Glacier National Park 2010

Monday, March 20, 2017

All Things Work Together

The past few weeks have been mentally, emotionally and physically trying. Pain has crept subtly in and is exerting itself quite forcefully.  I can attribute it to many things...some I can talk about and others I cannot.  Stress definitely has increased the length of this pain flare. I'm exhausted body and soul.  Suffice it to say our Spring Break cannot get here soon enough!

This morning as I had a cup of tea....I was scrolling through Facebook and happened to see an article entitled, "My Family is a Prime Example of the Working Poor." Curiosity made me pause and actually read the article by Marjorie Jenkins written in December 2016. Although I don't know the author, she was writing about me...about my life! It was a real eye opener for me.

To be quite honest, she wasn't writing just about me...she was writing about those of us who followed the "rules." We went to college, got a job, had a family and worked hard to achieve the "American Dream." Never did I imagine that I would find myself, at this stage of my life, working a full time job plus a part time job plus earning a bit of extra cash by selling my art simply to pay my bills. Those who know me are aware I live by a very tight times have to be saved for....and heaven forbid I have unexpected doctor's visits. Until reading this article, I didn't think of myself as "poor."

Yes the days when I could splurge on things like books, a night at the movies, dinner out with friends are long gone. But to realize living paycheck to paycheck classifies me as one of the "working poor" was a bit disconcerting....and embarrassing quite frankly. I don't think my friends and coworkers see me as least I hope not.

All that being said...I'm happy.  It is the kind of happiness which comes from knowing and accepting "all things work together for good to those who love God." I spent a good portion of my life basing my concept of happiness on things, people, events. There was even a point several years ago when I had to admit I had no idea what real happiness meant and I felt like I'd never know 'happiness' again.

For me the realization that God is all I need opened the door to my happiness. And the key to that door was learning to love God by accepting the love He has for me.  That precious love contains all I need for any situation I may encounter....grace, peace, joy, salvation, encouragement, wisdom.  Because He is all I need, my prayers have become simple.

When I'm in pain, I ask God to cradle me in His arms so the pain is easier to bear. As stress threatens to overtake me, I ask God to stand between me and whatever is causing the stress thus allowing me to become more calm. When sadness seems overwhelming, God gently reminds me of all that is good in my life. Whatever the situation, He is there for me with whatever I might need.

I may be considered one of the "working poor" by some definitions and I have had a rough couple of weeks. Regardless of those things...My faith in God has sustained me and I am constantly amazed by His goodness.  It is actually quite wonderful to see how He meets my needs....every day and in every way.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Choosing to be happy

I used to write.  Seriously write...quite a lot. It was therapeutic on so many levels. I mean, I carried a journal with me every where for Pete's sake!  There was even a time when I posted to this very same blog on a semi regular basis.

Then I stopped...writing, that is.  Naturally the blog went by the wayside as well.  Friends asked  when I would return to my former habits and give them glimpses into my random thoughts once more.

I had no answer.

There were a few brief attempts to start the flow of thoughts. Upon reading what I had written, the words seemed stilted and lacking.  So...I put away the journal...closed the laptop...quit purchasing the "perfect' pen or pencil. It was if I had nothing of substance to say. That thought bothered me only slightly and I attributed the lack of words to my entering a different stage in my life.

I discovered I enjoyed drawing and began to experiment with using my artwork to express what I was feeling. It was fun! And it still is...I am even able to slightly supplement my income by selling some of my pieces. Time for a shameless plug...visit my FB page, Whimsy by Nsquared.

Lately, I've felt the urge to put pen to paper if for no other reason than to marshal thoughts and emotions into some logical order. The world has become a chaotic mess of sound bytes, self righteous opinions and judgmental indignation...and it makes me feel two things, anger and disgust. 

I'm disgusted with the behavior of others and disgusted with my inability to put into calm, rational words the thoughts and feelings racing through my head and heart. I felt myself being pulled back to a point in my life I never wanted to revisit...a time when I was angry and unhappy but unable to acknowledge that these emotions were the well springs of my misery. Like so many I chose, at that time, to put on the persona of calm contentment...unwilling to admit my failure to be the "perfect" wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend...the list goes on. But I am not that person anymore.

Now, I've accepted my imperfections and am no longer consumed by a hidden anger.  My happiness is, well, my choice. But because of the chaos I glimpse in the world...and the emotions, the thoughts triggered by what I see and hear and experience...perhaps I need the therapy of writing once more.  Perhaps if I return to the written word I can resolve those troubling feelings. Maybe with my words I'll be able to share a more positive outlook with anyone who happens to stumble across my blog.

Despite all the negativity filling newsfeeds and broadcasts and watercooler gossip, I still choose happiness.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Answered Prayers

Last week was pretty amazing! Not sure what to share first because it is all good. I'll try to remember it chronologically.

