Looking closely

Collections. We all have them of various sorts – dolls, figurines, antiques, china, etc.  I collect Nativity scenes. Well, not intentionally. Years ago, Mother gave me our first nativity scene, the one she bought when I was a baby that she placed under the Christmas tree every year. Then, when I returned to teaching, she gave it to me to bring to my classroom and show the children around Christmas time. Ooooh, the children would gasp when they saw it the first time. I have one like this under our tree, some would say. More would say, what is that, as they would pick up one of the characters and look at it more closely.

About 18 years ago,  Mother and Daddy were on another cruise that took them to Russia. Mother found several stackable dolls and gave me a stackable doll nativity set. Oh, how I loved this quaint little set with all the small pieces. I would also take it to school to show the children, a little more cautious with it since it had such tiny pieces. The baby Jesus was noIMG_20131223_142038 bigger than a child’s finger!

On yet another trip to Israel, she brought home an olive wood carved nativity set that she used for awhile then passed on to me several years ago.

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My son Philip gave me a beautiful nativity set for Christmas a few yeas ago and it sits on our coffee table in the den in front of everyone.

 

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This year, I brought the old well-worn nativity set home from school for good. As I unfolded each piece from its sixty year old tissue paper and place it in the little stable, I held the pieces in my hand a little longer, staring at their faces. I hadn’t ever taken the time to do that – at least, not in a very long while. I got my camera and began taking pictures of the nativity scene on the mantle – up close pictures and after they were downloaded on the computer their faces were even more clear and almost alive.

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I picked up Mary and held her for a long time. Dressed simply, as a young peasant girl, her eyes barely open, as if looking down at the baby in the manger. What was she thinking? Her long fingered hands draped across her chest. Can it be, she’s thinking, that this is truly the son of God, as told me by that angel  nine months ago? Oh, Jehovah, what a responsibility. I will need you to help me raise him. Look at how tiny he is! Yes, look. Take a long look at the faces of the figurines in the nativity set. What are they each thinking – this moment in time when a baby is born in a rude old stable in a crowded little obscure town to poor traveling peasants from a long ways away, on this untimely journey just to obey the foreign government. Because of an angel, a dream, a star, the folks in the stable got it. They each knew – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and later the Wise Men had all been forewarned that they were about to witness a miracle, the fulfilling of a long awaited prophecy – the coming Messiah, who would save His people. So, perhaps what each were thinking was, “I am part of an historical event! How will God use a baby to save His people?” Joseph, now the protector of this baby – not his, was to get his directives from yet another dream; the shepherds were so excited that they told their families; the Wise Men received direction from a dream, and Mary. Mary kept all these events in her heart. She marveled at how God was moving in her midst, as she kept trusting.    IMG_20131223_155431

May we ponder, be alert for His directives in our lives, and trust. Keep trusting in this blessed Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ.  Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Now, go out with Joy and be led forth in His peace.

Those Thanksgivings We Remember

new orleans trip 011 Sometimes the school district declared a week long Thanksgiving Holiday. Other times, in their desire to keep kids in school even when they and the teachers were mentally tasting the turkey and playing in the leaves, they’d make us all miserable by having us come to school on Monday and Tuesday of the week of Thanksgiving! I’m sure some kid learned something and maybe one or two teachers were happier in their classroom than at home in their footies! Not me. We looked forward to that week long holiday at the end of November as a time to GET AWAY! Yep. Well, of course, we didn’t go out of town EVERY year at Thanksgiving. We enjoyed many a meal around the family table with Grandpa and Memom, my brother and his family. (Oh, I’m speaking of those Thanksgivings of recent past as parents of our own kids who enjoyed some years with just our own foursome family off somewhere in the hinterlands.) As a child, yes, Thanksgiving was a sacred time at home around the table of our parents and the holy of holiest football games – the tea-sippers of Texas vs the Aggies. Dad was usually seen wearing his traditional orange polo and slacks. Mom would beam at him. After all, she was the one who not only bought the shirt but laid it out for Dad to wear that morning! She always claimed he was color-blind.

