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This, Is Family

01 Oct

Love

Accepts another’s heart without hesitation,

Knowingly enters a relationship with no preset boundaries,

Fears being alienated from the one they love more than being right,

Sees a situation from the other’s perspective,

Shows up—even when it’s inconvenient,

Wraps arms around for solace, instead of passing judgement,

Understands instead of fears,

Forgives instead of harboring resentment,

Seeks to heal instead of blame,

Longs to understand – not make excuses,

Love endures.

-M. Price-

Thibross week was a rough one. Ten years is a milestone in marriage, in birth, but in death—it is difficult. While talking to Brandon tonight about the importance of working hard on relationships with his siblings, I teared up when I mentioned that Evan (my baby brother) came from Dayton to support me this week. My brother Marc and his family, though SUPER busy with ICS Convention and a trip to Texas, carved out invaluable time to celebrate life and loss. I reminded him that THIS is what love is. Those moments in time where love meets action—where life is suspended for a moment– and where we intentionally commit to those we love is the only thing that matters—yes, that—is family.

When we willingly invest in the lives of other people—we are changed—we are transformed from self-centered to other-centered and it changes who we are. It isn’t genetics that makes a family or living under one roof. It is embracing the life of another human being, no matter how broken—no matter how hard — and holding on for dear life. THIS I know for sure…

 

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Beauty for Ashes Part II

29 Sep

100_0749_2
Ten years ago my life changed in an instant. Since then, I have been amazed at God’s graciousness when we choose to seek purpose in spite of pain. Though this date for 10 years has been one of mourning, three years ago, it turned into one of celebration and renewal.

When Don died, the life I had created for 24 years changed in an instant. I was a widow—a single mother, but left with determination to honor my husband’s legacy and a will to create a life of significance for my children.  My resolve to craft contentment out of despair drove my every decision. With an extreme amount of faith and the support of family and friends, I began the journey to a new normal

Today, I look at my life and believe Don is honored through it. I know he would be proud of our choice to adopt Brandon. I know he would be proud of his children. He would be happy that Chad is married 100_0359and courageous enough to continue pursuing his dream. He would be thrilled that Chandler finished his recording training and is finding his way with a job he enjoys. He would be most honored that they are men of integrity who love completely, care for others and always endeavor to live according to the legacy he left to them.

don2Make no mistake, not a day goes by that we don’t think of Don—that we don’t miss his presence here on earth. We embrace and acknowledge that he was a great father; husband, son, brother and friend who touched our lives more in his few short years than most do in a lifetime. We speak of him lovingly and often. We grin at the fact that we can’t eat apple butter without thinking of him, can’t pass a golf course without acknowledging his authority, eat Kreckels without thinking of “eating for the cycle” or watch the St. Louis Cardinals without yelling “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!”

September has always been a difficult month for me. From the first day to the last I normally have a feeling of angst and sorrow—yet all of that changed on this day three years ago —this day no longer holds the stigma of sorrow, but is instead is replaced with hopefulness. Sometimes I think that God, in his infinite wisdom, decides to astonish us with blessing when we least expect it-September 29th, 2012 was one of those God-moments.

ru2On this date three years ago, with my nephews and sons in tow, we headed to Chicago, to meet my niece, Ru, for the first time. Words fail to describe the excitement we all felt—the anticipation, of finally meeting this darling girl, who we had grown to love from a mere picture, overwhelmed the atmosphere. Gone was any angst this day formerly signified and it was replaced with the message of hope that bringing Ru home symbolized.

I will never forget rounding the corner from the parking lot into the lobby of the airport — catching a glimpse of Ru on her daddy’s shoulders. Bright-eyed and a bit timid – this little girl had no idea what she represented in the hearts and lives of every individual there to meet her. Little did she know that her arrival would forever change the significance of this day to the boys and me.