Keep in mind the roller coaster I endured over the past 8 months with regards to my job. I believe it was Tuesday afternoon. The day had passed quickly and I had just walked one of my precious students to meet his Mama at the front of the school. My heart was warm at the image of the smiling child and his smiling Mama. This was not always the case for them however that is a story for another day. As I walked back to the classroom to get things ready for the next day, it hit me. The knowledge that I was "home," in the place where I belonged! Believe me when I say I never thought I would feel that way after 16 years in a different school. But I did... I do.

I still love my friends from my old school....still talk to them....still see them....enjoy going out to dinner with them. That will never change. But my job has changed....and it has become even more of a blessing.

The next day was my birthday. I didn't say anything to anyone at my new workplace about it but thanks to FB I was greeted with "Happy Birthday!" from several people throughout the day. It was nice. Then two of my new friends took me out to dinner to celebrate! I felt so special.

Now I have to say I believe very strongly in answered prayers. That being said, I also am certain the answer will sometimes be no, not right now. This week I had a prayer answered in a most wonderful way. I live in a two bedroom apartment but there has been no real bed in the room since I moved in. For a while an inflatable mattress served the purpose then a twin mattress on the floor. I simply couldn't save enough to buy a bed although I tried. So I decided to pray about it....and I did. For months I talked to God about the situation....and being my bossy self, I made some suggestions....He said He would handle it. So every few prayers I would let God know how excited I was to see how He handled it.

I received a text early in the week from one of my "old" friends. She and her husband had decided they were upgrading to a King bed and would I like to have their queen mattress and box springs! AND they would bring it over and set it up! Well, yes, yes I would! Another friend heard what was going on and provided a mattress frame. My daughter and son in law spent half the day Saturday helping me get all the junk out of the room and to the Christian Mission.

There is a song that says something like, God put a million doors on earth for His love to walk through let one of those doors be you! I heard it today and thought, that is how He did it! Those friends were willing to let God's love walk through them to me....and my prayers were answered with lots of love.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Life Goes On....Finally

Here we go....

It has been months since I last wrote. The reason? Nothing specific I think. Simply a change I was unprepared for coming at a time when I was least able to handle it.  The funny thing was I had no idea how woefully unprepared I was. My faith has always stood me in good stead and as always I clung to the lifeline trusting in God has been to me. Unfortunately I couldn't seem to pull myself out of the morass of self pity in which I found myself.

Writing through my problems was how I dealt with a multitude of issues through the years going back to seventh grade. I wrote through teenage angst, through raising my children, through my health issues, through the aftermath of my divorce but not this. For I was afraid of what my ramblings might reveal about my feelings toward others and toward my self. And I did not want to share the bitterness I felt at that moment.

There were days when I sat at my computer staring at a blank screen wanting to write, to share, to expose what I was feeling. In the end I simply could not do it. Looking back it was probably for the best. Because of that heartfelt reticence I believe God was able to work a powerful healing of my spirit, my heart. In the past, writing and sharing helped me understand why I was feeling the emotions I felt. And in understanding why, I could move past it and get on with life.

The only way I could move past my hurt and my bitterness was to talk it through with God. He in His wisdom and His Love for me as one of His children, made me truly see those parts of me which needed to be changed. My first step in His healing process was to accept that the change in my situation was part of God's plan for my life. Honestly that acceptance was really hard. But after several months of prayer, God convinced me. Then I had to, at least in my heart, forgive the people whom I felt played a part in the upsetting of my apple cart. That was a doozy too. But I did it.

It has been a daily struggle and quite frankly, it will always be a struggle. How do I deal with the temptation to react with the same bitterness and anger I felt toward so many when I was transferred from a job, a school, the students I'd loved for 16 years? I say a very simple prayer, a mantra some would call it......"I only need You Lord, only You." Those words calm me, focus me, remind me of Whose child I am. And that knowledge feels so good.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Big Changes

The first Sunday of my summer break is upon me...finally. I must confess this has been the longest, most stressed filled year at work that I have ever experienced.  There were times I didn't feel I could make it through to the end.  The stress and uncertainty acerbated my fibro pain to record levels and caused much anxiety.  Despite all that has happened, I am thankful.

The straw which nearly broke the camel's back occurred roughly two weeks before the end of term. Our administrator called a meeting earlier in the month of all the paraprofessionals to inform us of the superintendent's decision to move some of us to other one would lose their job....but the superintendent wanted there to be an equal distribution of support personnel among schools. Oh and tenure and seniority would make no difference in placement. What?!?!

I have been at PES for 16 years as an employee....27 years as a parent, volunteer and PTO member. This faculty and staff were my "family." It was my safe happy place....and now I might have to leave? Surely not. And so I began to pray.....I prayed for God's Will to be done in the decision making process.....I prayed for my precious EL students for whom I'd already begun planning next years' program.....but as I prayed I thought to myself, I know this is where God wants me....when I was passed over for all those English teaching positions this was where he kept me....I am content with being here.

