Work: When Teaching is a Gift

An FMF Prompt

Work can be grueling and it can be a gift

Today’s prompt is: WORK

 

I received a gift at work today.

My award-winning day did not start when I forgot to grab my school keys off my dresser as I headed out on my 45 minute drive to teach 7th and 8th graders.

It wasn’t the  middle-schoolers’ insatiable desire to learn that was wrapped in a bow.

Nor was it the several visits from my principal to deal with…well…you know (did I mention I teach 7th and 8th grade?).

No surprising tray of culinary delights awaited my lunch-duty supervision while 7th grade boys waited impatiently for a turn at basketball.

The decision of some boys to bring two weeks of smoldering resentment to a full-roiling boil today was definitely no reward (yeah…that 7th and 8th grade thing again).

The gift did not involve the surprising and first-time-ever visit of the Educational Superintendent in the midst of a catch-up period (all those 7th and 8th graders behind on work take a few moments to try to catch up while others gleefully punch at the keyboard on websites that practice memorizing states or spelling words).

There was no present of free-time – instead my long day involved the extra bonus of sponsoring year-book after school for a couple of hours.

While commiserating with my co-workers was nice, it did not feel like enough of a bonus to offset the sweltering heat of the gym, nor the smoke-filled skies.

Some moments are painful and grueling, others are beautiful and wrapped with a bow!

My gift came as a complete surprise, wrapped up in the maturity of the high-school class I teach.

It came because I had to step out to deal with a…you know…7th and 8th grade issue…right then.

I stood outside the doorway,  just seconds after the bell rang, taking a few deep breaths, preparing to give these ancient and wise 9th and 10th graders a list of directions they could follow while the school secretary supervised them.

Hearing noises, I pasted on a smile and pulled open the door.  I stopped and beheld the best gift a middle/high school teacher can receive.  My whole class was gathered together – one student at the board taking lead, while others threw out ideas and brainstormed.  This is our fourth week of school and every Thursday we do the same thing.

My gift.

They not only knew what to do, but they DID it.  They not only were completing the task, they were smiling, and happy, and in control and focused.

I stood there watching for a moment, while tears gathered in my eyes.   See, this group, not so long ago, were middle-school kids – crazy and wild and out-of-control.  They were fun, noisy, creative and gossipy.  Childish and adultish by turns, along with kind and rude: singing songs and making farting noises (or the real thing) at will.

This class used to be that way.  But today, they knew what to do.  They took control.  Cooperatively they set out to do what they knew was expected – and what was expected is for them to plan and set up the chapel/assembly/worship  program for tomorrow.  Today, children became leaders.

This was my gift today – and THIS is why I teach.

When #teaching becomes a gift #fmfparty #five-minute-friday #education Click To Tweet

 

Can Caregivers Find Comfort in Psalm 91?

comfortIt’s been a few weeks since I last wrote about Psalm 91 and the caregiver. In the intervening time, I’ve run a marathon, taken a marathon car trip (from Holbrook, to San Diego, to Holbrook, and then Tulsa, and finally to Palmer, Alaska). I have also taken on a different kind of caregiver role—this time as granny to my sweet grandson and helper to my daughter and son-in-law.

In the first two installments, I shared what I’ve learned about God’s protection from the evil one’s lies and attempts to draw us into the pit of despair. I’ve come to understand that Psalm 91 doesn’t promise to keep us from bad things—it promises to protect us from our human reaction to bad things.

Psalm 91 promises to protect us from our human, knee-jerk reaction to bad things. Click To Tweet

What About Those Thousands?

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

The ‘it’ in the third line refers to the plague in verse 6. God has me covered in mind-protection—even if I get sick, or the ones I love go through disasters. All around me, those who reject God will stumble and fall (and I will join them if I keep my eyes focused on myself and not on God).

The world has plenty of examples of what happens when an individual rejects God’s sovereignty—people suffer from the consequences of their sinful actions all the time. But because I chose to accept God’s protection and right to rule my life, I’d like to think that I make better choices in the here and now and therefore don’t have to suffer so many consequences.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t stand above anyone gloating and puffing myself up (God never asks us to do that). Practicing God’s sovereignty in my life takes a constant turning of my self over to God and a humble spirit (I tend to think I know it all).

But Do We Get to Skip the Bad Stuff?

God doesn't promise us a charmed life, he promises us comfort FOR life. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1GdI have seen Christians go through difficult times and react one of two ways. They might believe that God wants to punish them for something that they did. When Pedro received his cancer diagnosis, a local pastor insinuated that if Pedro just confessed, the cancer would go away. God doesn’t work that way (and the pastor’s words brought no comfort).

