Compassion's Tell Us Your Story

Wess Stafford from Compassion International asked the following:

"Do you remember the words and kind acts that encouraged you when you were young? Who was the adult that spoke into your life? Hopefully, they spoke words of love and acceptance that encouraged you to explore an interest or talent that is uniquely yours."
As I think back over my childhood, I cannot remember one instance where kind words were spoken that changed my life.   My family was the love, acceptance, and support that got me through all of the ups and downs of life that come with growing up.   But there is a moment in life when the trajectory of my life change.   It was a change that I had never dreamed of and because of that, obviously had not seen it coming.  
For most of my years growing up, I was involved in piano lessons.   I began lessons when I was in second grade with an older woman who had two pianos in her living room and lived just down the street from the elementary school I attended.  She was the teacher that taught me the basics of piano and music.   After a couple of years of playing, she encouraged me to play in a recital as many piano teachers have for their students.   Performing was something that I was really nervous about, but I decided to try it.   Recital day fell on the same day that we were returning from a girl scout camp, but the return time was before the recital time, so it was all going to work out.   As happens with many trips, the return time was delayed and we ended up getting back into town late, and as you have probably already guessed, the recital had already started.   We still had time before the recital was over, so heading to the recital hall, we slipped in the back to sit down.   As we were finding our chairs, my teacher noticed that we had just arrived and asked me to come down front and play my piece.   As I sat at the piano, my mind was blank.   I could not remember one note of the piece that I was to perform.   The longer I sat there, the more the anxiety built.  I began to cry and could not perform my piece.  This experience haunted me for many years.   I continued in piano lesson until my junior year in high school, but never performed again.  I could not bring myself to play in front of anyone again.  
Six years later, a very good friend of mine asked me if I would teach her children piano lessons.   Her daughter really wanted to learn to play piano, but the current teacher that she was taking lesson from did not want to teach a student who was as young as her daughter.  I had no idea where to begin to teach someone how to play piano, it had been so long since I had been a beginning student.  Along with that, there was the fear of playing in front of her children.  Sure, the pieces were going to be beginner pieces and if at home I would have no problem with them, but what if I couldn't play them in front of her children if they asked me to?...  We agreed to begin lessons for her three children about a month later.  
It is now eight and a half years since my friend asked me to teach her children piano lessons.  Because of my friend's faith in my ability to play the piano, I have a career as a piano teacher.   I love my job, and I love my students.   I have had the opportunity to talk with some of my students about God, share Bible stories with them, and I have made some great friends.   Above all of this though, I am so very thankful for what each of my students have brought into my life.   I have learned from each and everyone of them.  My friend who got me started as a piano teacher gave me a gift that I would never have discovered on my own.    It has brought so much into my life.   
That is my story of how my life changed, what is your story?  I would love to hear it. 

A Little Extra Safety

Each morning there are three members of my family that have a very busy road to cross in order to get where they are going.   I would like to say luckily there is a stop light that assists in this crossing, and a school zone to slow down the traffic.   However, in the four years that we have had to cross this street, I have seen how many people really do not slow down for a school zone.   I cannot tell you how many times Mark has come home from work and told that he was almost hit in the crosswalk due to people not paying attention.   Granted it is early in the morning and for nine months of the year dark when he is crossing the street, but there is a red light, for goodness sake stop the car!  

Unfortunately people running the red light does not happen only at seven o'clock.   It seems to happen at nine o'clock and three thirty as well.  Lucky for us, the crossing guard that helps the kids cross the street takes her job so seriously.   If someone comes too close to the crosswalk in their car she is yelling, blowing her whistle, anything she can do to get their attention.   She as even come so close as to hit her stop sign on the hood of a car!   I love this lady for protecting my children as they cross the street as it seems there are so many preoccupied drivers out there. 

This year, E joined the school crossing guard program, and he is very excited about this opportunity.   I am glad he is helping his school mates cross these streets.   Of course I still send my family out the door praying for them as they navigate their way to school and work, but I am thankful for the people who are there to help the little ones by providing a little extra safety. 


Daily Gifts

It is so easy to  get wrapped up in the day to day activities of life that at times become mundane missing all of the gifts that God places in our day.  A beautiful sunrise, a newborn baby, a clean bill of health, or our children laughing become part of the "ordinary" when in fact God is behind each and every one of those things.   

"...When each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises."  -- Paulo Coelho

I love the lyrics by Charlie Hall in his song Scenes.   It is my prayer that each and everything in my day will lift my mind to God. 

