Poetry Plug

PoetryIn the Writing Services part of my business, I have edited several small works of poetry over the years. In the past couple of months, however, I have had the honor to edit, format, and help publish an entire collection of more than 60 poems. The book will be out next week. It is called Bruised and Smoldering. The title is weighty, as are the sentiments expressed through the author’s words.

Because of the depth of emotion found between the covers, I suggested the author write an introduction that gives a glimpse into his heart for dealing with despair. Here is a snippet from that introduction:

“If you resonate with the pain, sorrow, and depression of spirit in any of these poems, then please also resonate with the hope, promises, and Christ’s glorious grace. Seek His face in your affliction. God’s omnipresence doesn’t only span the topography of natural geography, but can also be sighted on mountaintops and in deep valleys of our soul’s experience. He is with us in heights of holy bliss and with us when we’re under severe affliction.

No poem should serve to encourage you to remain in affliction, rather to fly out on wings of faith, but not without first allowing affliction to do its work. Sorrow over sin does a work in us which very few graces can provide. So, lets not ask God to just pull us out of all affliction, but to teach what ought to be learned therein, then jubilantly look at the past sorrow and present victory with divine joy.”

Isn’t that beautiful? The thought of affliction doing a work within us is not something we often consider. Yet, wouldn’t that be exactly why God allows affliction? To build our souls in ways that easy living just can’t do.

Look for Bruised and Smoldering to appear on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble.com over the next week. It is one I plan to tuck away on my shelf.

Have a blessed weekend!


The Truth about Summer School

laffy_taffy__82431Summer school is hard. The kids don’t want to be there. The teachers don’t want to be there. But here in Texas, if students who have failed the state tests in 8th grade want a chance to move along to 9th grade, summer school is a necessary evil. I say “evil” because that is how it is viewed. Call me weird, but I kind of like it. I like the camaraderie in my little class. “We’re all in this together and we will prevail!” As a teacher, you don’t have many days to build a sense of family in summer school. But kids need to feel engaged and welcomed if you want them to connect with what you are trying to teach them. If you are just there to pass the time and collect a paycheck, you are not doing these kids any favors.

Here is a little secret: if kids don’t like you, they won’t listen to you. This is true for kids and adults. Haven’t you ever been rubbed wrong by a presenter in the first couple of minutes and then you zone out for the rest of his/her speech?

Summer school students have 8 short little teaching days to absorb some nugget of truth that will help them answer a few more questions correctly on their tests. That is not a lot of time! You have to get in there, connect with them, and give them some tips to hang onto when they go in to take that test for the third time. The connection is key. I have attempted this by starting each morning off by sharing Good Things. Good things is a strategy taught through the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program. Kids have the chance to share whatever “good things” are going on in their lives. Kids really do want you to know about them. They want to share their stories. We all have a desire to be known. It is sad, but many of these kids don’t get that need filled at home. They are the strugglers; those kids who act out and get in trouble because they don’t have anyone at home intricately involved in their lives.

So my summer school tips are:
1) Take a few minutes each day to show them you care about them. Ask them about themselves. Then listen.
2) Follow up the next day on what they shared the previous day.
3) Be patient. More patient than comes naturally.
4) They won’t remember your name. (Miss! Miss!) But remember theirs.
5) Bring candy. If nothing else, a well-timed piece of Laffy Taffy will make them close their mouths long enough that you can tell them that tip that you’ve prepared for the day.

Kids need adults who care. If you are reading this, then I bet you care more than a little!
Happy teaching!

P.S. Nobody likes grape Laffy Taffy!

It Matters

I recently was a bystander to a conversation about religious beliefs. It was said that, “It doesn’t matter exactly what you believe, but you should have faith in something.”

If you are reading this I want you to know: it matters what you believe! It matters more than any single other thing matters. For truth to be truth, all other things must be false. I can’t decide that one thing is true, and you decide that another thing is true, and both of us are correct.

Christianity holds the belief to be true that Jesus Christ was crucified, He was buried, and on the third day after his death, He rose from the dead. It holds the belief that Jesus is God’s ONLY Son, and He came to earth born of a virgin. It holds the belief that Jesus lived a perfect life while here on earth and willingly died on that cross in order to take the punishment for sin that mankind could not take for itself. By putting Himself in the Devil’s hands for that moment, He freed all who would believe in Him from the Devil’s grasp forever.

