Category Archives: Teachers

Stanley’s Dream

 

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya couldn’t happen without God.  She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows.  Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways when even she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us.  “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) Pixabay

Stanley’s Dream

It’s unlikely that you or I could navigate the narrow, winding paths that lead through the bush-covered interior outside Bungoma to find the small, isolated house where Stanley’s story begins.  He was the first born of four children to proud parents who encouraged them in all they did. The family worked hard on their small farm to survive and while they were rich in love, there was very little money.

Stanley enjoyed school and excelled in his high school courses but as the time drew near for his final exam, he faced a cold, hard truth.  As much as his parents desired to help him, they just didn’t have the funds; so Stanley did the only thing he knew to do: he prayed.  He prayed fervently.  He prayed continually.  He prayed right up into the evening before the registration money was due and still he had no answer.  As the family sat down that night for supper something unusual happened.  They were startled by a knock at their door.  Much to Stanley’s surprise, and an answer to his prayer, there stood one of his teachers. This teacher recognized the potential in Stanley and told him that he would pay his school registration fees enabling him to finish high school and take his exam.  Stanley immediately began praising God and thanking his teacher.  Songs of rejoicing filled the tiny home.

As often happens in life, rejoicing turned to sorrow as Stanley experienced a crushing blow.  His father unexpectedly passed away.  Seeing an opportunity, Stanley’s uncle swooped in and offered to help the family by taking Stanley to live with him.  Stanley’s life would never be the same.  Outside the uncle’s kitchen was an old side shed that at times had been used to house cows and chickens.  It was small, dark, had a stench, and now was Stanley’s room.  He soon learned that he was expected to be his uncle’s house boy receiving no pay in return.  He worked all day: cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and caring for his small cousins.  The only food Stanley got each day were the few sips or nibbles he was able to sneak as he prepared the family’s meals.  Stanley was now a slave but he never stopped praying for the dream he held deep in his heart to somehow come true.

Days turned into weeks and weeks became years when one day while Stanley was doing chores he noticed a woman moving into the duplex next door to his uncle’s.  He soon learned that Marilyn was a teacher and administrator at her own school: Living Hope. They quickly became friends and he shared with Marilyn that he’d been with his uncle for six years and in that time he’d prayed every single day for God to provide a way for his dream to be realized.  Having never shared the words aloud with anyone before, they felt strange crossing his tongue as he confided in Marilyn that his dream was to be a teacher too. He revealed  that somehow he’d always known he was supposed to be a teacher even though he could see absolutely no way for it to happen.

Other than praying, Stanley had no idea what it would take to make his dream of teaching a reality; so Marilyn sent him on his bike to the small teaching college in town.  The trip home seemed to take much longer than the trip to the school as he now carried the heavy burden of knowing he’d never experience the joy of being a teacher.  Up until now, he had no idea what college would cost and it was just too expensive, especially for someone who had nothing!

But “nothing” didn’t describe what Stanley had because He. Had. God.  AND God had a plan! We’re promised God hears our prayers so when Stanley needed a miracle a teacher arrived on his doorstep. When Marilyn needed a place to live, she miraculously found an answer in the duplex next door to Stanley.  Now, Stanley needed a way to make his dream of being a teacher more than a dream and he was about to find his miraculous answer in Marilyn!

When Marilyn saw the look of defeat on Stanley’s face her heart was moved. It didn’t take her long to offer to pay his tuition for the first semester and buy all the supplies he’d need; but she told him that after that God would have to handle the rest. And handle it He did!