The other reaction involves anger at God for not keeping his word because in Psalm 91 it appears that God promises a ‘Get out of Trials Free Card.’ I don’t think that God promises that we get to skip the trials of life.

After all, Jesus said in John 16:33

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

I Still Get Comfort from Psalm 91

I believe that when we study the Bible, we should not just read the words, but that we should look for the context and the application as well. In the Amplified version, a footnote for Psalm 91 refers the reader to Exodus 15:26, and states that the “wonderful promises of this chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting the conditions stated in these first two verses.”

Exodus and Psalm 91, both written by Old Testament authors, were written for specific people during specific circumstances. The words of Exodus record God’s instructions for the Children of Israel (and it’s no coincidence that they are called ‘children’). The NIV translation implies in a footnote that the ‘he’ refers to the king. Therefore, we have some idea as to the specific audience.

The application comes when we realize two things as well. First, we need to dwell with God and give control to him. Second, we serve a powerful God who has proved faithful in the past and will continue to provide for us in the future. Once again, we don’t get to choose what that looks like.

I find comfort in the fact that my powerful and mighty God can prevent me from harm—if the situation calls for that. If harm befalls me, well, I know that God loves me and will help me through.

Applications for Caregivers

  1. Find comfort in reading about the power of God.
  2. Don’t blame God when disaster befalls you—we live in a sinful world.
  3. God doesn’t make people sick in order to punish them (punishment comes at the final judgment—things that happen now just happen because of sin).

Are there any promises in the Bible that make YOU mad?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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More Some: Desiring more of our Father’s gifts

A FMF post

Join us as we write about the prompt: More.

You’ll find some amazing stories over on Kate Motaung’s page for Five-Minute-Friday, where she gives a prompt and we write and post.

A little child’s trust in the love of her father: more some

Chubby, pink-stained fingers clutched the bowl out in front of her, “More some!” begged my little two-year-old as she followed her daddy around the yard.  Her red-rimmed mouth pursed in the most delightful way as she stumbled along behind him, repeating her request, “More some!”

Of course it worked.  Daddy, no matter what he was working on, headed over to the rambling raspberry bushes taking over our fence-line.  He picked the biggest, ripest, and sweetest berries he could find and loaded her little Raggedy-Ann bowl.  She perched on the garden wall and waited, kicking her feet in anticipation, grinning at me as I watched.

“More some,” she announced with great satisfaction.

Daddy handed her the bowl and she lisped, “T’ank you!” and ate her berries with gusto.

“More some” is a phrase Daddy and Mommy came to treasure.  Our daughter’s complete trust in the fruit Daddy would choose, her delight in the simple treat and her persistence to gain something, even when she didn’t even have the right words to do so, gave us joy.

That sweet little red-head turns 22 tomorrow.  She’s almost done with her junior year in college and hoping to head for medical school.  She still wants “more some.”

And I’m glad.

It’s a positive trait – pushing for more.  Not because you’re dissatisfied with what you have, but because your goals are higher: your dreams are bigger!

Working your way up the ladder.

Striving for higher grades.

Seeking a healthier relationship.

Hoping for a cure.

Praying for a miracle.

Increasing trust in the love of our Heavenly Father and the gifts He wants to bestow on us.  Delighting in the things He has provided and persisting in our desire for MORE.

More some.

More of Jesus.

Desiring to get more some. More of Jesus. #fmfparty #FMF #blessedbutstressed Click To Tweet

Self-Care for Caregivers Involves Learning How to Breathe

breatheSelf-Care for Caregivers Involves Learning How to Breathe

To breathe or not to breathe, this is the question. I know, we all breathe, all the time; otherwise, we would be dead. But did you know that HOW we breathe plays a huge role in our health?

During Pedro’s cancer year, I forgot how to breathe. It took me several years after his stem-cell transplant to actually learn how to breathe again. Unfortunately, my health (both mental and physical) suffered greatly during my years of forgetting how to breathe.

Fear and pain cause shallow breathing—our bodies naturally respond to threats by changes in breathing patterns. The problem occurs when we find ourselves in a constant state of stress—which disrupts our normal breathing.

According to Alan Fogel, Ph.d., in an online article for Psychology Today, “Chronic breath holding and effortful breathing are not healthy because the muscular effort, coupled with the effects of stress on the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems, can impair both physical and psychological function.”

Caregivers can live in a constant state of fright, flight, or freeze. When I thought Pedro might die any given day, I struggled to assure our children that everything would be ok (regardless of the outcome). I struggled to assure myself that things would get better. Seeing a doctor walk out of Pedro’s room (or into it) at an unscheduled time sent my heart racing.

