Light

abstract beach bright clouds

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Please tell me I’m not the only one.

My day can be going GREAT. I can feel on top of the world and suddenly I’m reminded of a person or a memory. In that split second I am ripped from my balanced, fulfilled life into a chaotic, dark whirlwind of hurt and emotion.

I was raised in a home where emotions were recognized and allowed. However, emotions were not used as an excuse to become selfish or mean. Instead, we worked through the emotions and I was taught to try and help someone else so I wouldn’t focus on the emotions or myself too much.

So here I am. I’ve lived over four decades and I’m STILL trying to remember how to keep emotions at bay, especially those feelings that come with hurtful memories. Yesterday was one of those days. It was an email. A silly email, sent by someone who has NO CLUE the hurt I endured at the hands of some very evil, manipulative people…and yet that silly, short email created a connection to the past and it rocked my world.

These negative feelings, these hurtful memories – time will help lessen their sting – but last night they were very real. I talked with my husband and he helped me shift my perspective.

So I couldn’t stop smiling as I read my devotions this morning. If you’re being rocked by present or past situations – read these words from “Jesus Calling” and step into the LIGHT!  These are words from Sarah Young – I hope they lift your spirit as much as they did mine…

“As you turn your attention to me, feel the Light of My Presence shining upon you. Open your mind and heart to receive My heavenly smile of approval. Let My gold-tinged Love wash over you and soak into the depths of your being.”

So the next time you feel yourself slipping into a dark place, visualize yourself walking out of a dark room, into the sunlight. Now imagine being wrapped in the warmth and light while taking a deep breath. That warmth, that release – it’s a physical representation of God’s spiritual connection with us.

Choose LIGHT.

Turn away from the darkness. Even if you have to turn away fifty times a day. God is waiting to bathe you in His Presence and peace.

You are loved!

Kasey

Fear

bare feet boy child couch

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Fear. It’s a four-letter word that can paralyze us and limit our joy. Fear evolves as we grow. It morphs as our experiences intensify, but at its core…fear never changes.

It is a tool the enemy uses to create doubt. Doubt about others, about ourselves, about God. Doubt brings darkness.

Taking a step in the darkness is so scary. Anyone else stubbed a toe or stepped on a noisy toy while trying to navigate a dark room? Walking through a dark place is exhausting! Always waiting for that unknown thing to pop up and take us by surprise – ahhhh!!

If fear brings doubt and doubt brings darkness, why would we allow ourselves to love there? Well – because fear is REAL! It’s real and sometimes we can’t get rid of it all on our own. Instead, we need help. Hep from others, hep from God, we can’t do it alone.

Having faith God can break through the fear and darkness is not easy. It’s a choice.

I often remind my children that their feelings and emotions are very real, but sometimes they just can’t be trusted. Instead, of “feeling” they have to choose to “know”.

To know who they are in the eyes of their Creator. To know how much they are loved. To know they have been called to live a life that consists of more than immediate victories or easy roads.

So let’s replace the four-letter word, FEAR with another one, KNOW.

Here’s what I know:

  1. I know God is ALWAYS working on my behalf, even when it seems nothing is working out. He works ALL things for the good of those who love Him.
  2. I know my strength has limitations. My physical, mental, and emotional limits are very real. So why would I think I can do this thing called life on my own? I need my people around me. Scripture tells us we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. I have people in my life who have witnessed me at my lowest, most vulnerable moments and they still love me. They have also witnessed how God brought me out of the darkness and helped me grow.
  3. I know life is not fair. I have been hurt so badly by people who called themselves Christians. I’ve been judged, lied about, and even misrepresented by people who called themselves my friend. Did I handle myself perfectly in those situations when I was hurting? Nope. But boy did I learn. I learned that in the dark moments, I have to focus on the light. Not on the people trying to drag me down into a dark place of fear and failure. Grace is REALLY unfair. God extends it to really nasty, awful people too. Sometimes that’s hard for me to accept. But maybe if I keep focused on the light, they will see it to and retribution and forgiveness can happen – just maybe.
  4. I know God is enough. Throughout the Psalms we learn read God is our Rock, Fortress, Shelter, Strength, Peace, Hope…the list goes on and on. He promised to be what I need Him to be and that can be enough, even in the darkest of times.