Stanley flourished at college but at the end of the semester, as expected, he was out of money and at the time so was Marilyn.  Prayers were lifted once again, and Marilyn’s sister stepped in when she realized how troubled Marilyn was about Stanley’s situation and her inability to continue to help him.  She provided for Stanley so that he could finish his two year program and receive his Associates Degree.  It was a bittersweet achievement as Stanley found himself in the exact spot he’d been in time and time again…holding on to the dream of being a teacher, having no money, and praying fervently for God to make a way.  Meanwhile, Marilyn was home in West Virginia traveling from church to church speaking about Living Hope High School.  While at Faith United Methodist Church, she felt compelled to tell Stanley’s story.  As church dismissed, coming up from the back of the church, a couple approached Marilyn.  They’d been so moved by Stanley’s story that they pledged to support him through his final two years of college.

Knowing his teacher, Marilyn, her sister, and the family from Faith Church were answers to his constant prayers, Stanley never took their gifts to him for granted.  He worked diligently to make his dream come true and graduated with his teaching certification!

Some would say that Marilyn’s moving next door to Stanley’s uncle was a coincidence.  Marilyn, Stanley, and now you, know differently.  God works out His plans for us in miraculous, unexpected ways.  They may not happen just as we imagine or on our time table, but He works them out for our best.  You see, Stanley’s story doesn’t end here….He is now the Head Administrator and Marilyn’s most trusted employee at Living Hope High School! God sent Marilyn to Stanley and she will tell you that Stanley is a Godsend to her. Neither could do what they do without the other. Now, I’d say that’s a dream come true!

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254.

M’m! M’m! Mmmmm-uesday!

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

So, me and this Monday thing are just not working out! Somehow I keep missing it!  Retirement’s to blame, I think.  It’s taken a while but, I’ve finally reached the point where Sunday night stress doesn’t set in anymore and so…. I now hardly recognize Monday. (I’m sorry to all you young working people out there. Don’t worry I remember what it’s like and it makes not getting up to go to work everyday oh, so much sweeter! Don’t despair! It’s what you have to look forward to!)

I’m excited to report that one of  the last members in my circle of teacher friends retired in June! Now we are all hoping to spend a lot more time together…..OUTSIDE of school! Between us, we have well over 200 years of teaching experience.  That’s a lot of lesson plans and hours supporting each other through tears, laughter, frustration, achievement, sickness, health, bad days, good days, bad years, and good years. We’ve been sounding boards, cheerleaders, advocates, listening ears, and so much more for each other. Anyway, now it doesn’t matter if it’s a weekday or the weekend; we are overjoyed that we can get together whenever we want to!

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

Whether you’re retired like us, close enough to be counting down the days, or just starting out; don’t forget to “rejoice”!  It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday of life (even for us retired folk) that we miss out on the everyday of life. I’m speaking from experience so listen to your elder……Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, trying. Yes, sad, scary, and hard! It’s also short. Don’t. Forget. To. Rejoice. Dinner with your family, a call from your mom, reading a bedtime story, a hug, a touch, a rainbow, a car that works, pets, a dishwasher, and a million other things!

Yep, I missed posting on Monday, BUT I’m not going to miss out on finding reasons to rejoice no matter WHAT day it is!  And for starters, here’s a delicious reason! In honor of my dear friend’s retirement, I’m going to share one of her recipes that’s also one of my favorites! Enjoy and….I’d love for you to go to the comments section and let me know what you’re rejoicing in today!

Robin Ann's Squash Casserole

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of yellow summer squash, cubed
  • Small-medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of Minute Rice (uncooked)
  • 1 can Cream of Celery Soup
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
  • Grated cheddar cheese to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook squash and onion in a small amount of water until soft.
  • Drain excess water. (I leave a little in)
  • In a bowl, mix together rice, soups, and squash/onion mixture.
  • Put in a 9 X 13 greased pan.
  • Top with cheese.
  • Bake 30-40 minutes.
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This is a perfect recipe for this time of year as the Summer Squash are ready to pick right now!  I’ve thought about adding ham to this recipe but haven’t tried it yet.  We just had it as a side dish with grilled steak and fresh strawberries! Did I mention REJOICE?

A Teacher’s Heart

Teaching is a Work of Heart!

Teaching is a Work of Heart!

To all my precious Teacher friends out there…Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!  Never forget what an important job you do and how much I admire you!

