Friday, December 20, 2013

Follow the Star….

I was incredibly blessed to share the Nativity story with the preschool children at St. Philip’s UMC this week.   We talked about the parts of the story that three- and four-year-olds could really understand about that first Christmas.

We talked about Mary and how she was very close to having a baby when she made a long journey with Joseph.  I told the kids that we guess it took Mary and Joseph about a week to make the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  Over 2000 years ago, they didn’t have any of the travelling conveniences we have today.  Many of the kids insisted Mary must have ridden a donkey…..well, it may not be Biblical but there is one in our Nativity scenes, as well.  Many of the kids’ Moms had been pregnant within their short memories, so they could identify with Mary’s size and discomfort. 

How is your journey to Bethlehem?  Is it long and dangerous and uncomfortable like Mary’s?  Do you have a donkey to ride?  Have you even begun your journey?

The children and I also talked about the shepherds.  How most people wouldn’t associate with the shepherds, but they were the first ones that God chose with which to share the Good News.   They weren’t afraid and they immediately went looking for that babe in a manger.

 What is your Good News?  Do you believe it?  Have you looked for it?  Most importantly, are you willing to dance in the streets and proclaim that news to others who normally won’t listen to you?

In this season of Christmas, I am truly dismayed by what is highlighted on the news.  Celebrities and their comments and people being grouped together because they identify themselves as persons of faith both dominate the news.  Many people who identify themselves as Christians believe many different things.  Please remember that as you evaluate any situation.

The Bible is a living document.  Particularly this time of year, I truly believe Jesus himself tells us what he would like for his “birthday” – and everyday.

In Luke Chapter 10, verse 27, Jesus shared the greatest commandment:  “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with ll your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  

It is an amazing gift – one we can give to Jesus this year. 

Follow the star… Bethlehem….and to love.

Merry Christmas.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thoughts on Being Thankful

Giving until it hurts, or until it feels good?

This was the theme of Lee’s sermon this weekend.  He preached about extravagant generosity and how we can put God first through living that type of lifestyle.  He even told a story about our family and a 150% tip for an underpaid, overworked server at a breakfast restaurant. 

And, as usual, I sat in worship and vowed to put God first.  And, here it is – the time of year of Thanksgiving.  Truly, a time to be thankful and to share our blessings.

But, I didn’t go about it the right way.  Not even close. 

I spent yesterday morning at home with an awesome bug one of my kids had shared with me.  To get something accomplished during my down time, I went through my Thanksgiving menu, checked the pantry for spices, and made my grocery list.  With eight side dishes and four pies, there were a lot of sticks of butter and ½ cups of sugar to add up.  My grocery list is huge and extravagant.  I want to make this a special meal because it is a unique year.

We’re doing our Thanksgiving family meal a bit different this year.  Because both of my parents are now gone and Lee’s family lives a far distance away or tailgates at the UT football game, we plan to have our family Thanksgiving gathering on Friday.  As Lee and I planned this, we thought, “Why don’t we do something else on Thursday?”

So, Lee offered to look into volunteer possibilities for us.  The primary meal for the needy in Round Rock is served at St. Williams Catholic Church.  Lee talked with the organizer of the meal and was told volunteers were used to serve the meal to several hundred people and to deliver meals to the homebound.  He was also told the church prepared the turkeys and we could bring a side dish “if we wanted to….”

Well, sure, I’ll bring a side dish.  What could I make that would be easy that I could throw into a metal disposable pan?  Maybe some mashed potatoes?  I don’t make that at home, but it wouldn’t require any expensive spices or a lot of prep time.  Just a bag of potatoes and a little milk and butter.

I’ll add that to my multi-page grocery list.  No problem.  That’s an easy one.

Just a bag of potatoes and little milk and butter?  Wow.  I pulled out that extravagant grocery list and realized my idea of giving wasn’t even close to one of thankfulness, much less generosity.  And I certainly wasn’t giving until it felt good.  I was giving out of obligation or to make myself look good – I didn’t want to show up to help without a dish of some type in my hands.

