Saturday, August 29, 2015

Happy To Be Here Day!!

I love the word August. Makes me think of fall, football, and the excitement of back-to-school. I love the number 30. It is a nice even number. I like the sound of it. You put them together and they create a special date--my birthday. I always liked my birthday. It has marked many fists for me.  My first day of school fell on August 30th. My first day of teaching was August 30th. My first day of life was August 30th. But not too long ago I wondered if I would live to see my next August 30th. Cancer makes you reevaluate a lot of things. Birthdays take on new meaning. 

The candles on my birthday cake used to represent a passing year. Now they represent hope for another one.  The sweetness of the cake is no longer just a justified treat, it now reminds me of the sweetness of living and to savor every bite of life. The Happy Birthday song is not just a traditional melody, it is a reminder of how the voices of those I love come together to create the soundtrack of my life. When I open a present I am reminded that life is a gift and it shouldn't be taken for granted.  The birthday greetings of my family and friends bring a lump to my throat as I am reminded how they prayed for me, cheered for me, cried for me, hoped for me, fought for me. My birthday is no longer a marker of an anniversary of the day I was born, it is now a marker of the miracles God performed in answer to our prayers. I am a very blessed girl.

I get to celebrate another day. I get to live a little more, love a little longer, learn another lesson. God is so good! Happy birthday to me! Happy to be here!!!

Blessed is she who has believed that The Lord would fulfill his promises to her. 
Luke 1:45

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Just Extend the Boundaries

As school is about to begin I can't help but remember some of my own school starts as a kid. I had many good teachers, a few that I could have done without, and one that taught me lessons that changed my whole life. Mrs. Etta Mae Mann was my first introduction to school and boy did I love her!

I attended kindergarten in Garland, Texas. I turned 5 years old on the first day of school. For my kindergarten teacher friends you know what that means. I was the baby of the babies. You could only be one day younger than me and be allowed in that grade. While I felt quite grown and ready for school, there were definitely some things that weren't quite matured yet. I have vivid memories of things I did that year to compensate for any gaps. When I'd forget how to spell my last name I would pretend to have to go sharpen my pencil. On the sharpener shelf was a yellow egg carton that contained seashells I had brought for show-and-tell. In my mother's neat handwriting my name was written on a tiny label. I would slowly sharpen my pencil as I memorized the order of the letters I would need to write on my paper and then return to my seat. I learned that you don't have to know it all, you just have to know where to find the answers.

I have other great memories of lessons I learned that year.  I remember a green construction paper kite made as we learned our letters. It won't fly we were told, but it was pretty to look at. I took it home from school and as I got out of my car the kite was grabbed by the wind. It CAN fly!!! I was ecstatic and couldn't wait to tell Mrs. Mann. I learned that the impossible is possible after all.

I LOVED Mrs. Mann. I did everything in my power to impress her. I would tell tall tales about where I lived, the exotic foods I liked (you know, exotic like fish sticks, which I hated, but apparently thought would be impressive). Maybe the reason I loved Mrs. Mann so much was because she loved me. One evening she invited my family to her home for dinner. She served the foods I had told her were my favorite. You guessed it, fish sticks. I had to choke down those fish sticks with a smile on my face! I learned a pretty valuable lesson that day- don't pretend to be someone you're not and always tell the truth!

But the lesson I learned that may have had the most impact came from Mrs. Mann and a coloring page of a tomato soup can. I assume we were learning about the letter T, that wasn't the part of the lesson that mattered that day. You see one of the things that hadn't matured in me very well yet was my coloring. My fine motor skills were a work in progress. When I colored I pressed very hard which would make a big mess on the paper. I struggled to stay in lines. More than ANYTHING I wanted to be the best artist in the class. I wanted to color the most beautiful tomato soup can in the whole wide world for Mrs. Mann. She deserved a picture that could stand up to the quality of the Mona Lisa. The harder I tried the worse it got. I still remember my little heart beating inside my chest as I began to get frustrated and feel like a failure. I can see my knuckles beginning to get white as I gripped the crayon tighter trying to control it. The more I tried to control it, the harder I gripped, the worse it got. I was out of the lines. It was a mess! My red crayon drawing began to look like someone had smashed a tomato on the page. As my frustration grew, a shadow fell across the page and Mrs. Mann leaned down and quietly said words that have forever changed my life. "Anna, just extend the boundaries." She put her hand over mine and showed me how to make new borders for my tomato soup can. By the time I finished my drawing it had a one inch border all the way around, BUT I WAS IN THE LINES! It wasn't perfect by most standards, but it was a Mona Lisa! I cannot even begin to tell you how those words, "Anna, just extend the boundaries" have impacted my life. When I run into obstacles that I don't know how to address I don't give up in frustration, I just extend the boundaries. When I have made a mess of things, I hear Mrs. Mann whisper in my ear and I just extend the boundaries. When solutions are no where to be found, I look outside the boundaries. The lesson learned from Mrs. Mann and a tomato soup can have served me well. I learned to think outside the boundaries which opened a whole new world of possibilities.