So as we head into this Halloween season with the haunted houses and costumes, I hope we can look at fear in a new way. Maybe we can name what really frightens us and give it to God. He never asked us to walk this road of life alone. He can handle it. Whatever it is – cry out to Him. Start to KNOW your Savior in a new way. KNOW the promises found in scripture and in return, fear will have to loosen its hold on your spirit and life.

You are a blessing to so many and to me! If you have time, leave a comment below telling us how you overcame a fear in your life or maybe a fear you are struggling with. You’re not alone – I’m sure of it. Come out of the darkness and into the light.

Have a wonderful week!
Kasey

Blink

Ty and James

I was cleaning out my Google Drive today and this picture stopped me in my tracks. My eyes filled with tears. This is our middle boy when he was around 2, holding his day-old brother in the hospital. Everything about this picture ruins me. The pudgy fingers, round cheeks, tiny sneakers and closeness…all of it…

This is a snapshot of a season that was so very wonderful and yet so exhausting!

The tears are not because I miss this time of life. Are you kidding!?

Weight gain, pumping, nursing, schedules, strollers, diapers…the list is so very long.

The tears are because back then I was in control. I really was. I set the schedule, I made the meals, I buckled them in, I managed their social calendar and planned their activities – I knew where they were all the time.

And now, well – it’s so very different.

Our boys are now 16, 14, and 11. Is it still awesome? SURE! But control is a slippery concept I can SOMETIMES feel.

People ask me what it’s like to raise teenagers. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Think about riding a roller coaster. That long, slow ride up the first big hill. You know, when you hear every single click of the wheels against the railing and feel the weight of the struggle against gravity. You’re on edge, waiting for the rush – constantly looking over at the people around you. You vacillate between tears, laughter, and absolute fear.

Okay, that feeling on the way up? That’s what it’s like to raise a baby and toddler. A constant battle with physical, mental, emotional exhaustion and keeping things under control.

The journey up feels like it takes FOREVER – but really, the drop at the top is what you remember. You are suddenly completely out of control and surrendered to the loops, twists, and unknowns.

That next part? That’s what it feels like to raise a teenager. To NOT be in control of how they are driving, who they are talking to, and what they are doing at school. We are involved. We ask questions and have great conversations – but the control? Well, the control is shared and slowly moves from me to them.

It. Is. CRAZY!!!!

When they drive away from the house or come home telling you about a girl they are taking to a school dance…you realize that you are along for the ride a little more than you thought. It’s such a great ride – but it is so very different.

I will end with this – I read these words in my devotion this morning:

“Affirm your trust in Me, regardless of how you feel. Thank Me for everything, though this seems unnatural – even irrational. Gradually you will begin to ascend, recovering your lost ground. When you are back on ground level, you can face your circumstances from a humble perspective. If you choose supernatural responses this time – trusting and thanking Me – you will experience My unfathomable Peace.” – Sarah Young “Jesus Calling”

So wherever you are on the ride of life. Trust Him. He’s with you – every hill, drop, loop, and swerve. You are not alone and this part of the ride doesn’t last forever. Try to take a deep breath and enjoy it – there’s always a reason to ascend above our circumstances as we “ride” on the wings of hope that only our Creator can provide.

Hug your kids because you’ll blink and the ride will be ending. Regardless of how you feel – be thankful.

Kasey

To Be or Not To Be

nature red forest leaves

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We teach our children that life is full of choices. Their choices have consequences.

As moms, we’re no different. I made a choice almost 4 years ago. A choice I made with my family’s support and knowledge. I went back to school. As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to earn my doctorate. This past May I walked across the stage in my funny cap and billowing robe. As I walked, I heard my sweet boys yell, “Yeah Mom!” It was the best moment ever!

I’ve had to learn a new “normal”. No more researching, writing, and reading in my spare time. I finally have TIME!

Now that my closets are cleaned out, drawers organized, and moving boxes unpacked (it only took a year!)…I’ve decided to embark on a new challenge.

