Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Midnight Ponderings of Being Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

How often do you wonder about something? I don’t mean to be curious but instead to marvel. As many middle-aged women do, last night I woke up at 2:30 with my mind thinking about all kinds of things. As I lay in my bed wishing for a few more hours of sleep, I began to wonder about something.

Earlier that evening I had seen a TV advertisement for 23 and Me Genetic Testing and Analysis. I guess this might have spurred my thought process, but really it could have been the left-over Mexican food I had for dinner. At any rate I began to wonder or marvel about my conception. Yes, I do know where babies come from and am sure of my parentage, but this marveling is a story I’d like to share.

My mother has a keloid scar on the lower portion of her neck. As a kid, I remember her choosing her necklines and necklaces carefully to bring as little notice to this flaw. I also remember her explaining to me how she got the scar. In 1949 at the age of three, she came down with diphtheria, a disease that we have almost eradicated through DTP vaccinations. The disease caused a very thick mucus to form in her throat hampering her breathing. She was transported by ambulance to Grady Hospital and was given a tracheotomy to allow her to breathe. The wound from this formed the unique scar on her neck.

In the middle of the night I wondered at the fact that she survived such a rare illness and that she reached the hospital in time, for without her I would not be me. Not many people know about their parent’s close call with death. I grew up knowing this tale along with another one about my father.

When my dad was finishing high school about to enter college, one night he was doing what many his age did – riding around with friends on a dark, curvy, country road. The driver of the car lost control on a sharp curve sailing off into a tree. This was 1960, long before the time of seatbelts. One of his friends was badly injured and my daddy, who was tossed out of the car, was walking around and thought he was fine. The emergency workers noticed that he had blood coming out of his ears and said to the ambulance driver, “You better take him to the hospital as well.” There, at Newnan Hospital, they discovered he had a severely broken shoulder and a head injury. He was in a coma for a while.  In those days there was little that could be done for a head trauma except to wait and see if the bleeding and swelling would stop and if it did, wait to see how much damage it had done.

He did recover with very few signs of his head injury, although he would tell you that his short-term memory was better before, and his shoulder has never been the same since.

In the middle of the night as I pondered these things, I was filled with a sense of providence and the thoughts of that made the scripture Jeremiah 1:5 more real than before. It reads: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart…” NLT. The 23 and Me people would certainly argue that without the unique combination of my mother and father’s DNA, I would not be me. My unique flaws and giftings, the mixture of mess and majesty that I am, was divinely provided for through the preservation of a sick, little three-year-old girl and a teen in a coma.

Other people might see it differently. Some might say it was just fate. I would rather sit in wonder of a grand creator that cared enough about me even before I was born to form my DNA as He intended. I prefer to believe that as Psalm 139: 14 says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” – a thought appreciated much more with middle-aged insomnia.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thankful He Has Always Been Faithful To Me

This morning I was  listening to the Lauren Daigle song “Remember” and a line that it repeats over and over is “You have always been faithful to me.” At this time of Thanksgiving, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to transform my thinking to reflect the gratitude that I should always have.

As I think about Thanksgiving my thoughts swirl together. Of course, there are those thoughts of my Grandma Hines’ turkey and dressing and all of the side-dishes and desserts that made it complete, but there are also thoughts of times that were a mixture of gratitude and disappointment. A hard balance between thankfulness and wondering why things had to be so hard.

I remember taking a family picture in front of an iconic church in downtown Carrollton for a story I wrote sharing about my first husband, Mark’s illness the first Thanksgiving after his diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor. The story told of his miraculous healing – It was. He was supposed to die a few months after diagnosis – I didn’t tell of how different he had already become, and how I was beginning to grieve the loss of the first him I knew.

I remember another Thanksgiving, where I was already adjusting to a diminished lifestyle forced by his ever-declining mental and physical abilities when another huge set-back occurred. Four days before that Thanksgiving, he had a stroke. Again, the mixture of gratitude that he had survived and could walk and talk with a limp and a slur combined with a huge feeling of disappointment bringing on thoughts of ‘Wasn’t everything hard enough? Why this?’

