When God Ruins Your Masterpiece

•March 6, 2018 • 4 Comments

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Frozen. Numb. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even function. I felt heavy like lead, yet also fuzzy and unsubstantial, like I wasn’t really existing. This must be what depression feels like was the only coherent thought my brain could come up with. And so there I sat in my bedroom, there but not really there, aware of nothing but an empty numbness. Another part of me under the surface kept screaming, but the screams bounced off the gray walls of my mind, sounding just as hollow as I felt.

I couldn’t force myself to get up and go back to the living room where our three remaining foster kids were waiting for us. They knew something was wrong but didn’t fully understand what had happened. I didn’t either. I knew that DHS had taken our two youngest foster girls away from us. But why? Their reasoning had made no sense to me. All I knew for certain was that our family of seven was now a family of five and that we may never see our girls again.

Deep down I knew, as the analogy went, that our lives were God’s canvases and that He was making a masterpiece out of us through all of life’s ups and downs. But in that moment it felt like God had poured water all over our family’s canvas, leaving us colorless and warped.

The hollow feeling was familiar. I had felt it the two times we’d had to say goodbye to the three foster children we still had. They had left twice to go to different relatives but had come back and were finally working on going home.

So I knew the feeling. But this time it was different. This time we weren’t just mourning over the loss of precious children. This time we were mourning a loss while also suffering the injustice of being wrongly accused.

THE WATERY DISASTER

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Spring Break 2016, a few days prior. I like to refer to it as the spring break from hell. I had just begun to get used to having five kids aged five and under. We had never planned on having more than a few kids, but…things happen. After our foster daughter, Angel, left the first time to go to some obscure relative, we got a new foster child from a different family and district, Aleyana (Aleya for short), at three and a half months old. A month after that, Angel came back to us with her two brothers, Ringo and Jonathan, and we had a family of six. When those three siblings left again to go to another relative, Aleya’s sister, Sophia, was born. So, of course, we took her in, as a newborn. About a month after taking in Sophia, the three siblings needed a home again. How could we say no? We loved them dearly and they needed stability. Not some new foster home they had never been in.

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So we became a family of seven in October of 2015. The “masterpiece” God was turning our family into was shaping into something we had never anticipated or prepared for. Much of the time, although we deeply loved all of our kids and trusted that God knew what he was doing by placing them all with us, we felt overwhelmed by our blessings.

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At the time of spring break, we’d had all five kids, ages five and under, for five months, and I was still adjusting. I was just getting to the point of not having a mental meltdown at the thought of being left alone with all five of them without my husband.

As luck would have it, during the week of spring break, my husband had to work late every single night, so I was stuck with taking care of all five by myself…all day long. It became a game of what can I let slide and what do I have to address immediately. Do I change the baby’s diaper or clean up the spill? Do I feed the kids or get the bottle ready? Do I let them play, even though it’s going to make a mess (or might be slightly dangerous), because they’re occupied and letting me do something else, or do I stop what I’m doing to address it?

One evening after supper as I washed Aleya’s hair in the bathroom sink to get out the food she’d smeared all over it, I was faced with one of those dilemmas. Ringo and Angel had started to play with Sophia in her portable bassinet, pushing her down the tiled hallway. Was that safe? No. But was Sophia happy and distracted and not needing me at the moment so I could focus on her sister’s hair? Yes. So I told them to make sure she was buckled, go slow, and be careful.

Bad decision.

Shortly after, I heard Ringo and Angel start to argue, and before I could even rinse and dry my hands, I heard a thwack against the floor and Sophia crying in pain.

I ran out of the bathroom to see Sophia tipped over in her bassinet with her head on the ground. Apparently, the two older ones had been fighting over who got to be in the front and one of them jerked the bassinet away from the other, which made it fall over.

A giant goose egg formed on Sophia’s little head. It took some time to calm her down, but other than that, she was okay. We contacted our Youth and Family Services foster care worker and had Sophia seen by an ER doctor because of how late it was, and her pediatrician later, and she checked out fine. DHS started an investigation the next day, but that was normal for the circumstance. DHS would do their thing, find everything was normal, and then be done with it.