If I would have known more about the importance of the way that I breathed, I could have avoided a lot of pain and agony later on—when all those months of bad breathing turned into a bad habit that chiseled away at my health.

So, if you care for someone, the number one thing you can do for yourself involves learning how to breathe.

Four Steps to Healthy Breathing

1. Remember the numbers. Four-seven-eight. 4-7-8. Breathe in for four seconds. Hold it for seven seconds. Breathe out for eight seconds.Rescue breathing for #caregivers. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1C3
2. Breathe in through your nose. If you feel like you suffer from chemo-brain by proxy, it probably means you suffer from stress. To regain your ability to remember things, breathe in through your nose when you want to remember something. Scientists recently discovered that breathing in through the nose enhances memory.
3. Breathe to fall asleep. If you struggle with insomnia, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique as you lie in bed at night.
4. Exercise hard on a regular basis. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular aerobic exercise can ward off viral illnesses, reduce your health risks, and keep excess pounds at bay.

Keeping pounds off is vital for caregivers because caregiving takes a big enough toll on our mental health without having to deal with weight gain. Aerobic exercise doesn’t mean you have to join an aerobic dance class (thank goodness—I have two left feet).

Simply engage your large muscle groups, make sure your heart rate increases, and your feel your body start breathing more deeply. I finally purchased a fitness tracker to keep me honest about my effort. You can do this by walking briskly, climbing flights of stairs, running, bicycling, or dancing like a crazy person in your living room.

What other ways have you discovered to relieve caregiver stress?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Don’t Judge People For Where They Park

You Don't Know Their Story!

parkHating on the Cheaters Who Park in Handicap Spots

I used to steam internally when I saw a perfectly healthy person park in a handicap spot. “What is WRONG with that person?” I would mumble. “Don’t they understand that they could get fined for parking there?”

Of course, what I really meant didn’t sound as nice, but I usually had kids in the car with me, so I filtered myself.

parkAll of that changed when Pedro had cancer. His weight dropped from a healthy 190 to an emaciated 130. My brother-in-law helped me get a temporary permit to park in handicap-designated spots.

I would hang the placard on my rearview mirror whenever I took Pedro to doctor’s appointments or the pharmacy. But twice, I felt deep shame because I became that healthy-looking person exiting or entering a car alone whilst parked in a handicap spot.

The first time occurred when I had to take Pedro to the emergency room at the hospital. He couldn’t even walk to the door without assistance. The doctors admitted him, and when I had to leave a day later, Pedro remained for further tests.

Because of my harsh internal attitude towards ‘cheaters’ who parked in handicap spots, I cringed when I got in my car. I wondered if people judged me, a perfectly healthy person with the temerity to park in a handicap spot.

The Weight of Guilt

The second time it happened, I said something. I had flown into San Francisco, rented a car and drove to a different hospital to pick Pedro up. This time, witnesses saw me park in the handicap spot, and my guilt compelled me to explain.

“I have to pick my husband up, and he can’t walk,” I said to the group of people walking past my car as I go out. They gave me odd looks and continued on their way—I doubt they even realized what I spoke of.

Ever since then, I have squashed my inner Judgy McJudgerton each time she squawks about the rudeness of healthy people who park in handicap spots. “You don’t know their story,” I remind her. I have learned to smile with compassion rather than scowl with condemnation.

After all, I don’t know the story of why they park where they do.

An Open Letter to Those Who Sent Us Mail

mail

To all the kind people who sent us mail during Pedro’s struggle with cancer;

Thank you.

I’ve saved each letter and card in a bulging file folder that goes wherever we go. I haven’t reopened the mail since you sent it, back in 2002, but each piece holds a special place in my heart.

That mail represents the thoughts and prayers of countless people who prayed us through cancer.

Some of you were complete strangers, yet you took the time to write. Those cards always took me aback—that someone who had never met us would take the time to say, “I’m praying for you. I’m thinking about you.” You’ll never know how much those kind words of support meant to us.

The cards and letters from family and friends played a special role, too. Each card that said, “We love you. We care about you,” felt like a bear hug. Thank you for taking the time to reach out.

Back in the days before Facebook and Twitter, phone calls and the written word served as a tangible reminder that we didn’t battle alone.

And to those of you who took the time to leave a note for me, the caregiver, let me explain what you did. You validated MY need for prayers and support. You acknowledged that often times, taking care of someone with a catastrophic illness feels just as life-changing as the diagnosis does to the ill one.

I just wanted you to know how much your words of kindness meant to us, to me. I don’t think I had the presence of mind at the time to respond or acknowledge your gift.

Sincerely,

Anita Ojeda

P.S.

I hope this encourages you, the reader to take the time to send a card of encouragement to someone who struggles. Whether you write to a patient or a caregiver, know that your words will serve as a lifeline of hope.

