"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

25 March 2017

2017 Book Review #11: Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted



I just finished taking a Bible Study class at church for the last 8 weeks. It was for women and featured Priscilla Shirer on DVD.  We would watch the DVD portion for that chapter, and then break up into our small groups to discuss the week's homework, fellowship, pray.

I enjoyed this study although I preferred the fall semester study of the Armor of God based on Ephesians 6.  

This study was based on the book of Jonah, thus the title.

There were some very powerful sections and some very convicting ones...at least for my life, in the season I am in.

BOOK SUMMARY

Life gives us interruptions.  Sometimes they shake us up, sometimes they shock us, sometimes they force us to change.  We all have them.  We really can't escape them but we can change our perspective about them.  Jonah teaches us how to do that.

MY THOUGHTS

The book was not too long so it was great to be a part of this class while working outside the home.  I did have time every week to complete the discussion questions and look up the various Scriptures.

The book is divided into 6 sessions. Each session opens with Priscilla teaching us from the book of Jonah and her own experiences, the insights God has given her.  The DVD portion lasts about 20 minutes per week.

Each chapter has its own topic all taken from the four chapters of Jonah:
  • I Am Jonah
  • See Jonah Run
  • Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
  • Second Chances (I LOVED this chapter!)
  • Into All The World (my fave chapter)
  • The Unmanageable God
The first part of each chapter had a fill in the blank section that you did while listening/watching Priscilla on the DVD.

The rest of the chapter was divided into 5 days of homework.  The questions were not lengthy and  most of it was reading short paragraphs and answering many subjective questions or looking up Scriptures outside of Jonah that related to that particular chapter.

This study is an excellent one for seekers of Christ, beginners in Christ as well as seasoned Christians.  Because seriously....we ALL get faced with those divine interventions at times don't we??  Things like betrayals, financial hardships, disease or major illness, death of a loved one, a move, a job or career change, etc etc.

It is our perspective on these things that God brings into our lives, that we need to deal with.

I learned a lot about Jonah and the culture of that time and I also learned that like Jonah, I sometimes want to "control" God or put God in a box.  And that just isn't ok nor does that even work.

How much better to just obey the Lord's prompting to begin with!!

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 9.


 

24 March 2017

Long Week Faves


This has been a long week.

So much going on between work, family life, extended family issues, church......whew...I'm so ready for the weekend.

For now......

Let's grab a nice hot cup of coffee and reflect back on the week finding FIVE of our FAVES that God brought into our lives.  Then, link up with Susanne, our gracious hostess.

FIVE FAVES!
  • MOVIE NIGHT:  Dave and I watched the movie pictured below and just loved it.  It was Saturday evening, and we were both tired from the errands and chores of the day.  Both of our daughters were out so we curled up together to watch this amazing bit of WWII history about a woman who recovered her family's stolen art work. This was based on actual accounts!  Now I want to get down to NYC and see the painting! I'm thankful for relaxing evenings after a long day of chores.



  •  BIBLE STUDY CLASS WRAP-UP:  The class I took at church this winter wrapped up the final session on Wednesday evening.  We had been studying the book pictured below and let me tell you, it was fantastic!  I will be doing a book review of this study sometime later this weekend.  What a great group of ladies I came to know....everyone was new to me except for two of the women....it was such a refreshing 8 weeks.  I am now taking a break from church classes to help out with a service project team and to get geared up to begin my own small group again come September. I'm thankful for my church and all the classes and groups it offers.

  • FRENCH VANILLA COFFEE:  I am so picky about french vanilla coffees.  I used to love DD's and when I ask for it at the $tarbucks, it's always way too sweet.  I discovered Green Mountain brand a few years ago but got away from it.....well...I discovered a small bag of it in our freeze this past week and had totally forgotten it was there....I pulled it out and have been enjoying a steaming mug of it right after dinner a couple of nights, and it's just so good!  It doesn't need sugar and I only use a pinch of fat free milk in it.  Vanilla must be relaxing because it totally helps me unwind from these busy days.  I'm thankful for good coffee!

