For we are His handiwork…Ephesians 2:10
After I finished the supper dishes tonight, I asked my son Jason what I should write tomorrow’s blog about. He grinned and said, “Why don’t you write about how awesome I am.” I laughed and said, “Ok, tell me three things that make you awesome.” He declined. He said through his goofy little laugh, “You have to think of them cause if I do that would just be bragging.” I thanked him for his sudden burst of humility. An hour later, here I sit and I can’t seem to move past the topic. It’s important for everyone to understand that our Jason is and has always been the “funny guy” of the house and he is going to be completely stunned when he sees this blog and realizes he gave his mamma the perfect idea.
Not wanting to sound like a gushing mother, I went directly to Jason’s little sister Shannon for an objective perspective and told her what I was planning to write about. She smiled and said, “That will be the easiest blog you’ve ever written.” She went on to tell me that Jason was the funniest, friendliest, most patient guy she knew. She also added that he was a great teacher, he wasn’t spoiled or worried about showing off and best of all, he always talks to everyone including his little sister in the hallways at school.“He’s someone I look up to...he's my role model.” she said sweetly. WOW! I’ll admit it, my eyes leaked a few tears! Everything she mentioned had to do with how her brother treated others and not about his personal talents or gifts. If I was a bettin’ woman, I would bet if I ask Jason to tell me about Shannon, he would come up with a similar list. Dave and I have been blessed with three great kids but their goodness or “awesomeness”as Jason would say comes not from us, but from the God who shared them with us. They seek and share the positive.
Yesterday I spent a terrific day with a group of school staff and parents from all over the Lansing area learning about Virtues based school discipline. One of the many, many great things I took from that day was a powerful reminder of the value of looking for the good in others and focusing on the positives. We began with a sharing circle and we were asked to speak about a person who had been an inspiration to us. It was a very powerful experience leaving us all realizing how blessed we were. Many times a training like this would have begun by asking us to share our biggest problem or issue with student behavior. Automatically starting with something positive framed the attitude and atmosphere for the entire day. We discussed the three Theological Virtues which are Faith, Hope and Love. If we were to speak and act with those virtues and look for those virtues in others the world would change in an instant. We were reminded of the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who when asked what needed to change most in this world, she simply pointed to herself and said, “I do.”
Living a virtuous life is putting the Gospel message in action. Treating others with kindness, compassion, love, patience and humility is the stuff Mother Teresa was referring to. Treating others that way gives us hearts and eyes to see God’s handiwork in others, especially the ones that are difficult. What do you suppose would happen if the next time that challenging person in your life entered the room you IMMEDIATELY began to think of three positive things about them instead of the things about them that frustrate or annoy you. That’s virtue in action. What if instead of pointing out your hard work and effort you made it a point to recognize the work and effort of someone else first. What if we each made it our mission today to purposely make someone else look good. Give it a try.
If you made a list of the people you enjoy being around most, chances are those are the people who are positive and demonstrate virtue. Those kinds of folks are like MAGNETS because we all seek them and what they freely offer. Instead of seeking that person…why not BE that person...BE THE MAGNET! We are His handiwork so that means we have all the equipment necessary…we simply have to ask Him to show us which virtue to begin practicing first.
A seed to plant: Take ten minutes to do a search of virtues or read Colossians 3:12-13. Pray over those words and ask God to show you where to begin.
Blessings on your day!
Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for
others. Colossians 3:23
Not long ago I had two little boys in my class who were cousins.These two boys were good friends who laughed and played with everyone. One day we were playing sight word bingo and one of the boys won a new pencil from the treasure box. A few games later, his cousin was still without a win when he was lucky enough to win a second pencil. He returned to the table and without saying a word pushed the pencil across the table to his cousin. Their eyes exchanged a silent thank you and we all continued playing. Later that day, I mentioned to the generous cousin that I thought his actions had been very kind. He just looked down at his shuffling feet and said, “I can only write with one pencil at a time and besides, Jesus would have given His extra pencil to His cousin I think.” There just wasn’t anything more to say so I just winked and told him I thought he made Jesus smile.
