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Friday, December 26, 2008


Us making our shackles at the ALT 2 Retreat

In 2001, I was privileged enough to be apart of a class. A class that changed my life. Eight years later, I still glean from the lessons that I learned over that four month period. The class was was called ALT 2 (Advanced Leadership Training) part 2. Yes, there was a part 1, and I did complete it, but it was part 2 that left the deepest engraving upon my life. We did a lot of extreme things during that process, and one was a shackle that we wore on our ankle. At the end of the class, we (my youth pastor, a friend and myself) stood alongside a road up highway 14 and threw our shackles down a steep cliff. The shackles had beads that spelled out the word SISU. SISU, this single simple word means never giving up, tenacity of purpose, steadfastness against all odds, and courage even in the face of death. We purposed that we no longer needed the shackle as a reminder of SISU but that it had become the very essence of who we were, the very breath that we breathed.

Only eight years later, I find myself in a place of mediocrity. I have been sitting at a crossroads waiting, wondering, agonizing over which path to walk down. Either choice changes life’s course. It has consequences. Risk. I am afraid to move. I am afraid to feel, to risk to lose. I am paralyzed by the intense fear. I walk down one path only to walk right back to where I started. I walk down the other testing to see how that path feels. If maybe, perhaps, there will be some great big clue, some mystery revealed in the surroundings. Only, I am reminded of something my youth pastor once said. Yes, even at nearly 30 years old, I will always consider him my youth pastor. He said, "True leadership begins where tyrannical, oppressive domination of your self-absorption ends. Where passion, courage, and self-discipline crush the weakness in your mind. Where commitment, honor, and tenacity of purpose enforce direction upon your will. Courage must conquer your desire for comfort, and control the fear that seeks to rule your life." The quote rings loud in my ears. A slap in my face for having known better. I have lost my passion (my vision), even though it has been in front of me the entire time. I just had not unveiled my eyes to see it. It is very comfortable sitting at my crossroads. Only, I have been there too long. And now the path is crystal clear. There is fear where I am called to go. I am scared. But I am even more scared to not go. To waste more time just sitting letting life go by. I know that this may not make any sense to some readers, but my blog is a life journal of the things that I go through. This is just me. Working out my faith in a real way. Writing it down, makes it real for me. It organizes my thoughts and gives me peace. And I share with you, because I want you to see me for who I am, flaws and all.

After some rather lengthy discussions with Mark about truth, about fear, about life. We decided that when the weather clears, I will go back to the spot where I threw my shackle over the cliff 8 years ago(even though I can't recall where exactly that was) and throw over that cliff a representation of what has bound me, what has paralyzed me, what has kept me from fully embracing the vision, the plan that God has been calling out of me. And once again, I will reclaim SISU for my life. Whatever It Takes.

Two Shepherds

Luke and Grace were shepherds in the churches Christmas program. Unfortunately due to weather Luke did not get to perform in his role as the sheep in his school play. They are too cute for words. They had a great Christmas and got everything and more. We really had a nice day and it will be a Christmas that I remember for a long time. It was a Christmas where I didn't expect anything because of the new wedding ring that Mark gave me. He surprised me yet again with a beautiful pendant that matches the earrings that he got me for our anniversary last year. Then my crazy, yet wonderful mother bought me a Coach purse. It is very nice. So I was spoiled yet again, or maybe more like blessed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Mom, what are you thankful for?"

Sweet Luke. He has discovered the age old child tradition of writing on a tablet. Dare you tell him "Luke do you want your notebook." I am quickly corrected, "Mom, it is called a TABLET". He says the word TABLET slow to emphasis the meaning and my mistake. He loves to write words and it does keep him quite occupied in the car. However, after awhile I do get tired of spelling words, over and over again. Especially when they are words like, "person" and "Stephanie" and "Dr. Wilson". What ever happened to starting with "cat" and "dog"? Anyway, he has been asking everyone what they are thankful for and then asking them to spell it so he can write it down on his tablet.

