Archive | August 2013

The Price of Art

July13 AC D2-3 027Getting to teach four art classes each week is my favorite part of the week. The kids are excited to be there and the end results are often impressive.

This week was our first week in art and by the end of the first class I was reminded of why art is priceless.

One little boy, who I’d been helping every day in the regular classroom struggles. He struggles to stay focused. Each subject is hard work and you can tell he’d rather be anyplace else. Then he came to art. The project was on perspective and at the end of the hour, guess whose picture was the best one? That same little boy. While most of the other students needed some type of help, this child didn’t. He got it! He could see the picture in his mind and create it.

For a few moments, he was at the top of the class and it showed as he walked out of the room.

He’s not the first child we’ve seen this happen to and I’m so thankful he won’t be the last! Letting a child create gives those who struggle in other areas a place to shine.

It’s priceless.

Sara

Dry!

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The above pic was taken in August 22, 2012. Just a little over one year from this very date.
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This one today, August 28, 2013

While there may a bit more water at our dock, there are a whole lot more weeds in the entire cove.

Lake Lesson: Bad stuff grows a whole lot faster than the good if there isn’t the proper amount of water.

I’ve procrastinated all day to write this blog because I am dry, dry, dry. Yet, in His goodness…and the Water of His Word–He spoke when I was begging and pleading over a situation I can’t fix.
“Be Still,” He said. “Be Still and KNOW that I AM GOD!!

I think He means He’s in control…of the rain, of the dry places, and yes–even the weeds.

Why am I so sure he needs my help? God is Holy, Three in One. Not a quartet. And I’m not the lead singer.

road 2 we like!

Do Hard Things…With A Smile!

steep mountainJust a week or so ago I spent the day with a long time friend and her daughter, Bella. Let me tell you about this gal…she’s very petite but comes with an extra-large personality. She had a few challenges early in life with her gross motor skills but her resilient personality helped her push through. And now she’s doing very well. In fact, she’s quite inspiring.

Making conversation with Bella, I asked her if she was looking forward to grade one and her response was enthusiastic.

“That’s great. What do you like to do at school?” I asked.

“I like to challenge myself,” Bella said with a smile.

Not sure if I heard correctly. “Pardon?”

Speaking slowly and deliberately, she said, “I like to do hard things.”

Wow. With that attitude, she is going places.

Every now and then I become weary. Life gets difficult. There are mornings when I want to pull the sheets over my head and stay there. I can’t take one more challenge. I don’t want one more hurt. Dreams seem too distant. Painful realities seem too close.

I know I’m not alone feeling this way. Did you have this kind of morning, too?

Then I remembered that no one promised anyone an easy life. And our attitude on how we face the ups and downs of life tremendously affect the outcome. I love the following quote from Charles Swindoll:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”smiley face

So today, I’ll follow Bella’s lead. I’ll roll up my sleeves, put a smile on my face and take on those challenges!

Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” – Philippians 4:13 (Msg)

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

How do you face hard things?

Black diamonds are a girl’s best friend

The seedless watermelon – one of the saddest developments modern science has produced.

Those seedless kind are nice for when you’re at a fancy wedding shower so you don’t have to turn your head and spit the seeds out on the the hostess’s white carpet.

But I believe in eating waterwelon the way God intended – on the back porch, where social protocols are much more relaxed and the flavor of a “real” watermelon makes up for any seed challenges.

At the Farmers Market, I found a black diamond watermelon for the bargain price of $3. (Two for $5 if you’ve got company coming.) Its rich, red flesh and sweet flavor …. it’s the stuff dreams are made of on hot August afternoons. Susie Pink

Where do you weigh in on watermelon:

Seeds or seedless? Salt or salt free?

Book Review: Jesus Calling

I’m sorry I’m a day late posting. Life changed for us last week. After sixteen years as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve gone back to work full-time. I’m excited to be teaching at the school the boys attend, but the days have been busy and the evenings too short.

Normally, I wouldn’t have any problem coming up with a long list of books to recommend, but right now I can’t even think of one! I do have a book in my bag, but it just goes back and forth and never sees daylight.

photo (6)The one book I have been reading is Jesus Calling by Sarah Younger. Over the years I’ve purchased several daily devotional books only to find I go away wanting something deeper or more. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even consider buying this one for months but one day I did buy it and I’ve been blessed.