We worry a lot about what we should do, say, wear and buy. Many of our decisions, even the simple ones are balanced against some invisible social scale. What will others think if I do that or if my kids do this or if I show up
wearing those? Every now and again life has a way of wrinkling up the rug and tripping us. This weekend as I was doing some grocery shopping I
saw the Salvation Army bell ringers. I thought, man, it’s only November 24th and they are already posted outside every doorway of every store. I am always overcome with guilt if I pass by one without putting in some change. I guess I don't want others to think I'm stingy. I was completely ashamed of my attitude as I walked into the store. As I was trudging through the produce section, I thought of those volunteers who brave the cold and wind and snow to help those in need and I was embarrassed that I was "small" enough to be grumbling about it. I remembered the story of the widow and her coins and realized I needed to think about things differently. She gave not from her surplus but from the only three coins she had, all for the love of God. As I was thinking about that three small children took the pennies they were saving to ride the store pony ride, and decided to put them in the Salvation Army bucket instead. The bell ringer thanked them and said in a loud cheerful voice, “May God bless you!” Those were the perfect words, they were the reminder I needed, those four words contained the whole meaning of "doing and giving". The three little kids smiled and skipped all the way to their mini-van.
The whole situation caused me to think about this verse from Colossians in a new way. I’m not supposed to do things so someone will notice or not notice me. I’m supposed to be generous with my time, talents and resources because I want to serve the Lord, not man. Those little kids who turned over their pony ride pennies weren’t excited because other shoppers had seen what they did, they were happy because they had done a Christ-like thing. As I was driving home, I wondered what life would be like if I based all my actions on one simple thing…how much can I love and please God today. What if I worried half as much about what He thought as I did what my neighbor thought? And just to show off, God reminded me of this verse using the one thing guaranteed to get my attention…children! The cousins and the three kids with pennies…He used them to show me where I need to work! Once again God, we were led by a child!
A seed to plant: Before you turn the calendar page to December, prayerfully ask God to show you what you can do to serve Him. We finish November giving thanks; now let’s get ready for December by planning to do something for the Lord with love.
Blessings on your day!
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gifts. 2 Corinthians 9:15
I have enjoyed all the gratitude posts on Facebook this month. Some days I read them and say, yup…ditto that. Other days I read them and think; oh yeah, that’s a good one, haven’t said thank you for that in a while. On the eve of Thanksgiving, I’m sitting here writing and wondering what it is I am most grateful for. That’s a big question! Faith in Christ is obviously the list topper but the list would be a mile long if I wrote down everything I was thankful for…I am SO blessed!
I think the things I am most thankful for this year are the little things that bring me joy! Things like the laughter of my students or a loving wink from my husband or maybe a quick thoughtful text from one of my teenage children. Those things mean more to me than a pay raise or a new car.
I’m truly thankful for lots of big things like the beauty of creation and my sight for instance but noticing the little things is the best. Those little details are like God’s exclamation point to prove his emphatic love! I find joy in seeing others being grateful and noticing the little things. I’m thankful for those God puts in my path who remind me how much I have to be thankful for. I’m thankful when people recognize their need for God and share their excitement when they see Him at work in their life.
Twenty Thanksgivings ago my oldest son was born. After 32 hours of labor I was VERY Thankful to be holding that 10# 2oz 24” long baby boy in my arms! That was my best Thanksgiving ever. One of the things I remember was the nurse who had been with me since 7 am that morning and stayed late that night till the very end. She was a mother of 8herself and instead of going home to be with her babies, she stayed with Dave and I until we welcomed our baby into the world. She told us that if we wanted to make the world better, more loving, more grateful and more holy, it started with one baby at a time. She told us to love hard, pray harder and teach him to do the same and the world would be richer. It was simple, sound loving advice that I try to remember to follow.
When I count my blessings, most of them are people! People, who inspire me, strengthen me, support me, love me and teach me what it means to live as a child of God. Thank you for the gifts! Happy Thanksgiving!
A seed to plant: Write a note to 3 people you are thankful for. Be sure to tell them how they have blessed you and why you’re grateful for them. Gratitude is always in fashion.
Blessings on your day!
