I am starting to think someone or something, somewhere out there, is REALLY trying to take me out.  I have been kicked in the face and stabbed in the back all in one week, and it seems like there is something new to knock me out every week. (I mean, my initials are KO, but I always viewed it coming from me not too me 😉😂). Ah worries, ALWAYS...I'm still standing.  Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.

Can you believe someone had the audacity to call into question my integrity this week (and not even to my face, Et tu, Brute)?!!  Of course you can.  You never know.  I could be a total phony, sitting around the house all day not really working at all...better call Bob! (still working on the bitterness) 😉😂

 But...just to clarify...I am not a phony.  I am genuinely working my [bad word] off trying to serve youth (including the ones from my own womb) in as many capacities as I can for the sole purpose of compassion.  I mean, let me be very clear, I am not really serving youth.  I am not serving my co-workers (at Synergy or MU) when I try to go the extra mile to make things easier for them.  I am not serving my boss when I take on extra projects.  I am not serving my supervisor, when I do everything in my power to add the most minimal work to her plate possible by getting as many details right as I can.  I am not serving my husband when I take the brief, surprise break I have one day, out of the blue, because of an early release, between MU schools and Synergy to mow the yard.

I am not doing this for more pay.  I am not doing this for more power.  I am not doing this for my own glory.  {Though I often try to motivate my students with these potential rewards, if they will merely go the extra mile in the work place!} I have tested those things which belong to the world, and I have judged them sincerely wanting.  I will NEVER be fulfilled with more money, more power or more glory on this earth.  I am looking for something MUCH, MUCH more satisfying and eternal.  And my gift and my service is rooted in the fact that I have found that reward.  I have found an eternally loving God.  I have found a purpose for my life, and it is to serve Him in everything I do as passionately as my heart can tick.  Because He, alone, has FULLY won my heart, my soul, my loyalty, my service.  And my hope in Him, alone, renders me deeply satisfied.

Fortunately for me, despite the trials I daily face (and I know you face them, too!), I know that I know that I know that I am BELOVED.  HE wrote that name over me.  He tore down all the self-abasement I carried as a banner over my head.  He ripped the monkey who made me slouch right off of my back.  (Yes, that's Radiation Vibe, and I did lose the dumb ape.  😉)  I know that I know that I know that I am God's beloved, but just so I don't ever doubt, He repeatedly offers me tangible Evan following me around all morning and blocking my way to the dining room to say, "I am blocking this, because I don't want anyone to come in that I don't love."  And, of course, as soon as I approach he steps aside.  What a creative way for a 4-year-old to tell his mama how much he appreciates her.  💕

Unfortunately for me, I ALSO know that I know that I know that being beloved does not protect me from all sorts of ugliness, catty backbiting, violent hateful words toward me when I am desperately trying to help, and all the other evils we have to face on this wonderfully dreadful earth.

So...why should I be surprised at the potential for persecution?  This is the real life.  He has promised me it would come.  {And I really should have known when my prophetic friend from whom I rarely hear sent me this text... "Don't let anyone steal your joy today."  Oh...crap!  That was my first red flag that this was definitely, most likely gonna be a [bad word] week.} BUT...He has also promised me that He will call into light that which has been brought out in darkness, and He will defend my integrity, if only I will persevere in continuing to pursue it (and HIM!).  So...I do.  (Get it?!  Like wedding vows.  😉)

And you know how I think I will respond to this brutal blow?    I'm gonna look my accusers in the face...the ones who I am genuinely trying to serve and love...the ones who return my humble service with back-stabbing blows...Listen, I will confront when I need to confront in the best way I can, BUT then I am going to smile with genuine love, forgiveness and grace...and I'm going to pray God to save. I know He will also vindicate on behalf of His beloved.

So, now you have heard my rant, and I thank you.  Let's turn this bitter tide and talk about a few of the wonderful things for which I have been grateful this week.  (I wish I could hear yours, too!):

1.  My remarkable student, let's call him Parker.  Parker likes to sit and do quiet tasks.  Parker is super in tune with his teacher, whom he obviously loves.  Parker has BEAUTIFUL hand-writing, and a mono-tone voice.  Parker doesn't always seem excited to participate, but we always find a way.  And Parker is learning to do all kinds of work tasks around the school, and I am really hopeful that this will increase his opportunity for employment.