A Teacher’s Heart

It started when I was very young,

A seed began to grow.

Crayons, scissors, glitter too,

Went with me where I’d go.

Sunday School, babysitting

Camp counselor and more,

Time with children anywhere

Caused my heart to soar.

It took hard work along the way

And several interviews

With love and support of family and friends

I stepped into my teacher shoes.

Those poor first students who had to teach me

Time and time again

Lessons tried, lessons failed

Lessons that should never have been.

Through it all they didn’t give up

And thankfully neither did I,

When I think back on those precious first years

I truly want to cry.

I’ve put my heart and soul into

My classrooms and each child,

Each day a new adventure

Some good, some bad, some wild.

Thirty-two years of my life

Living out this dream,

The ups, the downs, laughs and tears,

The times I wanted to scream.

The teacher’s day is never through

It’s hard to understand

The patience, the strength, the prayers it takes

To embrace a job so grand.

The seed has grown and blossomed

Its roots have gone quite deep.

In my heart are memories

A treasure I’ll always keep.

Little did I know back then

Long ago when this did start,

That God’s perfect plan all along

Was to give me a teacher’s heart.

Once a teacher, now a teacher

it’s what I’ve always been

Looking back I have no doubt

I’d do it all again.

Wonder as You Wander

"Wisdom Begins in Wonder" Socrates

“Wisdom Begins in Wonder” Socrates

While glancing through my husband’s recent issue of “Reader’s Digest”, I ran across the story entitled “A World of Wonder”. It is described as an “Appreciation in Words and Photographs”. In honor of that cover story the editor listed things that have filled her with wonder and it got me thinking…..What fills ME with wonder? So, after much pondering and in no order of importance here are twenty things that have filled me with wonder lately:

1. My baby girl having a baby
2. The rhythm and song of the sea
3. The colors, sounds, and dynamics of birds at my feeders
4. The glistening, crystal world created by ice on trees
5. Strength given to people in crisis
6. Bulbs that lay dormant underground and then at the perfect moment burst forth into the sunshine
7. The unbreakable bond with my sisters
8. The utter silence after a snow storm
9. Pure and perfect artistry found in nature
10. Holding hands with a child
11. My son’s faith
12. The effect of music on my soul
13. How as teachers we can predict the weather by our students’ behavior
14. The life cycle of a butterfly
15.  That no matter how old I get I still need my mom
16. The smell of a bookstore
17. Reading the same piece of scripture and finding something new and meaningful each time
18. Notes left for me on the kitchen counter
19. The infinitude of stars visible on a clear night
20. Grace

The amazing thing is I could list 20 more and then 20 more. I find the longer I focus my attention on those things that defy logic and common sense. Those things that are beyond my understanding and those things that just leave me speechless, the longer my list becomes. The homey smells of bacon and coffee. Friendships that last a lifetime.  A brand new box of crayons.  Happy tears….. Life is full of wonder if we just take the time to notice. Think about how different our world would be if we shifted our attention to wonderful things instead of noticing our differences, the negatives, and the disappointments around us. Just as Liz Vaccareillo, editor of “Reader’s Digest”, challenged her readers to make their own list, so I challenge you, my readers, to stop, look around, and recognize those things in your life that fill YOU with wonder. I think you may be surprised at how many there are and the difference identifying them makes on your outlook. We live in an amazing world surrounded by miracles every day. Why don’t you begin today to Wonder as you Wander through yours.

Preparing for the Climb

image

My First “Small” Summit

It’s been a tough week.  School started and I wasn’t there.  For the first time in thirty-three years I didn’t decorate my classroom with colorful frogs, prepare fun opening day activities, or pick out a “first day of school” outfit.  I am done, finished…….retired.  I fully expected to feel happy and free but instead I feel disconnected and at loose ends.