Not too many years ago, on the day following Thanksgiving,  the four of us packed up the van and loaded our bikes onto the bike rack on the back and headed out for the six long hour drive to New Orleans.  We had also heard it was going to be a cold one the next day. No kidding! The following morning we awoke to 28 degrees of brilliant sunshine! We donned everything we could find: scarves, hats, gloves, sweatshirts, more socks, you name it. We each resembled bulging overstuffed forgotten turkeys. We drove to the public park just outside of town at the foot of the levee and unloaded our bikes. Burrrr! It was quite nippy! What on earth are we doing? We nearly forgot about the cold after we walked our bikes to the top of the levee and saw…….oh what a beautiful sight! The very MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI RIVER flowing right there in front of us! We rode slow – I did, taking in the sights on either side of the asphalt running track atop the levee. It was an amazing glorious bright sunny crisp cold day and we had 12 miles to enjoy it before riding straight into Audubon Park.new orleans trip 038

Once in the park Beloved and I found a park bench on which to sit and view the pond with its fountain in the middle. After resting just a moment or so, we mounted our bikes and headed for the lovely well planned zoo! The elephants were hilarious and delighted all of us onlookers ! We stayed for about 2 hours before getting on our bikes and heading back down the levee. No, it wasn’t as much fun. Okay. We were hungry and we had now seen the Mississippi and the lovely homes and it was time to eat! We spotted a sports bar/café at the foot of the levee midway along the ride so we turned down the hill and parked and ate. Huge delicious hamburgers. Oh how we all enjoyed the rest and the food! When it was time to head for the van, oh my goodness, we had truly over rested! Can one do that? Yes! Those last six miles were the worst.

Eventually we each found the van and loaded the bike on the back and tumbled in ready for a nap at the hotel. I will long remember that delightful trip to New Orleans and the scenic ride atop the levee. The four of us cycling together in a straight line alongside the Mississippi one side and lovely homes on the other.  What is my take away? Watching my sons as they enjoyed one another along the ride, at the sports bar chowing down on their huge hamburgers, laughing and teasing one another. I’ll remember watching them ride around the park together while Beloved and I sat at the park bench, resting. And of course, our reactions to all the “interesting” folks out on Bourbon street that night when we went to hear the New Orleans Jazz Band. And seeing our eldest drive us home that long stretch through Louisania with all our nine million fellow Texans that Sunday evening.  Lasting loving memories. Savored over time.  This Thanksgiving, as we gather around the table with extended family we can recall the Thanksgiving trip to NOLA  and laugh at all the memories as we share them with others. I’m thankful. Thankful to the Lord, for His provision of my husband, two sons, jobs which help fund such a great trip, and the health to enjoy them more.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!new orleans trip 059

That driving rain

Heavy traffic ’cause it’s Houston at 3:50 in the afternoon.

It’s been raining nearly heavily all day. No thunder. No lightening. Just. Rain. Lot’s of it.

We’ve been out since 9:10 a.m., my Beloved and me, on errands, appointments;

Some scheduled and close by; others clear on the other side of town, unfamiliar and a bit stressful.

And I’m on the edge now. Just plain tired. Especially in my hips and left leg. I want to be home. Now.

But there’s 24.6 miles to cover before hitting the couch and putting my legs up on the coffee table, which, being translated, is about 45 minutes.

Here we go. I pull out onto the frontage road and ease left onto the freeway and suddenly the tears want to force their way from the back of my eyes to the front. The very front.

I can’t. Not now. I have to get up on the freeway with all these other fast moving cars in the rain and so ……..I tell myself. Suck it up, Girl. Be tough. You gotta do this so get on up there and move on out! Self talk. Strong talk. Push the anxiety back. Far back. You have a job to do. One more long drive on the road before relaxing.

