Tuesday, January 30, 2007


July 17, 2006 greeted me with the first day of a three-day workshop, and the beginnings of what I thought was sinus infection. By the end of the three-day workshop, I was running a low-grade fever and feeling much like I'd been run over by a truck. However, a sinus infection it was not. Two weeks later I finally asked the doctor for a mono test. It came back positive. Finally after two weeks I had something to blame for having barely enough energy to walk across my apartment not to mention the worst sore throat and stomach pains I've ever had in my life.

My next obstacle was figuring out how to get through the first of school. August 1st was meant to be my first day to begin getting my new classroom ready for my first graders. However, I was only two weeks into a virus that at its best lasts four to six weeks. I was incredibly overwhelmed, but lacked any energy to do anything about it. My mother was a life-saver. She basically put together my classroom while I told her what to do. The other teachers on my team took care of so many things for me all the way until about mid-October. I spent the first six weeks of school working only four days a week. It was Christmas before I could finally say, "I think I feel normal."

As I walked into my apartment today after going to workout I was struck at how wonderful it is to be able to exercise. I went from working out 4-5 days a week the first of July, to using all my energy to take a shower by the end of July. Talk about getting knocked flat on my back!!! What a blessing to be back to normal.

So, how did I see God in my day? In the realization of how awesome it is to have health and be able to participate in activities other than being cozy with my pillow! Praise the Lord!

"I proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!"
Deut. 32:3

Monday, January 29, 2007

Blessed with a Burden

Today was a staff development day at school. After a short morning meeting and time to plan with grade level teams, our principal had a surprise in store for us. She wanted to give us some encouragement in the work we put into each day as we are educating America's next generation. She took us to see the movie Freedom Writers. For those of you who are not familiar with the story, here is the premise: The movie is based on the writings of the freshmen and sophomore students from Woodrow Wilson High School in LA. The majority of these students are members of local gangs "destined" to amount to nothing. They are placed in the English class of young Ms. Gruwell, a first year teacher filled with dreams of making literature come alive to her young prodigies. What she found was one uphill battle after another, yet she was determined to prevail! I could go on and on. This movie is amazing. What an encouragement to those of us that work tirelessly (or sometimes not) just trying to make a difference in children's lives when all around us it can seem that our work is in vain!!

There was one line that has stayed implanted in my brain since leaving the theatre. At one point Hilary Swank (Gruwell) is visiting with her father about all that she has gone through-unfortunately including losing her young marriage due to her dedication to her students. Swank is crying and wondering if it really all matters when all she does is fight battles all day long. Her father looks at her and says, "You have been blessed with a burden, my daughter." And he goes on to tell her the amazing things he has seen in her and her students because of the work that she is doing.

It made me wonder...does God ever say that to me? Does He ever look down at me as I lay venting to Him about all my frustrations and say, "You have been blessed with a burden, my daughter."

"Blessed by a burden? God, do you realize that people don't usually use those two words in the same sentence? I mean, some days I can't hardly find one blessing amidst all the burdens, and now, Lord, you want me to see the burdens AS blessings? I'm not sure I know how to do that."

My Father simply holds me and whispers to me, "You HAVE been blessed with a burden, my daughter. Be still, rest in me...and I will reveal to you the blessing that is indeed in the burden."

And my life will never be the same!

"However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you." Deut. 23:5

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Savings of $8

A friend shared something very special with me the other day. She told me that she and her husband have recently started asking each other, "How did you see God today?" before going to bed. What a wonderful way to reflect on the day before laying down to rest! It made me want to redirect my thoughts at the end of each day.

With these thoughts in mind this morning, I headed to a local grocery store to stock my fridge for the coming week. It was a busy morning in the grocery department, and thus caused a small wait at the checkout counter. When my turn came, the friendly checkout assistant asked if I had a rewards card to receive savings on my groceries. I did not have one, and not wanting to slow down the line behind me I declined signing up for one. The lady behind me leaned forward and asked, "Would you like to use my card for the discounts? I hate to see people not save a little money when they can." I graciously accepted, thanked her, and left the store with a smile on my face.

I have no idea if this lady is practicing her Christianity in this manner, or if she is just a very friendly lady...but God used her today to touch my life. It made me wonder if I am as willing to step forward and offer help to someone at a busy store. Or, am I just caught up in my own world while patiently waiting for my turn?

So...How do you let God use you each day? And...how have you seen God in your life today?

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
Matt. 25:35-36, 40

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Human Brain

Do you ever stop to marvel at what our brains are capable of doing? Think about that while I give you some background to where this is going...

