Tag Archives: joy

School Goals

I am the little girl climbing the pole. I was in kindergarten. I remember that pole being a whole lot taller. Also, this was the peak of my athletic career. Who knew I would bloom athletically so early?

I look at that little girl and see her face filled with fear, pride and determination all at the same time. I was trying to reach a goal for the first time I guess. I wouldn’t have been climbing that pole except that it was a school thing. School inspired me to do all kinds of things I would not have done on my own…from climbing that pole to receiving a doctorate degree lots of years later from TCU.

When I close my eyes, I can still remember starting school and my mom and I buying my school supplies. If I breathe deeply I can smell manila paper and freshly sharpened pencils. I remember the joy of a new bottle of glue and a fresh box of crayons. I was the one with the green handled left-handed scissors which never helped me cut anything. I always had something new to wear on the first day of school and felt ready to learn.

I didn’t know it then, but I was a lucky little girl. Not everyone gets to begin school so prepared. Some students show up with no supplies on the first day of school.

For the last seven years in the Grapevine Colleyville ISD, our entire community has come together to insure that all students have a chance to start the school year prepared. With one in four students here falling in the Economically Disadvantaged category, our numbers have forced us to think big and to utilize all resources in order for all students to be ready to learn.

I wish you could see the faces of the students when they arrive at our GCISD Connect Back to School Fair. Their smiles are broad as they see their teachers, principals, counselors and school administrators greeting them. None of the school staff gets paid to be at this Saturday morning fair. Then, there are hundreds of community volunteers from service organizations, businesses, faith groups, fire and police departments providing resources and one-on-one guidance as the children and the families walk through the fair.

The parents, who seem worried and overwhelmed at first, begin to relax as they experience the warm greetings and see their children’s faces light up. The first stop is the backpack table where everyone picks a new backpack to fill. GRACE http://www.gracegrapevine.org brings packs of clothes for every size of child. Those in need of clothing receive school clothes right there. Families wind through the vendors receiving snacks, information and resources. They sign up for school transportation and have eye screenings.  The last stop is the school supply table where the Grapevine Chamber Women’s Division http://www.grapevinechamber.org members hand each child a full grade appropriate pack of supplies. Joy, relief and pride in learning seem to be the words of the day.

It takes all of us to make such a big miracle happen every year. This year 1400 students are pre-registered to attend. We need you too. If you can volunteer the morning of the fair Saturday August 11 from 8:30-noon at Grapevine High School, sign up here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0b4eaeac23a5f49-7thannual. We will train you the morning of the fair to be comfortable in your role. You can donate new backpacks for all ages until August 9 by dropping them off at GCISD Central Office at 3051 Ira E. Woods Avenue, Grapevine, TX 76051, Monday-Thursdays. You can donate money at Grapevine Colleyville Education Foundation, PO Box 292, Grapevine TX 76099 (mark your donation Connect) or donate at Grapevine-Colleyville Education at Facebook.com.

I always started school ready. A quality education made a huge difference in my life. I’m so grateful our community wants that same gift for all children.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and pole climber.    

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Delight

Have you ever followed a toddler around? I think everyone should. It is a crash course in wonder and emotions. In the past week, I spent lots of time with a soon to be two-year old and he does not miss a thing. He notices super small feathers and the tiniest of snails. He brought me a withered spider and a thankfully deceased giant bumblebee carcass.

He lives near cows and a couple of donkeys and is transfixed in place by their sounds. He notices birds, airplanes, trains and helicopters. And tractors, oh my, he’s in love with tractors.

He delights in having a task to do, like feeding the dog, making a tower out of blocks or taking his diapers to the trash can. He’s learning to color but coloring directly on the table seems the most fun.

He is a dramatic one with melting falls to the floor when the tower doesn’t come together like he visualized. He will knock it down and cry “Oh No” before collapsing in despair. In remind him that he did the knocking down and ask what is he going to do about it. Problem solving quickly follows.

But most of all, I love his delight. He’s getting a sense of humor. I love to trigger it. His hat on my head is hilarious. Me pretending to drink his milk is super funny. When he hides in plain sight and I find him, he throws his head back and belly laughs.

His baby brother just received a new super soft blanket. When we laid it on the floor for the baby, big brother had to delight in it first, stretching out his arms for that first good long feel of softness.