But we weren’t that lucky. Due to some major miscommunication and misunderstandings, DHS thought that something very serious had happened and that our two youngest girls were in danger because of a lack of supervision or possibly neglect. For these reasons, before the investigation was even over, the girls’ DHS worker showed up at our daycare without notifying anyone, not even our YFS foster care worker, and waited for us so they could have us sign the removal papers and take our girls away.

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The rush of emotions that flooded through me as I signed that paper and watched the caseworker carry my girls to her car and buckle them in was so chaotic and jumbled inside me. The waves of shock, horror, anger, rage, despair, anxiety, and hopelessness all fought for attention in my body and mind.

Those feelings still swarmed inside me the next day as I sat at my sister’s kitchen table, explaining to her and my mother everything that had happened. “I want to trust God,” I said, “but I just don’t understand. I don’t understand. Why would He let this happen? It doesn’t make sense. What good can come from this?” God had allowed our family’s masterpiece to be ruined in a watery disaster. I felt broken and bruised, indignant and hopeless.

My mother and sister, of course, had no answers, only comfort. What can you say to someone in a moment like that?

PAINTING A MIRACLE

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Saying the next few weeks were difficult was an understatement. A lot of phone calls were made and a lot of conversations took place, many not involving us. There wasn’t much we could do. We were helpless, at the mercy of others making decisions. Decisions that would restore or destroy our family.

We did have Youth and Family Services defending us and trying to explain our side to DHS. We also knew that DHS’s claim of the kids being in danger and their allegations of neglect were bogus. The accident could have happened to anyone. But that thought didn’t help ease the frustration and helplessness at the injustice we’d suffered, and it certainly didn’t help get our girls back.

Throughout those few weeks, along with those awful feelings was this strange hollowness, like my life was on pause with the uncertainty of what would happen. I didn’t know whether to be hopeful or mournful. Neither felt right because I didn’t know if we’d be able to get the girls back or if we’d never see them again.

Eventually, once DHS got all their facts straight, they dropped the allegation. But it was too late. At the same time, we got word that the tribe the girls were a part of had found a tribal home they wanted to transfer the girls to soon. Even though it was a long shot because the tribe can do pretty much whatever they want in regards to moving kids, we wanted to appeal the move. But we couldn’t because we technically weren’t their foster parents anymore. And DHS didn’t want to move them back to us because they said there was no point if they were going to move anyway. The new foster parents, good people we knew, couldn’t appeal either because they’d only had them for a few weeks. We were stuck.

We’d gotten our lawyer involved already, and when we found out about this new information, we immediately called him up. Seeing that there was no reason the girls shouldn’t be placed back with us if the allegation had been dropped, he marched right over to the judge and explained the situation.

The judge was indignant and asked DHS flat out why they hadn’t placed the girls back in our home yet, saying that it was to be done immediately.

So we got our girls back and were able to appeal the move. Which was definitely a win. But then what? After that, all we could do was wait for our court date, our only hope being that the judge didn’t seem in favor of the tribe’s decision. But what could he really do? The tribe had so much authority that none of us were very hopeful going into our court hearing.

What we didn’t count on was one authority the judge did have – the power of delay. As the tribe presented their case for moving the girls, it was obvious that some of their representatives hadn’t learned of the allegations being dropped and the reasons why, or they just didn’t care. One of the tribe’s representatives even brought up the word “abuse,” as though the bump on Sophia’s head could’ve been caused by that. DHS presented some information. Our YFS worker presented some corrected information on our behalf. And between the three parties there was so much confusion and difference in facts that the judge decided to postpone the appeal hearing for a month so we could communicate and get our facts straight.

He’d given us what little he could. Time. But was this just delaying the inevitable? We didn’t know. In the meantime, we enjoyed the time we did have with our girls and did everything in our power we could think of to change the tribe’s mind. I typed up a letter with our explanations, got character reference letters from friends and notes from our doctor. Then I drove over to the tribal office and presented them with this packet of papers as an offering, a plea for them to try to see us as we were and not as the monsters we’d been made out to be. A plea for them to give us a chance to keep our girls and continue to love on them.

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Still, because of what everyone, including our lawyer, had told us about the tribe’s authority, we had little hope going into court again. We walked in with a kind of grim resignation. We’d done all we could, and now it was out of our hands. We wanted to have hope in God, but we were also realistic.

We had no clue that God had actually won our battle even before we’d walked through the doors. While we’d been focused on one ugly smear on our canvas, God had been painting in another area, carefully connecting things I couldn’t see.