I drove an hour (one way) to spend an hour with Parker this week, and it was so worth every bit of the sacrifice of time and money (because I also bought special sets of legos to use with my students, and Parker got to be the first to use them!).  And as soon as I put the box down in front of him, Parker instantly started to play.  But he was so good when I said, "Well, wait a minute, Parker.  Because I am going to let you play with them, but first you have to get ALL of your work done."  And it was kind of a complicated task, because he had to sort out 18 groups with 10 legos of the same kind in each group.  And some of the legos were very 2x2 reds, 2x3 reds and 2x4 reds.  They weren't always easy to spot.  And then he had to count and make sure there were 10 of each.  Parker is very slow and deliberate, and he likes to keep things organized and neat.  He will only use one hand and he is cautious, but that doesn't really bother me as "manager," because he is also very careful and thorough.  I had him laying out the groups, and they weren't really organized.  So, it was difficult for him when I asked him to pack one of each group into smaller boxes to make sets for "shipment" order fulfillment.  He made some mistakes, but it was oh so wonderful to watch him figure out his own system.  He used his detail-orientation to organize the blocks by color and then size as he filled the boxes, and then he could see which ones were missing from each pile!!  It is an amazing gift to watch kids figure things out for themselves and to see their unique ways of thinking.  I will definitely be using this activity again!

2.  My beautiful oldest daughter.  Let's call her Xander.  😉  I have watched this kid really blossom over the last two months.  She is a changed person.  She is changed, but she is the same spirited Xander.  Remember the thing about the costume?  Well...this week, I asked her to watch the boys, so I could go to Eden's choir concert.  And she didn't even bat an eye.  I'm serious.  For the last two years, this kid has argued me on anything I asked her to help with.  Now, she willingly agrees to watch the boys, and do you know what she did with them?  She took them, by herself, to McDonald's...and she bought them food with her own money, and she made sure she went to the one with a play place.  And she finally understood a concept I have tried to get through her brain for 16 years, "Mom...nothing should cost $10 at McDonald's."  Right?!!  Ahhhhhhhaaaaaa!

And she would have taken the boys to Wal-Mart after, but I had texted her we were home.  (And she replied, "We're busy."  Heartwarming!  So good for a mama's heart.)  And who do you think I turned to when my days went horribly?  I walked into her room and snuggled up with her, and we pondered the depths of existence, the universe, God and eternity.  And she is never afraid to ask me anything, because I am ALWAYS willing to talk openly and honestly and non-judgmentally.

And then I told her how proud I am of the progress I've seen in her over the last few months, and she spoke wisdom from her 16-year-old mouth, "Mom, it's easier to be helpful when I'm happy."  AAAAHHHHHAAAAA!  I let her learn it on her own.  All of the little lessons along the way that end in that final realization.  "I cannot pour from an empty cup, and now it's time to make sure my cup is full so I can serve the people who truly love me." (interpretation mine)

3.  Eden, who has been becoming very teenagery.  And she shuts herself in her room and plays on her phone 24/7.  The one who used to be so helpful and now complains about EVERYTHING.  And she doesn't want to have ANYTHING to do with me.  Until yesterday, suddenly, when she asked me to take her to play basketball (I had no idea she had started to like basketball!).  Well, I got all of my paperwork done, and I'm really tired, but I took her up to the elementary school and we played one-on-one.  (And since it's Saturday, and I did get my work done, I don't think anyone can report me for that.  But just to be sure, I am also going to take a break today, Sunday, and take my family to Red Barn Farm.  Should I ask permission?  Still working on the bitterness.  Forgive me.)

We trash talked (MY FAVE!!), and I taught her a few things.  And she really does pretty well!  But the time spent together on this BEAUTIFUL fall day is what really mattered, and I had a minute to let love and relationship with people who actually care fill up my empty, aching heart.  And we talked about things, things a mother should talk about with her friends, and boys...and how they used to preserve those "unchanged" male voices that we heard at her choir concert.  Yeah...she wasn't too happy we talked about that one, but I'm pretty sure every teen girl should know the meaning of eunuch, right?!  And she should totally hear it straight from the mouth of her own loving mother, right?!  Good talk, babe.  Good talk.  😉😂  I think they are blessed to have a mother with such a strong sense of humor and verbosity.

So, all in all, I am hurt and emptied, and then I am filled back up again.  And that is ok.  Because I'm beloved, and I choose to keep pushing, and I choose to persevere, and then I walk right into the classroom with genuine experience in the things I ask of my students.  And every now and then I get these sweet rewards (like the sweet teacher who tells me, "I love when you come!  I learn right along with the kids!") And I stop.  And I breathe.  And I appreciate the rewards.  And I take them in like the sustenance that they are.  And I feel beloved so that I can offer that same privilege to the ones God allows me to serve.