I believe in Jesus, but I am not a Jesus freak!

Did I catch your attention? If you are a faithful Christian did you think my comment was sacrilegious? Believe me, that was not my intent. I believe in Jesus and I am a Jesus lover!

I am watching “The Today Show” and Bill O’Reilly is going to be interviewed. One of the discussion topics is teaching about Jesus in the public school system. I am not against people learning about Jesus. I think he did, and will do, miraculous things on this earth. I will hold off on my comments until I hear what Bill says.

Okay, Bill just said that he wants kids to learn about Jesus as a person, not as part of religion. He explained that our government was formed around a Judeo-Christian religion and that children need to learn the background of our government. I totally agree with that.

When I was in junior high, my literature teacher used a book that would cause huge controversy now in the public school system. It was “the Bible AS LITERATURE”, edited by Alton C. Capps.  Introduction…”Modern civilization is greatly indebted to the Bible. The foundations of modern Western culture evolved primarily from two sources: Athens and Jerusalem. Western culture, particularly the English speaking word, is more indebted to the Hebrew influence than to the Greek.”

If you think about it, the school system teaches other religions as stories and cultural experiences all of the time. In my school system, Second graders are taught about Hanukkah. They read the story about the 8 days and the oil; some classes make potato latkes as part of the cultural experience. When I asked a teacher how they can teach about the Jewish faith and not say anything about Christmas, her comment back to me was that Judaism is an ethnicity, Christianity is a religion.

Greek and Roman mythology is taught in the school system. These are stories that are about the gods of their religion. As they have been known more for their story value than their religious value, it is acceptable to learn these stories in the school system.

I have often referred to “the Bible” literature book in my discussions with people about “teaching” the Bible in school. There are so many great adventures, life lessons, murder, incest, redemption, in the Bible. If people got past the “religious part” of the Book, they could read every type of genre in one book!

Now back to my Jesus Freak comment. I have always been a church goer. When I was young, even a snow storm would not stop my dad from piling all of us into the station wagon and driving the mile to church. There were times that we were the only family in church with the pastor who had to walk across the street. We were very committed to being in church every Sunday.

When I was in 8th grade, I had my first Christian re-birth. Even though I was a church goer, on that day, I really took my belief to heart and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Throughout the years I have had many re-births; when my grandmother was diagnosed and died from ovarian cancer in an 11 month time frame, the Sunday I walked into my church sanctuary holding my 5-day-old daughter and many more, small, Christian growth spurts.

As a Christian, I believe that it is just as wrong to witness to those who are not ready to hear His word, as it is to not witness to those who are prepared to open their hearts to hearing the Word of God. I am very careful with whom I speak my faith because I do not want to be “the person” that scares someone away from getting to know my Lord. But I also have the fear that maybe I miss out on an opportunity. It is through prayer and an openness to hearing what God wants you to do that you understand your walk in this life.

I think what I fail to do many times is listen, be still and listen. God speaks with me every day, I have no doubt. I don’t think I hear Him every day though because I fail to be still. If this was January 1, I would say that needs to be my New Year’s resolution. I guess that becomes my April 10th resolution.

I am best when I think of God as a parent. I look to how I have raised my children and I can relate to the expectations that God has for me because I have the same expectations for my children. I know that if I push too much, at the wrong time, I will only get resistance. But there are times when I push and my children are open to my words and I receive results; at the correct time, with the proper words, they are open to my words and actions.

The term Jesus Freak arose in the 60’s and continued through the 70’s. My definition is not a positive term but one that denotes a person who is pushy in presenting their witness. They are “out there” and are not in touch with the world around them. In my opinion, they are witnessing and not thinking about their words or actions; they are not thinking that their actions may be driving people away for Jesus, instead of drawing them near the faith.

We must live in the world. In the six years that we homeschooled, I felt it was important to be involved in the community. I did not put my children in the protective cocoon and sheltered them from the world. I believe that I have a duty to teach my children how to live a Christian life in a secular world. I cannot do that if they are not exposed to outside influences. I will not always be around to protect them. I needed to provide them with the tools to be strong in all circumstances. I needed to help boost their self-esteem and give them confidence to handle all situations.

I don’t believe that being a Jesus Freak is a positive model for them or me. I believe that living a clean life, a faithful life and teaching my children that a church family is important will help them to be able to go out on their own and stand up to the trials and tribulations of life.