The tribe’s attorney pulled our attorney aside before court started and talked for what seemed like forever. When our lawyer returned, he had the most surprising news. During the extra time the judge had given us, the family the tribe had been planning on moving the girls to had fallen through. So…since the tribe had no other options, they decided the girls could stay in our home as long as we became a tribal foster home by getting dually certified, which, of course, we agreed to.

God had given us our miracle in a way none of us had even anticipated. It’s almost as though God had wanted to prove to us that his ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He is always working, even when we can’t see it.

SEEING GOD’S BRUSH STROKES

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Looking back now, after we’ve finally crossed the adoption threshold after three and a half years, I can see the masterpiece God had been creating in us the whole time. Instead of random colors, ugly smears, and seeming accidents, I can now see intricate layers with a blending of colors and unique brush strokes that layer on top of each other to make a beautiful picture. I see strategic lines that weave in and out of obstacles in supernatural ways only God can make happen.

One of the very first ugly brush strokes we had smeared onto our family’s canvas, now makes sense – saying goodbye to Angel. If Angel hadn’t left us that very first time, we probably would not have said yes to taking in Aleya because we really only wanted one child at that time. In fact, our worker may not have asked us about her in the first place.

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Still, God’s plan wasn’t to end our relationship with Angel, so he brought her back with her brothers. Then, after those three siblings left us for the second time – another painful brush stroke, we got the blessing of Aleya’s new baby sister, Sophia.

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So as we were focusing on mourning the losses of the three kids who were never meant to be ours, God was layering stroke after stroke and color after color as a foundation for our true family’s masterpiece.

But God was still working on the other three kids we loved, too. Through all of the crazy, chaotic layers that intertwined our lives and theirs, God formed a beautiful relationship between us and their mother. A relationship that is still going strong today and that allows us to remain a part of the kids’ lives in a unique and special way.

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Then, of course, the biggest painting disaster of all – the girls getting ripped from our home after Sophia’s accident. That had a purpose too. Going through all of that is what led to the tribe wanting us to become a tribal foster family. And I truly believe will all my heart, that if we hadn’t become a tribal home, we would not have been able to adopt the girls. If we had stayed the course as a normal DHS foster family, the mother’s rights would’ve been terminated much earlier, and tribes are known for pulling kids out of traditional foster homes at the last minute when they’re adoptable to put them with a tribal family for adoption. They have the authority to do that. But because we were technically a tribal home and because we’d had them for so long, when the time came, the tribe not only allowed us to adopt Aleya and Sophia, they actually wanted us to.

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What had at first appeared to be a watery mistake all over our family’s canvas ended up turning the perfectly clean and unblemished painting I thought we were supposed to be into a beautifully messy and stunningly artistic watercolor masterpiece.

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“Masterpiece” by Danny Gokey

Heart trusts you for certain
Head says it’s not working
I’m stuck here still hurting
But you tell me

You’re making a masterpiece
You’re shaping the soul in me
You’re moving where I can’t see
And all I am is in your hands
You’re taking me all apart
Like it was your plan from the start
To finish your work of art for all to see

You’re making a masterpiece

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High School Students versus Christians

•December 20, 2017 • 2 Comments
I had an epiphany recently that knocked me down on my butt. I love teaching, but sometimes my high school students are so freaking entitled and full of attitudes it’s not even funny. So when I realized that we as Christians sometimes act like the entitled students I teach, it physically pained me in a very humbling way!

Students – Don’t want to give up their phone when using it in class because it’s “theirs.”tenor.gifChristians – Don’t want to give up their money and time because it’s “theirs.”

Students – Whine and complain about the activity the teacher put a lot of thought and effort into.tenor.gifChristians – Whine and complain about the situation God put them in, despite his infinite wisdom.
Students – Freak out if you ask them to pick up trash that’s not theirs or do something that’s “not their responsibility.”10116422.gifChristians – Often don’t think they owe anyone anything and just want to worry about and take care of themselves.
Students – Are not patient and lose interest after a minute.
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Students – Are easily distracted by everyone and everything around them.

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Students – Have a very hard time controlling their own stupid, impulsive actions.

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Feel convicted yet? Lol.

Do You Need a Cell Phone Vacation?

