Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Scores

It all boils down to this.  Scores.

Or does it?  Is the destination the ultimate goal?  Or somehow, was the journey the goal all along?

My scores for National Board Certification will be released soon. I will either be labeled a Nationally Board Certified teacher..........or not.  Scores.  Labels.

I would be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous.  But, it's good.  I think to myself, is this how my students feel every summer, awaiting their high-stakes scores?  Waiting to be labeled?

Is that what it's all about?  Absolutely not!  I tell my students, from the first day of school to the last, that I love them.  That they are smart.  That they are capable.  Scores have never, and will never, change that.

You, my friends, were my support along my journey.  You told me how smart I was, when I didn't believe in myself. You told me that I was capable, especially on the days I didn't feel like it.  You helped me hear the Voice of Truth.

I realize, looking back now, that it was the journey that made me an accomplished teacher.  Every student honed my skills; some more than others.  I am not the same teacher I was when my journey began.  For that, I am thankful.  Not because it has made me a better teacher just for the sake of being better, yet, for my students' sake.  My intense focus on my teaching enabled me to hold on to those students slipping through the cracks.  For that, I am thankful.  I was also able to help my highest achieving student reach even higher than she thought was possible.  For that, I am thankful.

I want you to realize that only about half of the candidates achieve on their first attempt.  Many candidates come from schools and districts with other nationally board certified teachers on staff. Some districts hire consultants whose sole job is to help candidates.  I teach in a small, rural district and did not have that level of support.  I don't want you to be disappointed if I did not achieve on my first try.  We set lofty goals, my friends. 

As I sit along the trail, waiting, I rejoice.  Rejoicing because I have come to realize my weaknesses.  I know where Susan ends.  Anything that comes after is pure God.  It was God to begin with, as this is His talent in me.  His plan and purpose for my life.  But from here on out, it's 100% God.  Amen.  "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Think About Such Things

I have sinned.  I have sinned against some of you.  Please forgive me.  I am happy for you.  I am.  Now.

But I wasn't yesterday.  Yesterday (and to be honest, for about 3 months), I wasn't.

See, many of you have bought new (or new to you) vehicles in the last 2 months.  They all look so nice.  Sporty.  Clean.  Good gas mileage.  Did I mention sporty?

Meanwhile, I am driving my mom van.  Yes, you know the one.  My signature white mom van.  The anti-thesis of sporty.

I started down a dark path of envy.  I was envious of your vehicles.  I started to rationalize reasons why I deserve a newer vehicle.  I started to think of all the reasons why I need a newer vehicle.

And then I came across Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I was convicted immediately.  I knew I had to stop my current way of thinking, which was really just making me more bitter and unhappy, and change to thinking of what is true and noble, right and pure, lovely and admirable.  Excellent or praiseworthy.

I started to think of reasons why I love my mom van.  I instantly came up with a dozen.  Knowing my sinful nature, I knew that I would be prone to revert to thinking of why I deserve a newer vehicle.  So, I printed out the praiseworthy reasons why I love my mom van.  I clipped in the van in a location where I will see it daily.

  1. She's paid off.
  2. I don't worry about spills.
  3. I don't worry about scratches.
  4. I can fit all the boys' friends.
  5. I can fit all the boys' STUFF.
  6. She is comfortable for traveling.
  7. She can drive through ANYTHING!
  8. She's dependable.
  9. She's good on gas.
  10. She's safe.
  11. She has tons of charging stations.
  12. I can change the seating in 12 positions.
Finally, think about such things.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

T+1 Year: The Results

It's hard to believe it's been a year.  It seems like just yesterday that I was waiting for the doctors to come out and tell me the results of the surgery.

This year has been an amazing year of growth for Joe.  He has so much energy that he runs circles around me.  I'm fine with that.  It's like watching a walking running miracle every day.

Mayo Clinic is nothing if not thorough.  Joe went through an entire week of testing before the transplant to see if he was eligible for the surgery.  Since the transplant, he has done routine blood-work and doctor visits.  However, yesterday, marked his one year birthday.  With that, comes more testing from Mayo; biopsy, blood-work, 24 hour blood pressure monitor, bone density, etc.

All the tests boil down to kidney function.  So, what is his expected kidney function?

It's been said that we start to die the minute we are born.  This is true in regards to kidney function.  Although every body is different, there is an easy formula to estimate kidney function.  Start with 100% and subtract 10% for every decade (http://www.ageworks.com/course_demo/513/module3/module3.htm).  For instance, Joe, in his mid-40's, should be at 65%.  Give or take.  When he was diagnosed two years ago, he was 11%; a horrible number.  One year later, right before the transplant, he had slipped to 8%; a fatal number.  Kris, Joe's donor, also in her 40's, should be in the 60% range.  However, her tests came back at 96%; an amazing number!  Mayo, the leader in transplants, said they had NEVER had someone her age with that number!

It seems reasonable to think that when you remove one kidney, you divide the function in half.  However, the kidneys are amazing and they know when they are the only filter.  They start to filter more and can reach filtration rates similar to that of two kidneys.

So, what is Joe's function?

84%!!!!  In fact, Joe is doing so well, the doctor told him that he doesn't have to come back for an entire year AND he doesn't need any more biopsies!!!!!!!!  Praise God.

Our Time

It's not about us.  Well, it's never really been about us.  It's always been HIS story.  We were merely the characters.

But, it's not our time to receive and take.  It's our time to give back.

As we sat in the waiting room, we saw the look of various stages of waiting, wondering, worrying.

We sat near one such waiter.  She started to tell us her story.  She has been a strong caregiver for years.  She has been the rock, taking care of daily functions.  The rock during multiple surgeries.  Multiple days, weeks, months in such hospitals.  And then it happened.