I am now determined that our contribution will no longer be as little as a 5 pound bag of white potatoes.  To give until it feels good, our giving must be more like sweet potatoes with a brown sugar and pecan strudel topping.  It should be share what we love, not what is easy.  It should be to follow Jesus’ greatest commandment, to love God and to love people.

Since I first joined Facebook, I have participated in the Thirty Days of Thankfulness.  I tried to do it again this year, but it just didn’t flow right.  I truly believe because I am so overwhelmed with thoughts of thanksgiving this year, I really can’t put it into words.  So, to sum it up, I am thankful.  And blessed. 

In Paul’s second letter to Corinth, he said, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way.  Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us.”  (2 Corinthians 9:11, CEB). 


(Note:  for Central Texans, donations to Annie’s Way meal at St. William’s Catholic church can be taken to the church parish hall on Thanksgiving morning.  They are located at 620 Round Rock West Drive.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Steamy adult novel or standardized test excerpt?

"Ruby sat on the bed she shared with her husband holding a hairclip.  There was something mysterious and powerful about the cheaply manufactured neon clip that she was fondling in her newly suspicious palms.  She didn't recognize the hairclip.  It was too big to be their daughter's, and Ruby was sure that it wasn't hers.  She hadn't had friends over in weeks but here was this hairclip, little and green with a few long black hair strands caught in it.  She ran her fingers through her own blonde hair.  She had just been vacuuming when she noticed this small, bright green object under the bed.  Now their life would never be the same.  She would wait here until Mike returned home."

Oh my.  A tale of deception and deceit.   Perhaps a new novel by Gwendolyn Graves?

Wait.   The style is different.  Maybe it is a break-out new author.


Guess again.

Steamy sex novel?  Intrigue?  Extramarital affair?  Harlequin non-romance?


This, my friends, is a practice reading selection for the End of Course (EOC) Exam for English I in Texas Public Schools.

My last blog post was about our exiting freshman son and his issues with the English I Reading EOC.  In a nutshell, he isn't a test taker.  Standardized tests are the bane of the poor boy's educational experience.  And, he missed "the standard" for the English I Reading EOC by mere points.  With an 89 for the year in pre-AP English I.  He participated in weeks 2 and 3 of an EOC review course (because we were not notified about the course until week 1 was almost over.)  We felt he needed to take the course in case the test causes him issues again.  We've asked about the course - he isn't thrilled about it, but told us that the the instructor was pleased with his performance on practice tests.

I did not realize any of those practice tests had come home until I was picking up the house today.  I found a file folder of papers on the dining room table that included the passage I shared with you.

He was to "make logical inference's based on the textual details."  The other three scenarios included in the practice exercise were not an issue.  But, this one?  I must wonder who wrote this passage.  It isn't just the inferences that are to be made about the paragraph.  I also have issues with the suggestive undertone.  "Sharing a bed", "cheaply", "fondling".  Really?  This is the material our son is reading and studying with all his might to answer logical inference questions?

Our son is at Boy Scout camp, so I cannot discuss the passage with him.  I do not know if the answers on the paper are his alone or if this was class work.  But, the inferences in this passage - whether our son  picked up on them or not - are completely inappropriate.

My last post revolved around the one day of testing and the standard that our son did not meet.  Now that I've seen the review, I'm pleased he didn't meet this standard.  I am truly glad his first inference in a school reading passage is not an extramarital affair.

For the record, I do not know if this review was produced by our school district or the state of Texas.  I have googled it with no hits.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What is "standard"?

What is standard?

