Monday, June 23, 2014

Creating the Paradigm Shift

Part of my summer agenda is to clean out old files, either my desk or my computer.  I ran across this today and though it was worth repeating.  
Okay, it’s summer; you may be wondering what we are doing at the office.  While the work in the schools is finished for the season, the training and programs continue.  We have been wrapping up the final numbers, entering data from the school year, reviewing program impact and assessing personal evaluations.  We discuss, how effective have we been?  Where could we, as instructors, improve?  What have we learned that will move our program to the next level of excellence, etc?  It was during one of those sessions that we had a visit from a student who had recently graduated from one of our local schools.  He stopped by unexpectedly and stayed for a couple of hours talking to our staff about the power and importance Reality, Check, Inc. had on his life.  He first began in our program in the 8th grade.  He was one of the students who slumped in his chair and acted like he was too cool, or too sleepy, for the information.  In 9th grand, he was the one with the chip on his shoulder.  In, 10th grade, he made some personal decisions that caused him to have legal consequences and spend some time in juvenile detention.  His 11th grade year, he was surprised to see Reality Check, Inc. at the alternative educational program he attended.  He even got chosen for a “Backpack” visual about how negative choices add unnecessary weight to our future.  This caught his attention and surprised him as it began to refresh his memory and bring to understanding all of the things he had learned from Reality Check, Inc. in the past.  His senior year, he was at a different alternative school to help him catch up on credits he had missed, again Reality Check, Inc. showed up.  This time he was eager to not only hear the information but also to actively gain more knowledge by engaging in discussion and seeking more information and mentoring outside the classroom setting.  The change and growth in this young man has been incredible to watch.  I think the most powerful things he shared with the instructors that day was the following:  
·      Don’t believe the student who pretends not to care.  He said, “In eighth grade you planted a seed in my heart that stuck with me.  You said I had value, and that I was special, my choices matter.  No one had ever told me that before.  I was only pretending not to listen, after all, I had my reputation to think about.
·      You change more teens than you think.  He said, “You didn’t make all the kids want to make better decisions about sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.  There are still some that may want to, but you are like a speed bump in the road.  When it comes down to it, they can’t forget the information you share with them.”  He recounted several instances of when his friends or he made the correct choice because they couldn’t shake the truth of the knowledge they had on how and why to make the positive choice for their future.
·      Don’t underestimate the power of truth combined with caring.  He shared what a powerful impact that the respect our instructors show each student has on their lives and futures.  He said, “When you teach us, you don’t put your self above us as having something we can’t obtain in our life.  You are on our level, not in a peer-to-peer way, but in an understanding way that you know where we are at.  You don’t judge us.  You want to help us by giving us knowledge and skills that help us succeed.”  He paused for a minute and said, “No, you really but yourself underneath us, and life us up to a higher standard.  You lift us up to where you know we can go.” 
You already know, there wasn’t a dry eye in the office by this time.  Reaching teens is not about having and using the latest technology.  It isn’t only about having that educational degree, or using the latest teaching techniques, although those things can enhance to experience.  It isn’t about the age or gender of the instructor.  It is about the power of giving time, a pat on the back, a simple, eye-to-eye; “How’s your day going?”, or, “I’m glad you’re here.”  Or most importantly, “Your choices matter because you matter.”  It is about being committed to care about this generation and having the passion to see them succeed.
This doesn't just apply to instructors in a classroom.  These three principals can be applied in the home, in business, and in faith-based organization. Take some time today to share truth with a caring attitude, even if it is not well received in the moment.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Show Up & Participate

“This class made me re-evaluate my choices in school.  I want to show up every day and participate in my own future.” – 11th grade student
Have you ever been guilty of just “Going through the motions”?  I think we all have at one time or another.  It is a powerful day when we get that wake up call to not just “show up”, but to “show up and participate.” 
What needs re-evaluated in your choices today?  Let’s join this young person by choosing not only to re-evaluate, but to be honest enough to say, “I want to show up Every Day and Participate in my own future.”  By doing that, I guarantee you will not only change your future, you will also be impacting someone else’s future.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Kiss of Grace

I sat in the cafeteria, waiting for the meal to begin. Soon the tables began to fill up. They were saving seats, waving excitedly as their friends came through the door. It was a typical cafeteria setting, until the fights broke out. The name-calling was shocking. There was no awareness of politically incorrect speech. Words and phrases, such as “fatty”, “ugly face”, “big and ugly”, “stupid” “I ought to just shut you up”, “she’s an idiot”, etc. flew back and forth across tables. There was a total disregard of a no bullying policy. I have never seen such bad behavior. The mother- heart in my chest ached for those being taunted and for those watching. I felt anger toward those showing such anger and hatred for the people around them. Another part of my mother-heart felt the overwhelming urge to get up and spank some naughty behinds and wash out some dirty mouths. I wondered how many I could spank before the cafeteria aids noticed what was taking place. Then I looked into my mom’s eyes. She just smiled, shook her head and said, “Some people are just naughty. Yes, we were in the cafeteria of the nursing home where mom now resides. Interesting, it really doesn’t matter the age, bad behavior, is bad behavior.