Delight. The Bible is full of delight. In some places it is actually a commandment. God delights in us when we are grateful, aware and when we acknowledge our needs. God wants us to delight in creation, people and places. God invites us to a life of delight and mysteriously through that, promises to give us everything we need. Delight yourself in the Lord and God will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Wow. If I delight, I’ll have everything? Money, security, good looks, eternal youth, no problems? No, I think it means delight, savor, notice, be grateful and joyful…that is everything your heart needs.

I’ve noticed joy in the strangest of places, in mothers who’ve lost children, in people living in poverty, in those in the midst of the worst kind of trauma. You’ve seen it too. Laughter at a funeral, the tiniest ray of light in an otherwise dark night, music in a hospital room.

Toddlers know how to delight. They do it in between and throughout all the other emotions of the day. Help me, God, to be like that.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. She is currently enrolled in a course on delight, taught by her grandson.            

Whispers

I never knew why older people cried at weddings. It seemed obvious to me that it was  a happy time. I didn’t get it.

I met Julie when I was an 18-year-old freshman at Texas A&M. We decided to be roommates the next year and have been close friends since then.

I’ll never forget the day I picked her up from her workplace for lunch. My newly married friend got in my car as pale as the palest ghost. I said, “What is wrong with you?” She swallowed her nausea and managed the word “pregnant.” We were both stunned. We’d never done pregnancy before.

Five babies, many milestones, lots of life, challenging jobs, countless lunches and shopping sprees later, the baby she was pregnant with thirty years ago got married, this past Saturday night.

Suddenly, I’m the person in the congregation crying because, oh my goodness…life!  Her baby boy looked the same as he always had except now he was the groom. My friend looked gorgeous as the glowing groom’s mom.

Our weekend was filled with celebrations and people we had not seen for years. The entire time I’m asking myself how this happened. How did the college girls get to be moms of adults?

When I was younger older people used to whisper to me the secrets of life. I was moving too fast to listen. It seemed like they were telling me something about babies growing fast and time flying.

Now, I’m the one whispering and crying happy tears in the pew because, to me, a wedding is so much more than two people marrying. It is a lifetime of moments, relationships, parenting, angst and friendship all squeezed into a few sacred Holy moments where love and hope once again emerge.

When all that awareness hits you at once, it’s bound to seep out in joy-filled tears.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, writer, mom, Mimosa to Keller, breast cancer survivor and tearful wedding guest. She is speaking at The Well women’s event at First UMC Grapevine, Texas on February 8, 2018. Some tickets are still available at http://www.fumcg.org/cindyryan 

Tree Trauma

Tis the season of gifts. You have your list and I have mine. Retailers are working as hard as they can to make sure we want to give what they have. Thankfully, our family’s gift lists have been trimmed down over the years due to our intentional simplification. Today I found a picture of Christmas from about 20 years. We were in a large room and the gifts were all over the room, a huge pile in front of each person, above our heads. We were sitting down, but still. And, this was just our celebration with one side of the family. Everyone had at least 15 gifts; there were 11 of us in the picture. You do the math.

In the Christian faith, we mark this season before Christmas as a time of watching and waiting. We decorate with the focus on a few candles. Sunday by Sunday we light one candle, then two as we talk about gifts, The gifts we talk about in Advent are the ones God wants to give us: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ. That’s it.

The older I get the less I want wrapped, bought gifts and the more I desperately crave God’s gifts.

Last week, we put up our tree. I love having the tree up and lit early so I can enjoy it for all the weeks leading to Christmas. Because of our empty nest, we are short on labor around here so I decided I could assemble the four pieces of our artificial tree by myself, get the stand and skirt on it, get the lights working, add all the red ribbon by myself and then coax my husband into adding ornaments with me later.

This proved to be a very difficult task for one person. It is still hot here in Texas so I was in a full body sweat by the time I got it all up, MOST of the lights working and ribbon swirling sort of attractively around it. For some reason my dog chose that time while I was distracted and sweating to help herself to a whole bag of pepper jack cheese. This cheese thing, plus the sweating really dampened my Christmas Spirit which comes and goes anyway due to the over-the-top nature of all things Christmas.

When my husband got home I shared my work of art and told him he had just enough time to add ornaments with me before the Cowboy game. He was motivated and moving fast. Then, in the midst of it all, I had a huge wave of Missing My Children which hit without warning as we put up ornament after ornament with their preschool and elementary age faces plus all the baby’s first Christmas ones and the ones we love the most and the ones that always make us laugh. So, yes, I started crying and telling my husband no one warned me about the empty nest tree part.