I teach first grade. I taught fifth grade last year (Ugh), and quickly learned that the younger ones are my cup of tea. So, I work with little 6 and 7 year olds all day long. In addition to my first graders, this spring I am coaching 9 fourth and fifth graders in an elementary school version of Academic Decathlon. It's actually proving to be quite fun.

I was amazed by something today. All day long I spend my time helping first graders read words like, "cat", "pot", and "cake." This afternoon I sat down with my fourth and fifth graders, and I found myself explaining "maritime technology." (Side note: I am not exactly a naval buff, so I must admit this was slightly challenging.) Immediately, I was struck by how drastically the human brain changes in the three years between first grade and fourth. If I asked my first graders to even begin to understand "maritime technology" they would probably cry from frustration. If I was feeling adventurous I might be able to get them to clap out the syllables, but that would be the climax of our time spent on "maritime technology." My fourth and fifth graders, however, were eating it up! That thought is sounded really cool. Their brains were practically begging for more information!

How can our brains do this? I have no idea! But, I do know that we have one amazing God that made our brains capable of taking in that much knowledge in a relatively short span of time without exploding!

"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Long Line of Love

This past Christmas I spent five incredible days with my grandmother-Nani. It was just me and Nani...two single women at very different stages of life. We talked, laughed, cried, watched old movies, cooked, and just spent time together. It was one of the most refreshing holidays I think I have ever had. Throughout the weekend, almost everytime we came into contact with another person we were told how much alike we look like. It was amazing. No one has ever really told us that before. But, this was also my first time to so much time alone with her. It was such a wonderful compliment to be told I look like, for you see..Nani is beautiful. She has amazing skin for her 70 years, and she has a beautiful crown of snow white hair.

Since leaving her house, this experience has stayed with me. I've thought quite a bit about whether or not anything else about her can also be seen in me. Do I have the same sweet spirit that she does? Do I have the patience that she demonstrates as she still takes care of her 98 year old mother? Do I show the same hospitality that she often shows to so many people?

While thinking of all of this I was reminded of an old song entitled "Long Line of Love." Unfortunately, I do not rememeber who sang it, but I do remember the premise of the song. A man in the song is getting married, and with the approaching wedding is feeling some anxiety about whether or not he is ready to love forever. He watches his grandparents and parents and realizes he comes from a long line of love. In the second verse, this man's son, waiting to walk down the aisle, shares similar fears with his father. The man tells his son about the long line of love that preceeds him.

I've always loved this song because it doesn't tell you life will be easy, but it emphasizes approaching life with an attitude of love. The song gives much recognition to the love the goes before us. The preceeding love has taught us how to love going forward.

In this day in age it is becoming all too common for individuals to lack this long line of love. Due to this, I am more and more thankful that I have a long line of love preceeding me, teaching me how to go through life. Even though I am not approaching marriage, the love that has gone before me wraps around me and carries me through. I have so much to learn from my elders, and I am thankful to be able to spend time with them.

I pray that the love (and faith) of grandmother, much like her looks, resides somewhere deep inside of me.

"I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also."
2 Timothy 1:5

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Life: Chapter 7

While in a conversation with a mentor the other day, I found myself saying, "I feel like I am waiting for the next big chapter of my life." As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized: this is the next big chapter of my life!! So, what I am doing waiting for it? You see, I have always clumped my life together in big sections that I now refer to as "chapters." Each chapter has come with its own set of sub-chapters full of peaks and valleys, failures and triumphs. The following chapters of my life have already been written and published:

Chapter 1: Early Childhood: Birth through the Preschool Years
Chapter 2: Elementary School
Chapter 3: Junior High (Ugh-not my best years!)
Chapter 4: High School
Chapter 5: Harding University: Undergrad
Chapter 6: Harding University: Graduate School (unlike the previous chapters this one was not planned much ahead of time, but it was a wonderful addition to my story)

Those of you that know me well, know that I have a DEEP longing and desire to be a wife and mother. If you had asked me back in Chapter 4 what Chapter 7 would be like I would have told you something about marriage and family. Now, here I am a year and a half into Chapter 7 realizing that I have only been skimming the surface of the story instead of delving deep into the plot. I am beginning to realize this is a mistake.

Scripture tells us to wait on the Lord. It also tells us that He will give us the desires of our heart. I am learning that while I wait on the Lord, He still may have other plans for me along the way! He is writing Chapter 7 right now, and the lessons from Chapter 7 are going to prepare me for Chapter 8 (whatever that is).

