Friday, February 24, 2017

Years ago I read the story of Amy Carmichael.  She sacrificed so much to go live in India and rescue little girls from a life of terrible slavery.  I was so inspired by her story, and reading about what she did in India only increased my desire to go there someday.

Over the years, I've learned that the slavery that Amy fought is still going on today.  It's something that I sometimes just push out of my mind, because the knowledge of what so many girls are going through is too much to bear.  But I don't want to push the thought aside anymore.  I can't just sit by and let it keep happening.  Amy made a difference for so many girls, and we can do the same.

This month's writing prompt at Compassion Bloggers is "why".  Why do I sponsor a child, and why do I want to use my blog to advocate for needy children around the world?

The reality of human trafficking is a huge part of why.  Without intervention, so many children who live in poverty will end up living as slaves.  They will be treated as less than human and abused in ways that I can't even imagine, unless someone steps up and does something about it.

Sponsoring a child offers him or her the tools needed to leave the life of poverty and slavery behind.  And even more, it gives so many opportunities to share the love of Christ and point them to the One who loves them and died to save them from sin.

When I went to India three years ago, I saw firsthand the difference that Compassion is making in the lives of children.  Those kids had hope, because they were being pointed to Jesus.  They had hope because they were being given the tools that they needed for a better future.  

That's something I want to be a part of, and I hope you do too.

Check out Compassion's website to learn more about how you can change a child's life!

Also, check out this website for information about modern day slavery and what you can do about it: 

The Life You Have

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

God has given me the gift of today.  He has blessed me with so many good gifts, but sometimes I'm so distracted by what He hasn't given me that I forget to be thankful for what He has.  I've been thinking about how to learn the secret of contentment.  I want to embrace the life that God has given me today, instead of choosing discontentment.

How do we learn this secret?  Sometimes it's easier said than done, but here are several ways to embrace today:

 Remember Who God Is

In my first grade Sunday School class, we've been learning some of the names of God.  It has been so incredible to meditate on what His names tell us about Him.  The last couple weeks, we've been learning that God is Jehovah Jireh.  He is our God who provides.  We can trust that God is going to give us every single thing we need.  For me, this is hard when I look around and see people who are enjoying a season of life that I wish I could have.  But that season is not what God has given me, so it's not what I need right now.  And during this season that I'm in, He is going to be enough to satisfy my desires and provide for my needs.  I have a sign in my kitchen that says, "And if not, He is still good."  Even if He chooses not to give me what I long for, He is always, always good.

Remember the Gospel

I've been challenged lately to preach the Gospel to my heart every day.  Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, our biggest need has been taken care of.  No matter how hard life is, if we have trusted Christ for salvation, we have fellowship with the Creator of the universe.  We know that someday, we will live with Him forever and He will wipe away every tear.  That is what should bring comfort to our hearts during the hardest days.  And that truth will motivate us to embrace today, trusting that He is going to use it for good.

 Serve Others 

It's hard to sit around and complain about life if you're serving others out of a heart of love.  God has called us to put aside our own desires and needs in order to serve those around us - especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Choosing to trust that God is going to provide for our needs will free us to focus on showing love to others.  I've been challenged lately to serve joyfully even when I don't feel like it, and to make sure that my service is done in love.  I've found that my love isn't sufficient. I may serve, but I'm tempted to do it with a complaining heart or a proud attitude.  I've been asking God to change my heart and give me His love for those around me.  Embracing the life I have now means embracing and serving those that God has put in my path, and doing it with a loving heart.

Be Thankful

God has called us to be thankful in every circumstance. No matter what is going on in life, we can choose thankfulness.  This means taking our eyes off of our difficulties and putting them on our Savior.  When we get lost in how beautiful and glorious He is, we won't be able to keep from praising Him.  Our hearts will be filled with thankfulness for Who He is and what He has done.

So let's embrace the gift that today is, resting in Who God is and what He has done, and serving others with a thankful, joyful heart.  Because His mercy is new every morning, this is how we can live.  

Special Ed Teacher Interview

Friday, November 4, 2016

I interviewed my friend Addie E.  She isn't officially a special ed teacher, but she took extra classes to train in special ed, taught ESL students while student teaching, and has subbed in several special ed classrooms.  She's an amazing person and teacher, and it was fun to be able to talk to her.  I have several friends who are teachers, and learning from them has been a huge blessing!  It's friends like these that have motivated me to pursue teaching, and they have also encouraged me as I've learned how to be a teacher.  I'm blessed to have such amazing examples to look up to!

Here are the questions and Addie's answers:

1. How long have you been teaching special needs children?
Addie has taught for several years, mostly regular ed, but her student teaching was a lot of ELS students, and then she's subbed in several special ed classrooms.  

2. What made you choose the teaching profession and, in particular, teaching special needs children?
Addie's parents are both teachers, so that was a big influence in her life.  She has always loved being around children and being able to help them, and she loves seeing them learn new things.  So teaching seemed like a good choice!  She was interested in special ed when she saw some special ed teachers who weren't very good with the kids.  That made her see the need for teachers who were patient and loving with special needs kids.  

3. How have your ideas toward teaching changed with each passing year of experience? Can you recall your ideas about teaching when you were a teacher education student like me? What were they? What are they now?
 As she's taught, Addie has gotten a little disillusioned as she's seen the huge focus on testing rather than learning.  So she's lost a little of her excitement, because teachers are so pressured to spend so much time preparing their students for tests rather than being able to help them get excited about learning.  She hasn't lost her love of teaching, but just has become discouraged because of the restrictions placed on teachers. 