She started to sob.  She let it all out.

Joe and I looked at each other and immediately got up to embrace her.  We showered her with kind words and scriptures.  I told her I love her.  I don't even know her name but I know her pain.

As Joe and I walked out of the hospital, we looked at each other again.  We realized that it's no longer about us.  This is our time to give back.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Purpose

Dear Sweet (not so little anymore) Girl,

You are so precious.  We have been thinking of you and praying for you and God wanted me to tell you something.

God knitted you together in your mother's womb.  He made you, just the way you are, on purpose.  Read that last part again.  On purpose.  Purpose.  There is a purpose in this.  We might not know what it is right now.  We may never know.  And we don't need to.  We can rest knowing that God made you the way you are for a reason.

That reason may be to bring you closer to God.  I can't imagine that, as I see you sitting on the King's lap already.

The reason might be to bring others closer to God.  Others will look at you and marvel at your peace and joy in a time that might seem chaotic and uncertain.

I pray for healing.  I can't imagine what you are going through.

I pray for wisdom for the doctors.

I pray for continued peace for your family.  Your family is a light and a joy to everyone who meets you.

Finally, I pray that all the glory goes to God.  We don't know God's purpose, but we know He has a purpose.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  On purpose.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Voice of Truth

When I embarked on my journey towards national board certification, I thought it would be a journey of professionalism, encased in sound teaching principles.  I had no idea that it would be a spiritual journey, full of battles.  Let me explain.

Twelve years ago, God called me to be a nationally board certified teacher.  How's that?  I was still in college.  I hadn't even started student teaching yet!  He specifically told me "after 10 years, when your children are in school."  Ahem, Joe and I just got engaged.  What children?

I explained how I had to consciously forget about national boards as I carried on with life.  Last year, God awakened the dream once again.  I will never forget it.  Joe and I were in the hotel on the Mayo Clinic campus.  We were there for his initial testing to determine if his body was healthy enough for a transplant.  I prayed.  We talked.  I prayed some more.  This was it.

Only after the transplant (a success!) and the healing process, did I remember God's promise to me all those years ago.  "After ten years of teaching".  Last school year was my 10th year of teaching.  "When your children are in school".  Last year, Joshua started Kindergarten.  If God is "I Am", why am I always amazed when He is proven past, present, and future?

The first day I sat down to work on my certification, I was hit with advice from all angles.  Good advice.  Advice intended to help me succeed.  But, it wasn't what I needed.  I shook it off like David shook off the king's armor.  I was armed with a rock and a promise.

I continued on the journey; a grueling one.  I believe the hardest part of national board certification is that it doesn't happen in a vacuum.  Teachers don't take sabbatical and sit around thinking lofty thoughts.  They are in the trenches of the classroom every. single. day.  They are working their fingers to the bone every day to raise test scores.  They are crying their eyes out every night, praying for their children students.  In case you weren't aware, teaching is NOT a 40 hour per week "job".

I am also a mother.  I promised myself that I would not allow national boards to separate me from my children.  Although I dedicated many Saturdays to working towards certification, I also spent time with my boys.  We went to museums.  We went hiking.  And when they were sick, I comforted them.  National board certification is a piece of paper.  I am Jack and Joshua's MOTHER.  That came first.

Actually, it came second.  I am a wife first.  Now, some of you might get upset that I put my husband before my children, but I believe it to be God's plan for families and He will bless us for that dedication.  In fact, He already has.  This was an amazing, watch-God-work-in-our-lives kind of year.  If my husband wanted me to sit on the couch and watch some car get fixed on TV, guess what.  I watched.

Which led me up to last week.  My documentation (all 90 pages of it) was due last week on Friday.  I worked diligently every day toward my goal.  I was on track.  I was remembering God's promise and reading my devotional every morning.  And then, I listened to other voices.  The voices that told me I was inadequate.  The ones that told me I was being pretentious to even go for national board certification. Voices that reminded me of past failures.  I looked down.  I took my eyes off Jesus.

But, I am surrounded by amazing friends.  Blessings from God on my life.  They prayed for me.  They showered me with scripture.  Perhaps you were one of those friends.  Thank you.  My prayer throughout this entire process has been that God would bless the work of my hands and that it would be all be for God's glory.  Not mine.

This song is the embodiment of my journey toward national board certification.  It begins with Peter stepping out of the boat.  Voices are telling him that he can't do it.  But, he looks to Jesus and can walk on water.

The song continues with the story of David.  Not dressed in armor.  Not listening to all the voices of doubt.  Armed with just a rock and a promise.

The refrain speaks volumes.  "This is for My glory."

I send this message into the blogosphere as I am finishing up my final preps for the board exam.  I leave in a few hours to drive to Tucson.  My board exam is tomorrow morning; early.  I won't know if my documentation (did I mention it was 90 pages?) and exam will be enough to pass muster.  I do know this: this was an amazing journey that kept me by God's side through the entire adventure.  It is NOT for my glory; yet His.  "Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Lied....Sort Of

So, remember how I told you that I finished my National Board paperwork?  Well, I did finish the paperwork.  All 90 pages of it.  Seriously.  Ninety pages.  And the two 15-minute videos of my teaching.  But.....I'm not done yet.

To achieve national board certification, a teacher must submit clear, concise, and convincing evidence of their accomplished teaching.  In addition, they must also take a 4 hour assessment.  The questions span the whole age range of their certificate area.  For instance, I am attempting to certify in Early-Middle Childhood Literacy: Reading/Language Arts.  This area spans ages 3-12 years old.  This last school year, I taught 4th grade and my 90 pages of evidence and 2 videos represent only 4th grade.  Now, I must go to the assessment center and take the 4 hour test to prove I know the content for students below and above my current grade level.