If you call yourself to be a Christian, that means you trust that Jesus did this for YOU. If that trust doesn’t change the way you live your life; if that trust doesn’t make you overflow with such gratitude that you WANT to live your life differently; if that trust doesn’t give you an ache and desire to grow more like Jesus, then you may not truly be saved from eternal hell. Accepting Jesus should compel you to live differently because you understand just what you are saved from. Your life is not your own. And if you believe that it is, and if you believe that God wants you to do whatever you have to in order to be happy, and if you believe that you DESERVE anything, then you don’t get it. And if those words make you angry–then you don’t get it. If you think you can be a Christian who “walks on the wild side” and you think that is OK, then you don’t get it. If someone can look at how you live, listen to the way you talk, and see the things you do and not know that you love Christ, then you might not be saved.

Please don’t take this lightly. It matters what you believe. Your eternity depends on it. And although your good deeds on earth are not what save you, if your belief in Christ hasn’t changed your desire to be less like the world and more like Him, then your belief may be in the wrong thing. Don’t wait until you die to find out you were wrong. Then it will be too late.

The tomb is empty. He is risen. He loves you and He wants you to start loving Him.

BIG Awesome Letters

Last year I decided I wanted to save my $$ and get those super big letters to use in decorating my classroom. As English Language Arts is my thing, I decided I wanted to get READ and WRITE. Hobby Lobby has the big paper box letters on sale this week, so I picked them up. As a fan of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes genius, I decided to give it a try to cover my letters in Calvin & Hobbes comic strips. I am thrilled with how it came out!
1. Supplies: Letters, Mod Podge (for paper on paper), brush, tempera or acrylic paint, exact-o knife, comics
IMG_53782. I painted the edges of the letters first. I used an orange color because many Calvin & Hobbes comics have Hobbes in them, and I thought the orange would go nicely with the tiger orange of Hobbes. 🙂

3. I pulled the color comics out of the book and trimmed the white border from around the page edges. I laid them face down on my table.


4. Using my brush, I brushed the Mod Podge all across the face of my letter. Then I placed the letter face down on top of the spread out comics.

IMG_53805. I left it face down for an hour, then turned it over and added Mod Podge under any places where the comics overlapped.

IMG_53816. I let it sit overnight. Then, I turned it over and used the Exact-o knife to trim around the letter, cutting away the extra paper.

IMG_53837. I repainted any orange areas that needed it and covered the entire front surface with a layer of the Mod Podge. I love, love, love them!If you make any big awesome letters, share them with me, I’d love to see them!

Grand Canyon

My family and I returned this week from our first trip to the Grand Canyon. Forget healthcare and work assistance–the government should provide a free trip to the Grand Canyon for every American. I knew it would be big. I mean, it IS called the GRAND Canyon. But when we stepped off the shuttle bus, and I caught my very first look, my breath caught in my throat. It was beautiful. The expanse between me and the other side was filled with a beauty I simply wasn’t prepared for. It was dreamy. I can’t imagine that those cliffs out there are real, firm, hard, stone that can be touched because it presents as untouchable. It was honorable to be in the presence of God’s Creation in that way. The same God who allowed the green way across the street from my house allowed the canyon to be shaped. Yet, I have no awe for the green way across from my house. I should, perhaps.

If you go, stay for a sunset. Please. It will fill your heart with happy and wonder. Let me know of your experiences at the Grand Canyon. I’d love to hear them.


Thank you, 2016


With the reported deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher, 2016 has gone into the toilet for thousands of people. Life was fine, they were preparing for the new year like everyone else, when all of the sudden, WHAM! 2016 is now the worst-year-ever, and we should just say, “Screw you, 2016! You totally sucked!”

The close friends and family of these celebs are no doubt heartbroken. And those of us who appreciated their entertainment and admired their work could rightfully feel a sense of sadness and loss of the era they represented. Death IS sad. It wasn’t how God intended it to be from the beginning, so it isn’t natural to our hearts. But for everyday people to be ready to declare the whole year a “year of suckage” over it doesn’t make sense to me. And, I think it cheapens true loss. Be thankful if the worst thing that happened to you this year was that George Michael or Carrie Fisher died. My friend lost her 2 month old grandbaby this year. Another friend lost her dear husband, who was a mentor and father-figure to many. I learned last week of the murder of a 19 year old boy who attended a conference David and I spoke at last year.

