Diary of a Ragamuffin – The Beginning

rag·a·muf·fin [raguh-muhf-in]  

noun

1.  a ragged, disreputable person; tatterdemalion.
2.  a child in ragged, ill-fitting, dirty clothes.
ragamuffin jeans
My great grandma used to call me this as a child when my sister and I didn’t meet her standards of clean and she had to take us out in public.  I really didn’t understand the meaning, but I thoroughly understood the connotation.  I hated being called that. It stuck with me.  And for many years I have felt like a ragamuffin.
Was a I poor?  No.  Dirty?  Of course not.  But, I have never fit in well.  I have never been enough.  I wasn’t smart enough.  Or pretty enough.  Or thin enough.  Or tough enough.  Or funny enough.  I think you get the idea.  And maybe you can relate.
I have covered my ragamuffin tendencies well through the years, even earning a college degree (after marrying), and landing a job teaching children, which I felt called to do.  I also managed to give birth to two beautiful children in the process, and assume the role of pastor’s wife.
This year I have experienced some major crises, including breast cancer, marital problems, and major opposition at my job.  These have forced me to depend more on God, and search for solutions, but at the same time, it brought the ragamuffin feelings to the surface.
Through prayer and good counseling, I have discovered that I AM enough.  I am a ragamuffin redeemed by Christ.  This was not a new revelation for me, however, I have started living it out more.  Which leads me to this blog…and a major career change.
At the end of May, I will leave my teaching career and embark on a new journey.  One that has not been planned out by me, but I am trusting the One who does have it planned out.  Will you join me as I chronicle this adventure?
This is the diary of a ragamuffin.
Featured post

Falling for the off-sides trap: What soccer taught me about spiritual offenses

[Special note: This was originally written in 2015, but on the advice of my husband, I did not publish then.

offside trap – when a defender(s) acting on a common understanding or trigger, moves forward in a line to catch one or more opponents offside ]

My Bible study group is studying the book by John Bevere, “The Bait of Satan:  Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense”.   I was reluctant to teach it because I had already read and studied it about 10 years earlier.  It was “old news” to me.  I had “graduated” from its teaching, or so I thought.

Do you ever feel like that when you read the Bible?  If we’re honest, I think we do…we read a story, glean its truths and apply it to our lives.  Presto-change-o, we’re better Christians.  Next!

As I was preparing for the next lesson at my daughter’s softball practice, my husband was with our son at his high school soccer game.  Before I go any further, I need to give a little background on the soccer situation.

My red-headed first born, R.,  was initially introduced to soccer at age 3, in a recreational league in our town.  I loved watching him play and learn the game.  As R. grew, so did his love for the sport.  My husband ended up getting involved by coaching as well.

When R. entered high school, the only sport he wanted to really play was soccer.  It’s a spring sport in our part of the country, so he had to wait almost the entire school year.

That was a difficult season for this mom.  I had to watch my son sit the bench 96% of the time and the coaches bumble most every game.  I drove many hours to pay to sit and watch my son sit.  I watched as other boys who were clearly tired, while we were losing by 4, 5, sometimes 6 goals to 0, and yet the coaches wouldn’t play my son.  It was apparent to even me that they didn’t know what they were doing.  This frustrated R., but I think it infuriated me.  My husband was trying to be the voice of reason by telling me, “You don’t understand sports.”

“He has to ‘pay his dues’…he’s only a freshman.”

Okay, so I refrained from giving the coach a piece of advice, and I thought ‘It’ll be better next year’.

Fast forward to this year, R. is now a sophomore, and hopefully, a bit more mature.  Most other high school soccer programs we knew about had started practicing in early January.  R’s team did not because their coaches were both basketball coaches and the team was still in its season.  To an on-looker, it seems that they don’t care about soccer.  Is it just an extra paycheck?

With one full practice before their first game, I was shocked to see all the starters, with the exception of 2, were basketball players.  One had not even played last year.

So, last week, sitting in my car, preparing for Bible study, I texted my husband asking if R. was playing.  Hubby said, “Half time 3-0 them.”

“Oh me.  And R. hadn’t played yet?”

“Nope”

And then it hit me, like a soccer ball to the face when you’re not looking.  I had been studying about offense and I was truly offended with these coaches.  I had been aggravated, frustrated and irritated with them.

In the words of Bevere, “Offended people react to the situation and do things that appear right even though they are not inspired by God.  We are not called to react but to act.” (p. 50)

Boy, was I reacting.  I wasn’t afraid to share my opinions with others…mainly my son, my husband and a friend of mine, who all agreed with me, by the way.

Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.  – Proverbs 26:20 NLT

BAM.  Just like that, conviction flooded my heart.  I had been adding fuel to the fire after every game.  Every critical comment, every sarcastic remark, every glaring jab was like pouring gasoline on a bonfire.

I realized I have to model some way to R. that this is a spiritual test for me…and him.  It’s developing spiritual fruit and character if we’ll allow it.  So how do I go about doing that?

First, I have to repent, which means asking God for forgiveness, but also turning from the thing.

Second, I must model the correct talk, or lack thereof.  I had the opportunity to do this at his last game.  In order not to tempt myself, I sat alone.  Mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

And while nothing changed at this game, R. still sat the bench for most of the game, as he sat, I prayed.  I prayed for him to be a good teammate, to be sportsmanlike in all his plays, to be able to endure the waiting and for God to use this for R.’s character-building.  I prayed for me too, to be able to not only to keep my mouth shut, but to truly give up any offense, in other words, to forgive the coaches.

This has taught me once again that I am in constant need of a Redeemer.  I can only pray that through this that R. and I will both become more like Him. I do not want to be caught in an ‘off-sides trap’!

Tree trimming tokens

As I unwrapped my Christmas ornaments, memories inundated my mind.  The yellow taxi cab with a Christmas tree strapped on the top of it was from a visit to my brother-in-law who lives in New York City and the delicate gold metal cutout of a ship from a visit to the same brother-in-law when he lived in Boston.  The fragile white starfish prompts scenes of our fabulous family beach vacation to Gulf Shores. 

Perhaps the most meaningful are the personal ornaments I received as gifts.  My kids created several as they were growing up and thankfully their teachers included their pictures on some of them.  Each passing year these become increasingly valuable.  

Teaching Is a Work of Heart

My profession as a teacher lends itself to receiving Christmas ornaments as gifts.  However, I don’t believe they are as popular as they used to be. My favorites are the ones with a handwritten name.  If it was on a card, I usually attach to the ornament.  Tonight, I unpacked this one: 

The back is best, though.  I had only been teaching for two and a half years when I received this.  How I wish I could time travel and reteach those students!  And yet, she said I was a great teacher.  Maybe she was told to write that, I don’t know, but I do know it has been a treasured part of my Christmas tree ever since.  

This Christmas, perhaps instead of giving things, you could give some words.  Positive words.  Kind words.  Encouraging words.  Words of gratitude and words of love.  Most of all, true words.  You don’t know how long someone will keep that card or note.  Don’t flatter or exaggerate, just honestly write.  It might be the most treasured gift you can give. 

An open letter to my children’s “other” mothers

Paper - Made with PosterMyWall (2)An open letter to my children’s “other” mothers:  

You know who you are — my kids’ friends’ moms.  The moms who always seem to be available, even though you may or may not work a full-time job. The moms who, according to my kids, cook better than I do, are more fun to be around and have a cleaner house than mine. The moms whom I’m sometimes a bit jealous of (if I’m honest). So, I have something I’ve been meaning to say to you:  Continue reading “An open letter to my children’s “other” mothers”

Loving to laugh

Have you ever heard a rambunctious laugh?  If so, you’ll likely never forget it.  It usually starts out as a giggle, grows to a chortle and crescendos into cackling and guffawing.  It is highly contagious.

My mom has that kind of laugh.  It’s loud, full of joy and one of the things we have in common that I love.

IMG_0954 (1)
Mom and me

This is one of my most favorite pictures of my mom and me.  On a whim we entered one of those photo booths in the mall. We fed the machine money and quickly read the directions.  It started flashing and we weren’t ready. Caught off guard, we both got tickled. The more my mom tried to suppress her snickers, the harder it was for us to keep our composure. After every flash, we saw the preview of the picture on the video screen above us.  Before long we were howling and shrieking behind that photo booth curtain. When the picture-taking was over, we both had tears in our eyes as we waited for the machine to spit out the film. It is a great memory.

As you can see, my mom and I have the same smile — that wide-grinned toothy smile. We also both love to release our ha ha’s like a horse tossing his head back.

The belly laugh we shared that day put us both in a good mood for the rest of the afternoon. Long before scientific studies proved it, the bible declared it, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Prov. 17:22a NLT)

Do you know just some of the ‘good medicine’ benefits of laughter?

  • Releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural ‘feel good’ chemicals.  They help stave off depression and can help relieve pain temporarily.
  • Protects the heart.  Increases blood flow and improves function of blood vessels.
  • Relaxes the body.  A good long belly laugh relieves stress and physical tension, leaving muscles relaxed for a possible 45 minutes after.

