A Time for “Thanks Giving”

It’s November…

Thanksgiving is just around the corner…

An inspired holiday created by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to provide our nation with a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”.

Each year some of my Facebook friends spend each day in November saying thank you for different people, events and other things in their lives. It is a custom that has grown to be an anticipated portion of my days during that month. I enjoy reading what others are thankful for and considering my own life and the things I can share with them. Many posts are the expected appreciation for family members, jobs, and homes. Other times it might be something very recent or emotional.

Sometimes the posts are humorous…

others bring a tear…

ALL are treasured by me as I look into the lives of my friends and family.

Many see our holiday as “Thanksgiving”… a day off from work (truly something to be thankful for 🙂 ), time spent with family (not all feel this as positively about this as I do), a BIG dinner (wish everyone had even a fraction of this privilege). But… as wonderful as all those things are… I’m most thankful for the time of “Thanks-Giving”. Not just a day, but an extended period of time when many sit down in a quiet moment (although some of us have very few of these… another thing to be thankful for 🙂 ) to reflect on something that they can be thankful for. These moments don’t come often enough for most of us. We blunder through our days just trying to make it through and call it good if we can avoid, dodge or “miss” tragic events. But I praise all those who take a moment to consider what they have, even during the trying times and the tragedies. Ponder on the positive people and things that we have in our lives. Acknowledge the wonders that God created just for us and for our enjoyment. Contemplate how our lives would be different and how much we have or could have if we made some God-led changes.

Take a moment today… maybe several moments over the course of the upcoming month… maybe even consider making this a daily activity for…. maybe forever. How would this change your perspective on your life? How much more would you cherish those people in your life?

I’m thankful today for a God-fearing President who started a tradition of giving thanks. I pray that your Thanksgiving will be a blessing for you and your outlook on life might be a little brighter.

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Compassion

Compassion…  A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Compassion… An awesome definition. Sometimes we simply need to remind ourselves about the underlying qualities of such character traits and we can see and also appreciate those qualities in others.

Look around you today… think about the individuals in your life that exhibit Compassion. Think about those who have it at the foundation of their souls. Then… sometime… soon… Thank them for the things they do. It doesn’t have to be verbally… we can show our appreciation to others in many ways. Be creative… but take the time to show them that they are loved and appreciated. ……..

Thank You!!!!

Advice still Timely

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

— Max Ehrmann, 1927

Trying vs. Doing

When TRYING becomes the excuse for not doing… then DOING becomes the only acceptable effort.

As a teacher, I get a LOT of excuses from students as to why they did not complete assignments or act according to the acceptable behavioral codes. Many times the excuse comes down to… “Well, I’m trying…” or “I tried to (fill in the blank)” or “I’ll try harder”. People are convinced that “trying” excuses the lack of “doing”. Parents for many years have operated under the impression that teaching kids to “try” and to “do their best” is all that they should expect from their children.

I do not intend this blog to give the impression that “trying” is a bad thing. On the contrary, the whole concept of “trying” and “doing your best” is a great life lesson. We should all try new things and give every effort to the things we are attempting to accomplish….. BUT….. when the “trying” becomes our excuse for NOT accomplishing what we have previously said we would do or for NOT completing the task we were assigned, then we have opened a whole new level of excuses for what can only be termed our laziness or unwillingness to “do”.

I have reached the point where I have had to instruct some students that “trying” will no longer be an acceptable amount of effort. They need to put forth enough effort to accomplish the task… whether that is an assignment, a behavior, or successful interactions with their peers. They are no longer permitted to use the excuse that they tried or that they will try harder next time. The DO is the expected outcome.

Parents: When teaching your children that they need to try… add to it the concept that more effort needs to be out forth in order to term it “trying”. Conscious effort needs to go hand in hand with the desire to accomplish something. Don’t help your children to embrace “Trying” as an excuse for NOT “Doing”. It will not serve them in their futures and may come back to haunt them as a habit for which they are challenged to change or are unable to see that the change even needs to happen.

Let’s teach our children (and embrace the concept in ourselves as well) that as we TRY, we need to constantly reevaluate our efforts so that we can improve our efforts toward success, rather than bury ourselves under a mountain of excuses for not achieving our goals or keeping our promises. We can show our respect, compassion and love for each other as we model our efforts to achieve all that we can achieve… especially when it comes to the way we interact with others.

TRYING is a noble effort when it is NOT utilized as an excuse for a lack of DOING.

Self-worth and the “Unprofitable Servant”

For quite some time I have been struggling with self-worth and purpose… not self-esteem in the classic sense. Day to day challenges and events and even simply the moments of life cause me to reflect on what I have done in life to make a difference. There are no moments that come to mind that give much of an answer that there is any value to me as a person.