•November 28, 2017 • 2 Comments

Recently I gave my freshmen an extra credit opportunity where they had to go without their cell phones for 24 hours. I did this to go along with the novel we’re reading, Fahrenheit 451, which depicts a society that doesn’t think for itself and that’s too dependent on technology.

I have to say that I LOVE THIS ASSIGNMENT! I only get around 1/4 or less of my students take me up on the extra credit, but for those who do, the reflections they turn in are so telling of what goes on their heads and what they learned from the experience! Below are some of the questions I ask them (Including a question I ask the parents) and some of their responses. The best answers are for #5 and the one for the parents at the end.

  1.     How did you feel initially leaving your phone with your parents/guardian and why?handing-phone.jpg

         Very weird because I had to do different things without my phone.

         I felt bad without my phone because I didn’t know what to do.

         I didn’t really want to because I don’t like going places without it.

         I felt like something was missing because I have to be busy at all times.

         I felt kind of panicked because I was missing notifications.

 

  1.     How did you feel all day without it and why?help-teen-stress.jpg

         Like I had more time for things because I was not on my phone and I did other                    things.

         Anxious because if I’m in trouble, I don’t have immediate contact to 911.

         It felt good because I did other things with my time.

         I felt alone without it because everyone else was on their phone and not talking to             anyone.

         I felt lonely because I am usually texting people all day.

         I felt more productive because I was getting more work done without my phone.

         I felt like something was missing because I almost always have my phone on me.

         I felt kind of empty and non social because nobody could talk.

         I felt good and I loved not being on my phone.

 

  1.     What did you do or have to do differently while you were without it?giphy.gif

         I watched more TV and spent more time with my family.

         I helped more around the house.

         I had to find other things for entertainment so I drew more.

         When I had my phone I would occasionally glance at it and get unfocused at                         whatever I was doing, but without it I was on task all day.

         I had to be more interactive with my family.

         I got my work done faster.

         I found myself making a lot of cookies.

         Since I didn’t have it, I read and actually got to read the book I thought I had no                   time to read.

         I was playing with my animals more.

  1.     What did you miss the most about not having your phone?

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         I missed watching dumb videos on Instagram and coloring on my new color app.

         Talking to my friends.

         I missed my music.

         What I missed the most was not knowing what time it was on my phone.

         I missed watching youtube videos and talking to my friends.

         I missed the music to keep me preoccupied.

         Answering my group chats texts – I felt left out while they were all texting.

  1.     What did you learn from this experience?tumblr_n5vx9oINN41qj4315o1_500.gif

         I use my phone more than I think.

         There’s more to see than just a little screen.

         I learned that I don’t need technology to entertain me, that I have my family and                 friends to help with that.

         I learned that technology is not a necessity.

         Without having your phone all day you have more things you can do and you have           more time.

         I’m kind of addicted.

         There is so much to do that does not involve your phone.

         I learned that people are too connected to their phones and miss out on the real                world.

         I can do my work faster and better without my phone.

         Not everything is on your phone and you can enjoy the things around you.

 

FOR PARENTS/GUARDIANS:

What did you notice about your child when he/she wasn’t able to get on his/her phone? Did he/she do anything differently or behave differently?

He practiced football with his younger brother and engaged more with family.

Without his phone he was more helpful and spent more time with his brother outside.

She helped a lot around the house.

She talked to me more and spent more time with the family.

She was interacting with family more than her phone.

She was more social with our family.

She spent more time talking and having fun with the family – so we had a family game night.

She was annoyed when she couldn’t get on her phone. She started to read more than usual.

She had an attitude at first, but it was nice having her attention.

He was more involved with family and spent more time outside. It was surprising how difficult it was to get him to do this.

She was a little quieter. She’s usually very loud, but not that day. She also watched TV and read, and she hasn’t done either of those in a while.

She spent time with her family. I really enjoyed this.

He didn’t really want to give up his phone. He was more talkative and found time to do other things.

 

What Type of Worshipper Are You? (Enneagram and Worship)

•November 11, 2017 • 4 Comments

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I’ve always grown up hearing the phrase, “Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength.” (Okay, there’s soul too, but that’s the spiritual side that everyone has. We’ll leave that alone for now.) Only recently, however, did I realize that maybe God put this in the Bible because he knew we would all worship him in different ways depending on the way He created us.