I do have experience in the other age ranges.  I taught 2nd grade for two years.  I taught a preschool/kindergarten class for three years.  And, I did my student teaching in a one-room schoolhouse for grades 1st through 6th.  It's just that those assignments were so long ago, since I've been in 4th grade for five years.

I feel calmly confident. Not-over-the-top confident, but I-can-do-this confident.  There is a wonderful group on Yahoo Groups which has resources and practice prompts for the assessment.  I have been reading books non-stop (ok, so I'm using NB as an excuse to sit and read).  And I've been tapping into the great strategies I have learned over the years from amazing teachers/mentors.  I can do this.

So, if you find yourself thinking of me this week, say a little prayer.  My assessment is Friday.  In Tucson.  Which means I'll be leaving Thursday to drive down.  My prayer through the entire process has been:
Bless the work of my hands.
Your servant

Monday, June 3, 2013

Now What?

I submitted my evidence for National Board certification.  Whew!  What an amazing process. I highly suggest it for any teacher passionate about reflecting on and learning from their own teaching process.

Many of you have asked, "now what?"  Well, now, I wait.  The scoring process is quite rigorous and many of the evaluators are teachers themselves (a.k.a., busy people).  I will receive my results on New Year's Eve.  No joke.  In seven months.

Many of you have asked how this will affect my career.  When I achieve, my district will add an extra $2,000 per year to my base pay.  This is very competitive.  Some districts help pay for the certification, including conferences.  In a friend's district, they actually hire a professional to help their teachers achieve.

It will also look VERY nice on a resume.  Being nationally board certified puts you in an elite circle of teachers and that makes you highly marketable.

I will also be able to add a few more letters to my signature.  As of right now, I can sign "Susan Rodriguez, M. Ed." I did it once but it felt pretentious.  After I certify, I will be able to sign "Susan Rodriguez, M. Ed., NBCT".  Please.  I can hardly get through all the letters in "Rodriguez".  I will probably only sign it once in a letter to my mom and then, never again.

Yet, none of those were reasons I pursued national board certification.  I did it for the kids.

Working on national board certification requires a high level of self-analysis.  You realize this the first time when you begin videotaping.  You see things in your room from another perspective; another lens, if you will.  Why did I put that there?  Why did I put those students together?  Why did I wear that outfit?  Just kidding...  Kind of...  Not really.  To be honest, I felt like a high school student on my video days; standing in front of my closet, changing outfits about 6 times.

But that is just the "visual".  There are so many other aspects as well.  Why do I say that?  Is there a better way I could have handled that?

And then the critique of your actual teaching.  You critically analyze every word that came out of your mouth and every message your body conveyed.  You start to look at ways to improve everything.  every. thing.

I'm not saying I'm the best teacher in the world.  Hardly.  In fact, after going through this process, I see areas  where I want to improve.  But, I found myself improving almost daily just going through the process.  I can honestly say this was my best year teaching.  I instituted programs, policies, and routines that increased rigor, student engagement, and student achievement.

So, why did I do it?  To stand on some stage to receive accolades? Not likely.  I did it because every child deserves a better education.  Every child deserves a nationally board certified teacher.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Huffin' and Puffin'

And thus starts the final upward climb.  I have less than 5 days until all my National Board writing projects are due.  Although I have worked diligently all year, videotaping, collecting work samples, writing rough drafts, it is now that it all comes together (hopefully).  I have likened this journey to a long hike.  And just as you near the crest, the trail gets steeper.  Hikers call this the "huff and puff".  Friends, I will be huffing and puffing until Friday at midnight.   If you have a personal message for me, please DO send that, especially if it's encouraging.  My prayer through this whole process has been: Lord, bless the work of my hands.  Not for my glory, but Yours.  I would like to add this plea: please multiply my time and help me stay focused.  Your servant........Susan out.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Daniel Fast: Day 9

This is Day 9 of a series of posts on the Daniel Fast.
Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Today's word is "pain".

I have pretty much been in pain throughout the entire fast.  Not hunger pains.  I have not been hungry, aside from the "four-hours-later-it's-time-to-eat" hunger.  This pain is in my lower body.  It's sort of a dull achy feeling.  I imagine that it's my body metabolizing my fat reserves, as I have been consuming only about 600 calories per day.  Either way, it's uncomfortable.

Which got me googling.  What is this pain, which has increased in intensity daily?  What does it mean?

The first few websites said it was a sign that I was dehydrated.  Not true, as I drink close to a gallon per day.

The next few websites said it was an imbalance of sodium and potassium.  One website said it can be dangerous and hundreds of people end up in the ER every year from it.

All the websites suggested that I stop the fast.

And I heard his scheming little voice again.  "You already technically broke the fast.  God isn't talking to you anymore.  You don't want to end up hurting yourself."

"Stop! ......... Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.  I don't want to diminish the work You are doing in and through me."

I will continue the fast.

I looked at a few more websites.  Not sure really why.  After reading a few, I was almost convinced I had prostate cancer.

Another website said that fasting is a detox.  If you have had any problems with a certain area of your body, the toxins are working their way out; hence the pain.  For me, it has always been my lower back.  I have scoliosis and a few times per year, it gets so bad that I can't stand up straight.  Either way, I'm not letting pain stop God's work in and through me.

Daniel Fast: Day 8

This is Day 8 of a series of posts on the Daniel Fast.
Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 6

Day 7

Lord, I don't want to diminish the work you are doing in me and through me.