Chill and cold and flakes of snow
Ice and sleet, and frost and cold
Each storm cloud and thunderbolt
Lifts my mind to You

Every work and every power
Every second of every hour
Fall of dew in sweet rain showers
Lifts my mind to You

The summer wind, fire and heat
Autumn leaves and blooms of spring
Ocean waves and mountain streams
Lifts my mind to you

I see you in every scene
I bet you are thinking about me
I have such a short memory
So you keep reminding me of you

As I lay me down to sleep
As I walk on city streets
As I laugh with friends and feast
It lifts my mind to you

As my children play and run
In the news with wars and guns
In the church where songs are sung
It lifts my mind to you

Deep inside the beggar's eyes
As for sweet love I fight
On the radio at night
It lifts my mind to you

I see you in every scene
I bet you are thinking about me
I have such a short memory
So you keep reminding me of you

Painting pictures of your love
You lift my mind up
Reminding me of you
My heart comes alive


Saying Goodbye For Now

Gazing out my kitchen window I see that the gardens are getting ready for their long winter nap.  

The brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows have become muted and beginning to turn brown.   Leaves are scattered over the lawns and gardens.   Today was a perfect day for fall clean up.....

Everyone helped...

Even Pix had a job breaking up the sticks...

Once all of the leaves were raked up...

The fun began...

 After the jumping ended, the leaves were then mulched for compost for next year's gardens...

The deck furniture was put into storage...

Ending the season of outdoor entertaining...

And for today, the clean up is done.  

It is a bittersweet time of year for me as I love the green of the gardens and the parties on the deck, but know that year round gardening would not be as enjoyable.  The season change is a good thing, and I am learning to enjoy aspect of each one.  As we enter the season of white landscapes and snuggling up by the fireplace, I say good-bye for now to the gardens. 


It's what I love

The date is set, plans are made.   As the time draws nearer, deep inside an excitement begins to grow.  The menu has been planned, the groceries are now purchased.   I can't help but smile.   One stop provides the autumn decoration I have been looking for.  Perfect!  I can't wait.  I love preparing for the arrival as much as I cherish the visit.    Something about getting everything ready for a nice evening with friends and/or family delights me. 



I  just finished the book Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik.    Hesitant of the title at first, I picked up this book based on a facebook recommendation.   Five women start a book club that meets once a week in order to get away from the day to day grind of being a housewife during the 1960's.  As the women get to know each other better, the book club becomes a very important part of their lives, and so much more than just a book club.  Through thirty years, these women grow together, help each other, laugh together, and cry together.   When I finished reading the book, I found myself missing the characters.

As I read this book, I thought about the group of women that I have the privilege to meet with every other week.   These women have become very special to me as we have walked together though this journey called life.   There have been times of celebration, times to grieve, and times of encouragement and support.  These ladies have shown me the power of prayer and the power of a good laugh.  I look forward to what the years ahead will look like as we continue down this path together.


My Heart Aches

Her cheeks are wet from tears and I am taken back to a childhood memory.   I know first hand and have felt her pain.   Dear God, give me the words.   Words that will lessen the hurt and minimize the damage. 

The tears come because her art teacher critiqued her drawing.   Ah, yes, I have been there, I know.   I am taken back to my third grade class room, my teacher with my art project in hand looks at me and remarks that my art projects never "work out" do they?  I was crushed.   If I didn't cry, I felt like it.   I never again in my growing up years pursued anything creative or artistic.  It wasn't until I read a book, as a grown woman, that I found there was a creative side to me and it was waiting to be released.   Due to one off hand comment, I had buried that side of me. 

She loves to draw and create, it is part of who she is.  I understand that part of art is learning and critiquing.  But my maternal protectiveness wants to tell that art teacher she was out of line.   I want to tell her that these are first graders, not professional artists.   But I can't.   Instead I wrap my arms around my daughter and hold her.  As I dry her cheeks, I tell her that she is a great artist.   I tell her about Vincent van Gogh, a world famous artist now, but few appreciated his art while he was alive.   I tell her about Einstein who people misunderstood and thought he was less than brilliant.  But he didn't let that stop him, he kept trying.   People don't always understand brilliance at the time, but that does not mean that we can give up.   I told her to keep trying, to keep drawing, and to not give up.  

I know she will rebound, she is resilient like that, but it doesn't minimize the hurt.   It doesn't make my heart feel any less heavy.   As I head downstairs to begin my evening of teaching, I am reminded that in my daily contact with my students how careful I have to be.  In my mind, a teacher/student relationship should be precious.   There is a trust there that should not be taken lightly.   I don't want to take the joy out of music for anyone due to an off handed remark or a bad day.  



The wind rushing against your face, at a point where you feel that you can almost fly....

 from age two

 Flying through the air

Defying gravity

Even as a dad

There is something about swinging that some never outgrow.  



This morning I was able to spend some one on one time with my sister's daughter.    Twenty-six months old, eyes blue as the summer sky, and blond hair that curls at the ends, she is such a sweetie.  


A Return on the Investment

Last year I saw a video about a young man, Jimmy, from Kenya that had grown up in the compassion program.   At last year's Catalyst Conference, in a video that brought tears to my eyes, he met his sponsor.  It was a powerful moment,  and if you missed Jimmy's story, it is worth the watch. 