According to the Enneagram personality model, people see and experience the world (this includes God) through one of three different ways – their head (thinking), their heart (feeling), or their body. (instinctive). To match up with the Bible verse above, the head would be mind, and strength would be the body. The head is all about logic, reasoning, and mental clarity. The heart is all about how they and others feel and how things make them feel. The body is all about doing and instinct.

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(Btw, If you haven’t heard of the Enneagram personality types, you should totally take the test to see which of the 9 types you are (there are 3 types in each of the 3 triads). There are several tests out there, but the most accurate one I’ve seen so far is here. Once you get your type in the form of a number (1-9), you’ll want to go here for the best information; it’s more thorough than the other website. The Enneagram model is great for not only showing you your strengths and weaknesses and motivations, but also how to grow and improve yourself.)

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So, it occurred to me that people from these different triads or ways of experiencing the world, would probably approach God and worship differently. I set out to see what I could discover, and what I found was so intriguing I just had to share. I’m going to quote below what 3 different people said about how they relate to God through worship. See which one you relate to the most!

I’ll start with my own words as a BODY TYPE:

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“I think I relate more when people say bring your whole self, all of who you are, or your whole being to God, rather than bring your heart to him or lay your emotions at His feet. Strength resonates with me because I envision myself, even when I’m feeling weak, pulling whatever strength I do have up to the surface and presenting it God. I can also relate to bringing my mind to him because I know mine needs him, lol. But I don’t feel it much. It’s more my body presenting my broken mess of a mind to him, hoping he can do something with it.” (Fyi – The mind is my weakest as a type 1 personality.) 

“It takes a lot for me to get to even the surface of deep, specific emotions. I can get into worship and even cry at times, but it’s different. It’s more of a warm feeling that covers my whole body from the outside and then seeps into my chest. When it hits my chest, that’s normally when I get choked up. I’ll often at that point get either a more specific feeling like humility or awe and/or a revelation in my mind like one Sunday when I heard a young girl singing at the top of her lungs and God told me I needed to trust him like a child. The feeling I had, though, wasn’t super specific. It was just kind of an overwhelming feeling, both good and bad. I guess it’s hard for me to decipher those feelings and dig deeper to feel them specifically.”

“When I’m going through something difficult, I’ll feel even more of a need for God, and he’ll always come through. But instead of feeling an emotional connection to him, I feel a more tangible one. There was one time I remember specifically feeling like God was the rope I was clinging to when the ground underneath me had given way. I’ve felt similar things at other times, like I was physically clinging to God. Any vision/image God gives me generally has some tangible aspect to it.”