Today I have run across two things that I am choosing to reflect on and pray about:

  • So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.  Luke 17:11 (KJV)
  • The Starfish Story

    Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
    One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

    As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

    He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

    The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

    “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

    To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

    Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

    At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

    ”Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James

God tells us in Luke that as God’s servants, we are “unprofitable servants”… meaning that what we do through our expected service to God accords us no profits. These things are our duty… our required actions, behaviors, attitudes. For these things we are given no compensation since they are our responsibility to our master. It is the things we do that go beyond our duty that accord us the rewards that God is storing up for us. For our dutiful actions, there should be no expectation of compensation or “Thank you’s”.

The story of the Starfish added to my reflections that we can make a difference even if it seems to be a very small thing or that we are making a very small dent in a larger problem. I may not ever see the fruits of my efforts and may never think that anyone has actually heard me or processed something that I thought was very clear, but I need to continue as long as God does not remove me from the situation and say, “Enough is enough. There is no longer any work for you here. Give it to Me and together we will move you into another place.”

It is for me to trust God and keep on moving in the direction that I believe He has led until He changes my course… and to prayerfully watch and seek Him so that I don’t miss the redirection if it comes. Until then… the “Thank you’s” and the “Good jobs” and the acknowledgments of any kind need not be necessary in order to keep working at and suggesting and helping and ………  It is the destination that is important and the attempt to help along the way. The rest must be left in God’s hands and know that He is smiling down on us in our feeble, clumsy efforts.

I pray that I can make a difference even though I may never see it… AND I need to remember to acknowledge those that I see struggling and working because a “Thank you” or a “Good job” goes a long way to making the burden lighter for another.

Open My Eyes

“I give up!”

“What’s the point?”

“There’s always a new day ahead.”

“You must be doing the right thing.”

“Give him a taste of the way he treats others.”

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“It’s useless… why continue? Admit defeat and move on.”

“What can be done to prove a point?”

“There must be something I’m missing…….”

“Keep on keepin’ on!”

When is it time to move on? Giving up on people or situations is something I’ve never been good at. God moves people in and out of our lives for a reason. Sometimes I have to wonder what good is coming out of a situation, because I can’t see it.

When students are placed within my circle of influence, I assume that there is something worthwhile that I can share with them… possibly no more than the education that I can help to provide. But some students come with additional baggage that seems to be more than I am capable of handling. The frustrations on a day-to-day basis are sometimes more than I WANT to handle. The feelings of futility and sadness are overwhelming some days. Today was one of those days. I left school feeling that I don’t even care to go back… there is nothing I can do or give that will make a difference and the dynamics in the classroom seem to be no longer positive.

And then I think… what must God feel when He watches His children ignore His love and His words?

God loves all of us far more than I can love or appreciate any student in my classroom. He watches daily as one-by-one many of His precious children go their way and ignore and even defy Him. His sorrow and frustrations must be MEGA in comparison to my micro relationships. And I have to count myself among those that disappoint Him.

God gives us all talents that He wants us to use for HIS glory… not even simply for the benefit of another person… but to glorify HIM. What right do I have to give up on something/someone before I see God close the door? Maybe I can never get through to some students. Maybe I will never see them overcome their attitudes and challenges. Maybe the dynamics with others will never improve to my satisfaction.

BUT…

I CAN keep trying and I CAN keep praying and I CAN keep trusting God to help me through each day. Maybe some of these situations are simply put in my sphere of influence to teach ME something about myself or to help ME overcome something I have allowed myself to be blind to.

I pray that I can begin to see each child as GOD’S child… and to see them the way He sees them… to feel even a fraction of the love for them that He feels. Maybe then I can pass through the days with a heart full of love and and concern for them more than concern for my own frustrations. Maybe that will help me to see something that can be done to help with their baggage and help to lift their burdens.

Maybe….

I just need to keep on keepin’ on. And rely on God’s grace to get me through.

A Piece of My Heart…..

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit with friends that live out-of-state. Being that far away makes the visits too few and far between.

Add to that the addition of young children… and very recently the addition of a new baby and you not only have friends too far away… but you have a sweet baby growing up between visits. 😦

We spent the time just chillaxing and enjoying the company. The days were spent talking and running around… watching and playing with the kids… catching up (even though we talk and/or text daily 🙂

It was a very nice, comfortable, relaxing weekend… filled with laughter and serious moments and… simple time to bask in a friendship.

Coming home was difficult. Early in the afternoon of the day I came home, I snatched a few moments to watch the baby sleep while everyone was bustling around trying to accomplish different things. In those quiet moments, tears came to my eyes… knowing that the next time I would be able to visit, he would be much bigger… more developed… older… I will come back to a different child in many ways. Seeing the immense changes in him, makes the missed moments with my friend more apparent. Leaving was like ripping my heart apart.

I am so grateful for the different things we have available to us that make it possible to keep in touch these days. Between cell phones, texts, computers, and Skype, we are able to communicate at a moment’s notice even though we are hundreds of miles apart.