I very much believe that my desires to be a wife and mother are God-given, and that in His time only-not mine-He will bring that to fulfillment. For now, however, He apparently has great things in store for me as a single. His expectation of me now is to actively wait on my dreams by joining Him in the work He has for me now!!!

Please join me in praying about where God is leading me. I am currently doing some reflection and research about the best ways to use my talents and passions as a single in order to bring Him glory! I am so glad that my Father is patient with me as I learn to let Him write my Chapter 7 instead of wishing it away waiting for Chapter 8.


"But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands!" Psalm 31: 14-15a

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Take a smile break!

My first graders are often plagued by hiccups. Sometimes these episodes can cause a few giggles. For instance, today one precious little boy hiccupped very loudly causing me to look at him. He caught my eye and said, "I'm getting taller, that's why."

Seeing the confused look on my face, he felt the need to clarify by saying, "The hiccups make me taller. That's what my mommy told me."

I quickly grabbed a pen to jot down this new insight into human growth and development and heard from across the room, "Is that true, Miss Lowery?" Obviously, this little girl wasn't convinced. So, instead of having to give an anatomy lesson, I quickly jumped into our next order of business.

What can I say? If he thinks hiccups make him taller, who am I to squash that idea?

I hope you enjoyed this giggle as much as I did!!!

"The joy of the Lord will be my strength!"

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Why all the pressure?

Scene: Safe in my car after a LONG day at school that was characterized by abilities tests, skinned knees, split lips, hurt feelings, and frustrated parents.

As I journeyed home I couldn't help but contemplate on all the pressure put on us by life. I spent an hour and a half today giving a standardized abilities test (similar to IQ) to my 6 & 7 year old students. We will do the same the next two days. I can't help but wonder why society has decided to place importance on learning a child's complete mental ability at the age of 6. Is it really important right now?

My mind quickly jumps to the end of the day when I spent 45 minutes after school conferencing with a mom and dad who wanted to know how much more homework I could give their first grader because "he plays enough." They wanted to know how to get him to the top of the class. I wanted to yell, "He's in first grade!! Let him be a little boy, please!! He only gets to do it once!!"

Also rolling around in my head is a quickly expanding list of things that need to be done at school in the next few days: reading assessments to determine reading level, find some time during my regular day to pull a particular student to work on reading skills to determine if he needs to be referred for dyslexia, make plans for math/science activities for an evening program in a few weeks, find information on Europe for a multicultural evening in a few weeks, find information to send home with the parent who wants extra homework, input and evaluate reading assessments to make sure I am serving each child's needs...and the list could go on.

Sometimes I wonder when teaching got so hard. I think that there is a need to hold teachers accountable. I think that the trend in education leans toward making education available to all students by differentiating lessons as necessary--this is very wise. But, a part of me wonders, when will all the pressure stop? I am only human. Some days I can't do as much as others, and I hate thinking that my students suffer because of this. I also hate realizing that all of my energy goes to school and very little is reserved for anything else outside of school.

Where did all this pressure come from? Is it self-inflicted? Maybe some, but I don't think completely. Is it from the administration? Sometimes yes, but something is pressuring them as well. Is it the government? Often yes, but there is still something underneath it all.

I wonder how much of it has to do with our need to stay busy so we don't have to think about anything deep or meaningful. Have you ever taken a minute to sit quietly and just "be"? Did you find yourself thinking of things that needed to be done, or did you find it too quiet to be comfortable? We are always on the go trying to fix everything ourselves. "If I can just work 30 more minutes, I will feel productive." Honestly, when is that attitude ever going to stop? We will always find more to do.

Imagine what would happen in this country if everyone stopped for an hour a day--or even just 30 minutes--to just sit quietly and "be". What do you think we would hear? For those of us that our Christians, I believe we would be more likely to hear God's direction for us. For those that are not Christians, I believe they will be more likely to hear God's call into their lives. Just imagine that for a minute.

Do you think the pressure would diminish? Do you think the sense of urgency and busyness would lift off of our shoulders? Why don't you try it? I can't control the whole world...I can't even control you. But, I can make a decision to spend some time quietly everyday that will allow me to hear and to release the pressure of the world in to much more reliable Hands. I challenge you to join me and take note of the difference it makes in your life.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden in light." Matthew 11: 28-30

Monday, January 8, 2007

Raindrops on Roses, Part II

Here are some additions to my list of "butterflies" from my post on December 30, 2006.

