Celebrating Motherhood

This is not the post I intended to write for this week, but I was overcome with gratefulness for my children. Excuse me while I gush.

L to R, daughter Leah, Son Aaron, family friends
Husband in the Firetruck, Son Aaron behind him
DIL Courtney in front, daughter Leah on right
first grandson Hanan (now 12)
Daughter Leah practicing her mad chef skills
1982 ish; Leah and Aaron with their Grandpa Paul

The little boy above?
He has (now) 5 children of his own. Here he is with four of them.

I stood in church this morning with my hands raised in worship and pondered the miracle. The miracle of being alive and here in this place, celebrating with my two brothers.

There’s no reason we should be in church. We did not grow up with a relationship with Jesus, there was sporadic church-going in my childhood at best.  We had alcoholic parents (gone now), absent fathers (more than one), and truth be told we pretty much raised ourselves.

As the oldest of 5 children, I was the mom in many cases for my four other siblings.  It seemed like my parents were out often, and in later years, without a dad around, my mom was working most of the time.

I didn’t learn any mothering skills from example or input or nurturing. I came by childrearing by the grace of God and the skin of my teeth.

I could share with you the skin of my teeth part (that will be for another day). Today I want to talk about the grace of God that has carried me through the birth and raising of my children to this present day where they are grown ups with children of their own.

I did SO MANY things wrong when my kids were little (they’re 35 and 38 now). I did not want to be the fun mom that played with them. I was too wrapped up in my own angst and lostness (yes, I knew Jesus, I just didn’t know how much He loved ME.)

I stumbled my way through discipline, birthday parties and Sunday School.  Through parent conferences and temper tantrums, through perms and soccer games, late night school projects, boy/girl problems ad infinitum….and then boom! My son and daughter each were grown and married.

Amazing thing, though, in spite of the horrible missteps in my past as their mom?

They still love Jesus. 
And they like me. They talk to me. On purpose. 
Especially my daughter. 

I KNOW THIS is a gift. Yes, there are hundreds of families where parents and children are estranged from each other.  But that is not my story.

My son and daughter both amaze me with their tender hearts, their talents, with their humor and their gifts. 
My son has my mother’s musical ear and loves to sing and worship.  I remind him of that since she’s been gone for a very long time and he hardly knew her.  
My daughter is a technical wizard and artist.  She got that from her grandpa, which I also remind her about. The chef part–her love of cooking?  That she got from God alone, (ask her–I am no great cook).

What did my kids get from me?  An honest walk with my Jesus, watching me fall on my face and into His arms, listening to me apologize when I’ve hurt them. They heard my angry words with their father and saw us reconcile (often).

They’ve also heard me break into song in the middle of the grocery store and sung right along with me.  We’ve jumped on trampolines together, danced in the living room to Johnny Mathis songs and they’ve listened to my corny jokes.

Best of all? We’ve worshipped in church together over the years as they’ve grown.  They have sought after God and had their own miracles in the middle of their hard times and difficulties, a testimony, not to me but to the God to whom I pointed.

The God who redeems all things.

The One who redeems and makes new and creates out of my often very empty childhood, beauty and joy and strength, in spite of everything I was missing.  

THAT is something to rejoice in.

Linking with Jen and the Soli Deo Sisters 
and Jennifer for Tell His Story

What did you Learn today?

I love to learn new things. I’ve been a teacher off and on (mostly on) since about 1984. I tried a couple of times to find something else to do, but God keeps calling me back to the elementary classroom. Now I’m ‘just a sub’, but it is the best job ever.

If I had the time AND the money, I’d be in school myself every semester; I also love inspiring and engaging kids about learning. and often tell them it’s actually fun.

The kindergartners play right along, but when I make this announcement to the Big Kids (i.e. 6th graders) my enthusiasm is often met with the rolling of eyes or a yawn or two.

I stepped into 6th grade that day with fear and trepidation.  Things were not going well; students were chatting and generally ignoring me and my attempts at getting their attention were mixed.

Then it was time for US History, the time period during the settling of the 13 original American Colonies.  I knew there were a number of God fearing men who led the movement during that time and was curious to see what kind of God language there’d be in the text. People often assume God has been written right out of most of the history books, at least in Elementary School.

I was pleased to find this was not the case.

Students took turns reading paragraphs as we went around the room.  It was  joy to hear the mention of God and worship as they recounted the settling of the colonies.

After two or three students had taken their turns, I noticed a note in the sidebar and proceeded to read it out loud.
The word ‘indentured’ originally came 
from the paper that the contract between a master a servant 
was written on.  After they signed it, the paper was torn in half, 
so that each piece had an indentation that fitted into the other piece. 
The master kept one piece and the servant kept the other. 
That was the proof of their agreement.”

I never knew that…

I stopped short as it hit me, exclaiming with an ‘Oh……..so that’s where that word came from.’  