The readings are short, but thought-provoking and meaningful. I often find myself writing the verses that go along with the reading in the margins of the book, just so I’ll have them right there.

Jesus Calling has been a blessing to me in these busy days. It’s a few moments of calm during very busy days. Someday, things will calm down again and a routine will be established. For now, the daily writings in this small little book offer me sweet reminders and gentle encouragement of the love Jesus has for me.

Have a restful weekend,

Sara

Summer Reading Book Review: Margaret’s Story

More and more I find myself returning to old favorites in my reading selection. I’m a speed reader and thus, no matter how many times I read a story, I always manage to experience a new insight. It’s like sitting with an old friend and having them reveal a secret about themself, and you can only reply with open mouth and wide eyes–how could you have not known?

Thus, my summer reading has been a return to 1832 and the plantation Hibernia on the St. John’s river in northern Florida. A saga, if you will, covering 45 years of the life of Margaret Seton and the man she declared she loved, and would one day marry, even while standing at the graveside of his first wife, the beautiful Augustina Cortez Fleming.

From the back cover blurb: Margaret Seton had loved the the handsome young widower long before she became Lewis Fleming’s bride. She had known even then that destiny would bring them together to create a life and family of their own. Together they would rebuild Hibernia on the St. John’s River in northern Florida, and fill it to overflowing with the laughter and tears of their large close-knit brood. But nothing could have prepared them for the ravages of war, the rampaging Seminoles, then the victorious Yankee plundering their cherished South, calling Margaret’s husband and sons to battle, and her daughters to frightening new times.

Margaret’s story is one of a love that is patient enough to wait, courageous enough to risk, and enduring enough to weather every storm.

The author, Eugenia Price, died in 1996, but left a legacy of being one of the bestselling, best-loved chroniclers of the South–the stories of real people who lived in Savannah, on St. Simon’s Island off the coast of Georgia, and the pioneers of early Florida.

I’ve never been to the places she writes about–at least never in person. Yet, summer after summer I return, as though to a favorite vacation destination, to the pages of her books to visit the people I’ve come to know and love.

I encourage you to search Eugenia Price and her sagas of the South. Perhaps you will choose to vacation there next year with me.

road 2 we like!

Summer Reading Book Review: Bees In the Butterfly Garden

With school year starting for some and about to start for the rest, it seems like summer is coming to an end…even if you don’t have kids! But the Autumn Solstice is not officially until September 22nd this year, so we technically have a good month of summer left (unless you are from Australia and you are looking ahead to Spring!).

Bees In The Butterfly GardenA fun summer read is a historical romance—Bees In The Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang. The heroine, Meg Davenport, was raised to be a perfect lady in an exclusive boarding school. The only thing she lacked was the love of a family. When Meg discovers her late father John, whom she hardly knew, was one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves, she is determined to be part of his world.

Her father’s former partner in crime, Ian Maguire, knows that John tried to keep his daughter from following in his footsteps. Ian attempts to dissuade her from seeking this sort of life. Meg eventually convinces him that she could help him pull off his greatest heist yet.

Both Meg and Ian seek to create a legacy, but by doing so they risk losing everything.

The history geek in me enjoyed learning about the underworld during one of America’s most prosperous times. The story moved along quickly with twists in the plots that kept you glued to the book. The overall theme of redemption was well played out.

If you like Maureen Lang’s novels or you simply enjoy historical romances, you might want to check out my review of On Sparrow Hill.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What have you read this summer?

Summer reading book review: Into the Whirlwind

My summers as a kid involved a lot of reading – often in the porch swing or under a shade tree. I still enjoy reading, but with my work schedule, I usually don’t get to it until after daylight hours have passed.

I just finished Into the Whirlwind, which proved to be a very entertaining – and informative – summer read. The story is set in Chicago amid the Great Fire of 1871.

Mollie Knox manages her late father’s business making expensive pocket watches. Many of the employees of the 57th Illinois Watch Company are disabled Civil War veterans. Mollie is determined to honor her father’s memory and provide dignified work for the men he fought with, which makes her one very determined lady.