From my sister who is a HEART TYPE:
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“When I come to the foot of the King for worship or repentance, I’m giving my all which includes my highs and my lows. I feel everything from my beating heart that’s racing with excitement or pain to the tears rolling down my cheeks which are often, all the way to a more inner action of my heart breaking. It breaks for what I’ve done, for what Jesus endured for me, for the injustice in the world, and even for the idea that God knows my heart is breaking. I don’t “feel” worthy of His attention sometimes but at the exact time, I feel grateful, excited, humble, and joyful. I feel almost all of these most Sunday mornings because my feelers are always on high alert on Sundays and at certain times through the week.”
“(During a time of deep sorrow after a loved one’s death), I felt every word of worship songs like a knife to my heart, knowing I wanted to believe the song I was singing but being so hurt by my creator and protector at the same time. I let the words and the tears consume me as I sang out in pain, anger and sorrow. I almost hugged the feelings like a pillow that you cry into. I knew that I had to keep singing or I would be left with only anger. The more time went by and the more songs I sang, the easier it was for me to sing songs and believe them, not just with my head but with a warm feeling feel the truth permeate my being.”
“A few times when my life’s circumstances were great, there have been times when I felt so care free and it’s like my heart was dancing right in front of my Father! It’s not the warm fuzzy blanket feeling (although I feel that more often than this), but it’s more I feel like light beams are shinning from my fingers, toes, and eyes. I even feel a physical tingle.”
From a friend who is a HEAD TYPE:
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“When I think of times, particularly while singing worship songs during corporate worship, that I feel close to God, it’s because I can “see” him. I visualize the lyrics in my head and it brings me a sense of awe and surrender to God. For example, this is an old song but has great visuals for me. “Over the mountains and the sea, your river runs with love for me.” When I sing this, I see majestic mountains in my head, scraping the sky. I stand in wonder at how God made the mountains and that he made them for us to enjoy. I picture the sea and its vastness, the beauty of the water and how the waves can be calming and yet overwhelming. Again, God made the sea and we are to enjoy it and yet stand in wonder and amazement at God’s creation (same with the mountains). I think of a river, ever flowing, the rapids hitting the banks. It is long, deep and wide. This is how much God loves me. Just as a river always has fierce waters flowing through it, God’s love for me is fierce and will always flow over me and is never-ending. I need to mention here, since I am such a literal thinker, that a river never stops flowing unless there is a drought and dries it up. But, there are never droughts in God’s love, if I ever experience a “drought” it is because of me, not Him.
“A more recent song that really gets to me is Revelation Song. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty. Who was and is and is to come. With all creation, I sing. Praise to the King of Kings. You are my everything. And I will adore you.” I think of the definition of holiness and what “almighty” means. I am always taken aback by the thought that God was and is and is to come. There is no stopping his existence and presence. He has existed since the beginning of time and will never cease to exist. I think of what it means to praise and that He is the King of Kings – there is no king greater than him, he is more powerful than any earthly ruler that has ever been. We really can’t compare him to any earthly ruler. “You are my everything” – I think of how He is all I need. No one else can fill the “God void.” When all around me there are things and people who will fail me, He is my sustainer. Then, I think of what it means to adore. I truly do adore God for all he has done in my life personally (giving me peace when it seemed illogical to have peace, blessing me with my parents, husband, kids, giving me all the necessary things I need to survive and then MUCH more) as well as the big picture – creation, sending Jesus to die for the sins of mankind, miracles, etc.
“To sum it up, I guess I analyze rather than “feel” but yet, when I think deeply about these things, it makes me feel deeply as well. In order for me to really feel, I have to think first.” 
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So? Which one do you relate to the most, and do you have something to add? I’d love to hear it! Also, if you know your # type, share that as well.

The Best Best Man Speech…Ever

•October 28, 2017 • 2 Comments

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My husband just recently gave a Best Man speech at one of his best friend’s wedding. My husband is a man of little words around people he doesn’t know, but when he does speak, what comes out is often powerful and almost always hilarious. I am so amazingly lucky that I get to hear this kind of stuff all the time. But for those of you not blessed by getting to hear my husband’s wit firsthand, here is a taste. And for anyone needing to write a best man speech any time soon…you’re welcome.

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“My parents always told me that if I had nothing good to say about someone, then say nothing at all.” (He sat down for a second.) “I’m kidding. I’m kidding.

First, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Clayton and it’s both an honor and a pleasure to be standing beside Justin today as his best man. I’d like to personally thank you all for coming and celebrating such a special occasion with us. With that being said, everyone let me just say I’m not a public speaker, and when I get nervous, I’ve been known to mispronounce some of my worms.

Rachel, you are an amazing woman who deserves a wonderful husband, and I won’t rest until I get to bottom of what went wrong here.

You know I had planned on being the best-looking person here today, but I failed horribly. Rachel, you are so beautiful sitting here today, and that goes way deeper than skin. Your heart is so full of love for Justin and his precious little girl. They are both blessed to have you in their lives to call you mommy and wife.

Justin is the best friend I’ve ever had. He has done so many great things. He wrote his first novel at the age of 9, ran his first marathon at the age of 11. He even saved a baby from a burning building. Hey, Justin, I can’t read the rest of your handwriting.

But seriously, this guy is a great friend. I’ve known Justin since he was barely out of diapers, you know around 14 years old. He was a little guy that everyone loved. I have seen him grow from that young boy to a man, a loving father, and now a husband. It has been a real honor to be by your side all this time.

Justin, your father would be so proud of you, and I know if he was here today, he would have a list of all the reasons why.

I’ve tried to keep some humor in this speech today because I believe that couples who laugh together last together. And Rachel, boy do you have a lot to laugh at.

I know there will be hard times, but what I’ve learned is if you must fight, fight naked. The outcome is more fun for both parties.

Most important, whatever obstacles you face, you face them together.