The students paused. What’s with the teacher? It’s a history lesson. We’re talking about slavery…

I proceeded to unpack the words in the sidebar a bit for them, attempting to engage them in seeing what I saw.  I asked for a piece of notebook paper, held it up in front of the class and folded it vertically.
I slid my tongue along the paper (yes) then opened it and carefully tore the paper in half.

I pointed out the indentation in the middle.

“Boys and girls, this is what it means to be an indentured servant. To fit seamlessly into the life of your master.  The slave and the master were connected in life just like the folds in this paper.”

My mind and heart were overcome with the implications as I stood in front of them.  My thoughts ran to my Jesus, about being a bondservant for him, as the Apostle Paul says.** 

Oh, to be a servant like that, to fit so seamlessly into his side, connected and folded into his heart.

The object lesson left me a little bit giddy with the revelation. As the words of one of my mentors came to mind, I blurted them out to the class.

“This is such an awesome illustration, don’t you think? To learn the meaning of this word?
“Aren’t you glad you came to school today?”

The 6th graders stayed cool as noisy cucumbers as I segued to the next topic, puzzled over my excitement.

“Mrs. Collins, why should we be glad we came to school today?”

“Ahhhhh, because maybe you learned something you never knew before, that’s why.”

Like I said, I love being a teacher. I was very glad I came to school that day.

**Ephesians 6:6-9
Linking with Kelly and the Small Wonder Community and Jennifer for Tell His Story

The Power of a Simple Question

I had the surprise privilege of teaching a short (four week) Summer School gig for a friend recently–and I do mean privilege. He asked if I could take over his Reading classes at a private Korean Academy. After thanking God for the answer to prayer for meeting a financial need, I then got VERY happy about the subject matter–what’s not to love about getting paid to talk about books and words??

The classes I took on included students ranging in age from 5th/6th grade (mornings) to 7th/8th/9th grade (afternoons). 

I spend my days during the school year substituting in Elementary Schools; however, I’ve usually preferred the ‘little’ kids–Kindergarten through 4th grade. I was surprised and ultimately thankful at the joy I felt in teaching these age groups–who knew?–especially the older kids.

The book I read with them was ‘Where the Red Fern Grows‘, Wilson Rawls’ classic story about love, determination, sacrifice and God.  

When we finished WTRFG I had 4 days to fill. ‘Poetry’ had been included in the syllabus with some texts suggested. However, I made an executive decision to bring in my own books.

I love poetry (reading and writing it) and felt grateful for the little window of opportunity to sneak it into our days.

Since the events in Ferguson had been capturing the nations’ attention, I wanted to tie something in about liberty and justice and freedom.

I found this poem and shared it with the class:

“Liberty” Janet S. Wong
“I pledge acceptance
of the views
so different,
that make us America.
To listen, to look,
to think, and to learn
One people 
sharing the earth
for liberty
and justice for all.”

Right away after we read it–me first, then in unison–A.’s hand shot up, “Mrs. Collins, is this the Pledge of Allegiance?” 
Reasonable question–these are Korean students.

“No, A, it’s not the Pledge of Allegiance.” Sure sounds like it, tho’, doesn’t it?

We discuss things like liberty and justice, (I’m supposed to be teaching vocabulary after all), and spend a great deal of time pondering whether violence can ever change anything (the consensus–No) We talk about how critical it is to ‘accept the views so different, that make us America’, reminding them about diversity and people of all colors and nations being right here all around us.

“Hey, do you guys KNOW the Pledge of Allegiance?” I ask.

“Of course!”

“Great, let’s practice. Hands over hearts.  Here we go.”

“I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag….” 

Another hand.  Mrs. Collins, “What does ‘allegiance’ mean anyway? And what’s a ‘pledge’?”

Perfect, more vocabulary.  Excellent timing.

We stop at the various words we need to define and I spend some time on the phrase, “one nation under God.”

I point out to them the phrase has no commas–it is a continuous line–regardless of the way they may have been reciting it.  (Koreans, Africans and Americans all say it the same (incorrect) way. Trust me, I know this.)

Then this. “Mrs. Collins, don’t you have to be a Christian to say that? I mean, the ‘under God’ part?  How can you say that if you’re not a Christian?”


S. pipes in, “Yeah, like aren’t there rules? I heard there are rules to being a Christian. Like being a Jew.  There’s a bunch of commandments, right?”

These questions I could answer–contrary to popular opinion, a public school teacher may answer questions about God when a student initiates the discussion.

Wise 13 year old A. gets up and closes the door and says, ‘Yeah, we need to talk about this.”

So I sit down in my rolling chair, push myself to the back wall of the room (there are only 10 of us) and posit this, “So, if we’re talking about being a Christian, which book are we talking about that might have the answers?”

“The Bible.”

“Correct. So in the Bible, Jesus said there’s really only two commandments–to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

“But what about the rules?  Don’t you have to follow these rules?”

“Actually, Jesus said He came to abolish the rules or commandments the Jews had. He said now He just wants people’s hearts and that we can learn to live by grace. It’s a gift.”