Five Tasks You Can Complete in Under Five Minutes

Putting Tasks Off Wastes Time

I often feel overwhelmed by all the tasks I have to cram into a day. The house needs cleaning, the bills cry out from the desktop, and the refrigerator sits forlorn and empty. Make a meal? Ain’t got time for that! If you’re a caregiver, completing chores seems even more difficult.

tasks

I have the type of personality that gets easily distracted, but I started school before kids got diagnosed with ADHD. I can sit and read for hours, or quietly stalk birds with my camera waiting for the perfect shot. But buckle down and clean the house? Nope.

The Five-Minute Friday community has taught me that one can accomplish an awful lot in a mere five minutes. I now use my timer for more than just the Thursday night ritual of writing and hitting publish. Many simple household chores take five minutes or less to complete.

My Top Five Five-Minute Tasks

1. Empty (or load) the dishwasher (that’s right, on the advice of our dishwasher manual, we don’t rinse our dishes first).
2. Load the washing machine and fold a load from the dryer.
3. Sort the mail and pay the bills.
4. Scrub the shower, sinks and toilets in one bathroom (hey, not with a toothbrush!).
5. Iron an outfit.

I have learned to set my timer and focus for longer periods, too, knowing that I can reward myself by quitting the onerous task when the timer goes off. If I don’t dawdle over the tasks I dislike, I have more time to accomplish the things I really love.

What about you? Do you put off tasks because you think they’ll take too long rather than deciding on how long you’ll take to do the task?

Listen to Your Heritage (It Has the Power to Transform You)

Listen to Longfellow

listen

Whenever I hear the word ‘Listen’ I immediately think of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem about Paul Revere:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere… (http://poetry.eserver.org/paul-revere.html)

Of course, I especially love the poem because of the family connection. Paul Revere happens to be my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. I have loved history ever since my grandma told me of my connection to Paul Revere.

As an awkward, introverted kid, I always felt rather proud and full of worth when I could share with my classmates that Paul and I had a family connection. Sometimes kids would scoff, but I had a Daughters of the American Revolution pedigree paper that my grandma had given to me prove my claim.

As a child, my pedigree defined me and gave me self-worth.

A Different Kind of Family

When I turned fourteen, I found a different basis for self-esteem. I spent the summer working in the kitchen at a summer camp, and I discovered that I had a different pedigree and an even more impressive lineage than a chance connection to a historical figure.

John 1:12 laid it all out for me, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” I realized for the first time that I have a place in God’s family.

Since God is the king, that makes me a princess, right? And what little girl (or gawky teenager, or hurting young adult, or worn out homemaker, or middle-aged granny) doesn’t want to be a princess?

So listen to me, friend. You can join the family. God wants you to step up and accept your lineage. We don’t have to put on our princess costume, and clean ourselves up before we join the family. We only have to accept the invitation and then let God do the cleaning up and transforming.

As an adult, my heavenly heritage defines me. Listen to your Father.  He wants to reveal your heritage to you and dress you like a princess.

Every Caregiver Needs at Least One Loyal Friend

Caregivers Need a Loyal Friend

Every caregiver needs one loyal friend who has journeyed through a season of caregiving. I found mine when I took a writing class one summer and ended up sitting next to one of my husband’s former classmates from high school. We knew each other, but not well.
loyal

After a writing exercise one morning, the professor told us to exchange papers with the person sitting next to us. I had surreptitiously dabbed at tears whilst I wrote, and it frightened me to hand my words over to an almost stranger. As I read her words, I knew I had nothing to worry about.

We shared a story that gave us an instant connection: cancer caregiving. Her son was on the recovery end of a battle with childhood leukemia. My husband had lived three years longer than anyone expected him to after his diagnosis with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with central nervous system involvement.

Both of us had written about our struggles with recovering from the caregiving. Unless you’ve experienced the trauma of taking care of a loved one through a lift-threatening illness, the term ‘recovering caregiver’ won’t make a lot of sense.

Since that day, we have encouraged each other in our healing, written about our experiences, blogged about them and whined to each other via instant messaging about everything from our bad hair days to what-should-I-do-about-that-jerk-at-work. (more…)

Intercessory Prayers Provide Invisible Lift

Christians often say they will ‘lift someone up in prayer,’ but what does it really mean? I can’t give you a theological answer, but I can offer you my experiences with the powerful lift of prayer.

lift

Startled Awake

“Pray for British envoy Terry Waite,” the voice startled me awake from a deep sleep around two in the morning my senior year of college. I’d heard about Terry Waite’s situation and about how he’d been taken hostage in Beirut a few months earlier. (more…)