Today was hard for a different reason.  Satan kept whispering in my ear to break the fast.  He kept reminding me that I had tasted sugar already when I licked my finger.  He put me in a room with a coffee pot of fresh coffee and he put a box of donuts right. in. front. of. me.  "Quit," he says.  "God isn't going to reveal any more to you.  You have already received confirmation on a few things.  How much more do you want?"

A lot more.  All God's blessings.  Lord, bless me indeed.  

Daniel Fast: Day 7

This is Day 7 of a series of posts on the Daniel Fast.
Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 6

Today, my word is "force of habit".  Ok, so it's actually 3 words, but you get the idea.

I am realizing how much food I put in my body is purely by force of habit.  I am so thankful for this fast, to show me this insight and to make me think more about what I do subconsciously.

As I was pouring cereal for the boys, a square missed the bowl and landed on the island.  I instinctively picked it up.  When it was half way to my mouth, I stopped.  What am I doing?!  I put it back into Jack's bowl.  Interesting.  I never realized that I had that habit.

I was making pasta for dinner and got to the part when I would normally start checking to see if the noodles were aldente.  But, I realized that I can't eat it.  I was not about to throw pasta up against my wall, so I had to ask Jack to test it for me.  Strange feeling, cooking and not knowing how it tastes.

At dinner, the boys didn't finish all their food.  I was just about to say that I would finish it, when I realized that I can't on the fast.  Again, strange feeling to realize that I eat their food only because I hate to waste food.  The food was actually wasted the minute I put too much on their plate.  I am not a human garbage disposal.  I think this will be one habit that I will not return to.

Finally, after a long (longer than planned) hike, I made ice-cream cones for the boys.  Some ice cream had dripped on my finger as I was scooping.  Yes, this is the same ice-cream that tempted me from the freezer on Day 3.  By habit, I licked the ice-cream running down my finger.  And I froze.  I just broke my fast.  Just like that.  Seven days of being so careful and intentional.  Seven days of cleansing and letting God work through everything.  Dang habits!

My friend asked if I would continue the fast.  I said yes, as it was intentional that I licked ice-cream.  I want to continue as I don't want to diminish God's work in me and through me.  Which leads me to.......

Daniel Fast: Day 6

This is Day 6 of a series of posts on the Daniel Fast.
Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Today, my word is "preparation".  Preparation is key.

I have made it more than half way through the fast and I have been 100% successful, which I didn't actually think was possible before I started.  God has provided everything I have needed and has given me strength, and then some!

Yet, today is Saturday.  A day that might prove challenging.  See, thus far, I've been at work during the day. I don't have many temptations at work.  I take my own lunch.  There are no fast food places nearby, and even if there were, I have no time to leave campus and get a bite to eat.  When I come home, I'm so tired and the boys are hungry, that we go straight home. And again, no fast food to pass on the way home.  Relatively, temptation-free days.

On the weekends, however, well that's a different story.  I had to drive into town to run a few errands.  I knew this would mean being the same parking lot as my "arch"-nemesis.  McDonald's.  I would also be right next door to Subway.  Healthy, but not on my fast.  And actually in the same store as Starbucks.  Worse yet, is our little tradition.  We never eat fast food during the week, so on the weekends, I treat the boys to a happy meal or Subway sandwich.  I knew that I couldn't stand that kind of temptation, so I prepared for it.

We packed picnic lunches.  Simple, yet so inspired.  I told the boys if they put away their laundry, I would take them to Woodland Lake Park.  Genius, I know.  We all ate, they played, I chit-chatted with friends.  And then, when I went into town to do the errands, we were full and not as tempted.  I could still smell the french fries, but they had no power over me.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of fast food, I will eat no french fries.  For Thou art with me.  Thy fruits and Thy water, they sustain me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daniel Fast: Day 4

This is Day 4 of a series of posts on the Daniel Fast.
Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

I'm going strong, by the grace of God.  What a wonderful time in my spiritual life, to set aside time to focus on prayer.  God has already shown me so much, in just 4 days.  I can't wait to see what He has for me in the next 6!

Today, my word is "crutches".  And I threw them down today.  Literally.

I mentioned previously that I had been using Tylenol PM since early August.  I was consistently waking up in the middle of the night, head spinning with the 20 things that I didn't get done the day before and swimming with the 30 things I needed to get done the next day.  I tried all the tricks to get back to sleep, but it never worked.  And believe me.  I tried.

I knew it wasn't good for me to use the pills every day, so I wouldn't take them on Friday nights and Saturday nights.  My theory was that if I was tired on the weekend, I could always take a nap.  Yeah right.  And tired I was.  I continued to wake up at 3 am. every. single. night.

But not for the last 3 days.  I have prayed that God would provide my rest.  He loves to give good gifts to those who ask (Matthew 7:11)!  And every night, I have slept 8 hours.  Yet, I kept the bottle in my bathroom, just in case.  Just in case God didn't provide.  Just in case I didn't really trust Him, more like it.  What was I saying?  "God, I trust You to direct my paths regarding children's ministry.  I trust You to provide a place for us to live.  I trust You with saving my husband's life.  But, I don't think You are powerful enough to grant me rest.  I'll take care of it."  After these four days, I don't WANT to say that!  I WANT to rely on God more and MORE!

So, I threw the bottle in the trash.  I cast down my crutches.

As my beloved sister-in-Christ (who just finished her Daniel Fast) said, "It has NO CONTROL over me anymore!"  Amen sister.

I tell you this, not to brag about myself.  I tell you to encourage you.  You can have the same power.  You can conquer those fears and addictions.  "Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." John 16:24.

Daniel Fast: Day 3

This is Day 3 of a series of posts on the Daniel Fast.
Day 1

Day 2

The word for today: temptation.