He coaxed me to move onward mostly because of the Cowboy game. At the last touches the tree seemed to sway a bit, then a bit more. He quietly asked if I’d secured the stand with the three big screws provided. I told him there were no screws provided and that I was sure we didn’t need them as long as no one ever brushed up against or came even remotely close to the tree. He disagreed.

What happened next involved both of us at times prone on the floor under the tree, yelling at each other better ways to do what needed to be done, needing a flashlight, dismantling the whole thing and sweating.

It’s up now, no longer swaying and quite beautiful.

Between the heat, the dog eating the cheese, the Empty Nest meltdown and the after the fact securing, I’m back where I started, just needing God’s gifts: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ.

Every one of us has our seasonal challenges, some are bigger than others, of course. May God’s best gifts continue to soothe you and yours this season.

 

Sparkles

In Texas, the past week has been horrendous with a major hurricane hitting our coast and flooding cities. Weather watchers now report that two more hurricanes are now gearing up. Our country is going through some things too. And, our world is teetering in several places on the edge of serious conflicts/wars. People are going through things as well. Tough things. Unspeakable things.

Every week when I write this blog, I have to acknowledge the tough things because that is the context in which we are living. It just is.

If I was left to my own feelings, opinions and media consumption, I’m pretty sure I would lose it and float off in a sea of anger and anxiety…because, well, the tough things keep happening.

Thank goodness, that is not the only input I have. Thank goodness, I journal, pray and read scripture and devotionals. I know it is a good practice for me because that discipline always offers me a surprising perspective.

Today, for example was about sparkles. Jesus Always by Sarah Young: When you are feeling joyless, you need to pause and remember: I am with you….seek to see Me in your circumstances….Keep on looking until you can discern the Light of My presence shining on your difficulties, reflecting sparkles of joy back to you. p. 260

Sparkles of joy…I did not see that coming. I’ve always been big on the whole Light of the world theme and that all will be made well in the end. But, sparkles? Now? In the midst of our current day messes, problems, worries and griefs?

And then I started thinking about all the recent sparkles: our one year old evacuee grandson devouring a warm buttered blueberry muffin; a cottontail bunny I saw on my walk; rainbows that draped the sky after hurricane Harvey; acts of compassion, giving and heroism for others; JJ Watts’ fundraising miracle; churches opening their doors, making flood buckets and doing disaster relief. Funny things and beautiful things and unexpected things. Sparkles.

A friend of mine faced major cancer surgery last week. She and I actually laughed on the phone the day before at a tiny bright spot in the whole thing that no one but breast cancer warriors would understand. Sparkles of joy.

I don’t know what you are going through. My guess would be that it is something tough, unimaginable or even unspeakable. The surprising word of faith is this: look for the sparkles of joy. It turns out, they are everywhere.

 

Breaking News: I Care

Have you ever had one of those seasons with so many conflicting emotions swirling around inside you that you feel you might just explode or implode? I feel that way lately.

It is Holy Week. This is the first Holy Week in many years that I have not worked in a church. I am newly aware of how distracting being on a church staff can be especially during the peak seasons of faith. It is hard to focus on Holy Week when you are working in a church because you are busy doing church so that everyone else can experience the wide range of emotions from the Palm Sunday Parade, the Last Supper, the Cross and finally the Resurrection. Yesterday was the first Palm Sunday in decades that I was really able to pray and meditate about Palm Sunday.

As I walked, I thought about all the people waving branches and walking alongside Jesus. I tried to imagine what he was thinking. I tried to think about all the conflicting political issues of that day; all the agendas. I couldn’t help but reflect that not much has changed. Religious leaders entangled in politics. Power plays. Injustices.  Politics colored by religious agendas. Human rights in question. Chemical attacks. Tomahawk Missiles flying. Warships poised. Much discussion over what to do and who is right. A massacre in places of worship. And, that is just this week. Lord, have mercy. Seriously.

Holy Week contains every emotion. After the seeming Joy of Palm Sunday, came that little incident where Jesus lost his temper in the temple courts, overturning the tables of the money changers. No matter how much we’d like to believe Jesus was above anger, this shows he wasn’t. Matthew 21:12-13 Next thing we know he is cursing that fig tree causing it to wither and die. Matthew 21:19-22.  This all happens in this same week when everyone betrays him. He cries out to God, sweats blood mixed with tearful angst. The week gets worse for him from there.

