Nine times the Bible says The Lord is slow to anger.  I like all the references, but this one stuck out to me.  Ex 34:6-7  “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger , abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children  …NIV  I heard the part of God being slow to anger is a song I had on while texturing our bathroom wall.  While I held that soft, malleable clay in my hands, I remembered a conversation I had with one of my students this year in the hall.  It went something like this:

Me:  Hey bud – what’s up, you look like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.    The young man shrugs and starts to just walk on by, then abruptly turns around.

Student:  Mrs. Winter, I am just having a crappy day but I have a question for you.  How come you’re the only teacher I have who seems to actually like their job?

Me: What do you mean?  (in background – the loud bustle of students hurrying to class and teachers barking commands like military drill sergeants)

Student:  All my teachers seem to hate their jobs because all they do is yell at us ..and I’m not exaggerating.  All but you.  You know, it’s really out of my way to come this way to my next class but it’s worth it because you always have a kind word or a smile.  You have no idea how much I need that to keep me going till 6th period.  Thank you!   With that he scooted off to class leaving me stupefied and heartbroken at the same time.  I honestly do not remember what my reply was other than “you’re welcome!” that followed after him down the hall.

 

For the rest of the day I became more aware of my surroundings in the hall.  As students scurried off to class and we teachers stood guard – I heard either a mixture of “Good afternoon so and so” to “I SAID GET IN YOUR SEAT -NOW!”  Granted not all my co-workers were barking orders, but the ones who did, drowned out the ones of us who politely greeted our students.  Then I looked into my classroom and notice my kiddos either retrieving their folders from the cabinet or getting the handouts from back counter.  Others are reading the Smartboard and beginning the bell work.  By the time the tardy bell rings, most everyone is in their seat and quiet.  Some call out “Hey Mrs. Winter!”   My classes are far from perfect – trust me, but I’ve worked hard at creating that relatively cooperative and pleasant atmosphere.  My mentor teacher told me once that our attitude creates the tone of the classroom.  I believe it. Have I yelled at my students?  Yes on occasion, but I try to make it a rarity because I honestly believe they tune me out when I yell. I am slow to anger.  Besides, kids hear angry adults way too often.  My daughter told me once that students really don’t respect teachers who yell all the time.  Most students will shine and give their all for a teacher who truly shows that they care.  Is that a simplistic, idealistic way of thinking?  No.  I heard an interview with an 40 year veteran in field of education stated pretty much the same thing after one of her teachers complained that none of the students did well on an assessment and she taught them everything – they must be stupid.  The educator told her colleague – that’s not it – they just don’t like you.  Students will not put forth effort to learn if they perceive you do not like them.

 

So am I saying we are to be their friend and “friend them” on Facebook?  Absolutely not.  I am saying have compassion on them.  In a nutshell, my goal is to treat these squirrely 7th grade students I have the way I’d want to be treated.  Or how I hope my children’s teachers treat them.  The classes my kids excelled in the most and enjoyed the most were from the teachers who treated them with compassion.  The second part of the verse is the key also.  He does not leave the guilty unpunished.  If you make a bad choice in my room, you pay the consequences – detention or office referral.  Do the crime, do the time.  Every year I have my frequent flyers who have detention with me at least once a week, or more.   I know this year will be no exception.

 