I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I love fireplaces. I love fires and hot chocolate on a cold, winter night. I love new clothes. I love the color pink. I love watching a one-year old say hi to everyone that walks into a room. I love listening to babies laugh. I love getting mail (email or snail-mail). I love nights out with girlfriends. I love the way I feel after I workout. I love blue skies. I love sunshine. I love finding shapes in the clouds. I love knowing that God loves me ALWAYS! I love finding "new" Bible verses. I love having spiritual mentors that are concerned enough to check on me from time to time. I love being apart of a congregation where I can use my gifts for service. I love to laugh. I love my Lord God!!!

What do you love?

Friday, January 5, 2007

Chivalry Isn't Dead!!!!

Throughout this school year, I have weathered constant battles with my students over who gets to go first during small group activities. I'm not sure I have ever put my students in groups where I didn't have at least one group fighting over who went first...then second...then third...etc. It's exhausting. I'm often tempted to say to them, "Jesus says, 'The first will be last, and the last will be first.'" Unfortunately, the government frowns upon quoting Scripture in class. So, I have resorted to trying to teach this lesson without "preaching." (Side note: Isn't it interesting how in order to not be prejudiced against the minority, we consequently become prejudiced against the majority?) Even though it means putting up with and working through these fights of the ego, I still make my students work in groups.

All of that said, I can now come to a story from today. I had once again put my students in groups of two or three. After passing out materials, assigning partners, and giving directions I turned my students loose and waited for the first argument. Much to my relief (and, I admit, amusement) the first thing I heard was a sweet little boy say to his female partner, "Since you are a lady, you get to go first." I was floored!

I often feel that our culture lacks true gentlemen (and true ladies for that matter). It was so sweet to know that this little one in my classroom is already being taught and learning the importance of being polite and respectful to the opposite sex. I know some men four times his age that could use a lesson from him!!!

Having said that...as a woman, it can be easy to think that chivalry is all about how a man treats a woman. However, I am beginning to think that couldn't be more false. Lack of respect for the opposite sex stems from men to women, and it is not just found in the secular culture. I often see this even amongst those that call themselves Christians. What an unfortunate testimony we make when we do not respect our fellow humans! I feel certain God would tell us that disrespect is the same as not loving. Ouch! I believe He told us to "Love our neighbors as ourselves." That brings a new light to the idea of chivalry.

So, is chivalry dead? Thankfully, not yet. It is living inside my 6 year old student. There is hope for the next generation, but it is up to us to be the models God has called us to be!

"Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs."

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Ready or Not...Here They Come!

At 7:50 tomorrow morning I will have 20 little 6 and 7 year old rascals pouring into my classroom dying to tell me about all the things they have done these last two weeks. Am I ready? Well, we'll see. :) The funny thing about me is that I love to teach, but I hugely look forward to the day that I can stay home. Thankfully, God provides me with blessings each day that validate His purpose for my life right now which is teaching.

I'm sure you've heard of the show Kids Say the Darndest Things. One of the fun things about teaching first grade is being able to hear first hand some of these "darndest things" without holding a remote in my hand. Here's just a few of the things I have heard so far this year:

"She sure writes fast, how does she do that"
"Well, you know grown-ups. Teachers and all kinds of grown-ups can write fast."
"Yeah, but we can beat them in a race"

"I have a peeing affection!"

"My neck is stuffy." (Said by a little boy with a frog in his throat)

"He's going to be so handsome." (Said by a little day-dreamer about my dad before he came to do story time.)

"Angels fly. God floats. He doesn't need wings."

"Miss Lowery, Hannah said an 's' word."
"Can you whisper it in my ear?"
In a whisper voice, "Miss Lowery, Hannah said an 's' word."

"Am I getting smart?" (said by a little boy after spending 15 minutes working very hard on addition!)

"How do you spell 'gig'?"
"Tyler, why do you need to spell 'gig'?"
"Because I giggle when I watch TV."

"I prayed for you last night, Miss Lowery."

What a blessing these little munchkins can be! Don't get me wrong, there are days that I come home and wonder how I'll ever go back and face them again. The amazing thing is that it seems like everytime that I become overwhelmed one of them will say something that reminds me why I do this. This is what I love about teaching first grade: I learn as much from them as they hopefully learn from me. And, I'm sure there will be many more profound and hysterical things coming out of their little mouths in the next several months.

So, am I ready? Yes. Will the next five months come with challenges and exhaustions? I would be surprised if it didn't. Will God give me the strength to get through it? Absolutely!!! Will He continue to provide blessings along the way? Probably more than I could ask or imagine. I pray that God will use me to touch their precious lives.

"He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me'." Matt. 9: 36-37