…In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. John 16:33
When the “three little Wohlferts” were all in school full time, I went back to school and turned my Kansas secondary teaching certificate into a Michigan elementary teaching certificate. Some days it’s been WAY more amazing than I ever expected and other days, not what I expected at all! My first teaching partner taught me more about being a good elementary teacher during the first semester than I learned in all my years of college! She loves her job, she’s GREAT at her job and she has an amazing ability to draw the best from each student and “get the job done”. She affectionately referred to me as “Pollyanna.” I will admit I am like that Disney movie character because I usually live in my little bubble and always think things are going to be just fine, and just as lovely as I see them in my mind. Sometimes life takes a turn from the way I picture it in my mind and Pollyanna gets her britches in a twist!
The older I get, the more I am reminded that life is about balance. If we go through life expecting things to always be happy or right or good, there will be trouble and we will get frustrated. As I look back at the twists and turns in my life, I realize it was those times when stuff I didn’t expect landed in my lap, that were indeed the times when I grew and changed and deepened my trust in God the most. We tend to get a little hung-up on good stuff. When things are good and happy we expect them to stay that way and then
when the unexpected happens we can feel a little like we’ve been punished or abandoned by the Father who is supposed to love us. As a society, we can be pretty “all or nothing” in our thinking. We forget that nothing is meant to be permanent…not happiness and certainly not sorrow. God works through both the good times and the tough times. We can be assured of His blessings and His love always! He did not SUGGEST there MIGHT be trouble. He didn’t say PERHAPS on the 3rd Thursday of July there is a CHANCE you will have trouble…no…He flat out promised that trouble WILL HAPPEN. So why are we so puzzled and pouty when it does? I think it’s mostly because we weren’t expecting it.
Each time I come through troubles, I feel stronger and more peaceful. The greatest thing trouble does for me is make me realize compared to most other folks…I’ve got NOTHIN! It makes me realize I have so much to be thankful for and so many reasons to praise His Holy Name! I read a
little slogan on a billboard not long ago that fits perfectly. The sign said, DON’T LET YOUR TROUBLES GET YOU DOWN, REMEMBER YOU CAN’T USE AN EGG UNLESS IT’S BROKEN. Maybe it’s the Pollyanna in me, but I believe even in my biggest troubles, I can look back and truly see the hand of God guiding and protecting me. Nothing is without reason…and we may not always like the reason but it is exactly in those situations I just have to sigh, shrug my shoulders and say…this must be something I need for heaven! Life is full of things I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to move to Michigan, I didn’t expect to teach elementary school and I certainly didn’t expect to be a writer! I didn’t expect to get grey hair or have to have reading glasses perpetually perched on my head and I certainly didn’t expect every
dessert I eat to become a permanent part of my lower torso! However in each of those unexpected events, there have been great blessings. We are not going to be judged on what we expected, but rather on how we managed the unexpected.
A Seed To Plant: Look back on two of your biggest troubles. Write down the blessings you can identify as a result of those troubles; how did you grow, change or deepen your Faith.
Blessings on your day!
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
Every now and again a thought or idea pops in my head and I stop
and think…wow…where’d that come from. It usually takes about 10 seconds for me to realize it was NOT me! It’s amazing how often the Holy Spirit makes things pop into our heads at just the right time. Not long ago a good friend from my childhood, now living many states and lots of miles away shared a story through the magic of Facebook that warmed my heart. His story was one of a connection with the voice of a heavenly soul and the choice it inspired him to make. I’m so happy Little Will gave me permission to share his story.
Little Will is the name everyone in our small town grew up calling him. It had nothing to do with his size, he’s a tall, broad shouldered, football playin, shot put throwin sized kinda guy but everyone called him Little Will because his dad was called Big Will. The biggest thing about both these men is their heart and their spirit. Truly like father like son! Big Will was one of the
strongest, hardest working men I ever knew and he inspired those same qualities in his son. He had a big laugh, an easy going nature and a smile that lit up a room. Our families always seemed to wind up near each other every Sunday morning at Mass and Big Will always walked in with a smile on his face. He was one of those great folks that touched lives with his kindness and goodness and he is sorely missed by all of us who knew him. One of his gifts was saying just what needed to be said without using more words than he needed to. According to his son Little Will, that’s a gift he’s still giving.