  • BROWSING BOOKS: Last weekend, while Dave and I were out running errands, we stopped at the town library (summer photo below, a side view) and spent about 20 minutes browsing the shelves.  I went right to the "new books" shelf and found 3 I've been wanting to read.  I also found a very interesting hiking history book (see side bar) that I'm finding to be just fascinating.  I'm so thankful for our town's library and for good books!!
images courtesy of Out and About Albany County

  • SMOOTH START:  so my new assistant teacher position began on Monday and it's been a smooth start.  Of course, something that has helped is that I've been part of the team since mid-December and my role teaching one specific boy hasn't changed....he needs a 1:1 teacher and we have finally figured out a good plan for him.  I'll be focusing on teaching him specific social and emotional literacy/behaviors as well as teaching appropriate play skills.  The goal is to get him back into the larger classroom during circle times and group times with peers but for now he is starting to make progress with just one adult.  He is learning some self-regulating behaviors that I am teaching him via puppets and so far so good!  I'm thankful for my new teaching position and for the team I work with as well as for the smooth start!


That wraps up my week.

I hope you enjoy a very restful weekend!


18 March 2017

2017 Book Review #10: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I've just finished the 5th book in the fantasy series my daughters loved so much.

It was ok.  I much preferred the first 4 to this one.  Hopefully the last 2 are better.

STORY SUMMARY

Harry is now 15 years old and  in the midst of normal teenage angst.

One thing that keeps happening, is he keeps dreaming about a dark room and a door at the end of a dark hallway.  This dream wakes him up in the middle of the night, screaming!  Is this reality or just a figment of his imagination??

He has a lot on his mind.  He has been thinking about Lord Voldermort, a.k.a. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  He is being made fun of for saying the Dark Lord is alive again and has come back.  No one really believes him other than Dumbledore and his best friends Ron and Hermione.

He is  also thinking about the horrible, evil, new professor of the Defense Against the Dark Arts, along with a horribly acting house-elf named Kreacher, Ron as Keeper of the Quidditch team, and the upcoming spring exams called OWLS (Ordinary Wizarding Level exams) that all the 5th year students must pass as well as his career pursuits.

This is a lot for a 15 year old boy to take on...especially one with whom Lord Voldemort wants dead.

MY THOUGHTS

I wasn't a fan of how long this book was.....yes, it is fast-paced in some parts but until the last 3-4 chapters, it just dragged on and on.  There were way too many details for a children's book in my opinion and the author just dragged out this plot line!  My oldest daughter has explained to me that many questions that pop up from the first 4 books are answered in this 5th book but it just wasn't exciting to me.  Maybe because I am an adult.

I did love that the author focused on the evil professor as a somewhat Hitler type person.  It showed the way the government of the magical world operates and that like many governments, cannot always be relied upon!

This book does draw upon many themes like in the past:  good over evil, light over dark, loyalty, friendship, sacrifice and death of a loved one. There is even a kind of parallel between Lily/Voldemort and Harry with Mary/Satan and Jesus.  It's subtle and not offensive and probably isn't even the author's intention but my daughters noticed it as well.  So, yes, you can tie a spiritual significance to this book. 

  I won't reveal who dies in this book but it was very sad.  I love how Harry showed some real emotion in this particular book.

There are some very funny parts in this book as well.

I'm looking forward to now watching movie #5 and then later on in the spring finishing up this series.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 9 and older although it is VERY long winded.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 8.


17 March 2017

faves



I cannot even believe it's mid-March.  And that we had this major blizzard this past week here in the Northeast!  Our eastern NY area received 17.9 inches of snow (official measurement) and the places I like to hike in the Adirondacks received 46 inches!!  My childhood hometown area in central NYS (what we call upstate) received 30.  I am so ready for SPRING which officially begins on Monday but with this snow dump I'm not sure if it will ever get here!!

For now, I'm taking time to sip my Starbucks cafe mocha (my splurge for the week) and share my FIVE FAVES that God brought into the past week.  There are several of us who engage in this and then we all link up at Susanne's site.  How about sharing with us?






  • DECISION MADE!  Yes, I am taking the Special Education Assistant Teacher position that opened up in the classroom where I've been a 1:1 aide since December 14th.  Yes, this is a full time position.  You can read about the decision and what God showed me by clicking here if you are interested.  My official duties and new hours (8-2:30) begin Monday.  I'm thankful for this opportunity.  The logo above is the agency logo.