4. How does teaching children with special needs differ from teaching other children? What are some challenges you face in teaching special needs children? What are some rewards in teaching special needs children?
 Addie said that a huge thing in teaching special ed (especially ESL students) is stopping often to make sure they are comprehending things.  She said you can't just assume that they understand what you just said.  She learned quickly while teaching ESL students that she needed to assume that someone didn't understand what she said, so she would stop and ask, "Do you guys know what a castle is?" or whatever word that she thought they might not understand.  She learned to explain things clearly and simply and find ways to see if they were comprehending what was being taught.  

5. What advice can you give me for teaching children with special needs in the regular education classroom?
Addie's advice for teaching special needs kids in the regular classroom includes having differentiated instructions, good paras, and using small groups for some teaching/activities.  

6. What changes, if any, would you make to the educational system with regard to special needs children? Consider such aspects as inclusion, funding, state assessments, etc…
Addie said that she's seen a lot of paras and subs that don't have training in special ed.  And then because the paras aren't trained to do the paperwork, the teacher that is actually trained is spending so much time doing that paperwork and less time with the kids.  So she said that extra training in special ed for paras and also regular ed teachers who will be subbing would be really good.   

7. If you could choose another career field, would you? Please explain your answer in detail.
Addie has mixed feelings about this.  She mentioned that often teachers aren't really respected in our society, and she sometimes would like to be more respected and have a job that is viewed as "more important".  But at the same time, she said that helping kids learn is something that's so rewarding, and that rewarding feeling of knowing that you've made a difference doesn't happen in lots of other jobs. 

8. Are there any comments you wish to add to close this interview?
Addie and I are both Christians and have a passion for reaching kids for Christ and helping them learn and grow.  During the interview, we talked about an article I read that talked about the story in the Bible where the children are brought to Jesus to be blessed.  When people talk about that story, they usually talk about Jesus, the children, and the disciples who wanted to push them away.  But people rarely even think about those who were bringing the children to Jesus.  If those people hadn't taken the time to bring their children to Jesus, they would have never had the opportunity to sit and talk with Him the way they did.  Even if teachers aren't valued or respected, their job of teaching and training (and for Christians, pointing them to Jesus), is so needed.  It was good for Addie and I to remind ourselves of the importance of this job.  It's not about us - it's about glorifying God by helping children learn to know Him!  

Though You Slay Me

Monday, October 24, 2016

This song has been on repeat lately.  I've been seeing God answer my prayers that He would help me to be broken before Him.  He's answering the prayer that He would do His work in my heart - no matter what it takes.

In the midst of lost dreams and unfulfilled longings, I've been discovering joy that I couldn't even imagine.  It's a struggle to fight the lies and refuse to give in to bitterness.  But in the middle of it all, God is showing me His love and faithfulness.

From a human perspective, it doesn't make sense how someone could have joy while experiencing hard things.  But that does happen, as soon as we begin to value Him above everything and everyone else.

The first prayer in the book The Valley of Vision says it better than I could:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.
If the valley is what it takes for me to know God better, than that's what I want.  I want to learn to exult in my Savior rather than finding comfort in my circumstances.

"Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation."
Habakkuk 3:18

Five-Minute Friday: Lose

Friday, June 17, 2016

Letting go of dreams is a hard thing.  The last several months have involved watching a long-held dream die.  At first, I was in denial, hoping, dreaming that I could still get it back.  But now it's gone.

Losing this dream was difficult.  But it was also one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Though it I've learned (am learning) to trust my God and love Him more.

At the beginning of the process, I had to learn to trust that God's plan is best, even when I couldn't see it or feel it.  Even when I felt so strongly that my plan was better.

Now I'm being filled with joy as my dream is replaced with knowing my Savior better.  I'm finding that He truly has a better plan.

And even if I never find out the full reason for the loss of this dream, I can say with confidence that God is good.  I can rest in His sovereignty, knowing that He never, ever makes a mistake.

"Jesus I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art!  I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart!" 

Jesus, may I trust You more and more!

Five Minute Friday: Miss

Friday, May 6, 2016

When I saw that the word for today is "miss", I immediately thought of what lots of little people call me . . . Miss Mandy.

I love being Miss Mandy.  I love that I get to invest in the lives of little ones.  These kiddos bring so much joy to my life and teach me more than I will ever teach them.

I love it when they see me and their faces light up and I hear "Hi Miss Mandy!"  I love it when they can't wait to tell me about their week and the exciting things they got to do or the things they accomplished.  I love hearing them pray.  Their child-like faith challenges me when they talk to God about whatever is on their minds, completely trusting that He is able to care for them.  I love seeing them develop hearts of compassion for those around them and around the world.

But it also makes me tremble.  I see kids every week who look up to me.  They trust me.  Am I truly living what I'm teaching them?  The way I follow Jesus matters, not just in my own life, but in theirs.  They are watching how I live, and if I walk away from the Truth or live in a way that dishonors God, they will notice.

I long for these little ones to know Jesus better and grow to love Him, and I never want to distract them from Him.  I desire to live in a way that shows them how amazing Jesus is and causes them to want to serve Him.

Only by His grace.

Five Minute Friday: Unite

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Teach me Your way, O LORD, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name."  Psalm 68:11

My heart is so easily distracted.  Fears, emotions, dreams, goals . . . all these things often take my focus off of God.

It is so easy to go my own way, not even trying to seek His way.  The temptation to listen to lies from the enemy is strong, and I forget to listen to and walk in His Truth.

In being distracted by all these things, some of which are good things, I look up and realize that I haven't been living my life in the fear of God.

I remember the story of Mary and Martha.  Martha was so distracted by so many things, like service and even her own emotions.  Mary chose to focus her heart on the Truth Jesus spoke.

Lord, let me be like Mary, refusing to be so distracted and instead choosing to listen to and follow You.  Unite my heart to fear Your name. 

". . .but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42