I focus. I hold back from tailgating and pray. Pray for me. Pray for all the others on the road who are trying to see through the driving wet windshield to the road, the white dashes between the lanes, the headlights and taillights.

Playing the wipers fast, intermittent, off, on. Fast, intermittent, off, on. Over and over again.Turning the radio to classical – no talk. Then turn it down while Beloved is talking to someone. I don’t care who.

Here we go. Heading off the freeway finally. Down the road to our neighborhood and into the driveway. Home.  At last.  Sigh. We walk in and immediately Beloved sits down on the couch. I go in the kitchen and start to finish cleaning up. It’s what we women do, especially when we know a girlfriend is on her way with supper! But I’m home. More relaxed. Can work out that stiff hip and back. Move the legs.  And thank the Lord that we all behaved on that driving rain home

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My personal “Ireland”

the egret Deep green grass

Craggy rocks tucked in and out of the green

Deep brown muddy water snaking its way down, down at the bottom of the deep green grass

Across the creek, a slender white egret, head held high peering out . standing perfectly still.

Until she opens her wide wings, lifts gracefully off and glides just above the water. Elegant.

There is solace here and thoughts of places far away. Could this setting be transported to Ireland?

                                                                                          Though I have never been, I just know, from books and travel photos, this is my personal Ireland.

                                                                                               Always and forever my place to see quiet beauty. The opportunity to dream, to pray, to think.

A change of heart

To all of you fellow teachers, especially those of you who teach multiple classes, such as elementary music or physical education: you know those classes that you can’t wait to see. You even go to your doorway and look down the hall expectantly. And then there’s that class that keeps you looking at the clock. Has it only been ten minutes??? With 35 long nearly impossible minutes to go? Then we can relate.

Here in my ninth year at this same inner city elementary school at the southern tip of a forward thinking district, I’ve had so many of those “I-can’t-wait-til-the-end-of-this-class-so-I-can-breathe” classes and yet, truly I had thought this year would be different. I thought that after stating and rehearsing the class policies/rules over and over the first few weeks of school and writing up several children for not adhering to the very basic rules, that I would not let a class get to me. Wrong. So wrong.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was allowing a few trouble-makers in one or two particular classes to rule over my thoughts and control my day – did they know that’s what they were doing?  Finally, one day not too long ago, I was sitting somewhere, was it at my desk? And I decided to do an about face. Discipline notes to the parents were not working and neither were parent phone calls to these particular children. Their behavior was not improving and I was letting these few steal my joy and hinder the learning of the majority of the children in the class.

On the Thursday afternoon before spring break, I sat down at my desk with my class list binder and began making some phone calls. “Hello, Mrs. Smith? This is your child’s music teacher at _________Elementary. Do you have just a minute? I am calling to let you know that your child, ____________, is an EXCELLENT student in my class. It is a pleasure to teach him (or her). Thank you so much for the privilege of teaching your child music. Would you please let your child know that I called so she/he will know I made a “good call” to your home today. May you have a blessed day. Good bye.” After nine calls of that nature and hearing the parent’s heart absolutely melt over the phone, I knew I was on to a good thing.  From now until school was out, I would let those challenging classes know that at the end of that day I would be making “good parent phone calls” and writing down the names of those whom I had called so that they would know I knew those children were behaving and trying to learn something in music class and that IT WAS REWARDING TO OBEY THE CLASS RULES!

It’s Monday afternoon and I made nine new phone calls this afternoon to chldren’s parents of one particular class. I heard sighs and thank you’s over the phone. The next time I see this class I look forward to seeing how the children behave who’s parents DIDN’T receive a phone call………yet.

By the way, music learning took place all day today! And my heart was light as I left the building this afternoon – after Zumba class! Hopefully the rest of the school year and continuing this practice all the children in all the classes will choose to learn and have a good time in music! Time will tell.

It would be a pleasure to know what you think, even if you disagree.

Let’s keep in touch!