It has finally happened.
I first found out via phone call on June 12.  Then, a letter arrived on June 14. 
We’ve been tripped up by State of Texas standardized testing.
From the Texas Education Agency:  The purpose of the end-of-course (EOC) assessments is to measure students’ academic performance in core high school courses and to become part of the graduation requirements beginning with the freshman class of 2011–2012. The EOC assessments for lower-level courses must include questions to determine readiness for advanced coursework. The assessments for higher-level courses must include a series of special purpose questions to measure college readiness and the need for developmental coursework in higher education.”
While I’ve never been fond of end-of-year testing, I became quite concerned during the 2011-2012 school year when the State of Texas instituted the STAAR (and, for high school, the EOC) exams.  My primary concern was that to graduate, students must have a subject-cumulative score that surpasses simply passing each EOC.  There has to be at least one “commended” score in the subject; some bonus points, so to speak. 
Why was I concerned?  We have a unique student.  One of our kids probably spends triple the time of other students on school work.  Standardized tests have always been an issue for this child.  The preparation, extreme focus and discussion at school causes a great deal of anxiety.    We work very closely with the school district to support and aid this child to reach their level of success.  For standardized testing, slight allowances were re-instated this year.   In short, our student is allotted extra time – if needed – and takes the tests away from the general classroom.  The thought was that the pressure will be less intense.
I intensely dislike the term “standardized testing.”  What child becomes the standard that the others must meet?  What one student succeeds to the level of “minimum score”?  What about “satisfactory performance”?  Or – the awesomeness of “advanced performance”?
Apparently, not our student.
Yet, we worried.  Our primary concern was geometry.  So much information to include on ONE standardized test.   Although we didn’t learn the score, the geometry teacher allayed our concerns by letting us know our student had passed.  Whew.  Tests conquered.  Relief.
Until June 12.  Our hard-working, diligent, anxious child did not meet the standard on an EOC exam.  And, oddly, it was not a course that had caused us worry. 
It was English.
English, where through a year-long effort on tests, quizzes, papers, daily work, notebook checks, reading checks, and a project, our student had a cumulative  score of 88.  Pre-AP English.  An awesome 88!  But, since the EOC minimum score was missed by a miniscule amount, now a shadow is cast on the entire year.  One day - one test - a few points.  vs.  an entire school year - multiple grades averaging B+ - pre-collegiate level work, expectations and effort.
Meeting the minimum standard on the EOC is a graduation requirement.  A passing grade of 70 in regular English is a graduation requirement.
An 88 in pre-Ap English?  Doesn’t matter.
The beauty of all of this is that an EOC review is offered by the high school.  The letter dated June 10 and received June 14 described the review in detail.  Sad part is, the review began on June 10.  I imagine enrollment was pretty low.
So, our student will now forfeit part of their Summer to attend weeks 2 and 3 of a review.  A child who was so high and excited by their final grades has now been told ONE TEST has determined they aren’t good enough.  Never mind the projects, the fiction read, all the writing completed. 
Our goal as parents has always been to encourage our kids to do their best at being themselves.
Try creating a standardized test that measures that.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I’ve thought a lot about reactions this week.  It is the week after Easter, a time of profound amazement and thankfulness.  I started this blog at the beginning of Lent, with the intention of it going through Easter and the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection.  Instead, I let it go.  I wrote three blogs and stopped.  I continued to add to myself what I wanted to grow with during Lent, but my writing dwindled.  I felt I really didn’t have much to share and I got lazy.
My reaction to Easter was different this year.  I felt I experienced Lent much more and that I was much more aware of the significance of the story, the sacrifice, and – ultimately – the miracle.  And,  I wanted my reaction to God’s gift to us to be one of amazement and gratitude and thanksgiving.
And to become a child of Easter.