I’m going to leave you with this quote. “Marriage is not about finding a person you can live with. It’s about finding the person you can’t live without.” My best friend has found that person.

Let’s all raise a glass of high-quality H2O and wish Rachel and Justin a lifetime of happiness and love.”

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Summer Reading Recommendations!

•June 1, 2017 • 1 Comment

If you’re a teacher or a student, you know that summer is the best time of year to catch up on your TBR list…or add some to it and read those instead.

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Either way, there’s more time to read, and I always love to read books that people have recommended to me. So here are a few recommendations from me to you (all Young Adult, btw, because that’s how I roll)! Many you’ve heard of and maybe already read, but a few others probably not. I didn’t include The Hunger Games, Divergent, or The Maze Runner, because, well, those are a given.

Click on the title to go to the Goodreads page of the first book of that series so you can read the synopsis and check out reviews.

  1. The Unwind Series (Dystopian)- See my review here. You’ve probably already heard of this series too, but Neal Shusterman is probably my favorite author. The way each of his many characters has such a unique voice amazes me, and his stories are so deep and engaging! If you want your mind blown by some very well-written, super deep stuff, then check out this dystopian series! img_1673 2
  2. Timebound Series (Fantasy/Time Travel)- This series by Rysa Walker is one that sort of fell in my kindle lap so to speak. I’m not sure how this independent author managed to download her book onto my kindle without me asking for it, but props to her because it made me buy and read the others in the series of 3. If you’re into time travel books, this is good one. I rated it a 4 out of 5, so it wasn’t my absolute favorite series, and the last one dragged a bit. However, the premise was still very interesting and the writing engaging. The author kept me wanting more, so that deserves a recommendation in my book. 18108877.jpg
  3. The Heroes of Olympus series (Fantasy/Mythology) – For those who don’t know, this is a spin off series by Rick Riordan from the Percy Jackson series about Greek gods and goddesses and modern day demigod heroes. The Percy Jackson series was great, but this series is even better. Like Harry Potter, I think all of these books sort of grew with their audience. Percy Jackson seemed to be geared more towards middle school, and the Heroes of Olympus series feels more like typical YA. Rick Riordan has a hilarious style of writing that is easy and fun to read and his stories are just plain entertaining. If you want something adventurous and enjoyable, check out this series! heroes-of-olympus.jpg
  4. The Daughters of Zeus series (Fantasy/Mythology/Paranormal) – This one is a hidden gem that I only know of because my first novel was originally published by the same Publishing company as Persephone. We exchanged reviews early on, and I must say I quite enjoyed this series, giving all 3 books 5 stars! It’s a nice mix between Percy Jackson with cool stuff about Greek gods and goddesses and other popular YA series with a female protagonist. It’s exciting but still relatable and has an interesting love story. You’ll want to check it out! See my review of Persephone here!persephone-600x900x300-2 2.jpg
  5. The First Frost series (Fantasy/Fairy Tale Retelling) – Here’s another series I know of because the author, Liz DeJesus, started out at Musa Publishing with me as well. If you’re into fairy tale retellings and being a kid again but in a more grown up way (Bianca has some sass and a little bit of a mouth on her, lol), then check out this fun series! Check out my review here.15700479.jpg
  6. The Last Timekeepers series (Fantasy/Middle Grade) – One more gem from my Musa days. Read my review of the first book here. This book was super fun and especially great for middle school age or a little younger even! If you like time travel, fantasy, and Medieval Times, then put this one on your list! 13613004.jpg
  7. The Delirium series (Dystopian) – This amazing series by Lauren Oliver was very entertaining, exciting, and intriguing and a great dystopian series about a society where love is considered a disease and everyone gets a “cure” at 18 when they’re old enough for it. Interesting premise, for sure! I will warn you, though, the last book ends kind of stupidly. I don’t want to say more so as to not give anything away, but let’s just say I was pretty frustrated with a choice the author made. Lol. bookcover_home_delirium.jpg
  8. Lady Audley’s Secret (Classic/19th Century Lit) – If you like books/movies/stories in the vein of Pride and Prejudice (who doesn’t love Mr. Darcy!), you may like this classic as well! This book by Mary Elizabeth Braddon is a little darker than the well-loved and light-hearted Jane Austin classic, but it’s definitely a page-turner! It’s almost like a 19th century soap opera! I had to read it in college, but it was one of my favorites. So if you like the Victorian era and/or want to branch out while still being entertained, give this one a chance. 51iseeP2+-L.jpg
  9. The Hush Hush series (Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance) – This was one of my first favorites when I first started writing. Back when fallen angels were all the rage (after the vampire craze and before the dystopian craze), this series was on or near the top of the charts, so you may have read it. If you missed it, though, you should definitely give it a shot! The whole series was pretty interesting and I fell in love with Becca Fitzpatrick’s writing style. It’s very easy to read and flows beautifully. I actually learned a lot about writing style from her books, so props to her for helping me out! the-complete-hush-hush-saga-9781471121616_hr
  10. The Shadow Eyes series (Urban Fantasy) – Okay, obviously this is a given recommendation from me since I wrote it, lol, but I figured it was worth putting on the list. Forgive me for my shameless self-promoting… In short, the series is about a girl who sees angels and demons when no one else can. If you like urban fantasy, angels (not the fallen angel boyfriend kind, though), spiritual things, and mystery that keeps you turning the pages well into the night, check it out! See my Shadow Eyes series page here for more info on both the first and second book. FYI, the third one is in the works! Shadow Eyes new cover