So his sweet innocent question got me thinking. What am I thankful for? Thankful for beyond the typical family. I very thankful for my family, but what is beyond that. So I started formulating a list in my head the past couple of weeks. I am thankful for our home and all the wonderful things that are contained within, like appliances and cable TV. I am thankful for cars that run and are reliable. I am thankful for my husband that loves me beyond what I can fully comprehend. I am thankful for his spiritual role in our home and his willingness to fully embrace that role. I am thankful for his wisdom and his ability to speak straight into my being. For his kindness with our children, and his masculinity that at times makes me get goose bumps. The way he looks at me from across a room or the things he whispers in my ear during church. For him I am truly thankful. After nearly 10 years of marriage I marvel at how God knew exactly the perfect partner in marriage for me. I am thankful for pink sunsets, and unexpected blessings. I am thankful for good books that come along right when you need them most and for the ability to laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. I am thankful for good friends, who with their intuition, can sense when you need a visit and come to encourage you on your quest. I am also thankful to people at church who don't revel in fear, but speak to you what the Lord is telling them to say, and how those moments stick with you for many months after they happen and provide comfort, strength and encouragement. But, when Luke asks me that question "Mom, what are you thankful for?" I always reply "You, Luke." It makes him smile and he practices writing his name (which is needed). But the answer, the simple answer, is so very, very true. There were times in my life where I thought I would never, ever be a mother. I cried and sobbed to the Lord more than once for a child. He was a fulfillment of a promise. He was a long, long labor. A labor of love. 13 months he lived with us until the wonderful day he was adopted. 13 months I took him every week down for visits with his biological parents who were convinced he was coming home. I remember feeling physically ill, when I neared the department, and after having taken him so many times, I have a reaction of an upset stomach even though it is years later (learned behavior). I watched as they took "my" baby, and lavished him with their affection. I listen each week as he sometimes would scream in the visitation room. I held him later as his stomach would be upset and he would have diarrhea because they gave a 1 year old red kool-aid. And then after the visit was over, I would carry Luke out to the car while they watched my every move, and I would put myself in their shoes and my heart would break. Later, the Lord would provide an opportunity for a relationship with them that has been a very positive thing. So yes Luke, I am thankful for you and Grace too. I will save her story for another post :)

My Motley Crew

My job never ceases to surprise me. I have collected quite an assortment of varied souls. I know I don't speak very much of my job mainly because it is difficult to put into words what it is really like working with 16-20 special needs children on a daily basis (varied special needs). I will do my best to give it some form of words.

I have collected quite the little crew over the last four months. Of course, for confidentiality sake, I cannot mention any names. About half of my classes are children on the autism spectrum. It is the number one common myth about my job is that I work only with children with autism. Not true. Some students attending have communication disorders, other health impairments, adhd, but most are just classified under developmental delay, because the law doesn't require an identified disability until they are age 8. Did I mention I have all boys and one girl for both my classes? Yes, all boys. I have been praying, hoping and pleading with the MDT (multi-disciplinary team) for another girl. Last week my wish was granted. They came down to my room and announced that a new student "a girl" would be coming after the break. An extremely medically fragile child that has a brain disease that is progressive and will eventually take her life. How do you deal with that? How do you fall in love with this little person knowing what is going to happen? Why was I chosen for this (there are five other teachers)?

Before special education my students walked in lines, used the bathroom by themselves and could read. Now, I walk down the hall in one massive clump as my students are ready to push each other to hold my hand. It is not uncommon for me to be holding hands with three students while a fourth is clinging to my leg as we walk down to the gym all while singing, "we are walking, we are walking, to the gym, to the gym. "so-in-so" is the leader, so-in-so is the leader to the gym, to the gym." On the way down the hall, I desperately try and grab the hand of a little sweet boy who is fascinated with the bathrooms and the water that spins when you flush the toilets. For some reason he thinks the girls bathroom is way more interesting than the boys. I reach for him to intercept a girls bathroom field trip, while another highly-energetic boy is screeching at the top of his lungs because he has discovered or remembered that there is an echo in the hallway. I try and calm him down, while my little escape artist lets go of my hand and sprints down the hall while I yell behind me for one of my aides to grab "so-in-so they are on the loose, AGAIN." We laugh as we pass each other. I get excited about certain things that would seem weird to an outsider. For example, when one of my guys on the spectrum ate spaghetti for the first time without spitting it or flinging it across the classroom. Or when a non-verbal student learns to communicate through picture exchange. I rejoice when we make it through a day without bodily fluids presenting themselves or being bit or hit or pinched or kicked. Many would not attempt what I do. But, there are some of us that love this weird job with all the paperwork. I love to watch them progress to grow and adjust. That is merely a snapshot of one aspect of my day, but it gives you a glimpse.
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