I believe in Jesus and I pray that I will be open to being still and listening to know when it is my time to share my faith and the wonderful life a person can have with Jesus in their life.



Happy Teens, Happy Family, Happy Life

Note: I do inter-change “I” and “we” when I am writing about parenting. In parenting, sometimes it is a joint effort and other times not. So, because of that, I include my husband when it is appropriate and sometimes it is things that I have done individually.

When I woke up this morning in the new year, I thought to myself, ‘What made me most proud in 2012?’ It did not take me long at all to realize that I am most proud of the relationship that I have with my teenage children.

My newly turned 17-year old son and soon to be 15-year old daughter still like being around their parents. We joke; we talk; we shop; we still do most all of the things that we did ten years ago. I know that amongst the friends of my children, I, and my husband, are a rare breed.

Do I have any thoughts as to why this is the case? Of course, I do; we joke; we talk; we shop. That has not changed in my 17 years of parenting. While I say this so confidently, it is not easy. There is a fine line that you walk from being a friend, to a tyrant, to a pushover. And believe-it-or-not, each of those characterizations are just a step away.

My parents were not poor parents; but they also were not very good communicators. To this day, my mom has never spoken with me about sex, or even menstruation. I don’t know if it was just my mom or if it was the times but my sex education was not controlled at all by my parents. Even as a child, I knew that I wanted a different relationship with my children.

I don’t know if I value my children more than other parents. I know that about 22-years ago, my gynecologist told me that I would probably never have any biological children. After buckets of tears and thinking about our options, we decided to pursue an answer as to why we weren’t getting pregnant. Our investigation resulted in me having surgery for endometriosis and being put into menopause at age 32. (That is a whole other writing!) And as I wrote above, 17-years ago, we were blessed with our son. After a miscarriage, God blessed again and we had our daughter.

So you see why I wanted to make sure that I always would have a good relationship with our children. We went from being told we would be childless to being blessed with not one, but two children. I am sure all parents wish for a great relationship with their children. I worked from the time they were born to have the relationship we have today.

How did I do it? I think first of all, I was conscious of what I wanted and I have worked for it. From the beginning, I have always been open in our discussions. When they were younger we did not speak with them as if they were babies; we spoke to them in normal voices and used words, adult words – a penis was a penis; a vagina was a vagina. If I was uncomfortable using words, how could I speak with them about those things? I was determined to be open and honest.

The car was a great place to talk. We drove a lot, so instead of zoning out on music or movies, we would spend the time talking. Because we spoke with each other from the beginning, it was natural that it continued as the kids got older.

We are a family that cussing is not allowed. But the rule is that if you have a question about anything, that rule does not apply. I never wanted my children to think that they could not come to me about anything. We have had wonderful conversations that, I am sure, many parents have not had with their children because they have not been open to anything and everything.

I think we have done a good job in teaching our children to respect authority. It has taken a little bit but we have tried to emphasize that the way they speak with their friends is not the way they speak with us or other adults. We have taught them that there is a level of respect that needs to be given. And even though we want a good relationship with our son and daughter, we have taught them that we are still the adult, still the parent and what we say goes.

I think one of the hardest things that I have had to face is that my daughter’s friends do not want to have any type of relationship with me. After six years of homeschooling, our daughter went back to  public school in 8th grade. While she had church friends, homeschool friends and Girl Scout friends (which by the way, I had relationships with) these new friends wanted/want nothing to do with me.  I think it was shocking for me because I have such a good relationship with her. My guess is that the relationship I have with my daughter is different from the relationship they have with their parents.

Some of her friends think I am the “cool” parent. They also know that we have rules and while they think I am “cool” they also think I am strict. Thankfully our children don’t think we are strict; they think it is just the way it is.

In a nutshell, I believe we have happy teens, a happy family and a happy life because we communicate and we set rules and expectations. We come from a position of love and respect but ultimately, our children know that we are in charge; they do not have carte blanche on their life. We have taught them to be grateful for what they have and always be thankful to God, who gives all.

Happy New Year and I hope that you have a great relationship with the people whom you love!


Humbled by Life

We all live busy lives. We all have stress. My stress maybe less (or more) than yours. But it is my stress, no more (or less) significant than yours. Years ago I had someone try to tell me that my stress wa nothing compared to theirs. I looked at this person and said, “Don’t tell me that my stress is nothing. Your stress is nothing compared to a CEO of a company and I don’t disregard your stress!” I think that we need to keep that in mind when we deal with people when we think that we have a harder life, or a more stressful life. What I do know is that I am extremely blessed.