Ru2aThere was nothing in the months and months of planning to bring Ru home that would have made us believe it would be on September 29th  that she would first set foot on American soil. In our humanness we could never have planned it more perfectly, but God’s plans are not ours…

I don’t believe that God intends for us to live weighed down by our circumstances. I believe He is always offering opportunities to ease our pain and to give it purpose – we must be willing to embrace them and reside in a place where we allow God to “give beauty instead of ashes, . . joy instead of mourning, and . . . praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3)

Today. we will celebrate family.We celebrate God’s faithfulness. We celebrate hope, but most importantly  we know that when we look into the eyes of Ru–we find an authentic example of the “display of God’s splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b)–we find “beauty for ashes”.

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Teachers: You Matter

23 Jun

teachingThere have been several articles circulating Facebook in the last few months regarding the state of education today. They are heartfelt and raw…laying out the ills of American schools and a system that is seriously broken. Let me say up front, they are all true—every word. So what’s my point? Why even write this?  Well; because, I refuse to allow my joy of teaching to be squashed. You see, hard as it may be—I won’t let “them” win.

I will admit upfront that teaching is very different than when I began 30 years ago; but then again, so is the world. It isn’t like this profession changed overnight—subtle changes, economic constraints, and the lack of fiscal responsibility have brought us to this place and, lit can look a bit grim. However; when it comes down to  the magic of teaching children, little has changed. When you close the classroom door, it’s about the kids. Thirty years ago I had to figure out how to engage my students of the 1980’s and today. I have to figure out how to engage children of the 21st century.

There have always been constraints. Education is notorious for it’s acronymic culture and obsession with “standards”. In fact, I have been around education long enough to witness the cyclical implementation of similar pedagogies every 8-10 years or so. It’s like a clothing fad—keep it long enough and it comes back into fashion.

What can I glean from my almost 30 years as an educator? The fact that nothing can “steal” my heart for teaching. To those educators who have  decided to stick it out—to take up the armor and fight the good fight everyday in the classroom. I want you to remember and be encouraged by the following truths…

  1. You matter. You make a difference every day in the life of that child in your classroom.
  2. When your students grow up, they will not remember the standardized tests that they aced or the new football field. They will remember the impact you had in their lives. The people matter in their lives, not the test or the stuff.
  3.  Nothing—absolutely nothing compares to the moment when you realize that you have connected with the mind of a student When students connect with content because of an activity in you have orchestrated—it is an  amazing moment! It’s a “high” no drug can duplicate.
  4. Your profession deserves more cheerleaders. You should be holding up and spotlighting your peers who excel in the classroom. You know who they are. Teaching should be a profession where those in the trenches encourage and highlight each other’s successes.
  5. Embrace change – suppress the choice to complain (oh how I am preaching to myself on this one). For some reason we have confused grumbling with support-and that is too bad. Instead of complaining about Common Core—we should somehow find a way to support each other in its implementation or, if you feel strongly, organize an attempt to address i’s pitfalls
  6. If you are truly passionate about the negative effects of policy or legislation—find a way to affect change FROM THE INSIDE. It is almost impossible; no, I will say it IS impossible to affect change from the outside.
  7. Don’t dwell on the one negative in your classroom—that contrary parent—that unruly child—that unsupportive administrator. We tend to forget the  positives that we experience every day, and forget to acknowledge that they always   outweigh hardships we might face.
  8. Keep attending your student’s little league games, community performances and church presentations—connecting with your parents and community will continuously make your heart smile.
  9. Head high—you are a member of one of the most honorable professions in the universe. You are the teachers of the next President or Congressman, but moreover you are the teachers of the next car mechanic and mailman—all are equally valued. You are the teacher of the next generation of teachers, who decide to affect eternity because you were their inspiration.
  10. Finally, don’t let anyone take the joy of teaching from you. Guard it like the precious treasure it is…and carry on…until you decide your mark has been made and it’s time to hand the reigns  over to someone else who is worthy to carry the torch after you.
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Who Are Your Five? or Six?

13 Jan

2014

“Who are the people who challenged and inspired you to do more and be more this year?

We all have them. No one has ever accomplished anything without help.

No need for ribbons or bows or big tear filled ceremonies.”

Here is where I found the challenge:

Who Are Your Five?

Basically, who has helped you, encouraged you, challenged you, or just been a huge part of your life in 2013?

Who are my five? I never follow the rules. Here are my six?