I’m making a choice to focus my extra time on God’s Word and how it impacts the  unknown world I’m managing when it comes to raising teenagers. It is NOT easy. Not at all. I’m hoping some of you can relate, reply, and help me redirect my thoughts when things get to be too much.

I’m ready to get real – I hope you are ready too.

I’ve been away from blogging for a while now, it feels good to be back  instead of focusing only on my kids, I want to focus on my Savior and the promises found in Scripture.

I hope you’ll stick around and experiment with me as I approach this month in a new way. I’m choosing my focus. I’m choosing God’s calm over the world’s chaos.

Ready, Set, Go…

T.E.S.T.ing Week

standardized testing funnyAs an educator, the Spring semester can become difficult and instructional time becomes precious and limited. My ELL students have to take the district, state, and national tests, along with language acquisition tests. These required tests seem to dictate our schedules and energies during the spring semester. I find myself planning quick, self-standing lessons that can be implemented at any time because only the Lord Himself knows how much time I’ll ACTUALLY have.

Testing is part of our educational system – like it or not. So here’s what I tell my kids about standardized testing. I hope it helps you and our students gain some perspective and maybe find hope in the midst of the craziness.

Taking a test isn’t the goal here. It really isn’t. Yes the scores matter. Yes I will hear about it if my students don’t do well – but I’m not here to make sure they do well on the test. I’m here to help them learn the skills it takes to prioritize information, manage their anxiety and apply what they know. Each of those skills will help them in life and that’s what matters.

Every job requires you to pass a test. It’s not fun to admit – but it’s true. If I want to work on your car, replace your roof, or repair your broken limb – I have to pass a test. It might not be a multiple-choice test, but I will be trained and I will have to show someone else that I can apply my skills in a manner that is not only acceptable, but perhaps exceptional.

Scores don’t define you. I tell my students they are more than a number – they should never let scores define or limit them. Now, at the exact same time, I work to help them use numbers to evaluate their growth. Have you ever watched a student chart their progress and smile at the upward movement? It’s awesome! Some students consistently score high and if that score drops they begin to panic. This is where the emphasis and importance of grades and scores (see ABCs of Grades post) should be put into perspective . Kids need to have permission to be kids and to be unique in their learning and their performance. Tests don’t provide those opportunities, but we can remind students that there’s more to life than the test and the score it produces.

Talk to me. Typically I run a controlled, fast-paced classroom and my students know I have an agenda that takes priority over their social needs. However, during testing week things begin to relax a bit. I ask my students to talk to me. I ask about life outside of school. I want to know if anything is happening in their social or emotional world that might be weighing them down. I feed them, I let them go the bathroom…I am compassionate to their plight. My students with high anxiety levels let me know when they need a break and I trust them. I’ve never had a student try to “get out” of taking the test – they know this is happening – but I think they truly appreciate the understanding from the adults in their lives.

I’ll end with this well-known political cartoon:

testing cartoon

Many people use this illustration to undermine standardized testing and yes – it has a good point – but let’s be careful in our assumptions. Our students are failing. It kills me to even type that sentence – but it’s true (PEW Research).

Are the national/state/district tests truly representative of student ability? No.

Are they truly reflective of a teacher’s instructional abilities or classroom management? No.

But each time I’m tempted to complain, I ask myself what I have a BETTER way to assess ability throughout the country and I can’t think of anything.

So until I’m in a position to change things for the better I’ve decided to focus on making my classroom better and helping my students compete on the national stage.

No matter what test life might throw at my kids I want them to know how to use their gut, their knowledge, and their reasoning skills to make the best choice they can and pass that test.

I will ensure my students know their value. From there I hope they will become thirsty for knowledge because they feel confident in their abilities. For many of my students they don’t see education as valuable (see Welcome to America post) – I want to change that. I want them to revel so much in the learning process that they resist the temptation to reel against the testing.

Systems aren’t perfect – they are flawed and sometimes broken. The children in my classroom are broken and flawed and so am I. So before I shake my finger at the system, I’m going to take a hard look at my students and at myself to make sure we are growing and becoming better each day. That way we can face the test as a unified front, and when the test is done we just keep moving forward.