Two weeks ago, I was called into the Principal's office and handed a letter from the superintendent informing me I was being transferred to another elementary school. I felt as if I'd had the breath knocked out of me! I couldn't breathe....I couldn't, angry tears rained down my cheeks. Yes I was angry....angry that absolutely no consideration had been given to what I do as an what I'd done over the years.....angry that I had no one to speak up for me.  My anger only intensified when I was told I needed to sign a letter which stated this was a voluntary transfer.....I said NO. I would go to another school....I would work for my students.....but it was not voluntary.

I cried and ranted at God for two days! Why had He done this? Why had He allowed this to happen?  My coworkers were as shocked as I and offered words of consolation and prayers.....many, many prayers. As slowly I began to hear the soft whispery words of God....

This is what I heard in my heart.......

You are My child and I truly want the best for asked for My Will to be done and this is it....there are children who need you at this school.....there is a job I need you to do.....I will be with you as always.....

And as His Words pierced the cloud of anger around me, I felt peace seep into my God's Will is not always easy....but after the hard part comes the good stuff.....I mean, when I was being turned down for what I thought was my dream....teaching English/Language Arts....I was so disheartened and felt like such a failure. But God reminded me I was doing what He needed me to do at that moment.....I accepted it and felt content.

Now He needs me in another place....with other students.....and I'm beginning to look forward to new lessons to learn, new joys to share, new adventures to experience. If what God has planned is better for me than what I think is better for me, well, all I can say is WOW!  It is going to be an interesting year!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Recipe For Happiness

Just dumped a bunch of ingredients in the crock pot and turned it on low.  What recipe you might ask? My response would be, "no recipe." I thawed some London Broil overnight. Sliced it into long chunks this morning. Sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper then tossed it into the slow cooker. Poured in some tomato sauce and Italian style diced tomatoes and a cup of Chardonnay. Now I wait expectantly. Thinking of adding a few capers and some chopped black olives. We'll see.

I used to thoroughly enjoy cooking for my family. But when I began to have only myself to cook for it was not as much fun for some reason. Since January I've begun to enjoy trying new recipes. The ones with four servings allow me to have a meal plus leftovers which I then freeze into individual portions for those nights when I am simply too tired to think about cooking. Its been great and my food budget has felt less strain. Facebook shares and Pinterest have been great resources for recipes.  Of course, my best friend will tell you I look at recipes as suggestions on how to proceed. More often than not, I veer slightly away from the standard ingredients to put my own twist on it.

One of my favorite recipes lately is for a delish tortellini soup. Here's my version:

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 (19 oz.) bag tortellini (I used three cheese but want to try others as well)
1/2 block of Neufchatel cheese cut into tiny cubes (called for cream cheese but this is 1/3 less fat)
1 can diced tomatoes plus liquid (I used fire roasted once and plain another time. Both were good.)
1/2 bag fresh baby spinach leaves
*I also added a 1/2 cup of wine but that is optional.

Put all ingredients in the pot. Cook on low heat for 4 hours, stir occasionally. Enjoy with some crusty bread or garlic toast or just on its own. Freezes well too.

The reason I share all this today is because I am feeling much more grounded and centered. I haven't allowed the negativity and chaos at work to bring me to a place of doubt and darkness. God has made His Presence known every day.....through the people with whom I work....through posts on FB....through lots of little mini miracles! I was even able to work through a pretty tough fibro flair which was a pretty big miracle in itself!

Looking back over the past months I can see very clearly how God has met every one of my needs! And in doing so, He's helped my wants to change as well. My life has become more simple and more enjoyable....I more often feel contentment than I do stress and negativity. Things I had given up, like trying new recipes, have once again become a part of my life. Reading through new recipes made me realize that I had found my own personal "recipe" for happiness.

Letting God handle everything.....sharing His love with others.....trusting in Him to provide for my needs.....acknowledging that His Way is the best way.....all these concepts add up to a truly flavorful and delicious life.  And I'm enjoying every "bite!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What A Day!

I tried really hard today to keep out of that "whirlpool of turmoil" I mentioned the other day....but it was so very hard.  When I'm tired and cannot seem to find enough minutes in the work day to get what is expected of me done.....and I'm reminded by thoughtless comments that I'm not hired "as a teacher," but merely an hurts. And then I'm very conscious of my meager paycheck....and my bills...and my health all just piles up into a big old pile of "poor old pitiful me."

Today was one of those days.  I could feel dark clouds of self doubt, worthlessness, depression, all beginning to gather around me.....then I felt anger welling up inside me at the unfairness of it all. But then a coworker said, "just let it go. Don't let the actions of another person do that to you." And she was so right.

I reached out and felt God's peace just wash over me. My job doesn't define the person I am! There is more to me than the work I do every day for which I am thankful. From now on I will focus on the parts of my job I love.....the preciousness of the children with whom I work....their triumphs and successes....the fun and laughter shared with friends and coworkers.

 I'm really blessed and I need to remember that....and always let my thoughts and actions reflect the Love and Peace shown me by God.