My husband, Kent: I couldn’t possibly have a more supportive “cheerleader”. He is my “yes” man and my “accountability partner”. He has loved me beyond measure and sacrificed more than I could possibly have asked of him. He takes my imperfections and tells me I am perfect. He understands days I feel ugly and assures me I am beautiful. He is truly the smartest person I know and challenges me everyday. Most of all, he is a Godly man who knows what it means to “love his wife as Christ loved his Church”. I wish I were as good at being his wife as he is at being my husband.

My Mother, Jan:  Ask ANYONE who knows her, and they would tell you that Jan Abla rocks. I never say, “Mom, would you pray for ________” that she doesn’t answer, “I already have been”. There is no higher calling than living her legacy everyday through my life. I wish I were as good a daughter as she is a mother.

My 5th Grade “partners in crime”: I know this isn’t one person—it is three. When I changed jobs this year, I had no idea I would be gaining such an awesome support system. The 5th grade MFGS bunch has put up with me, encouraged me, and challenged me to be the best I can in the classroom. I thank God every day for these amazing women. I long to live up to the bar they have set.

Pastor Brain Powell: Brian is MY pastor (yeah, I know he is also 700 plus other folk’s pastor as well). He and Heather came to our church this year and have impacted my life in such incredible ways. He is transparent—there are no pretentions with Brian. He leads by example – never suggesting he is perfect, but his life is evidence of a true follower of Christ. More than anything he speaks the truth, from the Word of God and NEVER apologizes for that. On the other hand, I believe we, as a congregation, challenge him as well. It’s a perfect fit. I hope to be the support to him that he is to me.

The next two folks I have never actually met in person, but yet they have impacted my life this year.

Shelly Skuster: I have never met Shelly. In fact, our paths crossed in a very unusual manner – on Facebook (via The Adopt Shoppe on Etsy of all places). We connected literally weeks before they received news that they were to be the proud parents of a beautiful little daughter. Whenever I see photos of Liv—I smile-out-loud. We have shared the journey that adoption has taken us through. I follow her—she follows me and it has been one of the most meaningful experiences of 2013. I hope to be “all in” as Shelley exemplifies everyday.

Jon Acuff: I am not sure what it is about this guy that resonates with me—I’ve never met him—most likely never will, but I will forever believe we are kindred spirits. Perhaps it is that we are both comma abusers. He takes his relationship with Christ seriously, but not his “religion”. He is a great writer who inspires me with his motivational quips at Jon Acuff and makes me laugh EVERY day at Stuff Christians Like He is a mentor in his walk and his writing—I long to write—as he writes—but with my own awesomeness.

Now, it is your turn….who are your five?

 

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Twitter as Professional Development Pt. 2 – Who Should I “Follow”?

02 Aug

twitter_question_mark1-216x300Several of you have asked me how to get started using Twitter for professional development. I know that for many of you, this is so far outside your comfort zone you can’t even believe you are asking the question, BUT stick with me because it will be worth it. Twitter IS the best thing that has happened to impact my teaching since I began in 1984. As promoters of education, our goal should be to remain Life Long Learners so that we can model what that looks like for those within our influence, this is one way we can accomplish that objective.

Remember this concept of development works for ANY field of interest or profession. If you homeschool, you can set up a Twitter account for that discussion. If you are interested in fostering and/or adoption there are many experts that have Twitter accounts that can guide and support you.  If you are a Social Worker, Nurse, Sales Rep, etc…, Twitter can keep you up-to-date and informed in your field.

Jump out of the nest: Getting started:

First of all, sign up for a Twitter account. Just go the site and it will walk you through the process.

Here is a pretty good overview of Twitter and it’s basics, plus it isn’t very long. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccznvl_h-lI

Many of you asked me whom I follow and if I would make a list. I follow 146 “people”, so I am not going to include them all here, but I will include my favorites. Remember that the best way to expand your list is by adding someone you respect and then looking at the folks he/she follows and add him/her to your list.

IF YOU WANT TO SAVE TIME: Simply “Follow” me on Twitter at @MCuttillPrice – look at the folks I follow—choose the ones you think would be beneficial to you and voila’ you are ready to go.

Disclaimer: My list is heavy on Technology/21st Century learning and ELA. Search fro those who are known to be outstanding in your grade level for field.