I remember another Thanksgiving when the night before, I had a dream that my 92-year-old grandma wouldn’t see another turkey and dressing feast, then arriving to find that she wasn’t feeling able to come to celebrate with us. I remember taking her a plate on my way home and finding the woman who had always been faithful to pray for us looking very frail and sick. The mixture of her consistency throughout the years and the thought that she soon would leave us shook me that cold day.

Memories of lighter, happier, Thanksgivings color my thoughts, sprinkling them with the brilliant fall colors that can’t be rivaled. Times filled with my little children dressing up in little Indian and Pilgrim outfits for pre-school presentations. Times filled with new introductions and new traditions. Times of true appreciation.

One thing I know for sure, as I celebrate my fifty-fourth Thanksgiving, is that He has always been faithful to me. I don’t say it enough I know, but with all my wanderings, my doubts, my anger, and my fear, God has never left my side. I am thankful for that above all else.

This Thanksgiving you may be in one of those swirl-type places I described, a place where your gratitude is mixed with thoughts of things that might have been – things you felt should have been. Know that you are not alone. Remember He is faithful and never leaves you. Those times when you feel that you are all alone are an illusion – for He is always there. Lauren has another song on her latest album (can you tell I’m a fan?) called Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. It is a remake of an old hymn. Sometimes we need to open our eyes and see that He is there in the midst of our joys and our disappointments and find comfort in that.

May God grant you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving!  

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Sign Here or Make Your Mark

The phrase “You need to sign here” may cause anxiety because it means monthly payments or a commitment of some sort, but for teens today it creates anxiety because it asks them to complete a simple task that they are not prepared to do. Yes, you heard me right. The majority of high school students do not know how to sign their name because they cannot write in cursive.

As with all things in education, the only thing that remains the same is change. Somewhere, about ten to fifteen years ago most school systems decided that the time spent teaching second or third graders how to write (and read) in cursive could be better spent learning other things, especially test preparation. I’m sure they thought not much would be lost by losing cursive. After all, these students will be typing on a keyboard anyway. And as far as reading historic documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, well, all can be accessed in type-written form online.

I don’t believe they gave much thought to the need for some sort of a signature. I don’t suppose it would have ever occurred to me that they had never been taught cursive until I started teaching high school six years ago. I have to admit that in the beginning I would even write my feedback notes on their writing assignments in cursive. None of those students ever mentioned that they could not read my suggestions, not that many of them wanted to read how they might improve their writing after it was graded. It was only when I was asked to have students sign to receive materials that I realized that they could not sign their names. Line after line would be filled with printed names.

I teach English and our system is focusing on increasing literacy – a lofty and important goal. Understanding and communication are necessities for success now more than ever. Yesterday, I decided to address the cursive issue with my students, thinking that a literate student should know how to sign their name. I gave them sheets, writing each of their names in cursive at the top, then helped them practice. I explained the importance of developing a signature that looked the same all of the time as a way of identification. Yeah, I know some of you are thinking that your doctor’s signature is nothing more than a hump here and there and a line to the side. That may be so, but you can bet that Dr. So-and-so knows that you do not print your signature. They may develop the hump and line method later, but for this week we are learning that little bit of cursive writing.

There are studies that show that learning cursive engages different parts of the brain than printing does, and learning cursive improves childhood development. Many teachers have commented on how much better the hand-eye coordination is with kids who have learned cursive. I will add that I do not believe that our little one-day lesson on how to sign your name will improve any of that for my high school students. I’m just trying to do my part to make sure the next generation doesn’t revert back to the days of “Make your mark here.”                   

Need to Unplug?

Have you ever thought about unplugging for a bit? I felt the need to do a modified period of unplugging. Since the school year ended at th...