14 February 2013

"Life is Like a Cup of Coffee"

Today, I am simply sharing a story that was shared with us at a local church. It is from this webpage. And while the words revealed on the screen, one after the other, it was so clear in my heart that I have been blinded all this time by cups, and I did not enjoy the coffee as God intended it.

"Life is Like a Cup of Coffee

Spiritual Story by Unknown

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee. Savor the coffee, not the cups! The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly."

Which cup would you choose? 

11 February 2013

Trusting God in Dark Times

This morning, I woke up to a dark world. I so did not want to get up. I turned around in bed to be faced by a beautiful baby girl - I guess she slept with me. At that very moment, two other kids jumped in bed with me, smiled and screamed 'hungry'. What does a mother do in a situation like this? Get up anyways. Even when everything inside of me wants to give up and just lay there, questions racing through my head, and no answers but an empty feeling.

The reason why I awoke in such a state comes from my day yesterday. Something happened in my brain - or was it the devil getting a stronghold again? - and all my doubts came back. My insecurities. Fears. Anger. Jealousy. Pain. And yes, the question if I could ever change after all, or is it too late for me? It not only put me in a bad mood, but it also affected our family day.

I had a good week. A week with some normal life and some trials. But I think I handled them pretty well. I reached out when I wanted to pull away. I talked when I just wanted to say "I am fine". I really thought about why I was feeling a certain way. I read the Word, books, devotionals, bible verses I had jotted down. I prayed. And I told myself the truth over and over. I did good.

How can it be then, that I got sucked into this state again, after only a week? Ugh.... This is so frustrating. And yes, I can be hard on myself, and I can get quite impatient with myself.  So besides everything else, I also need to learn patience.

At a local church, I heard a sermon that was so GOOD! The speaker doesn't realize what He showed me this morning, because really, his sermon was on something else. But certain words, verses, spoke to me and woke me up! Thank you, God!

I see the world as dark because I was taught to see it that way! My atheist parents walk on a dark path and to this day, deny that the light exists! But I know better now. God is my light, He is suppose to brighten my day. I just don't let Him sometimes! And really, I am suppose to be the light for others, too. So I have not done a good job in fulfilling my job description as a Christian.

Is it hard to pull yourself up out of such a state? Hell, yes. Is it hard to worship God at a time such as this? Yes. Am I able to praise Him in the darkness? Not really. So what am I doing?

The truth is that I am suppose to thank God in all my circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The truth is that we are suppose to face those trials with joy (James 1:2). 
The truth is that He will "restore, confirm, strength, and establish" us through those trials (1 Peter 5:10).
The inner pessimist inside of me wants to ask: "Why so many trials, God?" and "Why does it hurt so much, Lord?" I want to scream: "Why does it feel like my life is too hard? Why does it appear others seem happier and do not have to suffer this much?" Oh, the questions my little brain can come up with.....

I've got some answers this morning! It's all clear now.... now I just have to live accordingly.... 

It's the attitude. I need to concentrate on counting my blessings! And I have been a very bad manager of my blessings. I KNOW very well, how blessed I have been and how blessed I am right now, this second! "The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it." (Proverbs 10:22) I AM RICH.
That is a truth that I know.

In the past, I did not manage those blessings right. When trials come my way, when the devil tries to turn my attention away from the blessings, I see blessings that are not meant for me but for others. Jealousy is a sin! I need to concentrate on my very own blessings, and thank God for them! God created them especially for me, and I deserve them. My blessings are just as special as everybody else's.

God only gives us as much as we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). Then He comforts us with His peace in John 16:33, and He promises that all things will work together for good (Romans 8:28). Trials are suppose to teach us perseverance (Romans 5:3). After all, nothing is impossible for God (Matthew 19:26). Wow, the present and future look much brighter with this truth!

God intended for us to prosper (Jeremiah 29:11) and to be in good health of body and mind (3 John 1:2). He WANTS us to be happy with His will (Romans 12:2). And He wants us to thank HIM! (Psalm 107:1) In all my circumstances. So really, I have not trusted Him enough. I think I have doubted Him to be able to help me, change me.