Educators (favorites are bold):

Erin Klein                @KleinErin         The absolute best resource.

George Couros      @gcouros               An amazing principal/innovator

Dave Burgess         @burgessdave      Teach Like a Pirate guy

Vicki Davis             @coolcatteacher      She’s the Cool Cat Teacher

Dave Guymon       @DaveGuymon          Host of the Take 5 podcast

Todd Nesloney     @TechNinjaTodd       He is THE Tech Ninja

Nicholas Provenzano    @thenerdyteacher      2013 MACUL Technology Using Teacher of the Year.

Will Richardson   @willrich45       Author: Why Schools?

Kyle Pace                @kylepace           Google certified teacher

Kelly Gallagher     @KellyGToGo

Ruth Ayres             @ruth_ayres

Jim Casas                @casas_jimmy

Jeff Anderson       @writeguyjeff

Cris Trovani                     @ctovani

Stephanie Harvey           @Stepphharvey49

Todd Whitaker      @ToddWhitaker      What Great Teachers Do Differently.

Education News:

Education Week   @educationweek

Huffing Post Education     @HuffPostEdu

U.S.News Education       @USNewsEducation

eSchool News        @eschoolnews

Other:

Writer’s Digest      @WritersDigest

The New Yorker   @NewYorker

Read Write Think @RWTnow

Getting Smart        @Getting_Smart

Epic Reads              @EpicReads

Learn with TED     @LearnwithTED

For Fun:

Mental Floss        @mental_floss

Stephen Colbert   @StephenAtHome

The Onion               @TheOnion

Steve Martin          @iamstevemartin

Just Great Business:

Daniel Pink             @DanielPink        Author of “Drive” and “A Whole New Mind”

Social Caffeine         @loritaylor     Blogging, social media and marketing tips.

 

 

 

 

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Jumping Out of the Nest *

29 Jul

twiiiter

If you know me or have followed my blog for any length of time you are able to surmise that sometimes I have difficulty finishing what I begin. I am not sure if it is a character flaw or boredom. I do know that I would prefer blame something – like my ADHD. I start exercise programs—love them—and stop. I begin a healthy eating regime—love the results—and stop; I instigate daily devotions and meditation—see positive results—and stop. You get the idea. I hope this is not the case this time.

This summer Terry Gallagher, a well known writing coach, facilitated a writing workshop at our school. I learned a great deal from Terry that day, but perhaps the most valuable relating directly to my teaching was his suggestion that I use Twitter as my professional development. What????

First off, I will admit that I have had a Twitter account for probably three years. I have “Tweeted” exactly twice and have made countless statements denouncing the use of Twitter including, “I don’t have time for Twitter” or “I don’t want people to know where I am and what I’m doing every minute of the day” or “Twitter-what a waste of time.” Little did I know I would come to “eat” those words.

Terry’s recommendations that day have changed my teaching and created in me an intrinsic desire to control my own professional development. Mr. Gallagher recommended that I create/use a Twitter account to follow only those educators that I trust – ones I believe to have integrity in the field of education.

Of course the obvious place to begin was by following Terry Gallagher. Next, I viewed all the folks he was following. I figured if they were good enough for Terry Gallager then they were good enough for me, so I began “following” them. Then I looked up people whose blog I followed, folks like: Dave Burgess (Teach Like a Pirate), Todd Neslony (Tech Nija Todd), Erin Klein and Ron Clark and added them (and yes, I looked at their Twitter list to add more names). Finally, I added news – like Huffington Post Education; Education Week; even Writer’s Digest.

I now follow 132 innovative educators everyday. I get links to current issues in education. I get ideas for 21-century integration. I get quality methods to address the common core into my curriculum from some of the world’s most respected educators AND I get immediate access to a plethora of knowledge—right at my fingertips.

I now get up an hour earlier than I used to. I spend one hour on Twitter following these innovators in education. I have Evernote open on my iPad so that I can jot down anything I want to remember or I add a clip to my Educlipper site (think Pinterest for education). Sometimes I grab and add a particularly good blog to my NewsMix or Paper.li sites for easy retrieval and storage. I have even placed and old-fashioned PostIt note pad on my nightstand to jot down information I don’t want to forget or want to save for later.