So… even though I left a piece of my heart there when I left, I can still keep up with the baby’s growth, take part in his sister’s activities, and stay connected to my dear friend, and know that I will reclaim that piece when I am able to visit again. I have left it in safe keeping……….

Roll Over Miss Manners

Warning……….. Vent coming. Proceed with caution….

Whatever happened to basic manners and courtesies?

I’m a teacher in a small Christian school and have been for 30 years. I teach a multi-grade classroom which adds its own twist of challenges.  Every year there is a different dynamic in my classroom as kids come and go and grow up. But as the years progress, I have noticed one all-invasive element that seems to grow worse every year… manners and courtesies seem to be fighting a losing battle among our children.

The Bible tells us that we should…

31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Luke 6:31 NIV

This has many times been paraphrased as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But it seems kids today are more likely to interpret it as “Do unto others BEFORE they do unto you.”

Most disagreements and confrontations in school could have been averted if students would first apply courtesy before acting or reacting. Kids have gotten more “me” centered… and with the attitude that the world revolves around them, they proceed through the day doing and saying whatever they want to whomever they want.

There are many labels we, as a society, use to explain the actions of many kids. And many of our kids do have major challenges they have to deal with. But these are not the issues I’m referring to.

Why do so many kids not understand…

… Wait your turn

… Don’t push

… Say Please and Thank You

… Don’t interrupt others

… the list goes on………

The basic concepts of manners and courtesies are being ignored by too many kids today.

Imagine for a moment what a day would be like with EVERYONE acting and reacting with the best interests of other people first. Arguments and violent acts would not exist. Damaging the property of others and “five-finger discounts” would be eliminated. Hurtful words and actions would no longer be something we have to deal with.

Even though these utopian ideals are not reality, we can teach our children to observe the basics of mannerly behavior and courtesy…

Unfortunately, this blog comes with no definitive answer to giving our kids the desire to consider others and act accordingly. It’s simply an observation and an opportunity to vent frustrations.

Fortunately, not all kids fall into this category. If you have a child or children who practice the Golden Rule in even a small way… please take a moment to thank them and encourage them and those behaviors. Give them a sense of worth in their behavior and manners.

And if you have teachers that are attempting to instill these behaviors in your children, give them an appreciative comment from time to time.

The world will appreciate it and love you for it.

To Blog or NOT to Blog…………….

Sitting down with many things on my mind tonight… such a day as this presents too many avenues for discourse. What to blog about.. so many possibilities.

Sit down… relax…. chill for a bit… try to reflect on the events of the day…….   But……….

After several false starts and many, many deletions… it has become apparent that some days are not meant to be blogged. Life throws us days sometimes that no amount of rewriting can clearly communicate what goes on in my mind and heart. Hopefully this will sit here on my blog as a reminder to myself that some things are simply beyond the scope of blogging… or at least some DAYS are beyond the blog.

So in the end… to Blog or NOT to Blog?

Tonight? …………….. NOT.

Future Past Memories

Today I spent the day visiting my past… college days from some 30-ought years ago. Took my daughter (21) for our third venture to my college Homecoming. It was a beautiful day but strong winds and cool/cold temperatures.

We arrived early with the hopes of connecting with some college friends, but timed things poorly. The day’s events were pushed back later in the day then I had expected so we roamed the campus (although a small campus indeed) for several hours visiting a few of the campus buildings and taking a few pictures and remembering a few stories.

Spent our lunch at the local Subway (which did not exist in my college days) and chatted and enjoyed the time together. We watched the Homecoming Parade from the warmth of our booth at Subway and eventually headed back to the Event Center hoping to see some old friends.

Not finding anyone around that I knew, and not feeling very well, we decided to call it an early day and head home… planning to drive to a local mall and pick up a favored meal for the family and head home.

It’s amazing how your days can change from the ones you plan to the ones God has plotted out for you. I was looking forward to a day of rekindling old friendships, reminiscing over past shared memories, wandering through my long gone but not forgotten past. College was an extreme highpoint in my life… a time I thoroughly enjoyed filled with people that I loved and still love… chock full of memories that bring a smile to my face and my heart. Those were times of extreme joy… deep disappointment… masterful successes… shared griefs… side-bursting hilarity… life-long friendships………. times that I looked forward to reliving with individuals that I love and miss.

Instead… I was given an uninterrupted day with my daughter. We wandered through my memories together… shared a part of my life that she would never have been able to experience through simple recollections… visited places that had such a positive impact on my life years before she was even a thought. It wasn’t the day I had planned… not even close to the day I had so looked forward to… but in the long run… it was a day I will cherish forever. One that I could never have envisioned.

Sometimes in our busy lives, we stop looking for the possibilities of what we have in front of us because we are still looking behind us for what we feel we have lost. It’s not a bad thing to reminisce and relive things from our past. The past is what made us what we are and reliving the good parts reminds us of all the good that we have experienced. But we need to remember to open our eyes to all the things that we have now also… so we don’t lose the opportunity to create more memories of our past for our future. 😀