Also, my attitude needs to change when I am faced with a problem. I need to ask myself: "God, what are you trying to show me?" Once He reveals that to me, I need to ask: "God, which way do you want me to go?"  He is the author of my life. He knows what is best for me. I need to listen to Him.

There is beauty in each situation. This world is beautiful. And in being a good person, an optimist, a light to the world, I will help to make this world a better place. It's my responsibility as God's child, accepted and loved by Him. And for myself, I want to feel God's blessings every second of my life -  I don't want to miss a single one that He has specially for me.

God is teaching me that if I couldn't trust in anybody else, I can trust in Him.
God teaches me that if I feel lonely, He is always there, He never leaves me. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
God is teaching me to have hope in MYself, to believe in me - He can perform miracles.

A transformation is not always going forward, it's also stumbling, falling, and being picked up.

(And in case, you don't know which transformation I am talking about, you can catch up here, and then here.)

10 February 2013

Psalm 23 Cursive Writing Template

With our poetry lapbook, I had the great idea to have Coqui write out Psalm 23 in Cursive Writing. I could not find anything online, so here I am posting my own version that I created myself. Feel free to print it out and use it for your own kids.

I also made a sample of the finished poem, written on the computer. But it gives you an idea how it looks like. I hope you find this useful. It helped us a ton.

09 February 2013

Poetry Lapbook

It is part of Coqui's curriculum to be introduced to poetry. Every day, he has some reading to do, and sometimes, those texts are poems - which I like because I agree to expose children as early as possible to poetry and it's 'magic'. Also, that curriculum provides eight poems that are to be studied and memorized, about a month for each. So far, he has learned four of them, and he liked doing it and reciting them to Daddy.

So for our themed week, we wanted to take a look at the different types of poems, and have the kids come up with their own. I did a ton of research, for once because it has been a while for me, and secondly, I did not grow up over here, so things are simply called differently. I printed a bunch of poems for us to read and talk about, and then I also printed templates for us to work on our own poems.

Three of the four poems that Coqui had to recite for school were from Robert Louis Stevenson - which is now his favorite poet ;-) . So I printed "Bed In Summer" for reading only - he got a good laugh from it. He also liked reading and coloring the poem "All Things Bright And Beautiful" by Cecil Frances Alexander.

But his absolute favorite poem of this week was "For My Brother, On His Birthday" by Kenn Nesbitt from this webpage. It had everybody laughing on presentation day.

Also, I made him memorize a new poem, very short, and really more a Math 'helper' than anything else. But I found it helpful and surprisingly, he still has trouble getting the order right with this one, which is only an eight-liner. (I mean he memorized one with 24 lines!) But it was a great example of teaching the rhythm of a poem that rhymes.

We used this webpage to create poetry online - a little computer class on the side. He wrote a poem about a tiger here:
We also worked on a sensory poem that is a five-liner using all five senses. His object of choice was a fruit, an orange to be more specific. He made it silly and funny, so the orange "looks delicious, smells like stinky feet, and tastes juicy". Go figure - the mind of a six year old....

Personally, I had never heard of a Haiku before (yes, Mami is learning alongside the kids), but I really enjoyed it and helped Coqui to come up with his own, and he did this one all by himself. We worked with a template from KidZone (link is here).  It didn't request a title, and Mami's title would be Spring - he didn't want to give it a title.

We also did an alliteration with his name, which can not be published here for reasons of privacy. Surprisingly, he had alot of trouble coming up with 'good' stuff about himself. But eventually, we created a poem that has some decent lines.

And last but not least, we looked at the bible, specifically the Psalms that are poems written by great men. We read Psalm 23 multiple times, and as an exercise, I made him copy it, but in cursive writing. He hated it! (Sorry, buddy!) He hated it so much that he screwed it all up the first time, and I made him start all over - yeah, Mami did not score big with this one, but I believe in the discipline of working hard to reach a goal, and better learn it now. But this bad Mama came up with a compromise - instead of writing it all in one week, which caused too much frustration, I made it into a month-long project, one that is still in the working:
I couldn't find a template for this one, so I made my own, which you can download for your personal use here. (Link to a second post, sorry for the inconvenience.)