In an interview on Beautiful Writers Podcast, I heard one of my favorite women talk about writing, faith and the wide range of emotions of our time. Anne Lamott confessed she gets hopeless regularly. She said when left to her own devices she dreams of  her next book being be called “Doomed” about how things are bad and only going to get worse. But then she says this, “Thank God, I am not left to my own devices. Thank God we are called to stay in community and in solitude so we can to stay grounded on that fact that Holy moments are happening in our midst.” When asked how she does this, she said, “I just take an action. I give money to organizations I believe are making a difference. I put feet to prayers and show up somewhere. I look up. I go outside. I flirt with older people and little kids. I just do the next expansive and loving thing.”

Her words reverberated through my soul. Thank God, we are not left to our own devices in Holy Week or any other week or we would surely get stuck in a “doomed” part…the anger, the fear, the betrayal, the angst, the death and miss the rest of the week. Thank God we can take the next expansive and loving action.

On Saturday, we had a job fair in our community for those seeking employment. Because I wanted to take a step toward the light, I offered my time for the afternoon. I was assigned resume reviews and mock interviews. I sat with people of all types from teenagers to professionals and we talked about how to polish resumes, sell themselves and shine during an interview. I met people of all cultures, religions and walks of life. I used every bit of my work, life and people experience to meet people where they were and to encourage them a little.

Toward the end,  a young woman came in wearing a hoodie that said, “Breaking News, I Don’t Care.” I don’t know everything about job seeking but I do know this is probably not the upfront message job seekers need to lead with. I wasn’t able to give her feedback on her hoodie because she wasn’t seeking any.

In my swirl of emotions this Holy Week, in this current America we live in, in my understanding of faith and humanity, here is what I know: we have to care. We have to wade through all our emotions from apathy to anger to be able to move beyond our own devices. We have to take that next loving step. We have to help each other. We have to hang out with God through a whole bunch of rough and horrible things in order to get to Easter.  Our faces, our clothes and our actions have to say, I care. Otherwise, we are doomed.

I pre-ordered Anne Lamott’s new book “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy” before she ever even wrote it. It arrived at my house just as this Holy Week began. Thank God I’m not left to my own devices.

Celebrate!

Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it in its fullness.” John 10:10

Oprah said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

I love it when my favorite people agree on things.

With our new grandson, we are in a season of celebration. Recently, my daughter told me she felt a little weird with everyone giving them presents, meals, showers and parties just for having a baby. I told her, “Life is hard and peopel need reasons to celebrate. Everyone loves celebrating a baby. Let them.”

But it is more than the grandson. It is me being in a new, easier, more restful, peaceful season of life. (On Monday my one chore was to get two hummingbird feeders, fill them and hang them because now I have time to notice them.) It is being five years past breast cancer. It is having three beautiful children who are at the moment happy and engaged with life. It is having a loving attentive husband that I still like after 31 years together. Did I tell you our sweet grand baby was born on our 31st anniversary? No one could have planned that gift.

It is that fall is coming; I am sure of it.  It is last Saturday having two family gatherings at our home and seeing our grandson meet 2 sets of great grandparents, 2 great aunts, aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time. It was my mom’s 80th birthday too. We surprised her with her great-grandson. She screamed, smiled and cried and told me it was the best birthday party she’d ever had. Even Alzheimer’s couldn’t take away that joy. One tiny baby and all those relatives just lining up for a snuggle, a smile.  We even loved it when he cried.

It is tomorrow, the 28th anniversary of when I became a mom. I celebrate the wonder of watching our daughter grow from adorable baby, to funny toddler, to goofy child who made up her own words, to awkward middle school kid, to dramatic high school student, college girl, married woman, speech therapist and now happy, attentive new mommy/wife and professional. The girl who made up all those words is teaching kids how to say them right. My celebration cup seems like it can’t hold one more drop of joy.

There’s still hard stuff happening, of course. A funeral for a dear, longtime colleague, gone too soon; normal worries; aches and pains; life stuff. But laced through it all are sweet gifts: sunrises, sunsets, hummingbirds, babies, soft pillows, good books, friends, coffee, family, milestones… so much to celebrate!