I’ve been told I smile too much and laugh too loud (and probably too often at work).  I use humor to deflect confrontation, tension and even boredom. Reviewing these health benefits (and others. . .hello, laughter even burns calories!),  I resolve to colorfully crack up considerably more!

 

Better watch out, better not cry

🎝 You better watch out, you better not cry! ♪

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My last Christmas program in 2013, the year I decided to call it quits.

♪ Better not pout, I’m telling you why. . . 🎝

Mrs. Morgan’s coming to school!

She’s making lesson plans,

And checking them out twice;

Gonna find the right standards

To teach them oh so nice.

 

[CHORUS]   You better watch out,

And follow directions,

So you can earn Tiger Tickets,

For your collection. . .

Mrs. Morgan’s coming to school!

 

She sees you when you’re reading,

She knows when you do math,

She knows if you’ve been working, 

So you better get right on task!

CHORUS
She sees you in the hallway,

She knows when you walk straight,

She knows if you’re on third block,

So your line better look so great!

CHORUS

She’s grading papers now,

in the middle of the night.

Recording all the data,

So the growth will be dynamite!

 

You better watch out

And follow directions

So you can earn Tiger Tickets

For your collection

Mrs. Morgan’s coming to school!!


Never say “never”.  This was one of my first major lessons in parenting that I’ve never forgotten.  It’s a good motto for life as well.  I wasn’t sure 3 years ago if I’d ever be in the classroom again.  Yet, thankfully, here I am.  (More on that topic coming soon).

I began to write this little tune many years ago, but this year I had the pleasure of adding new lyrics and performing it at our Teacher Talent Show.  I had sung it to my students, and they weren’t too impressed.  When I sang it this afternoon, I felt like a rock star.  I had been singing to the wrong audience.

Maybe you have been singing to the wrong audience too.  I’ve been trying to really concentrate on the only audience that matters:  my audience of One.  The One.  The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  My Savior, my Father, my Jesus.

I hope this Christmas you can sing and perform for the only One that matters.  Merry Christmas!

 

A Donkey’s Tail

I’m sure you’ve read the account in the Bible of Jesus’ birth, but I’m an eyewitness to the entire thing and not even mentioned!  

DonkeyAbe
A friend’s donkey named “Abe”.

Today I’m setting the record straight.  I’m Joseph’s donkey.  A beast of burden is what some call me because I can handle heavy loads on my back.  My kind are known for their stubbornness, but I’d like to call it “cautious steadfastness”. We’re not easily startled and often have a calming effect on other animals.  

I’ve helped Joseph with his carpentry work for many years. Unlike horses, who are symbols of war and wealth, donkeys are the working man’s beast.  

My surefootedness on mountainous terrain made me a great companion for long journeys, like the one Joseph had to take his soon-to-be-wife, Mary, from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a census, which also fulfilled the prophecy of Micah (5:2) that said the Savior would be born in Bethlehem.  

Roughly a 90 mile journey, Joseph did not choose the direct path.  My guess is he did not want to go through Samaria and take his beloved Mary who was carrying the Christ child across dangerous territory and very hilly terrain.

Instead, Joseph led me southeast through the Jezreel Valley and further east to the Jordan Valley.  Sometimes Mary walked, other times she rode on my back.  We continued south to Jericho, then proceeded up through the Judean Desert to Jerusalem. We only traveled during the day and the sun beat down on us. It was slow travel, but my master made the journey bearable.  He and Mary talked about their uncertain future.  Just when it seemed they might be down, one of them always mentioned their certain God.  Joseph said, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is with us. He told Jacob in Genesis 28:15, ‘Remember, I will be with you and protect you wherever you go, and I will bring  you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done all that I have promised you.’”   

Mary seem to ponder this in her heart and never complained.  Joseph was quick to make her ride me instead of walk onward to Bethlehem.

When we reached Bethlehem about a week later, we were all weary of moving.  There was no lodging to be found.  So, we camped out together, just as we had while traveling.  It was certainly not the ideal spot, especially when Mary began to go into labor.  

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the cries of birth, but my huge ears heard the moans of pain first.  The others in our group soon woke to wails and cries.  I did my best to calm everyone down, as my nature. It seemed to go on forever and intensified each hour.  Suddenly I heard a different type of cry, a high-pitched bawl, followed by a sweet and long lasting peace.  