I am now 100% convinced that professional development is not the just responsibility of my school district. If I were truly honest, and thought about all of the school sponsored professional development during my 29 year career, I would be hard pressed to come up with even one innovative idea that rocked my teaching world. On the other hand, I can come up with a least FIVE huge ideas/techniques/pedagogies I have gleaned from Twitter in this past week that will not only rock my classroom, but will also make a positive impact on my teaching and my students.

I can say with assurance that my continued use of Twitter  as professional development will not be one of those things I begin—see the value—and stop. The expertise, experience and excitement I can glean from being in the presence (even IF it is a cyber-presence) of accomplished education innovators is of greater value than about anything else I can do to improve my teaching and thus influence the lives of children. So don’t be afraid—jump out of the nest –Tweet!

*After composing this post it occurred to me that the notion of using Twitter to gain reliable/pertinent information in ANY field would work. Set up a Twitter account with only theologians you respect or professionals in your field of expertise or interest–even hobbies like scrapbooking, running or geocaching would be beneficial—happy Tweeting!

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A Boy and His Dog

20 Jul

vadar

“I am a believer in divine providence; that Godly intervention does exist in our lives and when it is so blatantly presented to us we should claim it. I am claiming that the God who made me is also present in my everyday life; constantly providing courage and solace via earthly forms.” These are words I wrote on another post almost six years ago after the death of my husband. I am amazed at how this truth is made known to me even now. Here is another example:

It began with an emotional phone call from Chad on Saturday before we left on vacation. He and Joy had come to the realization that two huskies in a one-bedroom apartment was simply impossible to handle. We discussed possible solutions, and I offered to put a picture of Vader on Facebook to see if anyone was interested in providing him with a new home. Chad agreed, but with this one caveat, he and Joy wanted to interview the family first and then have time to make a decision.

Three minutes after posting Vader’s picture, I received a private message from my friend Linda in Chicago. She told me that her sister’s family (who live near Chad and Joy) were interested in providing a new home for the dog. She had an urgency that I didn’t understand at the time, but now is perfectly clear. Linda told me about her nephew, Tenor, who had been in a serious accident the week before. His car was totaled and he was fine, but his beloved husky did not survive the accident.

Already warmed by the story, I was rooting for Tenor to be Vader’s new owner from the start. Chad and Joy met Tenor and his parents after church the next day, and Vader immediately took to him. It was obvious that the fit would be a good one. The kids knew they had a difficult decision to make.

You see, about a year ago, Tenor had numerous health ailments. He went from a young man who used to be a state swimmer to one who could barely muster the energy to get out of bed.  After several doctor appointments, he was diagnosed as having a genetic condition which affects every system in the body, but rarely is fatal. In January, Tenor’s family decided that caring for a dog might aid in his recovery. The family brought Mishka, a beautiful husky, into the family. Little did they know Tenor was still too ill to care for her.

Mishka was a challenge—high energy and almost more than the family could handle. Tenor realized that the only way this dog would fit in with the family was if he began to work with her.  It began with daily brushings, Tenor then began to take Mishka to a local dog parktenor and vadar and the transformation in both began. She became a more content dog and he gained new purpose. They became best friends, inseparable— She also rekindled a desire in Tenor to volunteer at the local animal shelter.

Losing Mishka in the car accident was devastating for Tenor. He even said that he never wanted another dog–fast forward to my placing Vadar’s picture on Facebook. The minute Tenor saw Vadar’s picture, it was like an answer to prayer. Vadar reminded him of his Mishka, but Vadar’s blue eyes made him special.

Chad and Joy did make the decision to give Vader to Tenor and his family. We often get updates as to how they are doing, and it always puts a smile on my face. I have no doubt that it was Godly intervention that allowed the kids to love and care for Vader until he was able to become Tenor’s. As this story unwinds, I am reminded of the promise in Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” especially when it comes to a dog and his boy.