Earlier this fall, Little Will was at a convenience store and a lady approached him and asked for money to put gas in her car so he reached into his pockets and couldn’t come up with anything more than a couple dollars. I’m sure Little Will, was in a hurry but instead of handing over a couple bucks that really wouldn’t do her much good, without saying anything, he walked into the store handed over his credit card and asked the clerk to put 10 buck on pump 10. He got in his vehicle and drove away. He posted that day that he knew it was his dad talking to him. Out of nowhere, that thought from a heavenly soul crept into his thoughts and it made a difference in the life of another. What a way to honor both of his Fathers! I really hope Little Will’s son, Wilburn was there to see his Grandpa and Daddy working together that day!
We are all called to honor the memory of those we loved who are no longer here on earth with us. The best way I know to do that is to repeat the great acts they were best known for. Listen to the prompting voices of heavenly souls that put ideas in your head and on your heart. Do great things in memory of those you love. I was at a high school football game a couple weeks ago and saw something cool. One gentleman paid his five dollar entry fee with a twenty dollar bill. He told the person at the ticket counter to use the change to pay for the next three people in line behind him. The ticket taker asked if he knew them and he replied, “No, but my dad loved high school football so I honor him by allowing somebody else to enjoy what he enjoyed for free.” You can call it random acts of kindness or paying it forward or just doing the right thing. It doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters is that you DO IT.
A seed to plant: Think of a heavenly soul who had beautiful qualities.
Pick one of their qualities and put in into action this week. If you’re not sure how to do that, ask in prayer and then wait for that prompting or idea to pop into your head.
Blessings on your day!
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt like you wanted to throw yourself a big ‘ole pity party? You know the days…something goes wrong with the car, the kids, the job AND someone gets glowing credit for something you did! Those kinds of days happen to us all and they go down with a big sting! We usually crawl in bed on those nights feeling unappreciated, overworked and guilty for feeling so sorry for ourselves. I call it getting in touch with your inner toddler! The bad part of this deal is when you let it drag you down and cloud the way you think and act for days. Today I have just the story that will be the party pooper at your pity party!
There is a woman very dear to me who is one of the most beautiful examples of courage, trust, faith and strength I know! She is in a battle against the monster we know as cancer. She has been fighting for a couple of years and the reports from her army of doctors have been like a roller coaster. She has been through treatment after treatment, gone into remission with a hope filled heart only to have another diagnosis proclaiming the opposite news. She has lost and re-grown hair, she has gone from joy to grief to anxiety to hope again and again. Her diagnosis and treatment have changed like a chameleon but one thing has not changed…HER SPIRIT! Sure she has her bad days and her scared days and her worried days, but you would never really know it because she inspires everyone she knows with her faith, attitude and trust in the Lord. She is larger than life and everyone whose life she touches is richer because of her.
I chatted with her at a ball game last week and it was a mix of laughter, hugs, optimism and faith. She has a spark that makes you feel alive, and every time someone walks away from a conversation with her they say the same exact thing, “She is AMAZING!” During our conversation she mentioned that she was always working on trusting the will of God more. I wanted to say, “Hey sister…you trust Him anymore and He’s gonna put you in charge!” Part of what makes her so amazing is that she is so humble that she doesn’t even realize how powerful and inspiring her courage and her strength and her faith are. She’s teaching all of us who know her and my, what a wonderful, beautiful teacher she is!!
Some folks say there are no real miracles anymore. I disagree completely! They are right in front of our eyes if we just look a little. If we can stop living in our “me centered” world long enough to see the discomfort, strife, pain and struggles of another, our hearts and our perspectives will be changed.
People like my friend are the antidote to those folks who wake up with a hang-nail and think the world is ending. She’s the antidote to all those who think money and pensions and stuff matter! She is one of the many miracles right before our very eyes that show us exactly what matters…love, faith, trust and life! So before you send out the invitations to your pity party, let me introduce you to my friend! Or better yet, I’ll bet you know someone like her too. Take some time to let them teach you something!
A seed to plant: Make a list of all the things you have to complain about, then reach out to someone who is sick, lonely or suffering and see how much your list matters.
Blessings on your day!
