Can You Hear Me Now?

About a year ago, I was considering a significant change in my professional world. I teach in a public high school and had been approached by a private, religiously affiliated school in my area to consider teaching there. To say that I was torn is an understatement. I was blessed to be working in a school often referred to as the “best kept secret” in our county because of its small size and close-knit community with a big heart. However, in case you’re not involved in education or have missed the headlines, public education is a mess right now. For teachers, the demands keep on piling up and the funds keep on getting cut in a climate defined by teaching to tests with very little accountability placed on students. The private school seemed to be an easy fix to those problems. More importantly though, the prospect of being able to express my spirituality freely in the process of mentoring youth was quite tempting. Still, I was content where I was, no need to fix what wasn’t broken. As I struggled with whether to entertain the idea of a switch, I prayed over and over again to God, asking for a sign of what I should do.

He gave it to me. As I drove to school the morning after my first incessant series of requests to Him, I saw a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, a rainbow right over the school I currently teach at. I would like to say I recognized the sign and listened right away, but I can be rather, well, slow at times. A good friend whom I taught with had just been diagnosed with cancer and she lived right by the school, so when someone pointed out that God had sent her a rainbow, I quickly dismissed the notion that God could be speaking to ME through that rainbow.

A week and two more rainbows directly over the school later, I still didn’t get it. I struggled through my decision on my own, deciding to stay put after countless hours of back and forth, pros and cons, worries, guilt and strife. As soon as I made the decision, though, I felt this immediate sense of peace and finally acknowledged that maybe just maybe, God really had been trying to speak to me all along. I simply wasn’t listening. I can just picture Him sitting back and chuckling at me, like what I do when my Little Miss Independent 3-yr-old insists on doing something “all by herself”. I find it slightly comical to witness the irony of her kicking and crying, “I can’t do it,” because she can’t accomplish a task on her own, but boy do those cries escalate to wails if I offer assistance. “No! I do it my own!!!” Yes, I feel sure that I know exactly how He felt watching me stumble through that week. Fine, do it yourself. But it would be so much easier if you would just let me help a little. If only you would LISTEN!

Double rainbow

My Sign

Since that time I have seen countless rainbows. Honestly, I am sure that I have seen more rainbows in the past year than in all of my previous 35 years combined. Is it just because I’m paying attention? Maybe, but I believe it’s much more than that. Rainbows aside, this has been one of the most difficult years of my life but also one of tremendous spiritual growth. I refuse to believe that it’s all coincidence. You see, I’ve not only seen regular rainbows, but a couple of double rainbows and even a triple rainbow! The first double rainbow I had ever seen appeared on my husband’s birthday in June! I saw rainbows on my brother-in-law’s birthday (March), my son’s birthday (November), and most recently my oldest nephew’s birthday in December. I also saw one over my sister and brother-in-law’s house as we went to visit them just after their son’s birthday (August).  I have seen so many rainbows that I stopped snapping pictures of them months ago!

Looking back at the cumulative sum of these rainbows is astounding, but I have to admit that it took me months along the way to really truly accept that there might be a message in them for ME. Confirmation came to me in the most unlikely way. My family and I belong to a small church full of true believers who ooze faith and love. Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, our pastors reconnected with some distant relatives of theirs who are also involved in ministry. They were invited to come to our church one Sunday in August, and after the service they stuck around to pray with people on a personal level. My husband and I introduced ourselves to them only by name, yet as we began, they prayed over us for things that no stranger possibly could have ever known. I will never forget the moment when the wife leaned in to me and said “God wants you to know that it’s Him. He’s been talking to you and you want to believe that it’s Him but you doubt. Don’t doubt, because that feeling that you have that it’s really Him is right. It is.” WHOA!

Are you like me? Are you ignoring a voice that’s whispering to you? Are signs being laid out that you’re missing? Is your soul crying out but being muted by the chaos of the world around you? Is God speaking to you but being drowned out by all the other noises?

How Will You Be Remembered?

I’ve been mulling over and over in my head now for several days how to word what I want to say on the subject of being remembered by others.  In fact, I had hoped to get this post out last week while the experience that prompted my musings was still fresh but it just wasn’t forming enough to put on paper.  So, here I am writing and I realized the publishing date is September 11th.  Coincidence?  Nope.  I don’t think anything is ever coincidental.  September 11th is one heck of a day for remembering others.

If you lived in the United States on September 11th 2001 today’s date is a day you will always remember.  Even if you didn’t live in the U.S. on September 11th back in 2001, you couldn’t help but know the horror we in America were experiencing that day that we still remember today.  Some things you just never forget.

All these years later I feel very certain that every single person that died that day by the hands of terrorists is remembered in some way by the people who’s lives they touched.  Any time someone passes, regardless of the circumstances, those around them reflect back on them.  I know this first hand as my future daughter-in-law’s father passed away unexpectedly a week ago – which by the way is what prompted the thoughts whirling in my head that I’m now writing about.  He got to go the best way possible- while he slept in his bed.  But, for his grieving family and friends, it was w.a.y. too soon to have him leave.  I had not had the pleasure of meeting Lailuma’s father yet.  I was going to meet him on September 15th at a party for Lailuma and my son, Jimmy to celebrate their engagement.  Instead I was getting to know him at a gathering in a funeral home and then later, at a memorial service.  You just flat never know what’s around the corner do you?

The funeral home and the service were filled with family, friends and co-workers.  My nieces, Blaire and Liz and I undoubtedly were the only ones there that had never met him.  I don’t know about Blaire and Liz, but not knowing Lailuma’s dad gave me a unique vantage point from which to observe.  Honestly, I think because I didn’t know him, I watched and listened more intently to get to know him.  After all, I needed something to remember him by.

Funny, I never knew him but I now dang sure have something to remember him for ~ LOVE.  The word “LOVE” was used over and over and over again regardless of the person speaking about him throughout the various events over the weekend.  I talked to family and friends.  I also listened to family and friends speak about him and reminisce over pictures of him.  Several co-workers spoke at the Memorial Service.  Sure, they praised his work ethic, his attitude, his enormous appetite and his physical strength but without exception the remembrances of him they chose to share were about his love of family – his deep from the heart but feel in the gut love for his four daughters that he wore like a uniform every single day.  I listened to each person and at the same time began to question in my head what people would say about me if they were standing at the podium at my memorial service.  What would they find most important to say about me?  And to make me ponder even more, while sitting there I learned my ex-husband and his young daughter were a mere few rows behind me in the church.  Was she thinking about what it would be like to loose her father?  How would she remember him?  What was he thinking about?  Was he wondering how the three children he had with me would remember him once he passed?  Odd isn’t it what enters your mind at times like sitting at a memorial service?

Life cycle events always mark change and give pause for reflection.  Celebrating the life of someone that has passed is no different.  So, my message to you dear friends is to aspire to inspire others with how you love.  Let it be the most important thing you are remembered for – not your brain, your job, your abilities or materialistic accomplishments.  Spread love in every direction and in every way that you possibly can.  Heck, just throw caution to the wind and let it blow from you wild and free.  It is the greatest gift and the greatest teaching you can give to others.  And in my book, it is absolutely positively the most important thing to be remembered for.  What greater honor than to be remembered for how you loved, I mean truly loved others while being part of this world of humanity is there?

As I left the church that day, I knew Phillip Walker Miller, III.  In fact, I knew all I needed to know about him.  I knew him through the eyes of his four daughters and through the eyes of many others.  What an incredible gift he was and continues to be through his giving and spreading love.

To love and actively spreading it …