Why “Just Write Them Up” Isn’t Always the Answer

•May 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

As a teacher, you sometimes have those days when a student or a whole class does something crazy or rude or inappropriate, and you feel the need to vent about it to a friend/family member/everyone on social media… But sometimes we get this response: “Just write them up.” “Send them to the office.” “Don’t put up with that.”

As if it were that simple.

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On behalf of all teachers everywhere who have heard this, let me explain why those statements are not only unhelpful, but also very misinformed.

  1. We have to PICK OUR BATTLES. Especially in our difficult classes, there are so many crazy things happening at any given moment, that if we were to write up everything that may deserve a referral, we would never have time to teach. Some things, for the sake of the lesson and maintaining some sort of classroom structure, we have to let slide. 57646093
  2. If we make a spectacle of the student and situation, it often just STOKES THE FLAME and causes more problems. Sometimes ignoring a toddler’s tantrum is best. The same is true for older kids and teens. Making a big deal about the situation can also rile up the class, and that’s the last thing you want.
  3. We may very well LOSE THE CLASS TO CHAOS if we “step aside” and take time to write up those students or deal with them sufficiently. When you’re dealing with a difficult class, if you loosen your reigns for a second, their concentration scatters and you’re left picking up the pieces for several minutes before you can regain their focus enough to start teaching again. chased-by-monkeys.gif
  4. Some of the things we would want to write referrals for SOUND STRAIGHT UP STUPID. “Student was sniffing glue.” “Student was meowing like a cat.” “Student was writing on herself and others.” “Student can not keep his hands to himself.” “Student was throwing pencil shrapnel.” The reality is, that student has done ten thousand “stupid” things that have accumulated over the months of torture we’ve endured. It’s really hard to justify or even articulate every offense that student has committed.
  5. Writing a referral for a student DAMAGES OUR RELATIONSHIP with that kid, and we’ve worked so hard on that all year. Obviously, sometimes a referral is needed and there’s no way around it. But it will come at a cost. Besides, everyone will tell you that a strong student/teacher relationship is one of the biggest factors in student success.
  6. Teachers are control freaks, and when we write a referral, we are HANDING OVER THE DISCIPLINARY CONTROL to someone else. Now, if it’s an extreme situation that needs an administrator, that’s different. But if we can handle the discipline issues ourselves, we will, at all cost. tenor
  7. Writing a referral is a last resort, and when we do it, IT FEELS LIKE WE’VE FAILED. That piece of paper is like a public statement: “I can’t handle this student.” I know we shouldn’t feel that way, but we do. And, to be honest, the kids feel that way too. They know when a teacher has lost control and has to resort to a referral. For that matter, depending on the school, the principals may even feel like you can’t handle your students. Again, it shouldn’t be that way, but in the world we live in today, this is a teacher’s reality.

So, please, if you know a teacher, love them and encourage them. And if they ever vent to you about a student or class, don’t suggest to them what you think they should do. Just pat them on the shoulder and empathize with them for the hell they have to go through every day. Somebody has to do it, and we choose to because, although we don’t always act like it, WE LOVE OUR JOBS.

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