This year at the Catalyst Conference Jimmy returns again and this time, he is able to travel to Haiti and meet his sponsored child.   What a special moment. 

Watching this video, renews my desire to visit our children around the world.  


Unexpected Moments

My phone is ringing, and I am running out the door.  While sliding into the car, I see that it is Mark calling.   Accustomed to quick conversations while he is running between meetings, I pick up the phone to see how his morning has been.   A meeting has canceled, and Mark is calling to see if I have some time to grab some lunch with him.   While Mondays are the busiest day of the week for both of us, today it just happens that our schedules work and we are able to meet.  What a gift in my day. 

When I processed the kids going to school and both being gone all day, I had no idea that there would be rare moments that our schedules would jive and we could sneak in some time together.  Somehow, these unexpected moments have become moments I look forward to, even though I don't know when they will happen. 


My View

There are times when language fails.   There are times when a photograph just doesn't compare.   Maybe a person with the gift of words could explain better.  Perhaps a professional photographer could do better.   Maybe it is just because it is mine that it is special and no amount of words or pictures would make it just as special to another person.   I don't know.   Here is my feeble attempt to share with you a view that I look forward to each year.  

In my favorite room in my home, the window frames the reds, oranges, and yellows that I love this time of year. 


Fall Beauty

Another beautiful day found me wanting to be outside again today.   On my walk this evening, I looked up in the trees and saw the sun highlighting one of my favorite trees. 


Loving the Color

It is eight in the morning and Pix is whining at the sliding glass door.   In my rush to get the kids out the door, I ignore his pleas and continue on with the morning.  By eight thirty the pleas have become more incessant, Pix wants to be outside.    Twenty to nine the kids are ready to leave for school, so I put a leash on Pix and we head out the door for a walk.    Now I understand why the desire to be outside was so strong, it is a beautiful morning to be out.   The air is crisp, cool, and refreshing.   Upon arriving at the school, the kids and I part ways.  They head to the playground to catch up with their friends after the weekend, and I decide that it is time for a walk.  Two miles later, Pix and I return home exercised and refreshed.   What a great way to start the week! 

The day continues to be nice and I am having a hard time being inside today.   The sun in shining, the temps are hovering in the lower sixties, and there is a slight breeze.    Around one, Pix and I head out for another walk.   This time the walk is not so much for exercise like the morning walk, rather this walk is just to be outside and to enjoy the day.   As I walk, I notice the red geraniums that have survived the last two nights of frost.   The maple in my neighbor's yard is becoming the vibrant orange that I am so drawn to in the fall and is striking against the brilliant blue sky I have loved since I was a child.  Yellow leaves fill the trees and the sidewalks making crunching and swishing sounds as we walk on them.  The grass, still bright green thanks to the rain we received a couple of weeks ago, surrounds the sand at the playground where a mom in a purple shirt sits with her children building sandcastles.  

It is days like then when the sun in shining and the sky is its brilliant blue that I feel the closest to God.    A friend of mine sent me an e-mail about a message she had heard about color and how for some of us we express our love for Jesus through color.   I resonated with this statement because I love color and I do find that when the days are bright and the gardens are full of colorful flowers that I am content.   I feel the connection with Jesus when I am in nature whether it be walking or on my knees in the garden.  

Today's rainbow of colors brought a smile and a moment with God thanking Him for the day. 


A Family Project

We had conferences at school on Thursday night.   This was a goal setting conference for each of the kids for the year.  We heard glowing reports of both kids from their teachers, which always makes these kinds of meetings fun for us.   As a result of E's goal setting conference, our family is on an eight month project that I am kind of excited about. 

Our family is a group of avid readers.   If you look into anyone of our bedrooms, you will find a stack of books beside the bed containing the book we are currently reading, and a pile of books that is on our "to read" list.   Trips to the library are frequent with large stacks of books coming and going.

The goal for E is to expand beyond the magic and fantasy books that he has been absorbed in.   His teacher would like him to explore the other wonderful authors that have written books.    Mark and I, loving to read like we do, are both thought this was a great goal.   We as a family are going to take the next eight months to expand our horizons and read from some different genres that we don't generally read from. 

Eight different genres written on pieces of paper were drawn from a cup to determine the schedule.   Each month we have a new genre and a new book.   We each read a different book, and one that we have not read before.   At the end of the month, we will all talk about the book we have read and compare notes.  

For the month of October the genre is Historical Fiction.   Basically the rule for this month was that the story had to take place in the past, be fiction, and of course no magic or fantasy.  :)

Mark is reading The Red Ripper by Kerry Newcomb 
I am reading The Kite Rider by Geraldine Mccaughrean
E is reading one of the Bobbsey Twins books
Addy is reading some of the American Girl books.