The whole point of a fast is to focus on a spiritual goal.  You spend more time praying, reading, meditating.  When you hunger or are tempted, you call out to God.  BEFORE you are tempted, you call out to God.  This was my day.

My husband received an amazing gift last year.  He was given a kidney, so that he may live.  He has been doing great and even just had a doctor's visit.  The body loves the new kidney.  However, he must still take immuno-suppressant drugs so his body doesn't reject the kidney.  To combat the low immunity, he also has to take a special flu-fighting pill.  It's a delicate balance.  Well, he ran out of the flu-fighting pill and missed one dose.  That's all it took.  Down he went.  Up IT went.  Vomiting, chills, body-aches.  All night.  Which meant I also got no sleep.  I'm not complaining and I'm not making this all about me; simply setting the stage for my temptation.

When we woke up (is it "woke up" if you never really fell asleep?), he was still achy wanted Tylenol.  We ran out just the day before.  So, I drove to our nearest store that would have it and be open at 5 am: Circle K.  If you have never had Circle K coffee, you are missing out.  I know.  I know.  It's Circle K.  But seriously people. It's good.  I knew I would be tempted.  The smell.  My routine of going in and getting a cup.  All that, PLUS the sleepless night!  I could rationalize that I needed it to stay sharp.  Joe needed me to take care of him and I'm not a good caregiver while tired.  Instead, I prayed for help with my temptation.

Before I even stepped foot inside, I smelled heaven coffee.  I made myself not even LOOK at the coffee.  After paying and getting back in my van, I promise you that I could still smell the coffee.  But I resisted temptation and relied on God.

The same was true at work.  My co-worker makes coffee for us every morning.  Normally, I get the first cup.  I told him what I was doing and that I wouldn't be drinking any for 10 days.  I forgot to tell the aroma.  It still wafts down the hall, into my classroom.  It would be so easy.  But no.

On Wednesday afternoons, the students go home early and the teachers have Professional Development in the library.  For 7 years, I have run to the corner market and bought a HUGE 44 ounce soda.  Every Wednesday for 7 years.  Imagine how hard it was to sit in the meeting without my soda, surrounded by others with their condensation-dripping, syprupy-sweet sodas.  I added extra lemon to my water bottle so I wouldn't be tempted. I was tempted, but I still stayed strong.

This week, our PD was very short.  Instead, we celebrated 4 pregnancies/births.  With cake.  With TWO cakes.  Friendly teachers tried to give me a piece, but I chomped on my almonds.  Not quite the same.

It ended with dessert that night.  Do you remember those cartoons where a hungry person imagines the person standing next to them is a walking steak or a walking roasted chicken?  It's true!  Every night, we make a little coffee (did I tell you how much I like coffee?) and have a little dessert.  Joe made coffee for himself (he was feeling better) and I was tempted as I smelled it.  I opened the freezer to put more ice in my water and I swear I saw a face in the freezer.  I saw two eyes and a mouth and it said, "eat me".  Seriously.  I slammed the door shut.  When I reopened the door, a brand new ice cream was staring at me.

I'm happy to report that God kept me strong all day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Daniel Fast: Day 2

This is Day 2 of a series of posts on the Daniel Fast.
Day 1

Day 2 was definitely better than the first.  After I got over the wall, my body is accepting the fast and going forward.

I want to spend this time reading the book of Daniel.  I learned so much in just chapter one.  How did I not know that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not their birth names?  How did I not know that those were god-worshipping names?  I will do my best to retrain my brain to refer to them by their God-honoring names; Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

I also learned something about myself.  I was trusting God with the big issues in my life: Joe's health, my job, ministry .  Yet, I wasn't trusting Him with the small things; sleep, my health, etc.  I was medicating my small problems with Tylenol PM every night and Tylenol during the day, should I get a headache.  I want to be true to the fast so God would speak to me and I would derive the most benefit from this time set aside.  I knew that meant I wouldn't be able to take the sleeping aids.

I prayed that God would bless me with 8 hours of sleep and would restore my body.  My breath prayer on Day 2 was "Lord, make me sharper."  I went to bed, resting on the promise that God would provide, even sleep.  And provide He did.  For the first time since July, I was able to sleep 8 hours.  Aside from the wonderful feeling of rest, I felt so loved and comforted.  I felt renewed knowing that I need to place my small problems in God's hands as well.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Daniel Fast

Most of the time, this blog is for others to read and for me to share our crazy, wonderful lives.  But, sometimes, the blog is for me to journal my thoughts and emotions.  This is one of those posts.

I started the Daniel Fast.  If you don't know what it is, you can click here.  I didn't know much either until recently.

Today is my first day.  Wowsers!  This is so much harder than I thought.  I thought I might be hungry, but I never did feel hungry.  I ate my normal amounts of food for meals and snacks.  It wasn't even so hard to go without meat, as I don't eat much anyway.  What was hard was cutting out the sugar and caffeine.  

When running, runners hit "the wall"; a figurative point where they don't feel like they can go any further.  However, when the runner mentally tells themselves that they CAN and WILL do it, they push past that wall and go much further.  When I get to that point, I actually don't feel the pain anymore and it's almost euphoric.

Well, I hit the wall today with the Daniel Fast.  It is common for people on the fast to feel fatigue and headaches.  I felt extreme fatigue and wanted to just stuff my mouth with chocolate.  I spoke with my friend, whom is also on the fast, and asked her for advice.  She prayed me through it.  And I actually started to feel better.  My energy picked up and I was able to finish the day. I'm not quite to the euphoric stage yet.  