Here is a last picture from the day we presented our lapbooks with our friends:

04 February 2013

Facing my Problems and Taking Responsibility

So I hope I made you curious with my post about this New Promise. I told you I would keep you up to date with the book and what I am learning. Here I am to face my problems squarely

Let's be honest, it is hard to do that with ourselves. So many times, we can make ourselves believe a certain thing, or we just don't want to admit that it is OUR fault, or that there is something wrong with us. It is much easier to blame others. Or, my personal favorite, to blame circumstances of the past and of today.

It takes some guts to look deep inside yourself and than be honest, ruthlessly truthful about what is wrong, and to admit that there 'might' be a problem here. And what can we base that on? How do we know there is something wrong? I think the person that can be honest with itself will know, and God is there to point it out. Pray about it and the Holy Spirit can show you which area of your life needs change. Be open minded.

There is only ONE truth and that is God's truth. So the more we read His word, the truth, the more we learn what the/His truth is. AND the more we pray for God to show us HIS truth, the more He will listen and grant us that wish. No prayer goes unheard, no prayer unanswered - it might just not always be the answer we hope for, or in the timely manner we expect it. I am learning to just wait.... and wait.... and wait on God.

So how do you start the process of healing? I started with praying for God's grace and wisdom. Digging up those scary memories and those hurt feelings that made living today so unbearable, was hard and uncomfortable. To have God hold that mirror right in my face, was a slap in the face. But I needed to be confronted! Ugh......
I know for some of you, it's a bunch of things, so pull them up one by one and deal with every single one; one at a time. For others, it was one major event that has shaped the person we see today, and it can be so hurtful, and it might be for a while. But I think it's worth it. Then "acknowledge to yourself, and acknowledge it to another human being". This other person can be anybody that you trust: your parents, your spouse, friends, pastors or really anybody that you feel comfortable sharing your deep feelings with. 

I am blessed to have two people in my life who were willing to share this journey with me. My husband and my best friend. They are both very grounded in their believe and are both very wise. I can lean on them and I can ask for advise. I am not afraid to frustrate them because I know they really love me. They love me the way I am today, and at the same time, they are excited to see what person I am becoming. I am truly blessed by them.

It was hard to admit to them what I have been shown: that there is something wrong with me! The way I behaved and acted and reacted was far from being nice.... and honestly, I am surprised that they are both still here. It was hard to be honest. My confession went something like this: "Hi, my name is Ann and I have been verbally abused. That has made me an imperfect person today, with many problems. I have been hurt and I have hurt others. But I acknowledge my wrongdoings and I am willing to change my attitudes. I am surrendering my hurts to God so He can heal me. This is a journey that will not happen overnight. So if you would like to stand by my side, encourage me, let me lean on you, support me, or simply watch me being transformed into a new person, the one that God has really created me to be, then you are welcome. I want to be healed and I need help to do so."  

It wasn't really new News that I can not constantly make excuses for the things that have happened to me, for the way I act today. But it was still hard to read it black on white, bluntly thrown into my face. Ultimately, it is true. I need to take responsibility. I was wronged, yes, BUT I am taking the matter in my own hands now, and then place it into God's. He lightens my burden by taking it onto Him. I am giving up control!

The way I react to my circumstances should not come from a place of being the victim, but from a place of knowing that God is in control and He knows what is best for me. It is my responsibility HOW I act and react to the path that God has chosen for me. It is not an easy way, nor will it be easier in the future. But by taking responsibility for my actions, and at the same time giving up control and surrendering to God, I am walking the path of healing to happiness.

Because there is nothing more that I want! Nothing more than being healed! I know I can be better than I am right now. I don't want to carry all these burdens around with me. Band-aids just don't work anymore on my wounds - they need to be sealed (and healed) forever, so I can forget about them. And I don't want to hurt my family anymore; my husband and my children deserve better! I want to be a wonderful friend that people want to be around (not run away from). It is my responsibility.

So I have covered three major things today:
1) Face Your Problems Squarely
2) Accept Your Responsibility in the Matter
3) Ask Yourself if You Want to be Healed.
Next time, we will work on Forgiving Everyone that Hurt Me, Including myself, and how the Holy Spirit can help to deal with all these real problems, and how to pray for the matter.