Mom continued eating her meal and I tried to concentrate on visiting and ignoring the commotion swirling around us. I couldn’t help noticing the table right next to ours, where much of the bad behavior was originating. Sitting between two pinched faced, squinty eyed, women who were delighting in using their words to tear down, goad, and shock others, sat a quiet woman. Her face seemed so sweet and a look of peace rested on her countenance. The two women were judging everyone around. Anyone who didn’t meet their standard began to become victims of ridicule. One of the women started telling the sweet woman that she was Catholic. The little lady looked at her and said, “I’m Southern Baptist.” And then went back to enjoying her meal. Occasionally she would look up at some comment and say, “That’s not very kind.” Or “Let’s be kind.” I sat there feeling very proud of her composure and kindness in the face of such rude table companions.

Mom and I finished our meal and walked to her room as our visit came to a close for the evening. As we neared the door, she decided that she wanted to walk on down to the nurses’ station. It seems to be the central gathering place for most of the residents. I hugged her, said, “I love you Momma,” and gave her a kiss on the cheek. As I turned around to leave, I noticed the eyes of the kind lady from the cafeteria looking up into mine from where she sat in her wheel chair. There was such a sweet sadness in her eyes that I knew I had to be obedient to the urging within my spirit to give her a hug, say “Jesus loves you so much,” and give her a kiss on her cheek. She smiled into my eyes, squeezed my arms and said, “I know He does, I know!”

I was enjoying the feeling of willingly obedience as I stood up and smiled into her smiling eyes. It was then that I heard a gravely, gruff voice saying, “Hey! What about me? Don’t I deserve a kiss?” I looked over into the eyes of possibly one of the homeliest human beings I have ever encountered. I’m not sure if it was a man or woman, the clothes didn’t give a clue. The body shape undefined in its size. There was facial hair that was unnatural for a woman and yet an abundance of curves unnatural for a man. That’s when I felt “the urging” again. Interesting how time slows down and a hundred thought can course through your brain in a split second. I thought about acting like I hadn’t heard, I thought about laughing and mumbling something about “not today”, I thought about all of the horrific, unknown germs, I could get if I kissed that face. Then I realized that I was bending down looking for the least offensive spot on that face to kiss as I heard the words, “Absolutely, you deserve a kiss!” coming from my throat, and “Help me Jesus screaming in my heart.” I looked into her/his eyes and said, “Jesus really loves you!” I think that person was as shocked as I was.

I stood and hugged and kissed mom again and then headed for my car, and the bottle of Germex in the glove box. I could barely resist the urge to break into a panicked run. When my lips had been sanitized, and the panic had begun to sub-side, I was overwhelmed by the thought of how much God loves me. He speaks to my heart and teaches me lessons everywhere, every minute, and through every person and circumstance. Here are the things I learned today: #1. Behavior not conquered young will conquer you for a lifetime. What is in your heart will come out. #2. It’s easy to accuse others of judging unjustly, and not realize that even in that we may be judging unjustly. #3. It is easy to love the lovely- not so easy to love the unlovely. #4. Willing obedience may cause panic, but it is always worth choosing to be obedient.” I’m pretty sure that when my lips stop burning from the Germex, I may think of a few more things.

God, thank you for loving me in all my “sinful ugliness.” Thank you for bending down and kissing me with your grace and forgiveness.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Manhood Principle 3

You know how some days are just near perfect? Today was one of those days. Perfect for learning from my grandsons. Men are just men at any age.

To begin our day we learned Manhood Principle #3: “Real men lead courageously.”

We visited the Native American Museum. The boys were fascinated with the clothing. They begged me to go home and sew up Indian cloths for them, today. I think it has something to do with the loincloth I made for them last year, much simpler. They were more fascinated by the arrows, especially the ones they had on sale for $1. They talked Popi into buying them each a few and promptly attached them to the homemade arrows when we got home. They immediately went hunting. It did cross my mind that I might be crazy turning an eight and nine year old loose with homemade bows and arrows with real arrowheads. To my credit, I did instruct them in the importance of not shooting each other or the pets. I wonder now if they heard me. Not really certain.