(You can see I’m like jumping up and down with excitement while I’m sitting in my roll-y chair, right? Having conversatiions with myself, “Can you even believe you’re talking about Jesus in the middle of your reading class with the Korean kids? What an amazing God?!”)

I continue, “You guys, you know I don’t want to get in trouble here.”

“Don’t worry Mrs. Collins, we won’t tell.”  Smile.

I finish by saying something about the fact that accepting God’s grace is all you need if you want to be a Christian.I suggest if they want to know more they could find a Bible and read it for themselves.

Or ask their parents at home. You never know where a simple question would lead.

Linking with the ‘J birds’–Jen for Unite
Jen and SDG.

Atlas Girl–Why it Always Feels Good to Come Home

I always come home to you,

Your smile, your arms, your lips.
Like the anchors of a ship,
Tethering my wandering, wondering heart.

There is a safety in our past,
Landmarks of history,
Reminding me why I’m here
And what my life is about.
Tree lined highways waving me by
horizons heading me towards home.

I’ve charted my path, traveling
not in circles, but meteoric spurts
up and out, fierce bursts of energy,
then a quiet return.

For ever and always back again to you.
In the early days of my marriage I would run away a lot…not really, I always came home–but I often wanted to be away from the relationship and responsibilities of marriage and just have fun. I’d take off, go for a drive, go shopping, visit my friends or sometimes get on a plane and go see my sisters in Southern California.  I wrote this poem after one of those trips.

My online friend and blogger, Emily Wierenga, releases her memoir 

“Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents’ rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else–anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time–in the place she least expected it”.

Linking with Kelli for Unforced Rhythms and Ms. Jen and the Soli Sisters.

How to Become like a Child

It’s the last Sunday of my month to serve in Nursery and I’m hanging out with the Toddlers. I look forward to this chance to see my niece’s daughter Pbay (Penelope) and interact with her one on one. If it weren’t for Sundays I’d never get to blow bubbles and play on the floor with her.

It is usually a fun time.

But today P is not her usual self. Most often playing the role of Helper Bee when others are fussy, handing out fishy crackers to a fellow 2 year old who won’t stop crying, proffering stickers to make others smile, today her favorite word is ‘No!’  

L reaches for the play telephone and clearly Penelope is in no mood to share.  I could force her, hand over hand, to give him the toy, but forcing someone to share when they don’t want to is soooo counterproductive.  
Can you relate?

Another playmate K wants to hold the noisemaker she has, reaching for Penelope’s lap where it rests.
“No!” ‘No’ with a scowl and a wrinkled brow.

And no wonder–Penelope’s mother has a new baby at home–10 days old, to be exact–and P is feeling one-upped for sure. Mom also can’t hold her or pick her up because she’s post Caesarean, so add that to the grumpy factor. Yes, Penelope is having a bad day.

Can you relate?

So, unlike the other Sundays where we hang out and eat snacks, roll a ball and scribble on Jesus-y pictures, the only place Penelope wants to be today is in my lap.
She toddles towards the rocker where I sit and crawls up, nestling close. Viewing the room from here, she is content to be held at my chest, while I protect her from her bothersome playmates.
She just wants to be still and feel safe.

Can you relate?

I think about that place–still, safe, held–as I read a verse in Chapter 55 of Isaiah.
It’s week 7 of memorizing (which I’ve never attempted before) and this chunk of Scripture speaks loudly to me:

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; 
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God,for he will abundantly pardon.”

In the past I’d skim right over those verses….”yeah, wicked. SO not me.  Unrighteous–well, Jesus covers my sin and declares me righteous. I guess those words are for other people.”

But the Penelope picture is fresh in my mind, the baby feel of her soft skin, the perfect way she fits right in my lap, the reach of my arms around her small body.  

God is so like that. Welcoming. Gentle. Larger than my me-centered life.

Yes, me-centered–that would be ‘unrighteous’ in my book.  God knows my days are full of turning away from Him, stepping outside my righteousness in Christ.

Unrighteous–“from an unused root, perhaps meaning to pant, 
hence, to exert oneself usually in vain, trouble, wickedness, sorrow idolatry” 
(Strong’s Hebrew Concordance, accessed online #205 Heb.)

Idolatry?  You’re kidding me.  

Well, that sort of makes sense……When I’ve turned away from God, I’m turning to something else–my own needs, my wants, my ways.  I’m prone to say ‘no!’ to what God has in mind more than I say ‘yes.’

What I really need to do when I’ve got the grumpies or the gimmes, is turn away from those lifeless forms that promise me nothing and run to Him like a child. (“return to the Lord” as it says above.)

Turn? Why?

So He may have compassion on me……..and to be abundantly pardoned.

Who doesn’t want a God who welcomes you like that?
Linking with Laura for Playdates, the Soli Deo Sisters and 
We’re letting go of the love idols taking up space in our hearts, 
space that belongs to God alone. 
Join us?

{Inspired by the book, LOVE IDOL, by Jennifer Dukes Lee} 

releasing APRIL Fool’s Day. No kidding.