Life is not static.  Changes come like the rise and fall of the mountains.  Just when we sigh a breath of relief on the downhill side another slope ascends before us.  Right now I feel like I am facing Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia.  I can’t see what waits for me on the other side and the climb seems difficult, my footing unsure .  I am reminded that it is in exactly these times that faith propels us to the top.  It is faith that helps us take that first step, faith that whispers “don’t look down”, and faith that assures us that we’re almost there.

When I focus on ME and try to control the climb, I stumble every time.  But when I concentrate less on my own effort and more on “The Guide” the rise to the summit seems possible.  Now, I am not there yet but I am “in training”.  Taking baby steps and scaling small peaks is preparing me for the precipice that is this new life of mine. We all face cliffs and crags in our lives, but remembering to cling to “The Rock” helps us face those challenges and the unknown without the fear of falling.  Let’s shout that from the mountaintops!

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Simple Love Notes

It took six days but I finally have my classroom cleaned out of 32 years of saving, creating, collecting, and reusing stuff!  It only took five or six wheelbarrow loads a short trip to the dumpster and a LONG walk down memory lane.  Deep in the corners of drawers, cupboards and shelves I found trinkets, artwork, and gifts I have received through the years.  Precious things that a teacher just cannot throw away.  Amongst these treasures were a variety of love notes from former students.  Some scribbled on scraps of paper.  Others drawn with crayons or markers and the paper filled with colorful drawings.  Reading those forgotten notes brought back vivid memories of children I taught who are now adults with children of their own as well as students I have had more recently.  Many letters had no name on them to identify the writer just the words “I love you” in a child’s print, but I saved them all just the same.

The offering of love is a precious gift. One that we should all freely give.   Children seem to understand this better than we adults.  Four little words,  You’re the best teacher”, scribbled on  the back of an old wrinkled spelling test years ago, filled me with such joy when I received it and again when I uncovered it last week.  Six words…..”I wish you were my mother”.  Three words….”I love you”.  It seems so simple….feel something and express it, but we know that giving love is risky.  We might be hurt or made fun of.  The feeling may not be returned.  We can think of many reasons for not opening our hearts to others.  It seems easier just to keep it to ourselves.

After experiencing the overwhelming warmth of love I felt as I read each note I found, I’m determined to be braver and more willing to show others how I feel about them.  Maybe it will be through a smile, a hug, a gift, or who knows, even through a love note.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  It doesn’t have to be planned.  It just simply has to be shared.

Before I started cleaning out my classroom, I promised myself (and my husband) that I wouldn’t bring too much home with me.  I must confess though, that I could not bring myself to throw away those precious acts of love I had been so freely given.  I tucked them away in a special box to be gone through again when my heart needs reminding about the wonderful power of a simple love note.

A Simple Love Note

A Simple Love Note

Celebrations

Oh my!  So much has happened since my last post.  It has been a whirlwind and I haven’t quite stopped spinning yet.  In the past two weeks I have been the speaker at the 6th grade commencement,  finished the school year with my Second Graders, made it through my retirement ceremony, spent the weekend on a mountaintop with girlfriends, and traveled with my family to Indiana for my nephew’s High School Graduation Open House.  Whew!

As you can see, my last two weeks have been a series of celebrations!  It’s funny, each event celebrated an ending but at the same time they also celebrate new beginnings.  The Sixth Graders are leaving Elementary School behind but will be making new friends in Middle School.  My Second Graders will no longer sit in their small desks in my classroom but will instead move down the hall into larger desks and will learn so many new and exciting things. I am no longer a teacher at NFES.  There are so many parts of that I do not want to end, however there is a small tickle of anticipation beginning to grow in my soul at the thought of taking a new path.  My friends and I escaped to a mountain retreat to celebrate not one but THREE retirees!  We each have taught for many years and to see it end is scary and yet each of us have new hopes, dreams, and goals we desire to fulfill as we begin this new life stage.  And finally, my nephew has accomplished so much and has made us very proud during his High School years but now he will move on and begin his path to finding the perfect career.