So what point am I trying to make?  Why are so many teachers angry?  I seriously doubt that was their goal as they began their career.  Well maybe some, those powertrip teachers who enjoy belittling students with caustic one liners and who enjoy verbally pummeling students into quiet, unresponsive submission.  I imagine politics, state mandated standardized tests and other asinine things have a role in stealing the joy of teaching.  So what!  We choose our behavior right?  Don’t we tell our students the same thing?  Shouldn’t we practice what we preach?  Honestly – if a teacher has so much perceivable anger that all her students see is someone who appears to not enjoy teaching –maybe they should get a different career.   Our students are like clay and we have that ability to mold them with our words. It makes me cringe to think I’ll be the teacher my students hated in 7th grade.  Of course I want them to learn my content, but not at the expense of loathing reading and writing.  Getting a 7th grader to read is battle enough, why add to it with having a crappy attitude?  Guess that’s why I have the reputation of being the “fun” teacher.  So be it.  At first that really bothered me and made me think my students are not “learning”.  Well – since test scores are the true measure of learning (ha!) – I suppose my students are “learning”.  You know what else they learned this year?  That someone cares about them – warts and all.  To me this all comes down to relationship.  This year I was the subject of a former students Jr. English project based on the novel Tuesdays With Morrie.  I wrote about that experience in  My Constant  http://nocoincidence63.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/my-constant/ so I won’t restate the whole thing again.  Bottom line – he chose me based on the connection developed in the classroom.  A dad recently told me that his son still thinks of me as his favorite English teacher.  This boy will be a Freshman in college this year.  I hear similar stories to this all the time and it is what keeps me going.  I’ve already decided that if I ever become that angry, bitter teacher -I’ll quit.

 

 

My Constant

Becoming the topic of a former student’s research project has made me pretty introspective, slightly paranoid, and extremely humbled.  I had this young man as a quiet, inquisitive, and gifted 7th grader a few years ago so when he told me I was the subject of his research – his person of influence – well – it is a humbling honor to say the least.  The project is based off the novel Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Album, where Mitch writes a novel about his favorite professor and the life lessons Morrie imparts.  Well – my student, who I either called Kabetzke or McGeek, and I met at a local coffee shop, every Sunday during the Fall semester. Oh – the McGeek reference is from NCIS.  His class period was my NCIS kiddos because several were fans of the show or I thought they reminded me of 7th grade versions of key characters.  Well – I of course was the female version of Gibbs – because of the constant cup of coffee I’m sure.  Well –there is the gray hair and the parental devotion I have for my students too.

Anyway – every Sunday, Kabetzke would have his list of questions and I honestly had a hard time putting into words my responses and sounding somewhat –normal.  It’s a little strange to lay aside my teacher persona and put on the normal person persona.  But the sounding normal – that is where the introspection comes to play.  Some questions have been about my childhood experiences, tough situations I’ve gone through, my family –past and present, and my influential people.  It’s a lot like having someone write your biography –well it is exactly like that.  The hardest question to date has been “What has been your constant?”  McGeek thought it would be my coffee – but that’s just partially true.  That particular question gave me pause because one primary constant has been my family, yet even that is in a constant state of change.  That’s why in my mind this past Christmas was the last one with us’ns.  Our son will graduate from A&M in May, our oldest daughter is in a serious relationship with a young man and our baby girl is getting ready to apply to colleges.  So – the family dynamic is changing, yet they are still my constant. I know in my heart – that even if our children are scattered across the globe – we will have that strong bond.  This past summer, the two college kids wrote me separate letters of encouragement and appreciation. Just because.  Both letters had me in tears and both made me realize I have been a positive influence in their life.  (During those weird teenage years – a mom often wonders if her words sink in or not)

I really have two constants –the second being Faith.  I do not have answers to why I’ve walked through some of my situations.  I just know it has molded me into a person who does not give up.  So – the experience of having someone choose you as their person of influence – very humbling and eye-opening.  It has made me realize how powerful our influence within the classroom and within our families can be. We do leave legacies – question is – what kind are we leaving?

My House is Finally Clean

For the first time in ages, I can honestly say I like cleaning house.  Well – maybe that’s too strong to say– like. Maybe it gives me some satisfaction.  At any rate – I know why it’s somewhat enjoyable because it stays that way now.  When I was the stay-at-home mom, my house was in a constant state of chaos.  I remember trying to tidy up during the kid’s nap time and feeling somewhat accomplished to only have Tornado Daniel, Beth and Christy demolish it in 30 seconds or less.   Maybe I should have been one of those moms who had the “one toy at a time rule”.  Nah – I thought that was futile.  Some how their chaos made sense to them and their imagination.  Why would I dare interrupt that?  I had the thought in my head that one day, after all the kids were on their own, the house would be  neat, fingerprint free, mess free (with exception of husband and his multiple computer monitors sprawled across the dining table) and –quiet.