  • EVENT PLANNING:  Dave and I went out Friday night in the single digit weather to attend a dinner and event planning meeting at church. At first I didn't want to go.  By Fridays I am just so tired from the work week.  But we were planning our next outreach to the children of the trailer park to the north of us via our church's Grace in Action program and I wanted to hear what the plan was going to be. We are going to have an Easter/Spring theme the last Friday of this month and I am in charge of the playdough table with the little ones.  This should be lots of fun.  We will also be giving out little blessing bags of healthy snacks and small toys relating to Easter.  It ended up being a fun meeting and it only lasted about an hour!  I'm thankful we get to serve in this outreach.



  • BREAKFAST DATE:  Last Saturday was bitter cold.  So instead of hiking with 3 other friends, I cancelled the hike and  one of the friends and I met for breakfast at our fave local diner.  I had a Belgian waffle, coffee and bacon (something I really NEVER eat....a real splurge for sure).  Deb (we are friends through church) and I talked for about 2 hours inside the cozy warmth of the diner.  It was just what we needed!!  



from my family room

  • SNOW DAYS!!  Well, as most of you probably know, the Blizzard2017 happened.  I guess the meteorologists were calling it Stella.  Our eastern NY area hadn't had this kind of storm since 2003.  We ended up with 17 inches.  This is the view of my deck on Wednesday morning..the reason the door is open is because I was so hot from shoveling snow with my husband.  Everything in the area shut down, even the government offices, on Tuesday and then Wednesday most of the area schools were closed again.  My husband did go in on Wednesday but worked from home on Tuesday because he had brought his work laptop home on Monday night knowing he probably wouldn't make it in.  It was kind of fun to just sit around, read, drink coffee, watch Netflix, relax.  Wednesday, though, I was getting bored so I tackled some housework projects that were needing to be done.  Now my weekend can be somewhat free as I had those 2 days off in the middle of the week! (notice the deck table:  all the snow had blown off with the fierce winds!!)



  • SALES!   This past week LLBean had a good sale on hiking clothes and gear.  I used the sale, plus the promotion code "TRAILS" plus 5 of our Visa coupons and bought 2 things for my self and something for Dave and the entire bill was less than $65.  I love a good sale!  And they were all things we actually needed.
That wraps up my week.

I hope wherever you are, that you enjoy a restful weekend.

Monday is the official start of the Spring season....let's hope we are done with the white stuff!!

HAPPY WEEKEND and HAPPY ST PATRICK'S DAY TO ALL OF YOU IRISH FOLK





14 March 2017

2017 Book Review #9: The Beekeeper's Daughter

Well, here in the great northeast, most of us are in the midst of a ferocious blizzard to end the winter season, and since I have a snow day, I finished this wonderful story.

Although this book is not considered "Christian fiction", there are several references to God which I thoroughly enjoyed.

STORY SUMMARY

It is 1973 and Trixie is 19 years old and very pretty.  She is the only daughter of Freddie and Grace and they all live together on Tekanasset Island, off the coast of Cape Cod Massachusetts.  

Trixie works at one of the local pubs and is dating a boy named Jasper who is trying to start up a band with some friends.  They are from England and are here for the summer, hoping to tour the USA in the fall.  Trixie and Jasper are in love.

One afternoon, tragedy strikes and Jasper has to rush off and return to England.  He promises Trixie he will  come back for her and to please wait for him.

In England, in 1933, Grace is growing up on a beautiful, rural estate known as Walbridge Hall in the tiny town of Walbridge.  Grace's father, Arthur Hamblin, is the beekeeper for the Penselwood family, the very wealthy landowners who live in the big house.  Grace's mother died when she was just a baby and she has been raised by her father, his father's sister May and her husband Michael Valentine.  Their son Freddie is Grace's very good friend.  Freddie's older sister Josephine makes up the rest of the little family that Grace knows and loves.  However, Grace has a school-girl crush on the son of the Lord Penselwood.  His name is Rufus and he is engaged to be married to the Lady Georgina. This does not stop him from pursuing young Grace.

One day, Arthur dies suddenly of a heart attack, leaving Grace alone and very sad.  She has been close to her father and his bees her entire life.  She is all alone in the world now....and although she loves one man with her entire being, she knows she can never have him. It seems she is destined to marry Freddie and she does love and care for him....but her first love will always be Rufus.