At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what had just happened, but I now know that the world had been changed forever with that cry.  The Savior of the world had just been born to an unassuming couple who was obedient to the Lord.  

Joseph later appeared with the baby wrapped in cloths.  He held the child close to him while he searched for somewhere to lay him down. The manger I was using soon became a crib for the child.  I looked down at Him as my heart filled with love and admiration that I had never felt before.  

Later my heart sang and worshipped with the angels that came to proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  

 

You’re NOT the one: When rejection hits

Since taking the plunge back into part-time teaching last year, I’ve decided to go back into the full-time classroom.  Well, I decided to apply.  It’s ultimately someone else’s decision whether they let me in or not.  

Copy of Classroom Rules Template (1)In the last three months, I’ve applied for over 70 positions in 29 different schools across three school systems.  

I’ve had just one interview.  I thought it went well.  I didn’t get the job.  I was glad for the experience of interviewing because I learned some valuable things.  

So imagine my delight when I received a voice mail message from a principal last week.  [S]he called to discuss one of the positions I applied for.

The principal asked about my teaching background and after politely listening to me, told me I came highly recommended.  

Sounds great, right?  My insides were being flooded with adrenaline. But wait, it gets better!  [S]he added that it seems like I would be a great fit for the school. This is going great!

I was waiting for the invitation to come to the school to interview.  

Then the principal said [s]he wanted to be totally honest with me, “I hired the teacher I needed yesterday.”  

My mind screamed, “What?!?”

My adrenaline-fused heart suddenly stopped beating.

My knotted stomach flipped just as all the air was sucked out of my lungs.  

Meanwhile, my eyes filled with water just as my brain was sending signals for that water not to spill down my cheeks.  

The principal kept talking. I think [s]he said something like “I’ll keep you in mind.”

I responded with “Thank you,” forcing myself to smile (I learned that trick years ago in customer service).  

As soon as the call ended, I bowed my head low.  I let the tears gush immediately while sobbing and trying to breathe.

That was a first.  Thankfully, I was with a friend so I wasn’t able to go throw myself on my bed, hide under the covers and cry uncontrollably.  But that is what I really wanted to do.  

That wasn’t the first time I’ve been rejected.  I’ve faced rejection, like all of you, many times in my life.  Whether big or small, rejection always feels bad. However, this felt different. It felt mean.  

Was this intentionally building me up to knock me down?

If the principal had already hired someone the day before, why even bother calling?  Why not ignore my email, ignore my application, like so many others have done?  

Or, why not send a rejection email?  I’ve gotten a few of those.  “Thank you for your interest in blah, blah, blah…but we’ve filled the position.”

Thanks to my friend, right after that call my mind was distracted with more pleasant topics.  Then later that day I was on my way across the country for a wedding reception.  More distraction.  

Now I’m back home with more time on my hands.  I have applied for more jobs.  I’m gearing up for more rejection which caused me to stumble upon a helpful article with this powerful paragraph:

Unfortunately, the greatest damage rejection causes is usually self-inflicted. Indeed, our natural response to being dumped by a dating partner or getting picked last for a team is not just to lick our wounds but to become intensely self-critical. We call ourselves names, lament our shortcomings, and feel disgusted with ourselves. In other words, just when our self-esteem is hurting most, we go and damage it even further. Doing so is emotionally unhealthy and psychologically self-destructive yet every single one of us has done it at one time or another.  ~ Guy Winch, licensed psychologist and author

So what does Winch suggest instead?  He lists three things:  Have zero tolerance for self-criticism, revive your self-worth and boost feelings of social connection.  These things are supposed to help you recover sooner and move on with confidence.  

Have Zero Tolerance for Self-Criticism

Calling myself names, like “failure” and “loser” or saying “no one wants to hire an old teacher” does nothing to help and everything to hurt.

Revive Your Self-Worth

He suggests making a list of five important or meaningful qualities you have.  Let’s see. . .

  • I’m empathetic and compassionate.
  • I’m a loyal friend.
  • I’m a person of faith.
  • I’m an encourager.
  • I have enthusiasm for things I love.

That list took way too long to compile and I somewhat cheated because I pulled out my “StrengthFinder 2.0” book to see what my strengths were. (Most of the above list is from my results).

Boost Feelings of Social Connection

Remind myself I’m appreciated and loved. Well, my puppy Rocky loves and appreciates me.  No, seriously, my husband loves me most when I don’t deserve it.

So what do I do?  Whether the rejection is big or small, kindly conveyed or delivered dirtily, I’m trying to remember that negative self-talk doesn’t help, but positive self-talk does.  

 

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