Of course, the main point of this fast is to focus on prayer and mediation.  My breath prayer during this will be: Speak Lord.  Your servant is listening.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy,

The radio has been playing your song a lot lately and it makes me miss you more.  It might be hard to believe that I only knew you for 14 months, but you have left a lasting impression on my heart, even 37 years after you left this planet.  I can't wait to see you in Heaven and spend time with you.  We have so much in common and I can't wait to tell you all about this life I've had.

I think about the night you went to be with Jesus a lot.  I know the angels kept you healthy enough to feed me, bathe me, and kiss me good night.  I thank God for that.

I know it wasn't what any of us had planned, but it was God's plan and who are we to argue with that?  It made Mom and me closer.  It made us rely on friends who have really become family.  It has given me an intimate empathy for my fatherless students.  It made me fight fiercely to save my husband's life, so my children wouldn't know the same sorrow.  That reminds me, I have two boys.  Their names start with "J", just like you.  And, they both love Jesus, so you will get to meet them too one day.

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

Your Little Girl- Susan Kathleen

Monday, April 1, 2013

His Grace, My Weakness

I've been sailing through struggling with my National Boards lately.  I have reached the edge of my abilities and yet it is still so distant from the National Board standard.  I was washing dishes (because seriously people, I have to do something that I know I can do well) and I was feeling consumed with my insufficiency.  And then God spoke to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9.

I am rejoicing, my friends.  Rejoicing because I have come to realize my weaknesses.  I know where Susan ends.  Anything that comes after is pure God.  It was God to begin with, as this is His talent in me.  His plan and purpose for my life.  But from here on out, it's 100% God.  Amen.  "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

I don't know what struggles you are going through right now.  But take solace in the fact that His grace is sufficient.  If you need prayer right now, click on the pic of the hands on the right side of the screen.  I am also available to pray, but I can't promise how long it will take me to see the message.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

No Greater Joy

I've always enjoyed teaching kids.  I can remember back to the days when I myself was a student.  I was always finished early, so I would help my friends.  It came as no surprise to anyone when I became a teacher and later on, involved in Children's Ministry.  I know that talent comes from the Lord and it only makes sense to use it for His glory.  I was very happily serving His children.

And then He told me to shift focus.  Instead of being Children's Ministry Director at church, I would be Children's Ministry Director at home.  I'll let that sink in for a little bit.

My focus shifted from His Kidz to MY kids (they are still His Kidz, but mine as well).  At home, you are always "on".  It's not just 2 hours/week.  They see it all.  The good, bad, and the (sometimes) ugly.  It's good though.  They have learned a lot about forgiveness by me having to ask them to forgive me.  They see when I do (and don't) pick up my Bible to study.  They see if I truly walk the walk; and when I sometimes stumble.

And yet, despite me and my sinful nature, both have become (little) Men of God.  Not one week after I shifted focus, Jack asked Jesus into his heart.  So out of the blue.  So genuine.  A year and a half later, he told me he wanted to get baptized.  And he did.

This past Friday, Good Friday to be exact, we stood at the water's edge, taking a reprieve from the hot, dusty hike. Joshua said, "I wish there was a pastor here." Strange comment out of the blue. I asked him why. He very solemnly said, "because I want to ask Jesus into my heart." And that's just how it happened. Not after pressuring him. In his own time.

Although Jack took a year and a half to be ready for baptism, Joshua was very adamant that he wanted to be baptized right away.  Just so happens that church was doing baptisms this Sunday, Easter Sunday.  Easter.  A time of rebirth.  New birth.  

He could hardly stand the excitement when he woke up.  He pulled the tape off the tomb (a.k.a., the oven) to see our Easter Story Cookies.  He quickly got dressed.  He practically dragged us out the door to church.  He squirmed in his seat through the whole service, whispering, "when do I get bap-a-tized?"

When it was finally time for him to go on stage, he looked so little.  His little arms and bare chest.  A mere babe.  I mean, his head barely showed over the baptismal.  Yet, he is already a (little) Man of God.

 Pastor Ernie asked him why he wanted to get baptized.  Josh whispered it in his ear.
 Look at that eager face.  So full of joy.
 A new creation.

Praying with Pastor Ernie after being baptized.  Joe was standing right off to the side to cover him with a towel.  Josh looked up at him, with a completely peaceful face, and said, "I feel so clean."  Ah, the faith of a child.

"I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in the truth." 3 John 1:4

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Resurrection Fern

I love Easter.  No, not the cute bunnies and chocolate.  Well, ok, I do like chocolate.  But seriously, how did we get bunnies and eggs????!!!  Even my little boys know that rabbits don't lay eggs.  

Easter is the biggest holiday in the Christian faith.  Even larger than Christmas.  Yes, Christmas was important, for without it, we would have no Saviour.  But, without Easter, we would have no HOPE!  Easter gives us a chance to look back on our own sinful nature and thank God again for the amazing price He paid for our lives.  Eternal lives.

Because this is such a monumental celebration, I like crafts and projects that focus on that amazing love (i.e., not fighting and pushing for dyed eggs).  

I received this recipe a few years ago.  So meaningful.  In the list of ingredients, they really should have "Kleenex" listed.  You're gonna need it.  This year, instead of eating the cookies, Jack wants to pass them out to kids.  With Bible verses written on papers.  That will preach.

I found this cute craft last year.  It speaks volumes.  

This is the project we are working on this year.  The card comes with 2 Bible verses.  The boys read the verses out of their Bibles.    

John 7:38 "Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them."

John 4:13-14 "Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  Amen.

When we took it out of the bag, I was struck with two other verses.

"we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah 64:6

"But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our sins- it is by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4-5.