T.E.S.T.

Yep – it’s a four-letter word.

How we interpret this word is what matters and our kids need us to guide them along the way.

Happy testing!

Kasey

 

It’s Time

textSo it’s been a month. I find it ironic that I’m writing this post on April Fool’s because I’m reflecting on that one night when I felt like a fool, was treated like one, and have continued to struggle BECAUSE of some fools.

Here’s what happened…

It was March 1st and I went to the gym to run.

I put my bag in my locker, went up to the treadmill and about 10 minutes into my run I started to feel sick to my stomach. I almost stopped but decided to push ahead and scolded myself for eating before coming to workout.

IF I had stopped and gotten off the treadmill I would have looked out the large windows, down onto the parking lot, in time to see two men getting into my car and driving it away.

You guessed it – someone went into my locker and took my wallet and keys out of my bag. They passed keys to their buddies and stole my car, my identity, and my peace of mind.

The picture at the top of this post is the actual screen shot of my text to my husband – crazy.

So let’s get some perspective…

The PEOPLE in my life – the most important parts of my life – are safe and that’s what matters the most.

The POSESSIONS in my car were trashed, stolen and well – I’m not sure how glad I am that OnStar actually worked. I’m not sure I ever want to drive that car again – but here we are, trying to make the best of a really stinky situation.

Now for the application part…

It’s been a month and even though we recovered my car that evening, I still don’t have it back. The people who took it did so much damage it’s been a bit of a nightmare trying to talk with the repair shop, the assessor, and the insurance company. So I’ve learned how to appreciate the role others are playing in my crisis. I’ve learned to communicate without questioning and remind others how important they are to me and to the solution behind this problem.

I have been going to this gym for almost 3 years and I have never placed a lock on my locker – no one does. I trusted the system and people too much. You have to scan your card to get in so I just assumed no one in the locker room would have anything but good intentions and that I was safe. I guess that was foolish of me. I won’t be trusting anymore and I wish I could say our gym was doing more to let people know about this situation but I think they just want me and this whole thing to go away.

My children have been watching us this whole time. They watched us cancel our cards and deal with my identity being used to buy tons of medication (I’m assuming used to make drugs) at a pharmacy.

So I sit here and think about the people who did this. I call them fools not because they are worth less than me – we’re all equal in the eyes of God – but their actions show them to be people driven by actions that embody both the noun and verb forms of the word. They fooled me – they tricked and deceived me. They were fools to think they’d just be able to walk away with my car and my wallet.

Between OnStar and the police, their fun was cut short – but who has suffered the longest and the most? Me. Not them – me.

I guess that’s what happens when bad people do bad things – but I won’t let them win. It’s been a month and I’m still driving a rental as the repair place and State Farm work together to help me get back to “normal”.

I’ve started praying for these people and I’ve found comfort in the fact that God is responsible for evening the scores – not me – and it is clear these people have bigger issues and problems in their life than I do.

So I walk away remembering what is REALLY important – people and relationships. I let go of my anxiety and my desire for retribution every day – not sure when that will get easier but I have faith it will.

I hope your April Fool’s Day was calm and that you are living in a safe, secure world. We can each find things to complain about but really we should be focused on the things that matter most and be thankful for what we have.

For now I will be a bit more cautious when leaving my keys and wallet and I’ll listen to my gut (literally). I don’t want to live with a negative mindset or in fear – but my reality has been disrupted and my security has been broken. It could have been so much worse and I’m thankful it wasn’t – but even at this small level of inconvenience and frustration – I’ve gained a new appreciation for what it means to live in a world where selfishness causes pain and it makes me sad.

Let’s make this world a better place. Let’s meet everyone with a smile and a handshake and think the best of them. That way the fools that stole my car and my wallet don’t win. We aren’t going to be fooled into thinking they are the majority and I will continue to hug my kids and count my blessings every single day.

Stay safe. Stay strong.

Kasey

Welcome to America (when cultures and classrooms collide)

United Earth

As an ELL teacher I encounter students from all over the world. I love it. It keeps me from living in my own little “USA” bubble. I’m forced to remember that I’m a global citizen and I have a responsibility beyond my own zip code!