These past two weeks have been filled with laughter, hugs, reminiscing, and yes, tears. Through it all I am reminded that though life presents many endings it also gifts us with new beginnings that take us into unchartered territory. Thankfully it does not send us there unprepared.  We take with us all the lessons we have learned along the way, the support of those who mean the most to us, and the confidence that our steps are guided to lead us right where we are meant to be. Yes, endings can be sad and scary but discovering the possibilities that our new beginnings offer us are definitiely a reason for celebration!

Countdown to Retirement~Day 4~A Goat Story

On a normal school day I get up, have my cup of coffee, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack my lunch, and head off to school.  I have done the same thing for more mornings than I can count.  This morning however, had just a little more excitement!  After I had gotten dressed but before I packed my lunch I heard an unusual noise.  I looked out my front door and found that one of our neighbor’s goats was wedged between a building and the fence AND he had his head, horns and all, stuck through the fence.  Now, I was raised a city girl but I’ve learned a few things in 32 years of country living. Unfortunately, being a “goat whisperer” is not one of them.  I frantically worked for 20 minutes to try and free that crazy animal’s head from what I thought was sure death!  After having my fingers pinched between goat horns and fence wire several times, I came to the conclusion that I was not going to be able to save the poor thing so decided to call around the neighborhood to find someone stronger to help me.  Promising the goat I would return I quickly ran inside to use the phone.  Would you believe that as the phone was ringing on the other end I looked out the window and that dumb goat was gone!!!! He had freed himself and was back on the top of the hill with the herd!!! ( now you decide who was the dumb one…him or me!)

Sometimes, being a teacher is a little bit like my goat friend this morning.  Decisions that are out of our control are made and the results wedge us into places we don’t want to be.  What we know and believe to be true about children is overlooked and expectations are placed upon us that are cumbersome and unrealistic.  Of course, most of us do all we can to try and accomplish what is asked of us, all the while working to help our students be the best they can be.  And just about the time we start to figure it all out, the expectations change again and there we are stuck just like the goat with someone who doesn’t have the skills to help, trying to push us in a direction we don’t want to go.  I truly believe that if the powers that be would offer teachers the time and opportunity to find their own way, they would be surprised at how quickly it would free us to practice what we know to be right and allow us to lead our students to the top of the hill, right where every “kid” should be!

Count Down To Retirement~Day 5

Well let’s see, since I last posted,  I’ve ridden a school bus for my final class field trip, cheered through my last Field Day, and today, graded the last set of papers of my career.  I have to be honest.  I won’t miss field trips, field days, or grading papers too much and yet it makes me melancholy just the same. As I reflect on that, I guess even though they weren’t my favorite things about being a teacher, they are still part of the job. As with anything, you take the good with the bad and if you’re lucky the good outweighs the bad.  I’ve been very lucky.

For the last 32 years I have been honored to work with the most wonderful teachers and staff.  Our school has been a place of support, cooperation, and encouragement for our students and each other.  My fellow teachers have been my sounding board, shoulder to cry on, and at times the voice of reason that I needed.  I truly couldn’t have made it this far without them.  I’ve tried to figure out a way to let them know what they mean to me but have decided it’s impossible.  How do I put into words all the feelings that fill my heart?  First of all, I am an emotional wreck in the best of times. This week will probably be a super storm of feelings for me anyway, so actually saying the words (if I had them) will be virtually impossible.  I only hope that a smile through my tears, hugs that are tighter than usual, and whispered thank yous will convey to them more than just those simple gestures.  I hope it will let them know that they are blessings in my life and have given me the best gift anyone can receive.  They have turned a school into so much more…..a place to turn to when I am troubled, a place to share my joys, a place of protection, a place of inspiration, a place to laugh, and a place to grow.  The good has abundantly outweighed the bad. I may have been a teacher for 32 years but I have learned more from my school family than they’ll ever know.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.  Yes, I have been VERY lucky!