 

Ironically – it’s the noise that I miss the most -the sound of laughter, conversations, even arguments, piano playing,guitar, violin, flute and euphonium and singing filling the empty spaces.  On occasions, a Halo system link with 10 or more of Daniel’s closests friends situated in every room of the house and cables snaking between computers as an epic battle raged on.  Even the girls would have sleepovers with laughter, sometimes tears, an occasional intervention from me with one of the participants who got their feelings hurt.  Okay – that part I don’t miss nor do my girls.  Then there are the smells that I miss.  When the kids were little -I missed the fresh out of the bath smell and would want to hold them for hours losing myself in the aroma of baby shampoo.  Yes – I’ve been known to open up the baby powder bottle to take a whiff.  It’s the smell of bliss to me.  As is the smell of wet, sweaty puppy dog that invariably came after my 3 amigos played outside for any given amount of time.  I’ve never understood why – maybe because my children liked playing in the dirt.  I miss the smell of the pungent cologne Daniel doused himself in before going out at night.  I miss the smell of Honey Bee cookies Beth and Christy would make or brownies or whatever treat they created.     Now the house stands silent and odor -less.  Oh  I can light one of my various candles, but it’s not quite the same.  I’ve yet run across a candle that captures what my heart longs for.


This weekend I cleaned, organized and put on fresh sheets in each of their bedrooms.  The cat has made it her job to lay upon each bed. Those rooms will stay that way now till someone comes home for a visit.  Till then – they will sit in silence as I do –waiting.   Like i said, I kind of like cleaning my house now a days; I just don’t like the reason it stays that way longer.  

Behold I Stand at the Crossroads

Behold I Stand at the Crossroads.

Behold I Stand at the Crossroads

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a student say – “I’ve read this before.” and hear myself saying “You might see something new today then!” I honestly mean what I say, but it’s always cool when I actually experience it for myself. The following is one of my favorite Bible verse from Romans 5 beginning in verse 3.

3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I’ve always loved it because it shows there is a reason for the suffering we endure – the development of our character. Look at the syntax structure (how the sentence is put together). This is called anadiplosis and it’s a form of rhetorical writing that is really cool. Anadiplosis – A rhetorical term for the repetition of the last word or phrase of one line or clause to begin the next. Anadiplosis often leads to climax. In stories, the climax is the high point of a story or I like this definition – when the character or plot changes directions. In the highlighted verse – this shows progression, the building of the event – suffering can make you a person who hangs on and have the will to not give up, which develops character and finally hope. I think if I were to put that in a story map showing the rising action, the character building might be where the turning point is made. We have to decide if we become that unbearable character stuck in the mirey depth of bitterness and despair who has lost hope or one who continues to be a character who sees the light of hope up ahead and is faithful to the end? It’s always a choice. We are always going to be on the road of suffering and will reach the crossroads and have to decide which path we take. Yet if you read a little further, we’ve been given a traveling companion – the Holy Spirit. We are not alone. He even brought along a few goodies for our journey –love, peace, patience, joy, gentleness, goodness, self-control, kindness, faithfulness. We don’t even have to ask for these gifts – because they are gifts.

During one of the hardest journeys our family endured, right at the first leg of it, I felt the incredible presence of joy. It was the moment the funeral director handed me my sister-in-law’s, Jimmie’s, purse. All around me was chaos as our family was in throes of anguish as we had just lost Jimmie, Jeff, and their baby Jordan in the car wreck. Up until that moment, I was also in crisis because we had to not only be a family grieving loss of our loved ones; we had to go to church and assume the responsibility of helping our church walk through this as well. Yet – the moment Charlie, the funeral director, handed me her purse, I felt this incredible sense of peace envelope me like a blanket. I also felt – stronger. I don’t know why it was given at that moment. Maybe it’s when reality hit that this was indeed real because Jimmie always had her purse with her in perfect order and the contents were in chaos which was not like her. Joy is not happiness in my definition – but it’s akin to hope because it can give you strength. Joy is an assurance and if you look in scripture – it always runs parallel with sorrow or suffering, meaning to me – the bad stuff produces the joy. Psalms 30:5 says this – For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. The joy comes after we’ve spent the night in our sorrow, when our pain is the pinnacle and the night is at it’s darkest – joy greets us in the morning.