At the end of kindergarten my family moved to Shallowater. I only saw Mrs. Mann one other time in my life, but when I graduated from high school I received a card from her in the mail. Inside the card was a red rose that I had colored long ago. My picture was in the center. I remember that it had hung on a bulletin board in our classroom in her "Kinder-garden". And the coloring was quite nice for a kid who had made such a mess of things. I turned it over and found a message written in Mrs. Mann's script-  "My all time favorite pupil Anna Masten". It was the best graduation present of all.

Now that I am older and maybe a little wiser, I see all sorts of spiritual lessons in the way Mrs. Mann lived her life and the lessons she taught me.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26. (Just extend the boundaries.)

"Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool." Proverbs 19:1. (Don't try to be bigger than you are. It is okay not to like fish sticks.)

Today Mrs. Mann is not around to whisper in my ear when things get hard, but the Holy Spirit is and he gently whispers encouragement and advice when I am still enough to listen.

Sometimes the harder I try to control things, the worse I make them. Rather than gripping harder to try to manage things, sometimes the power comes in letting go. Don't cling tighter to problems, lighten your grip! Let the Father place his hands over yours and show you how to navigate through the problem.

It is back to school time, but not just for kids. Maybe my lessons learned in kindergarten apply to you today. Are you having a hard time staying in the lines? Has your life become a mess? Does it seem impossible? Hear the soft whisper?

 Just extend the boundaries!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

She Believed She Could...

Today I spent the day in a hospital waiting room as a sweet friend of mine had surgery. As I passed the time I read a little, surfed the web a little, and prayed a lot. The mixture of those things brought me to an a-ha moment. I guess I was finally still enough for one!

Have you ever heard the phrase, "She believed she could so she did"? I noticed it in several places today. I saw it on jewelry, on a plaque and on Pinterest. I think I have even posted it somewhere before.  At first glance I didn't think much about it, but the more I saw it the more I got to thinking about it. SHE believed SHE could so SHE did. How sad that SHE was in it alone. I get it, you have to believe in yourself to accomplish things. I agree. But the more I thought about the phrase the more a little thought started to turn in my head. I am SHE, but there have been ALOT of things in my life that I couldn't do, even though I wanted to. Among them, I couldn't cure myself of cancer. I remember when I was first diagnosed scrambling in my mind to come up with a solution. Something I could do to cure myself. I read every book I could find. I scoured websites for ideas. I thought that if I found just the right thing I could bring a cure, but believing in myself to come up with a solution just wasn't enough. As I remembered those days, the phrase begin to shift. You see it wasn't believing in me that brought healing in my life. I found myself thinking, "She believed HE could so HE did." That was the secret. We have been sold a pack of lies that if we believe in ourselves we can do anything. That if we set our minds to things we can achieve, but that is a lonely, defeating, disappointing way to approach life. We have a Father who is bigger and stronger that is the one who truly impacts change in our lives. We don't have to believe in OURSELVES, we have to believe in HIM!
God's power in our lives is amazing when we believe. Mathew 9:29 says, "According to your faith will it be done to you."  She believed HE could so HE did. The bigger our belief, the bigger the response. We have to believe in HIM. Then, and only then, can we count on the promise of Matthew 17:20, "Nothing will be impossible for you."
But what about when our faith tank is low? What about times we struggle with unbelief?   I love Mark 9:24, "Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" God let's us ask for him to help us believe. (I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have cried that out in the last three years!)

I don't know about you, but I get tired of struggling sometimes. I get tired of trying to work things out on my own. I think the quiet whispers of the waiting room were coming through loud and clear, "She believed HE could so HE did." I am grateful it isn't dependent on me, because I CAN'T DO IT!  But I am so grateful for a God who can. My prayer? I believe, help me overcome by belief so that the impossible can be done!