Isaiah 12:2 says: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense ; he has become my salvation.”  (NIV)
Trust and not be afraid.  I can do that.  Right?
On Tuesday, Lee and I sat through the longest red light I’ve ever known.  We were driving to a spot near the high school after I received a phone call.  Simply, “Mom, I need you.”  I had tried calling our oldest son back, but didn’t get an answer.  I grabbed Lee out of a meeting and we headed to the place I thought our son said he was waiting.
My reaction…..
Sitting at that red light, I let out a small scream.  Our son was standing on the side of the road, so I knew he was all right.  There was a police car behind him – and an unexpected woman.  My scream was somewhat of relief, but also of shock.  The driver’s door on the car we let him drive was simply gone.  Once that light finally turned and we were able to join our son, we were able to piece together the situation.    The woman was truly an angel – she had been behind our son when he was sideswiped, and pulled off behind him and stayed until we arrived
This was one of those moments that every parent dreads, but it was the reaction that was important.  How we reacted by turning to God.  How we reacted to each other.   And how we reacted to our child.  Our beloved child.   Scared - somewhat cut and bruised - but amazingly OK.  The sideswiping did a number on the car, but that is beyond insignificant.
The next day, a friend posted one of those quote type pictures on Facebook.  It simply read:  “Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?”
Reaction.  React to all by turning to God.  Through prayer, through that knowledge that He is always right there with us.  Through the calm and through the storm. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Truly listening

My husband and I received a wise bit of advice from a gentleman several years ago.  This individual was the type of person who had to attend many events – dinners, receptions, meetings – and he had made the decision to listen to the other people with whom he was seated.  Once introductions were made with tablemates, he simply let them talk.  He did not jump in with his own examples, he did not interject his version of a similar situation and he tried his best not to interrupt with his opinion.  Instead, he listened.  He listened to other people – in this case, strangers.  He told us he tried to do the same thing with family and friends, but that was more difficult.  There were shared circumstances and interests, but he still did his best to listen.

What if we did this with God?  He is so much more than family or friend, so there would be so many shared circumstances and interests.  God numbers the hairs on our head!  What if we really and truly try to listen to God?  Not jumping in with our own examples, or interjecting our own version of the story, or interrupting with our own opinion – but listening.

The prophet Elijah expected God in much the same way we do – in a big, burning bush kind of way.  I Kings 19:11-12 says  “Then he (Elijah) was told, "Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by."  A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn't to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn't in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn't in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”  (The Message)

A gentle and quiet whisper.  It takes effort to listen to a whisper.  Focus.  Determination.  And the desire to truly hear it. 

What is God whispering to me today?  What has He been whispering for a long time that I really haven’t heard?  And what I am going to do to listen?

Take the time.  Focus.  And, understand that the words of God often come from others.  God’s desires for what He wants for me and what I can do for Him become clearer when I listen. 

There is a lot of noise in this world – more than we can even imagine.  Figuratively, it is loud out there – a true cacophony.  Weed through it – and find the gentle and quiet whisper of God.

I love CeCe Winans!

Psalm 81:13a   "Oh, dear people, will you listen to me now? (The Message)

Choose Joy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Oxford defines the word choice as” the act of choosing between two or more possibilities”.  As a verb, to choose is “to pick out (someone or something) as being the best or most appropriate of two or more alternatives.

So simple.  Yet, it can be difficult.  God will meet us wherever  we are – no matter the path.  We have to make the choice to open our eyes and ears to Him.

Phillipians 4:19:  Paul writes, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”  (NIV)

All my needs?  Wow.  So simple, yet so difficult to let it go and give it to God.

We are faced with decisions and choices every day.   Minor decisions – what color?  What style?  To major decisions – “Is he the one for me?”  Or, choices in parenting.  Gosh, there are so many choices as a parent.  And, instead of wrestling with all of those decisions, we try to pick our battles.  And, for those of you who have followed the saga, our family increased by 2 on Saturday when we picked up two (yes, two) mice.  There really was no compelling reason not to do it, so we made the choice to move forward with the new pets. 

God has chosen each and every one of us – no matter where we are, what our life has included, or how much we’ve struggled.  He simply wants us to make the choice of responding to Him.

I was grocery shopping with our nine-year-old daughter after church today.  The hostess at the gourmet cooking booth was preparing something tasty, and she called out to me, “Try this.  It is a great choice for an Easter wine.” 

I’ve never even thought about Easter wine.  I think I’ll stick with Welches.

Choose Joy!