Our life is a journey and how we handle the events along the way is our choice. Like I said – it’s like that verse progression -it’s just that- a progression. Our journey will always start out with suffering – but the end of the destination is Hope. That is -if we don’t take the wrong road and lose Hope.

How To Start That New Chapter

How To Start That New Chapter.

How To Start That New Chapter

You’d think that by now sending my 3rd and final child off to college would be easy.  That I’d have the routine down pat.  Well – if routines, packing lists, and schedules were all there was to it – yes – we have this thing down to a science.  For example, when she registered for her classes, her dad already had several choices mapped out by 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on an elaborate color coded spreadsheet.  Yea – that’s the easy part.  Trying not to cry in front of people is another thing altogether.  So far, knock on wood, that has only happened once – but the transition isn’t over yet.  You see – I am “losing” both my daughter’s in the month of August.  One to a dorm in A&M and the other to an apartment in Lubbock with her husband.  Like I’ve said before, things happen fast around here sometimes.  Just this particular day then Beth’s boss asked if I was ready for her to move away  – my stupid waterworks opened up because that morning I awoke, looked at the calendar and realized that in exactly one month from that date – both would be gone.  Silly huh?  They are not gone forever by no means.  Just that one chapter has ended, and I, like one of my girls,  sometimes do not like the start of new things but would rather get to the middle of it when it’s normal again.

 

So – for those out there experiencing this new chapter in your life – I only have a few words of wisdom for you.

 

1.  Make the most of your time with your children and have an open hand because they will also want to spend time with friends who are also moving away.  But – grab those moments when you can.  A popular one with mine has been over the dinner table or breakfast, and of course, shopping.

 

2.  Spend time listening to them.  You know – they are nervous about leaving too, but they probably won’t admit it.  Hence, the sometime grumpy, short tempered, attitude that comes out of no where.  So – don’t take it personally when they snap at you.

 

3.  After you’ve left them on their own, don’t be that mom who texts or calls 100 times to see if they are okay.  Trust me – it’s very tempting, but just one or two texts will be enough.  Even if it’s a thing like “hey – I packed your ___ in the ____.”    I try not to go overboard by bugging them everyday, but try to put the ball in their court and give them a little space.  Most of the time, I have received the phone call regarding how much detergent to use or how to cook a food item.  My son would sometimes call while walking across campus to class.  I called it his point A-B call.  When my oldest daughter moved away, our phone calls sometimes happened on Sunday afternoons.  You will find a right time, but let it be on their terms.

 

4.  Send random, old fashioned letter or card with a gift card to their favorite coffee place.  Maybe send a surprise care package of cookies just because.  Even better, take the time to go see them in person at least once or twice during the school year and bring the goodies in person.  Attend a football game together, or treat them to a place to eat or let them suggest a place they found and enjoy the experience together.


5.  Finally – pray and trust in the raising.  This is the time we take that verse at it’s word – Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.  Yes – we have self will to deal with, but that is where the power of prayer comes into play.  Bottom line, be ready for a shift in the relationship because our “babies” are transforming into the strong, independent young adults we always prayed for them to become when they were in diapers.  It’s just time to realize that that time has come.  

The Pursuit of ….

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are familiar with the old children’s Sunday School song that goes “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy is down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart…and if the Devil doesn’t like it he can sit on a tack, etc.”  It seems the give the idea of that this joy is “happiness”, bliss, a euphoric emotion  of extreme happiness.  Okay – then why does it say in  Ps 30:5 Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  Or  – Neh 8:10b For the joy of the Lord is your strength.  Both indicate a quality or state of being that enables us to endure trials.  It is a gift from the Holy Spirit – along with, love, peace,patience and the rest.  All are given as special gifts from God and His Spirit.