 

 

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9 Ways to Help a Loved One Following the Death of a Spouse

01 Jul

mourningIt has taken me a while to address this topic, but at almost eight years after the death of my husband, I am ready to share some of the wisdom gleaned from losing a spouse at a young age. Many folks call me for advice when someone they love loses his/her spouse. They affectionately ask, “What should I say to him?” or “What can I do to help her?”. I really wish I were not the “go-to expert in this area”, but I am. These are intimate insights from my personal journey through grief. My hope is that it will help others facing similar loss.

Avoid using clichés. When speaking with your newly widowed love one; attempt, at all cost, to avoid inserting unbearable clichés into your conversation. Let’s be honest, even with the best of intentions many of us will, at some point, say something unintentionally absurd to our widowed friend – things like “Everything happens for a reason” or “She is in a better place” or my favorite “God only takes the good ones”.  Even a well intentioned “How are you doing?” is not a great choice. This question will never illicit a truthful answer, and quite frankly unless you have the super power of bringing someone back to life, you probably don’t want to know the answer anyway. When this happens (and it will), simply apologize with something similar to, “I am so sorry, that was a really stupid thing to say.” Even if it is days or months later, your friend will appreciate the acknowledgement.

Know your loved one when it comes to assistance. Take into account who your loved one is, and act accordingly. If your friend likes to cook, she might not mind throwing a donated “Casserole of Hope” into the oven for dinner, but if your loved one hates to cook it is highly likely that those casseroles will never get eaten. Two years later, laden with guilt, she will eventually throw them out. Gift cards to a local eatery or restaurant might be a better choice. If your loved one is laundry challenged-then that’s the best way you can help. Throw in a load or two of laundry, but don’t forget to fold and put them away.

I was in such a state after Don’s death that the thought of wading through my finances terrified me. It was at this point that my brother offered the best gift of all. He went through all of my finances, organized them, and took them over until I was ready to take them back. I know this wasn’t always easy for him or for his family, but it is a gift I treasure to this day.

INSIDER TIP: BUY LIGHTBULBS: When I was a more active member of YWBB in the Chicago area, at times we visited the home of a member of our group. Light bulbs in tow, we would enter the home of our widowed friend and begin to replace light bulbs around the house. I didn’t understand the gesture at first, but now I get it. Light bulbs are the last thing a newly widowed person thinks about. I don’t think we ever replaced less than six bulbs during a visit.

Ignore the compulsion say; “Call me if you need anything”.  Now, if what you really mean is, “I don’t know what to say, I know you’ll never call me, but by saying this it will make me feel better” – then go ahead and say it. But if you really will be available to your loved one, actually call her and say, “I have an hour/a couple of hours, how about I _______(fill in the blank with something specific).

Read about grief (see book recommendations below). Only read with the aspiration of gaining a better understanding of what your widowed friend is experiencing. Following the death of a spouse, as you are muddling through the myriad of feelings, it is difficult to express to others how you feel. By reading trusted authors on the topic, you can gain a better understanding of what your loved one might be experiencing. WARNING-CAUTIONARY ADVICE: Subsequent to reading about grief and it’s effects, you will have to be extremely restrained and NEVER, I mean NEVER, begin a sentence with, “Well according to __________, you should….” or “You ought to read _____ they say you are________.” Grief is hard work. It is not a linear journey and it really does look different on each individual person. Trust me, unless your loved one specifically asks you, they will not find unsolicited advice beneficial.

Dont compare your grief. Whatever you do— suppress your need to compare your loved one’s grief to something you have been through. Your grief of losing a pet, a great-great-great-grandmother, or maneuvering a divorce is not equivalent to losing a spouse. You will never understand completely how she feels and that’s ok-you don’t have to. (Did I hear a great sigh of relief?) Again, honesty is the best way to go–simply let your loved one know there is no way you can comprehend what she is going through, but that you will always be there to support her and to listen when she needs to talk.

Beware of widowbrain. Widowbrain is an insider term used by some widows to describe what happens to our brain immediately after the loss and tends to endure–well…for a really long time. Expect your loved one to forget–forget where she last put the car keys, forget that you had a lunch date, forget that it’s your birthday, forget to close the garage door, forget to…just about everything. Best you can do for this one is to recognize what is happening as normal, and send sticky notes.