They did a little skinny-dipping in the afternoon to cool off. Then in the evening they asked to go fishing. The evening was beautiful. The temperature, just right, the mosquitoes, visiting somewhere else, and the sun was setting in beautiful hues. The mood was relaxing… and then Randy caught a bass. The competition was on. Finally, Hunter yelled, “Got one, got a big one!” I watched as he wrestled the bass to the shore and helped him pull it in. It was a heavy large mouth bass. Hunter kept yelling, “He’s a big one. He’s bigger than Popi’s.” About that time, Popi (Randy) was pulling in crappie. Popi congratulated him on such a big catch and asked, “What’d you catch him on?” To which Hunter grinning said, “Fisherman’s secret.” Then the competition heated up a notch. When it was time to go home. Hunter call out from across the pond, “I’m the winner. I caught the biggest fish. I’m the winner.” I said, “Hunter, fishing isn’t about winning. It’s about enjoying it and having a good time while you fish.” As I am in the middle of this “teachable moment”, Randy yells out of the window of the pickup, “I’m the winner. I caught the most fish.” Competition.

We passed Papa King’s (my dad) house on the way home. The guys all had to stop and show him the fish and weigh them. Hunter’s fish weighed out at 4 ½ lbs. He then wanted to weigh Popi’s fish. Randy said, “Na, we don’t need to weigh him. He feels like about 3 lbs.” To which Hunter, vigorously shaking his head says, “No way, we got to weigh him.” When the fish weighed in at a little less than 2 ½ lbs, Hunter began doing the victory dance. I looked at my dad and said, “I tried to tell them it isn’t about winning; it’s the joy of fishing.” My dad looked shocked that I would suggest such a thing and replied, “It’s about the competition. Nothing wrong with good healthy competition.”

And that’s when it hit me. Manhood Principle #3: A real man leads courageously, is already in the heart of these little men. It is being drawn out by the moments of adventure, sharing and accepting the responsibility of risk, of success built upon success, and the encouragement and competition of the older men in their life. I am so grateful for the example of their Dad, Popi and Great Grand Papa. I am also thankful to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to see in that moment of “fish weighing” four generations of men, ageless, in the pleasure of “Competition.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Long Road:

She came slowly walking through the trees that line the east yard. Her face bronzed by the sun. “Hi Mom, beautiful day huh?!” I call out with much more enthusiasm than I feel. I can tell by her movements, this is not a good day. Logan, my grandson, runs to greet her, enthusiastically calling out, “Hi Gran! Whatcha doing?”

My heart is squeezed by sadness as I look into frightened eyes. She puts her finger to her lips and shushes him. “Be quiet. They are after me.” She says, looking out from behind the trees.

“Who’s looking for you, Mom?” I ask the question even though I already know the answer.

“They are. He is. Those guys at my house.”

This same scene plays out day after day, so I try the lines that have worked in the past to re-set a calm spirit within her.

“Why don’t you have a seat and rest here in the shade. We are enjoying the shade and just looking at the garden. Let me get you a drink.”

I notice how red her neck and face are. It is 90+ degrees and she is dressed in a black sweater. She likes it because of the buttons and embroidery on it. It is clear that her day has been spent walking. Always looking for home and yet unable to find it, because the home she is looking for is somewhere deep in her mind.

We finally coax her into the house and get her to drink some water and I put sunscreen on her face and neck. Her blue eyes look strangely out of place in a face so darkened by her constant traveling under the sun.

She is anxious to be back on the road to her house. I am grateful to live in a rural area that allows her the freedom and safety to travel like she does. If she lived anywhere else she would have long ago been confined to a home or in a nursing home.

I watch as she leaves the yard. When she gets a distance down the drive, I follow to make sure she makes it safely. Memories flood my heart as I watch her slowly walking down the road. She has walked this same road between her home and mine at least a million times over the last 30 years, bringing a special treat for her grandchildren, and then for her great grandchildren or just coming over to offer a hand with the house, the kids, life. We have visited over tea, sick children, piles of laundry, and flower magazines. She is my dear friend and I miss her already as I see her walk into her yard and disappear around to her front door.