 

I think I’d almost explain it this way:  Joy is akin to the peace that goes beyond our understanding.  It’s a deep knowing of trust – right in the middle of heartache – you can have joy.  Again – this isn’t that stupid grin happy feeling – it’s a resolve to stand strong.  Or – that’s how I feel I’ve experienced this – gift.  I have two distinct memories of how this resonated in my heart.  The first was the day an officer brought my sister-in-law’s purse to me after the tragic car wreck that killed her and her family.  A couple of things  happened as  I held her once immaculate, white purse that now was stained beyond repair.  My first thought was she would be pissed that her purse was ruined.  My second thought – they. were.gone.  It was at that moment that this strength came over me and a peace and a joy that we would not walk through this alone. To me – joy begets strength; strength begets hope.   The second time I experienced this supernatural strength of joy was at the bedside of my son while he vomited blood every 30 seconds.  He had a water skiing accident where the ski popped off and smashed into his face crushing the occipital bones of his face well the one side at least. We were told that he was more than fortunate or lucky because if the ski had gone just a hair one side or the other – the results could have been blindness or death.  All Daniel experienced was a mild concussion and shattered occipital bones that needed time to mend.  While sitting his side, praying the nausea medicine would kick in quickly, I really don’t remember experiencing a feeling of helplessness and if I did, it dissipated as the joy/hope replaced the fear I may have had.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – we know these truths.  Pursuit of happiness – it doesn’t come easily – it is to be sought after, chased down, hunted and acquired.  It requires our effort.  Maybe that’s why I read two different articles this morning about an app for happiness people can download  and it shows them how to be happy. The other article mentioned a true “happy pill” , but it’s really a placebo.  People are desperate for peace.  What we are really looking for is hope, assurance or peace of mind.  An app or a pill will not give you this.  It really is the peace that goes beyond our understanding because in those situations – I had confidence.  and strength that held me together. Did I have answers?  No – still don’t.

 

I’ve been reading and re-reading this particular verse lately:

“Come, let us return to the Lord.

He has torn us to pieces

but he will heal us;

he has injured us

but he will bind up our wounds.

2 After two days he will revive us;

on the third day he will restore us,

that we may live in his presence.

3 Let us acknowledge the Lord;

let us press on to acknowledge him.

As surely as the sun rises,

he will appear;

he will come to us like the winter rains,

like the spring rains that water the earth.”`Hosea 6: 1-3
This to me shows that we will endure crappy things in our life, but those things do not have to destroy us.  It all comes down to a choice – not an app or a pill – but a conscious effort on our part to choose to press on and trust Him.  Therein lies our joy and strength.

I am a Mom.

In the past  51 years, I’ve had many of what I call titles:  Jim & Margo’s baby girl, Margo’s Bouncing Baby Tumor (another story for another time), the girl who stole heart of man from Tennessee (I gave myself that one), Mrs. Winter -7th grade English teacher, Pastor Kent’s wife or Miss Suzy.  Yet one of my favorites is “Mrs. Daniel Winter’s Mom “spoken by one of my son’s friends. For over 20 years, I’ve been a Mom and have loved the greeting of being called Daniel, Beth or Christy’s Mom.  Granted the tone of voice it was spoken gave me a clue as to what my child (usually the boy) may have done.   Nonetheless, it’s been my identity.  Maybe I invested too much in their lives or lived too much through or for my children.  No,  I do not believe I have.  I have some fantastic kiddos who didn’t just raise themselves.  However,  I feel as though my one job description will change come Fall when our last little Winter starts off on her grand adventure.  I have  no  doubt she will still need me, all three do to a degree, but I feel like I am entering a new definition of “mom”.  It’s just not –natural feeling yet.    It’s sort of like when I first married, I practiced writing Mrs. Suzy Winter over and over.  I now sometimes have to pause and think of my maiden name.  The new role I have now is that of – friend.  Or I hope that’s how my now adult children see me.  I am reminded of that cheesy book that has the line “as long as I’m living, your mommy I’ll be.”  While I am not planning on stalking them (like the mom in the book) – I’ll always be their Mom, Momma, Ma, Mother, Madre, MooMaw,  but I suppose come Fall I too will  embark on a new adventure of rediscovering  – me.

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