Both Grace and Trixie are weighed down by memories in 1990 of the men they have loved and lost.  They each are unaware of the secrets that bind them together until Trixie discovers some very old letters written to and from her mother.  And then she decides to go over to England and confront the past.

Trixie finds Jasper.  And learns the truth about Rufus.

By doing so, she begins to unravel all the lies told long ago....and it is then that Grace and Trixie begin to open up their hearts to one another.

.

MY THOUGHTS

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Yes, there were a couple of spots in the story, especially towards the end, where I said out loud "Oh how dorky" but that is because it just was too perfect.  But isn't that what fictional romance set in England is all about??  

Seriously, this story is absolutely delightful.

The main themes of course are love, family, friendships, the mother-daughter relationship, and first love.

What was very intriguing to me was the poem at the beginning of the novel.  It was just beautiful.

There were several quotes I enjoyed from this book but three of them I will share with you:

"Friendship is about being honest with each other and sharing your troubles as well as your triumphs. You can't get close to someone unless you open up and expose yourself a little." (pg.215, The BeeKeeper's Daughter by Santa Montefiore, c.2014)

"We have to let the past go and live in the moment; otherwise, we don't live, we just dream." ( pg. 335, The Beekeeper's Daughter by Santa Montefiore, c. 2014)

"I put it down to the power of prayer.  Miracles happen in our modern world to remind us that in spite of our technological advances, God is still mighty and all-powerful." (pg.375, The Beekeeper's Daughter by Santa Montefiore,c.2014)
One thing I really enjoyed about this story was the mother daughter relationship.  I think it's because my own relationship with my mom wasn't very emotionally bonding....she was a great mother/provider, but we just weren't close emotionally or spiritually speaking.  I so appreciated how Trixie and her mom could basically talk about anything and then of course the ending of the book drew them even closer.  I don't want to write any spoilers though.....

Another thing I loved were all the friendships, especially in reading about the various women on the island.  How funny some of them were!!  I especially liked the characters Big, and Belle.  Very endearing.

The title is wonderful in that, it can refer to either Grace, the daughter of the beekeeper Arthur, or Trixie, the daughter of the island beekeeper, Grace.  I just loved that!  Very clever of the author.

This author is new to me but I will definitely be checking out her other novels.

She did say the island is fictitious but she based it on the very real Nantucket Island.

In many ways, this story is like a modern day Jane Austen novel.  I loved it.  I love that Trixie believed in following her heart. And I especially loved that Grace and Freddie became close again in their marriage.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (due to a little mature content).

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.



Yes, Lord.

So, as many of you know, I quit my special education teacher aide job with my local public school in Sept due to many issues, one of which was being placed in a classroom with multiply handicapped children ages 7-12 with whom I have no experience, nor desire to work with. The worse part was the no experience because as a parent of a child in the district, (although my daughters don't have special needs), I can't imagine anyone working with children who aren't qualified to be with them.  That and special education administrators who've never taught, never really been in the classrooms to see what actually goes on, and turns a blind eye to things that they know of but don't care about changing.

I was unemployed from Sept until mid-December when I accepted a part time special education aide position with a preschool across the river from where we live.  This preschool is ECEC.  I am at the Troy site and love it.  It is so similar to when I was a master teacher for an Albany special ed prek that I just couldn't believe God dropped this in my lap.  Because that's what it was.  I wasn't really actively looking for a new job. Dave and I figured I'd take the year off, doing some home projects and volunteering at church, and then find a job come Sept. to help our youngest with college costs. I happened to see the opening while helping my oldest daughter look for a design job!  God always has these plans...and they are often so different from what we imagine will happen.

SO....

Fast forward to mid-January. I'm preparing a lesson one morning for the behaviorally challenged, emotionally disturbed little boy I'm working with as a 1:1 teacher and the executive director of the entire agency asks to meet with me.  She offers me a SEIT job which I told her I was very honored to be considered for but that I really didn't want to go back to the days of driving all over the tri-county area and writing 10 IEPS,  conducting annual reviews, home visits, etc etc. (all those things that go into being a Master Teacher).  So I politely declined, telling her if there was ever an assistant teacher opening, I would be thrilled to be considered or to interview for it.  I didn't think anything of this conversation and just kept praying for this little boy and telling Dave I would find something else for autumn as this contract ends in August.  Of course I'm not thrilled to have to work this summer as I haven't worked summer months since 1994 unless you count the summers I did volunteer work two days a week for 5 years at a crisis pregnancy center.