God, help me to always see her as she was and as she will be in eternity. In the long road of Alzheimer’s, help me to have the spiritual insight to realize that this is just a short bend in the path You have for us. Thank you for eternity and healing.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Sunday morning, I got up early and went to help dad by getting mom ready for church. Mom's Alzheimer's has made it hard for them to attend their church for the past year. They have been watching Pastor Dale Thompson's services on the television each Sunday. Dad mentioned that he would like to attend their church in the community if he thought he could get mom ready. She has refused to allow him to help her with any type of cleaning or changing clothing for quite some time now.
I know that he needs that connection with other people and so I told him I would come over on Sunday morning and get her ready with a bath and fresh cloths instead of doing it on Saturday as I usually do. She has allowed me to help her without much complaint until about two weeks ago. I must say it has become a test of wills. Last week when I tried, she gave me the "Mom Look", you know the one I mean. There was no way she was taking a bath and after that look there was no way I was making her. I felt just like a kid again. We did get the cloths changed though, but not without her becoming very upset.
So, Sunday morning I went over early to give her a bath and change her cloths, hoping to catch her in a better mood. When I arrived I could hardly get through the door because she was pushing her way out and saying, "I'm glad you're here. Let's go, right now, I want out of here." She was not by any means ready to go anywhere. Randy and I went on in the house and encouraged her to come back in and visit a bit. I explained that it was Sunday morning and I was going to help her get ready to go to church with dad. Immediately, I met resistance. She was not going to take a bath, change cloths, or be courteous about it. I tried everything I knew. I became the "mom", I begged, I resorted to bribery, I even pled, "Mom you made me promise that I wouldn't let you go dirty or wear dirty cloths. I'm trying to honor that promise." nothing worked. I would have tried tears, but by that time I was too frustrated to cry. In fact, I left for Church defeated. She won. You can't force a grown woman into a tub in any fashion that is respectful, or at least I haven't found a way.
I felt bad for her, I felt worse for my dad. How does he do it 24/7? I took him to have a medical procedure last week that required him to be put under for awhile. When they brought him back to the room the first thing he said, even while his eyes were shut was, "This is the best sleep I've had since your mom got sick." Then he said, "I wonder how my bride is?" She is always on his mind and heart. But it has to be beyond frustrating when the one who is on your mind doesn't even recognize or acknowledge your love or care.
Later that afternoon, I was thinking about the whole morning episode and these questions came like a weight in my heart, "How often do I ask God to cleanse me and not let there be a spot in my heart that is not pleasing to Him, and yet when He steps in to cleanse me, I refuse and even fight His loving care?" "How often do I live life and face circumstances with an attitude that says I don't acknowledge that I am on His mind and heart and that He is always lavishing His loving care over me?"
Wow! Heart Check! God, I not only want to be willing for you to cleanse me, but eager. I want my heart, mind, soul, and body to acknowledge your ever constant love and care and to lavish love back to you.
God, Thank you for what you are teaching me in the difficult times of Mom's Alzhiemer's disease. Bless my mom, she is still teaching me more about you, just as she has all my life.
Thank you, Mom. You were, are, and eternally will be, an amazing woman.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ten Not Eight

I sit here on the couch, snuggled close to my side is my granddaughter. I love the soft sounds of her breathing, and the delicious crunch of crackers as she has that last bedtime snack. She is having a sleepover at Nana and Poppi’s. Could anything be better than a sleep over? Not from my point of view. I love every minute I get to spend with my beautiful grand children. It seems like it just doesn’t happen often enough. This year and every year forward I plan to be more intentional to spend more time with them, as it seems time is flying by so fast.

January, Sanctity of Human Life month, is almost coming to a close. Life really is so sacred. I love people, especially my “little people”. I am quick to tell anyone I meet how blessed I am to have eight wonderful grandchildren. But tonight thinking about the sanctity of life I have to acknowledge the ache in my heart, an ache for two very specific lives. I tell people I have eight grandchildren, but that is really not the truth. It’s just something that I have conditioned myself to say. It seems easier than the awkward, uncomfortable silence as people try to process hearing, “I have 10 grandchildren, eight here and two in heaven.”

The truth is, I do have ten beautiful grandchildren. I just have not had the privilege of holding and looking into the beautiful faces of two of them. That does not mean that they are not often on my mind and always in my heart. I think of those two beautiful babies that are missing each time we gather as family. They would be between 5 and 7 now. I imagine them running through the house, playing in the yard, or helping their younger cousins. I wonder if they are grandsons or granddaughters? Do they have blue eyes or brown? Do they have the same sense of delightful humor the others have?

I have a ultrasound photo of my grandchild who would have turned five just last month. It is a treasure, a promise of the life that waits in eternity. The Bible says that we don’t grieve like those who have no hope. Even though my throat tightens and tears flow, I have hope. Jesus Christ is my hope. He secured my eternity and the eternity of all who turn to Him for forgiveness and new life. Because of that hope, I have a joy in knowing that I will not only see and hold my grandchildren but will spend an eternity getting to know them. My desire is to be surrounded by all of my children and grandchildren in Heaven…not one missing.