Zack Kazmarek worked his way off the streets to become a high-powered attorney for Hartman’s – Chicago’s finest department store and exclusive retailer of Mollie’s watches. Zack has secretly admired Mollie for years and as they escape the flames of the fire, confesses his love for her.

At first, Mollie falls for the hard charging, handsome Polish lawyer. But unexpected help arrives to rebuild the watch factory and she discovers Zack had deceived her about her legal rights to property. As Mollie seeks shelter in an burned out church, she wonders if she can trust her heart and rebuild from the ashes.

Elizabeth Camden is becoming one of my favorite Christian fiction writers. Into the Whirlwind, like her other novels, was woven with historical detail that enhanced the story without bogging it down. The trials of a businesswoman trying to scrape together a living and a home from the destruction of Chicago was very compelling. The story finished strong, though the first half moved slow. Part of the reason for this was Mollie seemed too cool to be likeable.

But once she opened up, this book became too good to put down.

Susie-3994-EditPS 72I received this book as part of Bethany House’s review program in exchange for writing an honest review.

Happy summer reading!

~ Susan

Unsung Heroes

Back-to-school and teachers go together like PB&J. You can’t separate the two and one without the other would be nothing. Teachers are so important to any school but if you ask most teachers, they would agree there’s another group that are just as, if not more vital to the success of a school.

These are the caretakers. The people who make it possible for teachers to teach. It’s easy to take an empty trash basket for granted, but one that is over flowing is impossible to miss. Clean floors, the right number of chairs, desks adjusted to the right height–what would we do without the custodial staff? Can you imagine the restroom in an elementary school if someone wasn’t cleaning it regularly? And that container of powder they spread on vomit??? What would we do without the custodians?

The other group of caretakers are the cooks. At our school, this team is made up of four wonderful women who not only create good meals, but are friendly. They care about the students and serve them with so much grace.

Humility, patience, helpful, hardworking, knowledgeable. These are just a few attributes of this unsung group of heroes. They come early, work late and don’t always get the summer off. Their jobs are demanding, varied and not always pleasant, but they serve others in a manner that most of us could learn from.

No, you couldn’t have a school without the teachers, but without these caretakers, you might not have any teachers! This year, when you’re in a school, be sure to thank the caretakers. They deserve so much more recognition than they receive.

Have a great school year,

013Sara

A Great Lesson: It just takes one…

Josh2Our oldest son, Joshua, attends a specialized school for children with severe disabilities. We chose this school because it offers a protected environment necessary for his fragile health. In addition, he has access to professionals who help him learn how to use adaptive technologies for mobility and speech. This has been a tremendous facility for Joshua and his peers to grow and achieve a high quality of life.

The one thing, though, about attending this school, which partners with the local children’s treatment center, is that there is a great need for funding. The assistive communications devices, mobility and seating equipment, Smart boards, sensory feedback materials, and adaptive teaching aids are all required to assist the students. And as you can imagine, this is all tremendously expensive. As a result, there is a lot of fundraising that goes on and the community has been generous in response.

But over the last couple of years we’ve seen a shift, largely driven by Joshua’s teacher—Mrs. Carpenter. This lovely woman was “borrowed” from the public school board for a short-term contract. When she came, she brought her wonderful attitude. Her main lesson was that it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone has the ability to look outward and help those in need.

During her short stay, Mrs. Carpenter and her class arranged many community projects which included:

  • Collecting cereal for the Downtown Mission
  • Created and sold greeting cards for the Healing Garden in memory of students who passed away
  • Distributed and collected post cards for Veterans residing in local facility
  • Project Shoebox at Christmas for the Samaritan’s Purse
  • Read to Feed – Reading to buy chickens for the Heifer Foundation
  • Hospital Goodie bags for kids waiting in the Emergency Room
  • Soup Drive for a local food bank
  • Penny Drive for the United Nations World Food Program
  • …And many more!

It was such a blessing to be part of the energy and projects to help the school give back to the community (and the world!) who has been so generous to the students.

Mrs. Carpenter had many motivational signs posted around her room. The one that stuck out in my mind the most was simple, yet profound and it reflected this teacher’s approach to life:

“If you can’t feed the world, then just feed one. – Mother Teresa”

Now that this teacher has retired, I hope we can all remember what she often said—it just takes one to change the world.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What lesson do you remember learning that was not from a book?