"Here, Paul emphasizes that we do not need to live any longer under sin's power.  The penalty of sin and it's power over us were miraculously destroyed by Christ on the cross.  Through faith in Christ, we stand acquitted, or not guilty, before God (Romans 3:21-22).  God does not take us out of the world or make us robots- we will still feel like sinning, and sometimes we will sin.  The difference is that before we became Christians we were dead in sin and were slaves to our sinful nature.  But now we are alive with Christ (see also Galatians 2:20)." Life Application Study Bible

Today, we will continue to drink in the Living Water.  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tooting My Own Horn

I need your help.  

As many of you know, I am working through the National Board Certification process.  It is a humbling experience.  Just when you think you are an accomplished teacher, you read the standards, watch your videos, and realize you have so much more to hone your craft.  Or is that just me?

I'm actually ok with the "humbling" part.  I get that. I get the fact that teachers can work a lifetime and still have areas to improve upon.  In fact, after ten years in the classroom, I actually see more "areas of potential growth" as opposed to "perfection".  

But, here's the hard part for me: tooting my own horn.  We have been taught since childhood to not brag and to not be proud.  In college, we were taught to write in the third person.  In the workplace, we learned to give credit where credit is due and highlight the accomplishments of our colleagues.  However, in National Board, you need to document the evidence that you are an accomplished teacher, i.e. toot your own horn.  

Entry 4 requires that candidates list their accomplishments as a partner with parents and community, learner, and leader/collaborator. I had no problem listing the classes, conferences, and books I read as a "learner".  I am even having fun with the parent/community piece, listing all the local field trips and all the Academic Game Nights I have had.  However, I need "evidence" of being a leader/collaborator with other teachers in the form of letters.

That's where you come in.  Hopefully.  

I need letters from other teachers in the state (or nation) that documents that I have shared teaching tips and techniques with you and it has had an impact on your students' learning.  I know, right?  

Basically, I need an email from you, sent to SRodriguez@wusd.us and include my first name (Susan) and be signed with your first name.  Please indicate which city (if in Arizona) or state.

Here are some sentence frames I took from Bobbie Faulkner's Book "What Works" that would be simple to fill in the blanks.

National Board Candidate's Name: Susan (no last names)

Date of Presentation: your choice which one has the biggest impact on your child

Describe how the presentation impacted your teaching of the skill/concept:

In Susan's presentation, I learned that I can help my child to _______________ in a new way.
Learning ___________________ the way Susan showed in her presentation changed the way I help my child at home (or teach my students) to practice that skill.

I saw the impact of what I learned at Susan's presentation when my child ( or students) _____________.  Before I attended Susan's presentation, my child (or students) would __________, but now they ___________.


In past years my child would ___________, but after this presentation they _____________, which helps them ________.

This impacted my child's learning by ____________.

I will try to list the presentations I have given here, but seriously, I have given so many over the years and my mind feels so fried right now, I might have forgotten some.  You might remember something that I have forgotten.  Or, you might have gleaned some nugget from a previous post.  Feel free to scroll back through my blog posts to ones about my classroom.  

Parent Presentations this year:
8/17 Parent Day meeting: I taught Math Fluency Games with a deck of cards.  I provided you with a new deck.
10/24 Academic Parent Teacher Team Meeting: I taught you how to time your student reading fluency passages for one minute.
11/7 Academic Game Night meeting: I provided you with dice and Math Fluency Games and a nice Reading Response Journal and asked that you encourage your child to write in it daily to enhance their reading comprehension and their writing skills.
1/16 Academic Parent Teacher Team Meeting: I shared Vocabulary games with you and you made a game board out of stickers and construction paper.

Teacher Presentations over the years:
Academic Parent Teacher Team Meetings, when I brought that new idea to our school and shared a new way to involve parents in their child's learning.
Literature Units, when I created a PowerPoint to guide the students deeper into the novels.  
Free Walking Field Trips, when I shared free field trip ideas.  
Literacy Stations, when I shared what I learned from a conference about Literacy Stations and Menu Boards.  
Vocabulary Routine, where you have observed me doing the Vocabulary Routine and making it interactive with the kiddos.  
DonorsChoose, where I have showed you how to write a project on DC for your own classroom.
Social Studies WebQuest, where I have showed you a WebQuest to use in your classroom.
Literature Circle, where I shared my passion and organization for Lit Circles to help the students talk about the reading and share their opinions.

Technology Training over the years:
Mimio Training on how to use the Mimio software in your classroom.
Publisher Training, when I showed you how to access graphic organizers to use in your classroom.
Wiki Training, where I showed you the free resource of creating your own wiki for your classroom.
Again, thank you so much.  I know that no teacher works in isolation.  I have gleaned so much from other teachers as well over the years.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dirty and Uncomfortable

The little toddler wobbles across the yard; the mud puddle looming in front of him.  As if drawn to the puddle like a magnet, he trips and falls head first into the mud.  Imagine Mom just staring at him, as he wails.  She decides not to pick him up, because he'll get her dirty.  Sure, she didn't fall in the puddle, but what would her friends think to see the mud on her shirt?  Instead, she tells him to get out of the pit.  Clean himself up.

On the other side of town, the man is brought into the ER with a serious chainsaw injury.  Blood is spurting everywhere.  The doctor gets close enough to survey the situation.  Instead of putting a tourniquet on the wound to stop the bleeding, the doctor tells the young man this is what he gets for "playing" with something so dangerous.  He turns on his heels and goes back to talk with this doctor friends, all in their white coats.


Love is dirty.  Love is uncomfortable.

God is love.  Not "like" love.  Not a "representation" of love or a "symbol" of love.  The Bible says "God is love." in 1 John 4:16.  If someone IS something, it only makes sense to look to that person as the example.  So, how did God show love?  One big way is to look at John 3:16:  "For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not die, but have everlasting life."  He loved us so much that He gave His son as ransom for our sins.

