February 23, 2009

Psalm 140
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

1 Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men;
Preserve me from violent men,
2 Who plan evil things in their hearts;
They continually gather together for war.
3 They sharpen their tongues like a serpent;
The poison of asps is under their lips. Selah

4 Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked;
Preserve me from violent men,
Who have purposed to make my steps stumble.
5 The proud have hidden a snare for me, and cords;
They have spread a net by the wayside;
They have set traps for me. Selah

6 I said to the LORD: “You are my God;
Hear the voice of my supplications, O LORD.
7 O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation,
You have covered my head in the day of battle.
8 Do not grant, O LORD, the desires of the wicked;
Do not further his wicked scheme,
Lest they be exalted. Selah

9 “As for the head of those who surround me,
Let the evil of their lips cover them;
10 Let burning coals fall upon them;
Let them be cast into the fire,
Into deep pits, that they rise not up again.
11 Let not a slanderer be established in the earth;
Let evil hunt the violent man to overthrow him.”

12 I know that the LORD will maintain
The cause of the afflicted,
And justice for the poor.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name;
The upright shall dwell in Your presence.

Life after Stroke

Quick update....

Last Monday, my dear husband suffered a brain bleed. This was caused by uncontrolled hypertension and resulted in a small bleed to the right hemisphere of his brain. He is doing fabulously well, though we are still trying to get his medication correct (again!)

A year and half ago, my DH suffered a heart attack. He underwent angioplasty to remove a blockage and struggled with managing his blood pressure since that time. His hypertension is genetic -- there is no reason for him to have such high blood pressure. His heart is strong and working fine -- but his bp raises to dangerous levels and just doesn't want to come back down.

We were blessed to get him to the hospital right away and then to have the staff recognize the scope of his injury and refer him to Barrow's Neurological Institute in Phoenix. The staff at St. Joseph's hospital were awesome and my DH was able to come home on Thursday.

Since then, his bp has played the scales, zooming up and down, even though he is on good meds. We are waiting to get into our primary care physician this week and hopefully will get some other kind of treatment to help keep his bp in the safe zone (which for him is under 150).

I am thanking the Lord for his mercy upon my family and for his care and comfort this past week. I have had people all around the world praying for us and let me tell you -- it worked! Thank you to everyone who prayed for us.

February 20, 2009

The Fingerprints of God

by Kathleen Higham

I see fingerprints on my window
And smudgy kisses on the door
And I press my hand to touch them
As I've done so many times before

And all through my house a presence
To me it is so dear
With little fingerprints left behind
Along with laughter I still hear

For everywhere that they have touched
And left a telltale sign
Again I place my fingers there
Then In my heart I whisper they are mine

And in that moment of love so pure
God's fingerprints are revealed
Permanently on my heart and soul
With Him my life is sealed

To God we must be as a child
Our fingerprints are His design
As we read and study His Word
Then He whispers you are mine

And reluctantly I wash away
Signs of love that said so much
Sparkling windows looking back at me
I remember their innocent touch

But they will come again to me
Leaving fingerprints on my heart
As I read His Word the gift of love
Where my fingerprints came from the start

And I am so so thankful
Could I possibly ask for more
Little fingerprints on my window
Smudgy kisses on my door

I found this poem online today while searching for some inspiration for this post. I like it and think it expresses a desire within my heart to comprehend the depth of God's love and realize that my life is touched by His fingerprints.

This past week, I saw the hand of God upon my life. When I looked a little deeper, I actually began to see His fingerprints, His gentle touch, and His careful hand guiding my life and keeping me safe.

My DH suffered a hemorhagic stroke on Monday. This type of stroke often comes on as a result of hypertension (high blood pressure). My husband came home Monday afternoon and staggered into the bedroom. I thought the noise I heard was my son, fumbling around in my closet for something. When I went to check it out, I found my dear husband trying desparately to get himself dressed. He had taken off his work clothes and was trying to put on some shorts and a teeshirt. He couldn't do it and when I asked what was going on, he mumbled something back to me. At first, I didn't think it was a stroke. I thought maybe he was dizzy or light headed, but shortly I realized that something was very wrong. He tried to walk down the hall and staggered and stumbled into the kitchen. When I asked him again what was wrong, I noticed that his mouth was droopy and his words slurred. I knew it was a stroke.

I got him into the car and drove him the 1 mile to our local hospital. He was taken right in and treated as quickly as possible. The staff took a CT scan, determined it was a brain bleed and not a clot, and sent him by ambulance to St. Joseph's hospital in Phoenix (and the Barrows Neurological Institute). The hand of God was upon his life. The staff said he would go to Mayo Clinic, also a stroke center, but at the last minute they sent him to Barrows. At Barrows he was evaluated by a team of doctors and kept in ICU for three days. He was moved to a regular room and released yesterday -- with no restrictions. He has almost completely recovered and has just some slight side effects from the stroke (some paralysis in his leg, some struggles with words, and some focusing issues). If you didn't know him before, you wouldn't notice anything at all.

As I spent this past week contemplating my life and how it would change once my husband came home...the thought struck me: my life is in His hand. I began to think about all the events in my life and especially the days that led up to this event. I can recall how much God has touched my life. He has guided and directed me; He has given me His peace and comfort. He has shown me a path, a way out of our situation (job, home, plans, etc.) God has made something frightening and overwhelming into something possible and filled with new potential.

It makes me wonder just how often God presses His hand into our lives. If we really look, really look carefully...we can see the impression of His hand upon our frame. From the moment we are formed in the womb until the very day our last breath is taken...we are touched by His love.