Now.....the decision to look for another teaching position has been on my mind for most of the winter.  I know I need to help Claire out just like we helped out Courtney so that she doesn't have a  big bank loan for college tuition.  We are praising the Lord she was offered a good scholarship at one university and we are still waiting to hear from another college.  This whole idea of working in the summer was bugging me.  I tend to be selfish with my summer time.  I'm a hiker...an avid hiker..and around these parts, hiking in deep snow doesn't thrill me and I'm not a cold weather gal unless I'm cozy indoors reading a good book, watching a good movie and drinking lots of tea or coffee.  So my summers are precious to me. It's when all the sports I love can be done and it's when I feel most alive...it sounds weird but it's true.  The hiking, kayaking, and biking just make me feel so good and getting up in my mountains, whether for a day, an evening or an entire week is something I look forward to.  Life slows down in summer and yet at the same time it revs up. For those of you who know me, you know what I mean.

So I figured I would work this summer as promised via contract and then for next year and the next few years, find another position that would give me summers off.

God had other plans.



Isn't that always the way??


It is now late February.  The assistant teacher in the classroom where I am currently a 1:1, has announced she is leaving to go work in her daughter's daycare.  We will miss her!

I am offered the position of Assistant Teacher with a bigger salary, 6 weeks paid vacations, retirement benefits and free dental along with medical/vision (none of which I need other than the retirement benefits. My work with the little boy will not change....I will continue to teach him exclusively with the goal of getting him to join the class (hopefully before summer school) but with the pay and hours of the Assistant teacher.  As an Assistant, I do have to help plan lessons and prepare but I don't have all the paperwork of a special education master teacher.  I do have to stay longer (hours are 8-2:30) but that is still better than in the public schools!

Now....I had a decision to make. Do I take it which means giving up my summers? We do get 2 weeks off at the beginning of the summer and 2 weeks off at the end....all of which we get paid for!  So that is ok.

Like I said, I'm selfish.  I started really asking God to show me His plan.

I'm at the point in life, at age 57, where I can pretty much not have to run daughters around, where Dave and I can go off for long weekends and not have to get babysitters or schlep kids with us, where I can just wake up, go biking, go kayaking, etc etc and not have major home management issues to deal with.

In the fall, I was planning on doing more ministry at church.

If I'm working a longer day, I have to be more intentional about finding time to work out, meet friends for coffee, etc etc.

Hm...what to do???

I told the director I could give her an answer by this week's end.

On Saturday morning, Dave and I prayed together...he initiated it.  We talked about the pros and cons.  And then in church my pastor just kind of confirmed some things for me when he was sharing about our church's vision for the next few years.

I had that deep peace in my heart.  I knew what my answer would be!!


I would take the job!  

You see, after discussing it with Dave, I realized this is exactly what I had been hoping for...a chance to once again be a special educator in a high quality preschool, and at the same time, being able to help out with Claire's college costs.  Scholarships, sadly, barely cover the entire bill.  And although we are so grateful to God and the university for offering an academic scholarship, there is still a large remainder to pay for.  It seemed like God was opening a door!

How funny to look back on my career and see where I began....once I made the move from central NY to this capital region and began as a Master Teacher, I fell in love with early childhood education.  Fast forward to another job of being a wife and mommy, a part time preschool teacher, a part time parenting instructor and a full time aide in public school to coming back full circle  to being a teacher in a preschool again, just before my retirement.

Dave and I talked this over and I have peace.  I was sharing some of this with my pastor's wife, who also works outside the home and she was sharing with me her goals.  I told her mine was to work at least 3 more years. It's all in God's timing. I needed a job with better money to help with college.  I desired to go back to young children in a setting where they really understand special education. This Assistant Teacher position just "happened" to open up in the very classroom I am currently in!!

When we give God our plans......He is gonna do what He wants.  We need to be open and willing.

Is it ideal??  Nope.  I still want my summers off.  But I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  And it's only for about 3 more summers.

Decision made.

Yes, Lord.







ps...if you are still reading this, God bless you!  I didn't intend for this post to be so long.  But now I have it in writing for my daughters to read one day and    understand how God's ways are the best ways...always.