Maybe that's not enough for you.  Maybe you need to see how Jesus, God's son, showed love in the human form.  First, He became man.  That in itself is huge.  There is no more "getting dirty and uncomfortable" than leaving the throne in Heaven to become a carpenter's son on Earth.  His whole life on Earth is a lesson on "dirty and uncomfortable" love.

When his dear friend, Lazarus, died, Jesus went to his tomb.  Lazarus' sisters were understandably consumed with sorrow.  Jesus didn't give pat advice.  Instead, He wept.  I don't know about you, but when I weep, I get dirty.  I'm a big mess; snot dripping, breath hiccuping.  And I'm vulnerable.  When you weep, you are so exposed.  Uncomfortable.

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, tells us many stories of Jesus' love.  In the 13th chapter of John, he says, "having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love."  The chapter goes on to describe how Jesus (God) washed the dirt, dust, and dung off His disciples' feet.  That had to be a dirty, uncomfortable position.  Yet, He did it to set an example for us.

"No servant is greater than his master."  If Jesus got dirty and uncomfortable in loving others, why do we think we are above it?  He said "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."  He spent time with the sinners because He loved them and they needed to hear His message.  He didn't worry about what the religious leaders would think of Him.  We must not care about getting dirty or uncomfortable.  On judgement day, we will stand before God and He will give an account of how we used this life on Earth.  "Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Matthew 25:45.

So, how do we love?  Really love?  Dirty, uncomfortable love?  Weep with the new widow.  Wash the laundry for a new mom.  There is a song by Chris Tomlin that says, "Who You love, I'll love.  How You serve, I'll serve".

Read the Scriptures yourself.  Read the book of John, who wrote about God's loving nature.  Do, as He did. 

Jesus said, "now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13:17.

Go get dirty!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Keeping Children Entertained

How to keep your children entertained in a parked car for an hour, in the snow:
1. Tell them to breathe on the windows (all of them) and fog them up. Believe me, it's so much fun.
2. Turn on the magic (defrost) button and watch your fog magically disappear.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until the magic is gone.
4. Turn on the radio, really loud, and have a lip-syncing contest (what is it with me and lip-syncing?).
5. By the 5th song, this will slowly change into a dance contest.
6. If you have a good radio station (or iPod I suppose), you can get at least 30 minutes out of step 5.
7. Your mini-van will suddenly become an octagon and your cute little dancers will morph into MMA fighters. For those of you who don't have any testosterone at home, MMA is Mixed Martial Arts.
8. Someone will end up with a blood nose. Do NOT repeat step 7.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Nothing Compares

She was just doing her job.  Walking through Curry Village.  Looking for ways to help people and keep them safe.  She heard a chorus of voices coming from the amphitheater.  As she approached, she could tell it was a worship song.  She sat in the back row of the empty amphitheater to listen to the youth group sing.

At the time, she thought she would probably be single forever.  She cried in the last row, letting the lyrics consume her.  She looked up to Glacier Point as they sang "mountains bow down", imagining what it would look like on that day.  That day that has been promised us.

When the song was over, she arose and went about her day; her life.

"Forever I'll love you"

Two years later, she sang that song again.  This time, standing next to her love.  Standing in front of friends and family as witnesses.  God had promised her that if she delighted herself in Him, He would give her the desires of her heart.  A husband.

"My comfort, my shelter"

Ten years down the road (or up the mountain), he lay in a hospital bed.  She sat beside him, writing down his wishes.  He told her the song he wanted played at his celebration of life.  "Let every breath, all that I am, Never cease to worship You."

Today, they sat worshiping Him.  Her love sat next to her.  Healthy.  Born anew.  Her lap was overflowing with the fruit of their love.  And she cried.

"Nothing compares to the promise I have in You."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chug On, Thomas

Toooooooooooooot!  Hiss!  Groan.  Creak.  Hiss.  Groan.  Creak.  Chug.  Chug.  Tooooooot, tooooot!

Thomas is leaving the station; for the last time.  It's bittersweet.  So many of our memories are intertwined with Blue #1.

The boys made their own stations out of boxes.  They taught me that even little engines can do big things.

We had Thomas-themed birthday parties.  I'll never forget staying up late to bid on the turn-table for Jack's birthday.  We even met Big Blue himself in Globe.  We got to ride across Shake, Shake Bridge as all the passengers yelled "push Thomas, push!".

A random engine in my purse served as physical therapist when Jack was in the hospital.

Although there is probably a total of over $500 worth of train pieces, the boys have been good about buying most of it themselves.  They save their Christmas and birthday money.  They sell other toys at yard sales, only to turn around and spend the money on Thomas.

And that's how it started.  Or ended.

The boys came to me two weeks ago and told me that they wanted to sell all their Thomas stuff.  Fizzling Fireboxes!  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  They have been faithful Thomas fans for over 3 1/2 years.  And just like that, they wanted to sell it all.

We have sold items online before.  But never a 27 pound box of over 230 pieces of track, stations, engines, etc!  They were not daunted.  They organized the whole set so I could take pics.  They researched other sets online and set a price just slightly below the competition.  And then they waited.

Today, we received word that after a small bidding war, Thomas sold.

As Thomas chugs out of the station for the last time, we don't cry.  We know that he is traveling to another station.  A station where a little boy waits excitedly for his arrival.  He's standing on the platform.  Leaning over, looking down the track, hoping to see a glimpse of smoke from the stack.

Toooooooooooooooot!  Tooooooooooooooooooooooooot!  Chug on, Thomas.  Chug on.

where Glory meets my suffering