…Joy comes with the dawn. Psalm 30:6
God made a lot of amazingly wonderful things for us to enjoy on this earth and one of those thing I love (almost as much as Mr. Wohlfert) is COFFEE! I love the taste of it, the smell of it, the way that warm steamy mug of deliciousness feels as I swallow those first sips snuggled in my chair for morning prayers…I love everything about it! I do have some rules though…it CANNOT be instant and it CANNOT have any sweet or creamy stuff added to it. Just plain…straight up good black coffee; plain and simple! That first cup in the morning is pure joy! Even if my old bones are a bit weary at 4:50 a.m. when the alarm goes off, I topple out of bed because I look forward to that first cup of coffee! God is so good!
Now you might think I’m nuts for writing about something as random as coffee, but if you think about it for a minute…there’s a connection to our faith. I love the way God reveals little nuggets of His truth in the midst of the silliest things…yes…like a cup of coffee. When I wake up in the morning and putter to the kitchen in the dark to hit the on switch on the coffee maker, it doesn’t matter what yesterday was like, or how I slept or even what’s on the schedule for the day, I know for certain my cup of coffee is going to be delicious and wonderful just like every other morning and I know I won’t be disappointed. Few things in life are that certain. Sounds a little like God’s love if you think about it…no matter the day, the time or the event; God is going to be there with a love that is amazing and certain. We don’t have to earn it or deserve it, all we have to do is hold up our day and say…fill me with Your grace and smother me with Your mercy and there it is! And…just like a fresh pot of delicious coffee…it happens the same way day after day after day and He will never disappoint us!
I like my coffee plain and simple! I don’t want sweet, gooey, fluffy distracting stuff in my coffee and I don’t want it weak, watered down or artificial! That’s what being a disciple of Jesus is all about. If we follow Him and live by His word we are guaranteed truth; plain, simple and authentic! I love waking up to fresh coffee and I make sure to thank Him for inventing it every morning when I sit down to enjoy IT and HIM! Joy comes to me twice every morning …while I sip and while I pray!
A seed to plant: Make a list of 3 simple things you enjoy…do a little deep thinking and see how those things are like the love of Christ. Get creative and share them if you like so we can all enjoy your thoughts!
Blessings on your day!
The mind of the intelligent gains knowledge and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:15
I’m not quite sure what happened to the past 9 weeks, but I find myself staring at the magic date on the calendar that signals the end of the first quarter of the school year. That number means it’s time for report cards and parent teacher conferences. I LOVE conferences, but report cards, not so much! They are a necessary part of a teacher’s job, but as a teacher, I’ll
admit that they certainly are my least favorite task! It's so difficult to take over 3oo hours of time together and mark it on a scale of 1 to 4 and record it neatly in one page of little boxes. I always worry that the marks I make might not paint a clear picture of who that child really is. I want to make sure the marks I make assure every parent that their child is loved, valuable, and an amazingly unique child of God. I hope that that the marks I make will allow each student to feel encouraged, recognized and supported. Most of all, I want to make sure that the marks I make on that paper leave each child wanting to come back for the next 11 years and keep working and improving and succeeding! That’s a lot to put on one little piece of paper. I feel worn out and I have barely begun the task!
As I sit here looking at my report card file, I stopped to wonder what God would mark if He were to give me a report card. That thought made me both laugh and break out in a cold sweat all at the same time! I think of my three kids, two in high school and one in college and how so much depends on their grade point average. That number ranging on a scale that only goes up to 4.0 dictates so much at this point in their life. I wonder what my “heavenly” GPA would be. The bigger question I guess would be…how hard am I trying to achieve a perfect 4.0? It’s kind of a strange way to think about life but it seems to fit with this time on the calendar.
I hope on my report card, God, like any good teacher, takes into consideration things like persistence, determination and effort! I think most days I’d get good marks for “works and plays well with others” but then He hears my silent complaints and judgmental thoughts. I would hope I could get at least a B- in patience and compassion, but then He sees me when I rush through my “to-do list” without stopping completely to listen to my family with the consideration they deserve. I would like to think I could score a C+ on sharing and listening, but then again, He is well aware of all the times I was selfish and ignored His prompting to reach out to one of His children in need. I wonder what the deduction would be for talking too much (about things that weren’t my business) or not following directions (His directions). I’m afraid to see what I’d get when He evaluates the way I use my time or how carefully I am paying attention in prayer time or in church. And man oh man, what about my grade in "giving my best effort"? Sure I'd get an A for some days, but what grade would I get when I was tired, or busy or feeling like things were going so well I could manage on my own. I really wonder what He’d write in the comment section or what He’d tell my parents at a teacher conference. YIKES!!