I para subbed for the first time this week. It was for a special education classroom. I had sub taught before and thought, “I know this. I had done it before.” In fact, I have sub taught for special ed in the elementary level, the middle school level and the high school level. It was just a para job; I got this! WOW was I wrong. I mean I did my job and I felt I was of benefit to the classroom. This was not a class like I had subbed before. My previous subbing jobs in a SpEd classroom was as a resource class. Students are integrated into a class and then attend their resource class when English or Math is going on and they come to the SpEd class for help. That was my previous experience. This class was a contained Special Education classroom. These children were in the same class all day (except for P.E., Music or Art). These are children that cannot be in a traditional classroom because of developmental issues. These children are a handful.

There were 7 students in the class, 1 teacher and 3 paras. I should have known by that ratio that this was not going to be an easy day. I was assigned Mike (not his real name). It was my job to keep him on track. He is known for wandering both physically and mentally. There was a lot of hand holding and saying, “Look at me. Let’s get back to work. No we can’t be over there right now…”

The day begins with checking in on the Smart Board. They mark what they want for lunch on the SB and then go do some physical activity. Now let me tell you that the Smart Board always bites me in the hiney when I sub. I am a PC girl so I freeze up and worry that I am going to do something wrong with the classroom electronics. And here we have children that can’t even be in a traditional classroom but can work a Smart board better than me.

Next the students stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. Not only do they say it but they sing it. When I heard those students singing at the top of their lungs the song of our country, it brought tears to my eyes. Even now it is very touching to think about.

After the Pledge, they go right to work. All 7 of these children know the routine. Even though they may lose track of what they are doing at any given time, they know where they are to be and know what they are to be doing. The next step is to go over the calendar and the weather outside. This is all done on the Smart Board and they ALL know what to do. I am considered an intelligent person and these Special Ed kids (I think kindergarten age. I was never told and it really did not make a difference) know electronics better than I. I was humbled on that day.

It might be noted, that all of these children are being taught sign language and the teacher often communicates using her voice and her hands. The purpose fo this I am not quite sure and frankly, there was not time for personal chit-chat. Throughout the day I was amazed at the capability of these children and also the lack there of.

I did have a chance to work with all of the children when they went through their stations for the core subjects of math and reading. The reading station was individualized for each student. Their skill level ranged from computerized reading to sign language letter recognition. Except for Mike who exited out of the computer program and opened all kinds of windows, the students stayed on task . One child, who I assume is autistic, would zone out, for lack of a better description, and it was difficult to ge them back on task, but I did with help from another para.

Math went well. My job was to have students look at the size of paper sea shells and estimate how many of these sea shells it would take to measure the sink. My first group guessed spot on. It was a very basic task but it was part of visualization and estimating for math. One boy was very disengaged. He has a habit of just lying down and becoming a wet noodle. Picking him up and trying to get him to stay standing was very difficult. I did get help from another para when this happened. I do not think he was picking on me. Obviously he had done this in the past but I felt very helpless.

After lunch the class had recess and they played on the playground, kicked balls and played chase with all of the other classes. I thought that they would not interact with the other students as they are in the contained classroom and don’t interact with other students during the day. But it was just like a 2nd grade classroom. They play with their classmates but it extends out to other classes.

The day ended and I looked at the paras and said that they must be exhausted by the end of the day. I would not say that I was exhausted mentally or physically but it was one day for me. They do this five days a week and I have to imagine that it can be trying.

My thoughts went to the families of these children. The challenges that are faced in the classroom are faced exponentially at home. The teachers are there for the students 100%. Parents and siblings have other things going on at home. There is house cleaning, cooking, paying bills, coming home from full-time jobs, spending time with a spouse and other children, homework or outside activities. I wonder how it can all get done. And for these families, it is 7 days a week.

I may have stress but I am sure that it seems nothing to the families with children that have different abilities. My children are independent. They are teenagers and really don’t need me anymore. They cook, do their own laundry, drive. I still guide them and do for them, but they are able to do almost everything themselves. That may never be the case for some families. I am sure that there are many blessings in these families. These children are blessings and have many lessons to teach the world. I learned a lot in that classroom. These students taught me a lot.

We all have stress. Mine may not seem as important as yours but I know after subbing in this contained Special Needs classroom that, right now, my stress is insignificant. I am truly blessed. Are you?