Remember that people will forget. Widows get an abundance of attention early on, when everything is new. It is in the months following the death, when everyone else gets goes back to their “normal” lives, that your loved one especially needs a friend. Set a date one week after the loss, one month after the loss, six months after the loss, 18 months after the loss to make sure you remain connected to your loved one.

Everything I read about grief and loss warned that I would not have the same friendships a year later. This was disconcerting for me to consider. I had just lost my spouse and now these experts on grief were preparing me for yet another loss? Unfortunately, for many widows this is all too true. I, however; was blessed that my inner circle of friends did not change. I am thrilled that my close friendships remain a vital part of my life. I firmly believe that this is the case because they made a conscious effort to stick it out. It is not an easy road to travel with your loved one, but worth it. If you truly love your widowed friend—be there.

Talk about the spouse who is gone. This may seem awkward at first, but the more you mention the one who is passed the more comfortable it will become. Your widowed loved one must feel at ease when talking about her late spouse. In our home, Don is a frequent topic of discussion, as when we are with friends. His legacy lives on through our shared memories.

Allow grief to be personal. Finally, the most important thing to do, and perhaps the most difficult is to love your widowed friend enough to let her grieve in her own way, in her own terms, and for as long or short as appears to be right for her. There is no rulebook on how to grieve. As Americans we don’t even have cultural traditions that help us out in this area. Know that your widowed love one will most likely do something you think is “too soon” or things you believe to be “not soon enough”. She will make decisions you may find impulsive or “unlike her”, but she is entitled to grieve in her own way. Similarly, you may have a friend that seems to be grieving for too long–same thing–she is grieving on her own terms and will work through it at her leisure. Another cautionary note; this does not include behavior that is overtly self-destructive to herself or the lives of her loved ones.

Grief is all encompassing and tends to be quite self-absorbing. It is difficult for a newly widowed person to be inclusive or even thoughtful when life, as she has known it, totally changes in an instant. I don’t care how much preparation; time, or forewarning one is given, nothing prepares a person for that moment when a loved one is gone forever.

 

Books About Grief

Turn My Mourning into Dancing

Henri Nouwen

I’m Grieving As Fast As I Can: How Young Widows and Widowers Can Cope and Heal

Linda Sones Feinberg

Learning to Breathe Again : Choosing Life and Finding Hope After a Shattering Loss

Tammy Trent

35 Ways to Help a Grieving Child (Guidebook Series)

Dougy Center for Grieving Children

Courage to Grieve 

Judy Tatelbaum

Let Me Grieve, But Not Forever 

Verdell Davis

A Grief Observed

C.S. Lewis

 

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B – Brothers

20 Apr

brothersI don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at. ~Maya Angelou

(revised and reposted from February 2009 @ Breathings of the Heart.com)

I am not sure what I thought my relationship would be with my brothers at this point in my life, but I never dreamed it would be as it is. We are seven years apart which means that I am 14 years older than my youngest brother. Growing up I had little to do with my middle brother, and being so much older I was more maternal to my youngest brother (considering the countless hours of babysitting). With seven years between us, we grew up as three siblings – each an only child. Fast forward to 2013. We are all adults (at least by age). We each have distinct personalities and have become great friends. It is quite amazing, even surprising.

We are shared characters in a myriad of “growing up” stories. Of Marc, I remember that he spent much of his time alone in his bedroom playing with Legos. Once, I blamed him for pushing me over causing stitches; a lie which to this day he has difficulty forgiving. Evan was the baby, but in order to coax him to behave I would scare him into thinking the police would come take him away if he didn’t do exactly as I wished. Funny thing is – it worked. I haven’t tried it recently, but have great doubts he would be as gullible now.

As Maya Angelou so eloquently penned, “brotherhood is a condition people have to work at” and we have. We are three unique people. Marc is pragmatic, Evan idealistic and me – somewhere in between.  As in any relationship we have made many concessions, overlooked little annoyances (sometimes BIG ones), and continually committed to strengthening our bond.

I often wonder what makes my relationship with my brothers so extraordinary (notice I did not say “perfect”). I can only surmise it can be traced back to our parents and the principles to which they believe children should be raised. Having a strong sense self, cultivating an ability to articulate your views, loving people for who they are and a strong commitment to God were the foundation of our upbringing.

