipes in the military he decided to call the lawyer’s phone number listed on the commercial. They directed him to have some tests done before they could see if he was eligible for the settlement money for individuals with mesothelioma. He had his doctor do some tests and the cancer was found. The crazy part was that there were no symptoms.

I have come to truly believe that God works in mysterious ways. It was like he led me into my desert so that I would be available to help Joe. As I stated in my earlier post, I retired from teaching and am now in a major transition in my life. Last year, I tried to drum up a tutoring business but nothing materialized. I have never had difficulty getting jobs so this was very odd to me. No matter how many approaches I took, no work came my way.

Since I had no major responsibilities besides taking care of my grandchildren and husband, I was able to get in the car and drive the four hours to Columbia South Carolina. My husband and I have gone down to Columbia at least 15 times in the last nine months. During this time period, we have also realized that Joe has Alzheimer’s and shouldn’t be left alone.

This was particularly troublesome because Joe happens to be a very stubborn, independent man that doesn’t want anyone’s help and is making choices that could put him and others in danger. Joe always carried a gun and would keep it beside his bed. One night when my sister in law was spending the night, Joe became very confused and actually pulled the gun out when he heard her coming through the door. It was extremely alarming to her and heightened our concern for his wellbeing.

Packages

Have you ever received a package that was beautifully wrapped and then when you opened it up, it was something that you had no interest in having? Or on the flip side, did you ever receive a gift that was poorly wrapped and you weren’t really expecting anything special but was in amazement by the gift?

Yesterday, I went and watched my three grandchildren for about six hours. I have to admit I wasn’t really looking forward to this experience. Driving for 45 minutes to get there and then spending time changing diapers, picking up toys, and mediating disputes just didn’t sound like what I had in mind as a good time. I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to this experience and would have rather gone to play tennis.

Well anyway, I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed being with these three little people. Most of the day was spent listening to them play with their toys and using their imaginations. My four year old granddaughter created a bus out of a car seat, mattress, and a baby high chair. She spent hours talking to her baby dolls and getting them prepared for the bus ride. My five year old grandson played with his transformers and talked quietly to them. My one year old grandson found some match cars and tried to place them on top of a train that he found.

As I sat next to my grandson watching him put his head on the floor and pushing his train around furniture, I realized that I am truly blessed. First of all, I am young enough to truly enjoy my grandchildren and second I have the opportunity to spend time with them. The lack of active grandparents in my own life has convicted me about the importance of being present in my own grandchildren’s lives.

Spending time with my grandchildren and realizing they are truly a blessing brought a new understanding of how some situations may look like a burden but are special gifts in disguise.

Expectations

Being married for over 35 years has been a challenge and also a major blessing. As I have grown older and hopefully a little bit wiser, I have learned how to stay content by managing my expectations.

I will never forget the first year of marriage and the psychology class that I took.  We were studying behavior management and I decided to experiment on my husband.  I placed a chart on the refrigerator where I would place a star beside chores he completed. I will never forget the day our preacher came to visit and having some strong words for me.  I never did that again.

When we were married for about seven years, our marriage started to show signs of major decay.  We had one child and lots of hostility.  I can remember coming home from work and feeling each night would spin through the same cycle.  I had worked all day and I felt like I was expected to cook, clean, and get our daughter bathed and put to bed.  When I asked my husband to help me, I would become angry if he ignored me or didn’t perform quickly enough.

Expectations haunted my thoughts.  I was constantly angry whenever I thought about how much I did and how little I thought he did. Thank goodness, I had developed friendships with some God fearing women. They listened to me talk and then gave me some of the best advice I have ever received.  They shared that if I did everything out of love for God and expected nothing from my husband, my marriage would blossom.

Sure enough, over several months of biting my tongue and retraining my thoughts, our marriage showed signs of life. I began expecting nothing from my husband and when he did something to help, I was truly thankful.  We moved away from a cycle of arguing and exhibiting the silent treatment to actually enjoying each other once again.

Now it has been 35 years and we have in no way arrived at the perfect marriage. On the other hand, I can’t imagine life without him. He is my soul mate and knows how to please me unconditionally. I am truly thankful that he has been with me as I go through my transitional journey and will be there when I arrive at my next destination.