But I digress…

This is not a political post. I’m not aiming to discuss anything that has to do with immigration, foreign aid, or any other politically-driven hot topic. At this point, I can’t do much about those issues so I’m focused on my current reality: a classroom filled with various religions, skin colors, languages and immigration statuses.

And ya know what’s really great? NONE of those things matter to me…

These are MY kids, MY students and it’s MY job to ensure they are prepared to make this world better – regardless of where they are from or where they are going. So what spurred this random post? I’ll tell you…

A new student came to our school 2 days before Spring Break. His family had arrived in the US from the Dominican Republic on a Tuesday and Thursday they were in the front office signing their children up for school. There was some discrepancy because they claimed their son had finished 9th grade in their home country. However, his birth certificate places him in 8th grade here in the states.

They were a bit upset he couldn’t begin his education at the high school level but they understood and we assured them that the next 9 weeks would be a great time of language acquisition and preparation for high school.

So Carlos (that’s not his real name) enrolled as an 8th grader at our school and for the 2 days before Spring Break we were careful to pair him with a student that would make sure he felt safe, secure, and informed.

Upon returning from Spring Break, Carlos showed how incredibly intelligent and capable he truly was. His cursive is the most beautiful penmanship you’ve EVER seen. I could sense his frustration with not knowing the language but being familiar with the content – he’s had all this before! I was watching him closely.

By Friday of the first full week back it was clear the “honeymoon” period had worn off. Most students go through the same phases when it comes to accepting and adjusting to their new life in the US. However, the speed and severity of each phase can differ.

Suddenly, Carlos was going behind my desk, sitting in my chair, touching things on my desk, writing on the board, talking while I was talking, repeatedly chewing gum in class, etc…

After using Google Translate, asking other students to translate the expectations, being compassionate and kind in my reminders – I’d had enough.

We went to our amazing school interpreter and had a little chat. First I asked, “Carlos, how are you feeling here at school? Do you feel like you know what is expected of you and how everything works?”

The interpreter communicated his response: “I just feel like I’ve lost a lot of my freedom.”

Without even thinking I quipped, “Welcome to America”. The interpreter giggled and I realized I was being a bit snarky and trying to be funny but my statement had some dark truth to it.

I realized I had never asked him what school was like where HE came from. We do that at the beginning of the year to help students understand behaviors and expectations – but the kids who come the last quarter of school – well, it’s easy to forget that their “new” is just as real as our “old” and we have to meet in the middle.

Here’s the thing. I’m not apologizing for, nor softening the expectations and rules in my classroom. However, I needed this reminder that even though my year is ending, his is just beginning – in this new land with this new language and new these new surroundings.

Compassion is not my greatest strength, I’m a type-A, task-oriented person…

But my students continually challenge my heart and my spirit to remember that their culture is rich, alive, and precious to them. As I develop their language skills and help them navigate their new reality I need to also appreciate and recognize what they bring to my room.

So if you know someone from another country. If your neighbor believes something different – reach out, listen, and discover. This isn’t about agreeing or conceding – this is about recognition and appreciation.

The stories I hear from students truly rock my world. They face a reality and uncertainty I’ve never known. I guess that’s why I’m so committed to ALWAYS being a safe, solid place where they can land. My classroom will provide structure, consistency, and encouragement – it has to – no options here. I’m tough, but it’s because I believe in them, not because I don’t care and they know that to be true (at least I hope they do!)

Update on Carlos…

We’re calling home tomorrow because he’s starting to bother some girls and he keeps breaking rules he clearly understands are in place. Does this mean he’s a bad kid or a difficult case?

Nope.

He’s just a kid. No matter where they came from or are going – they are mine right now and I will do everything in my power to show them they are worth the effort and investment.

Carlos – get ready. It’ll be tough at first, but nothing worth having comes easily. We’re in this together.

For everyone else reading this. Please be the compassion and kindness this world so desperately needs right now. Make your kindergarten teacher proud and teach others as you’d like to be treated, share what you have, and never fuss about being the first in line – we’re all on the same journey, just enjoy the person walking with you –

Kasey


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