These tenets are now the cornerstone of the relationship between my brothers and me. It is through these principles that we are able to disagree, encourage, irritate and hold each other accountable. Laughter, sarcasm, along with deep theological and moral discussions often clutter our conversations. It isn’t that we always agree, to the contrary, we often disagree, at times are disrespectful and inadvertently hurt the other (although NONE of us would admit to this – being hurt that is), but there has never been a time where we have allowed anything to sever our bond.

Some say a sister’s bond is extraordinary, but I say give me brothers any day.

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“A” is for Adoption

18 Apr

249846_10151297629455758_117341435_nOn our anniversary this year, I sat across from my husband of five years, looked him in the eye and said, “When we married, did you ever imagine we would have a “yours, mine and ours”?” To which he confessed that he did not, but also admitting that it was one of the most blessed decisions he has ever made.

Adoption seems to have become somewhat of an epidemic in my family—quite by accidental intention. My youngest brother and sister-in-law have been foster parents for years and now have a sibling group in their care that will likely become their forever family. My middle brother and I have supported their commission along the way, never realizing that God was beginning to direct our hearts in the same direction.

Marc (my middle brother) and his family welcomed Ru into their family and into all of our hearts, this past year through an overseas adoption. If you haven’t had the blessing of following Ru’s journey, you can do so HERE. The fact that Marc and Sandra’s decision to adopt Ru and our decision to adopt Brandon coincided is, in my opinion, by divine providence (this is another story for later).

Neither Kent nor I will ever forget the Sunday we first heard our son’s name spoken for the first time. We had no idea that from that utterance, God immediately began creating a bond in our hearts perfectly weaving His radical plan with our uncompromising obedience. Much as taken place since that day, but I can say with great assurance that I knew from the first time I heard his name that Brandon was going to be our son and we were going to be his forever family.

We began praying months before we actually met Brandon. It was Super Bowl Sunday 2012 that Brandon was first introduced to our family. Scared, alone and with little comprehension as to what was happening to him, Brandon timidly entered our lives and our hearts. Empowered by faith and great tenacity (little did we know that would be enough), we began living as a family.

God’s eternal blueprint for adopting us as sons and daughters is the heart of our earthly adoption of Brandon. Though I don’t believe every Christian is called to actually adopt an orphan, I do believe it is every Christian’s responsibility to support the mission of adoption in some manner. It is our birthright as God’s adopted sons and daughters.

Galatians 4:4-6 – But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”

Adoption is TimelyJust as God adopted us in the “right time”, so do adoptive families. It was in the “right time” that Brandon needed a family and the “right time” our family was ready to embrace him. God had prepared both of our hearts (predestined if you will) to accept the challenges and the blessing found in obedience.

Adoption is Costly – Our adoption by God was gained at tremendous cost. He paid the ultimate price by sacrificing his only son so that we would have the privilege to call Him “Abba Father”. Earthly adoption is also costly. Not only is there an immense financial cost in most adoptions, but an equal (if not greater) emotional cost, as well as a high expenditure of time and stress. Fortunately, coupled with great cost is that of greater reward.

Adoption is Unconditional – No where in this scripture does it state that we are God’s children only if we look a certain way, or until we mess up, or if we are acceptable to him. Adoption by God is unconditional. I can’t tell you how many times under oath we had to answer yes to the question, “Do you understand by adopting this child he has the same rights to inheritance as your biological children and that by adopting him he is a full member of our family?” – unconditionally without prejudice.  I think that’s why, when people ask me if Brandon is my “real” son, I get a little offended (as insulted as I can get anyway). My answer is always “YES, he is my son – unconditionally”. As I call my heavenly Father, “Abba”—Brandon calls us mom and dad. As God calls me his daughter, so I call Brandon my son.

Adoption is TransformationalNo one, adopted by God, remains the same afterwards. His Spirit transforms us. We think differently, act differently, our potential to love grows; we are redefined. I have found our adoption of Brandon to be transformational as well. We are not the same family—we are not the same as individuals. Our roles have changed; values clarified and spiritual walk strengthened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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