God truly is the One, the True, the Only God. He reigns Supreme and He alone is in control.

I am praising Him today because he has given my husband back to me -- a little slower maybe -- but still here and part of our life. I am thanking Him for His protection and provision of medical care and for His grace and mercy on our lives. God is so good. His mercy endures. His love is forever.

February 12, 2009

Learning Journey

The other day I was thinking about how we learn new information and about the process that is involved in "thinking." It is a funny thing to actually "think" about "thinking," but I have to admit that it is something I have pondered often. I am keenly aware of this whole issue dealing with how we learn new things. I guess it stems from an internal desire to know more -- something I am guilty of -- you know -- the "curious cat" syndrome. I have always been the one who "needed" to know how things work, why things happen as they do, and so on. I guess my interest in thinking started back in 2004 when I first started to home school my son. At that time, I was a newbie, especially when it came to home schooling, home education, curriculum, and such. I knew nothing (to quote one of my favorite TV characters -- Schultz from Hogans Hereos) at all. I just didn't have a clue about how to teach my child at home, how to plan our lessons, or even how to instruct him (you know, in the basics -- the hows of it all). I did have an inkling though about "thinking" processes -- that was something that I had contemplated before and I really did wonder about it.

When I started to home school, I found myself confronted with some real "learning challenges." My son is highly gifted (probably more like exceptionally gifted, but who cares!) and had struggled to learn in school. He had been in a public school classroom for three years (four, starting in 2003-2004). He had done well his first two years (1-2nd grades), mostly because of really good teachers (teachers who were willing to let our son explore and be himself). Third grade was not good at all. He had a teacher who was overwhelmed by her large class, mostly of non-English speaking students, and who just wasn't interested in doing anything other than what she was required to do. That entire year was one of frustration. My son was frustrated, his teacher was frustrated, and we, his parents were frustrated. We didn't know what to do, so we went to the school and asked that our son be tested for gifted studies. They did test him, but he didn't qualify (not once, but three times). By the end of that year, we knew that we didn't want him to continue in that school. We sought other options and ended up at a small charter school. Mistake number one. This school, while functioning just above level, was not suited to handle gifted students. We should have heeded the administrator's advice when she said so in our first parent meeting. We should have heeded the Lord's advice when He said "don't go there." But we didn't and we put our son there and learned a very hard lesson, indeed.

That year was what I call our "year from Hell." It was the worst academic experience we could have imagined. Not only was there no discipline in the school, but the academic level was far below state standards. My son's fourth grade teacher requested that he be placed into the 5-6th grade class -- simply because she couldn't teach her children, 4th graders who were at about 2-3rd grade in skill. We moved our son up and found a whole passel of problems awaiting us. While academically our son thrived, he was bullied constantly and was taught inappropriate (putting it nicely) things by the 5-6th graders. In a small school, it is difficult to isolate a child, to keep them from associating with children who are, to put it nicely, heading down the wrong track. In a bigger school, the "play pool" is much larger and it is easier to say "honey, don't play with so and so." Not so in our school -- when you have 10-12 children out for recess -- all 10-12 play together.

Suffice it to say, our year was nightmarish. By March, we had decided to home school our son. We learned a lot along the way, what not to do, what we wanted in a curriculum, how we thought our son learned best, etc. It did help me when I started to home school and began the exhaustive search for curriculum. Thankfully, the Lord directed my steps and led me to a wonderful home school program called Ambleside Online (http://www.amblesideonline.org). A classically written curriculum developed off the teachings of Charlotte Mason, Ambleside offered a "different way" to approach education. Ms. Mason, a 19th century British educator, believed that learning was central to our being, right up there along with her belief in God (the Creator). She remarked that "education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" and dedicated her life to creating a theory of education that promoted what she called "the science of relations." In short, she believed that God gave us all an internal desire to learn and that nothing was needed but a liberal diet of good ideas. Good ideas, in the form of books, would give plenty of interest and inspiration and would open up the mind to do what God created it to do -- to think. In detail, she crafted a program that not only taught the basics (and very well), but also gave food for thought when it came to moral/ethical character training. Often her program is called a "character education" because she spent a great deal of time talking about habit-training, training the mind for attention and the will to obey. Her style is decidedly old fashion and a bit stodgy, but only in the sense that she taught young people who were of the upper class. Her students learned Latin and French and read good books, the kind of books students today only read in college. She started her Y1 one students out reading great myths and tales and taught them stories to help them understand the world around them. She didn't test them to make them prove their mastery of the material, rather she tested them to have them demonstrate their level of understanding. Her system, while old fashioned and definitely classical in nature, offers a student the widest and deepest possible learning experience. It offers the best education, in my humble opinion, and is something educators need to carefully consider as a viable option for all school settings.

This background information brings me back to my original point -- the point about considering how we learn. I started down the path, following Charlotte Mason, and have ended up here where I am contemplating a return to graduate school to pursue educational studies. I am thinking of studying classical models of education in the hope of creating a theory of education for our 21st century classrooms. It is my desire to show that we can take past models and revamp them for use in the future. Charlotte Mason's methods do work and they can be used effectively, even in our most modern classes. The key is "how" to do it. Ambleside offers a wonderful program for home educators; however, it is not going to work in a class setting. Charlotte Mason's original programs were developed for classroom use, but they are not going to work in todays technological driven world. There has to be a way to merge her thinking and philosophy with our current need for better education.

It is something I am keenly interested in and I hope to have the chance to study and then put forth a theory that might prove successful in a class setting. We will have to see...