Monday, May 19, 2008

By Sharlene MacLaren

A very dear teacher friend wrote and asked me to pray for her in these final days of school. She didn't crawl into bed until 2:30 this morning, as she had a mountain of paperwork to complete, grades to compile, and tests still needing scoring. She was worried she wouldn't have clarity of thought today, or even the strength or wherewithal to make it through another school day. You teachers know what I'm talking about--or maybe you spouses of teachers. As requested, I sat at my computer and prayed for her, and then I wrote her a note of encouragement. ((Please feel free to copy and pass this on to any and ALL teachers you know who might need a gentle word.))


My dear friend, I surely will pray for you -- and am right now in fact! As I am praying, a few things come to mind for you to do in these final days and hours, and so I'll share them.

First, take a long look at each student, or as many as you can, and figure out how they made a difference in your life this year. Did he/she make you a better person by maybe growing your patience, or making you smile or laugh? Did anyone make you shed a tear or maybe cause your heart to grow a couple sizes with some heart-wrenching story?

Second, did any of them make you proud, more contented in your job than you ever thought possible, or give you just the exact lift you needed for that particular day?

Third, which students did you pinpoint at the beginning of the year as ANNOYING, only to discover them on your "very secret" end-of-the-year favorite list? (These are the ones you want to make sure you hug tightly at that last goodbye, for they taught you a few things maybe you can't even fully identify yet.)

Fourth, think about who surprised you most with his/her academic growth? Point-blank, who grew up before your very eyes in the past nine months? Then think about this -- YOU aided in that growth!

Fifth, which students do you look at, maybe point at with a mental finger, and say to yourself, "That is why I LOVE teaching!" You're going to have the sour grapes mixed in the fruit salad, the apple slices with the black spots in the center, the not-so-sweet melon wedges, but most of the salad is going to be DELICIOUS. Same with the students who walk through your door each year. Some make the chore of showing up every day a bit of a task, and, let's face it; some of their parents are just as bad! But the majority you will wind up loving by the end of May, and your heart will squeeze a little when they look at you and say, "Good-bye, have a great summer!"

My friend, these thoughts just tumbled off the top of my head this morning, so I thought I'd mention them to you. I know how very overwhelming the end of the year can be. I experienced it 31 times! Live each final moment slowly and deliberately. As the old saying goes, "Don't forget to stop and smell the roses." In your case, "Don't forget to stop and study each young face--and thank the Lord for the blessed opportunity He gave you by placing them in your care for one entire school year." Without knowing it, you made a HUGE positive difference in your students' lives. HUGE! What did they do to make you better?

Blessings for a PERFECT student sendoff and then a much-needed, relaxing, joy-filled, splendid, sunshiny summer!

Hugs and prayers,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


ON MAY 12, 1913, DOROTHY MAY HESSELBART CAME INTO THE WORLD, a bouncing, happy baby girl, sweet from the top of her head to the tips of her toes, and remaining as such for the next 95 years! How do I know this? Because she is my mother, and I've watched her live her life. She has always been gentle, loving, soft-spoken, passionate about serving the Lord, an avid reader, a constant learner, a model of utmost patience, a strong support to her family, a sweet companion, hard-working and diligent, talented in a myriad of ways (playing the piano, singing, sewing, crocheting, knitting, cooking, baking, and the list goes on!) She's been my friend, a wonderful listener, a great conversationalist, a wise decision maker, a sweet comfort and a strong encourager. It is impossible to put into a few words all the many things she has meant to me.

My mother has Alzheimer's and, most days, seems to be in the final stages of the dreaded disease, if sleeping her life away is any indication. This picture, however, was taken on one of her 'better days', a few weeks before her 95th birthday. It was the day we introduced her to another of her great-grandchildren. Rarely does she speak a coherent word, but this particular day, she looked down at Gavin and said, "Oh, isn't he cute?" AMAZING!

She does not know who I am--only that I'm someone safe. She cannot call anyone by name, but will occasionally still say, "Jesus." It is a mysterious, heart-wrenching, disgusting, painful, debilitating, incurable, unstoppable disease -- and yet at the same time it has taught me things. Things like compassion and understanding, patience, endurance, kindness, and gentleness. It has taught me how to love on deeper levels. When I go to visit Mom I try to take time to speak with the other residents, smile, pass out hugs, say a comforting word. I seek out the staff and try to encourage them, thank them for all they've done and continue to do.

If I search for a "why" in all of this, the only thing I can come up with is that the rest of us have gained from all that she's endured.

For that, I say, "Thank you, Mom." Thank you for enduring, for suffering, for going through these trials so that the rest of us could develop stronger character.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and a blessed 95th birthday. I love you, and I rise up and call you blessed.

Your loving daughter...