But then I remember He is God! He loves, He forgives and He encourages. He is the master teacher so He will make note of my attempts and celebrate my successes before He will downgrade me for my failings. I guess my job, is to be a better student…that means I’ll try harder, I’ll study (His Word) more, I’ll practice my lessons and I’ll give more focus to the teacher! Tomorrow begins a new quarter in my classroom…I’m gonna start a new quarter in God’s classroom too. Bring on the homework!!!
A seed to plant: Make a list of the things you think God would give you an “A for effort” in and a list of the things He would invite you to “stay in from recess and work on.” Then offer a prayer of thanks to your Teacher and ask Him for some extra help.
Blessings in your day!
And aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs and
to work with your hands… 1 Thessalonians 4:11
There is a great story about a frazzled business woman who hustled through the last morning of a business trip, skipping lunch in order to catch an afternoon flight home. As she rushed through the airport she realized she hadn’t eaten all day so she quickly grabbed her favorite snack, a king size Kit-Kat bar, shoved it in her bag and raced toward her gate. She plopped down in her seat on the plane just in time for take-off. In complete exhaustion, she dropped her bag, buckled her seat belt and closed her eyes to relax a minute. As she sat there quietly trying to gather herself, she heard the sound of a candy wrapper. She peeked out of one eye and saw the man next to her eating…you guessed it…a king size Kit-Kat bar! She was too livid to even speak so she sat with her eyes closed absolutely fuming for the rest of the flight. She pondered the rude, bold, inconsiderate behavior of the man sitting beside her the entire flight until she nearly shook with anger. When they landed she grabbed her bag and huffed off the plane without even looking at the guy. She proceeded to the baggage claim area where she once again met up with this candy bar stealing man, her anger and disgust boiling up all over again. As she stomped past him indignantly she noticed he had just purchased a huge delicious looking muffin. She put all her emotions into full swing and reached out, proceeded to take a giant bite out of the top of the muffin and then return the bitten muffin back into the man’s hand. He stood in stunned silence as she marched past him to the parking lot feeling completely satisfied at the way she had settled the score! As she tossed her bags into her car, her bag tipped over spilling its contents all over the back seat and much to her astonishment, right before her very eyes she saw…yup…you guessed it…a king size Kit-Kat candy bar!
This lady was anything but tranquil and she was so busy jumping to conclusions and making judgments about the character of the guy next to her she couldn’t see past her own anger. If we were to put Paul’s words to the Thessalonians into modern day language, it might sound something like; slow down, mind your own business and get to work! I suppose it doesn’t matter if the message was to the first Christians or to Christians in the year 2012, it’s still good stuff! Good advice doesn’t get any more bottom line than that!
When we get frazzled and overloaded like the lady in the story, we don’t see things clearly. We tend to let our attention drift to issues that really aren’t our business. It’s hard to keep our focus on the Father when we’re so discombobulated! So what’s the answer to making sure we follow St. Paul’s advice? Be peaceful, worry about yourself and do the work God has given you the gifts and talents to do.I know when I get overwhelmed, I have to stop and ask myself if I’m filling my to-do list with MY tasks or HIS? It’s not our job to worry about the work of others and seek justice if we think things aren’t fair. Like the lady in the story, sometimes we seek justice and we may not know all there is to know. The antidote to crazy, frazzled, peace stealing stress is in the first few words of the passage “live a tranquil life”. There’s
only one way to do that and it’s to rest…rest in Him. When we rest in Him, that peace will allow us to do what He has planned for us, not what He has planned for someone else. So before you take a bite out of somebody else’s muffin ask God to slow you down and be tranquil!
A seed to plant: Make your to-do list and pray over it before you attempt to check anything off. At the bottom of the list write the words, Lord, don’t let me bite anybody’s muffin today!
Blessings on your day!
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