If you have expressed words of strong emotion over these deaths, I say this not to judge you personally. I am mostly confused by those ready to declare the whole entire year as a throw-away over it. We can’t control how we are affected, but we can take a moment to put it in right perspective before reacting. Is the whole year really a total bust over those particular two deaths? Spoiler alert: Celebrities are going to die in 2017, too. Probably even celebs you don’t expect to pass away. Ask yourself, “Why the emotion?” Maybe the celeb-death melodrama is a product of our society not knowing how to put feelings into words. Perhaps we don’t put in the effort to find the right vocabulary to fit a situation in an emotionally-appropriate way. Or maybe we, as individuals, don’t do the hard work of soul-searching to figure out why a situation affects us the way it does. Maybe in our desire to post quickly to social media we take the easy way out with words like “devastated.”

Earlier this year, when I learned of the death of music legend Prince, I was shocked. I cried. And then I tried to figure out why I was so sad. I mean, I didn’t know him; I knew his music. I truly enjoy listening to his music and singing along with it. Then I realized I was angry that I would never get to see Prince in concert–and that was something I have wanted to do ever since 1985. My sense of loss was really the loss of a goal of my own. I was mad at myself for never buying those concert tickets.

Thank you, 2016 that I rang the new year in with my family at my side, hugging and giving new year’s kisses. Thank you for introducing me to Camp Gladiator, where I’ve made new friends and have been able to strengthen my muscles. Thank you for the outpouring of friendship Cooper’s teammates showed in the spring at the district track and field meet that made the news and brought Cooper such a sense of pride. (http://dfw.cbslocal.com/tag/cooper-soesbee/ ) Thank you that I got to see Kacey perform in Beauty and the Beast. Thank you that Ben’s horribly sprained ankle healed. Thank you that we got to see family and friends in St. Louis, Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Thank you that we got to marvel at Mount Rushmore and take selfies with historical monuments. Thank you that we got to visit three MLB stadiums. Thank you that we got to join in the joy of the Cubs winning the World Series. Thank you for my job and the new friends I have met. Thank you for the books I have had the privilege of editing and being a part of the celebration of their release. Thank you that when my tire blew out on the highway, Ben and I weren’t hurt. Thank you for the scholarship prize awarded to me two weeks ago. Thank you for my children. Thank you for our family’s trip to North Carolina this Christmas.

It really isn’t the year 2016 I thank–as if 2016 is a person or deity in control of this world in which we live. I really thank Jesus. I thank God for all I have–including the privilege to have prayed for the baby that has been lost, for my friend who is grieving, and for the family of the boy who has been killed. I don’t know where George Michael and Carrie Fisher are in eternity. I can surmise based on their public statements, but I didn’t know their hearts or what may have happened in the moments leading up to their deaths. As good and bad happen to us going forward, I pray for right perspective. To bring words of healing. To be there for my friends who grieve and for the love of those around me when it is my turn to experience true loss.

I am thankful for 2016 and I pray for the wisdom to be thankful for all that 2017 will bring.


Poetic Devices Organizer

poetic_deviceWe are learning about figurative language and graphical elements in poetry. I looked online for a graphic organizer tool to give kids to help identify elements in a studied poem or to help them organize a poem they are creating.

I couldn’t find something that included everything I wanted, so I made this lil sheet. If it can help you, feel free to download and use!

Happy teaching!

Poetic Devices Organizer

An Integrity Challenge!

mosesI came across this lil image from a teacher whose student listed the Ten Commandments as he remembered them. I love it. I would happily do the nae nae with this kid any time. Then we’ll play outside before we punch Hitler on our way to the bank. And we’ll do it while being kind.

The things we say we value and the things we actually truly value are not always congruent. I can say I value a healthy lifestyle, but if I regularly eat foods that are unhealthy, if I drink things that have no health value, and if I find excuses not to exercise, then really, what I say has no meaning at all.

Integrity is a great word. It means you are whole and undivided in thought, words, and actions.  THE CHALLENGE: Over the next week I am going to make a list of the ten things I would say, right now, that I truly value. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to pay attention to my actual behaviors and see if what I do on a daily basis has integrity with my stated values. I am hopeful that this will bring to light areas where what I say and what I do don’t line up.

If anyone wants to join me in this Integrity Challenge I’d love to hear from you. What ten things do you value? Does your day reflect them?


Joy is a Squeak Away

People disappoint us. People say mean things.
People are short-sighted. People are selfish.
Sometimes you want to cross your arms and shrink into yourself.
I do.
Closing off from others is a protective measure, especially when you’ve been hurt.

squeakyshoesLet Jesus be the squeaky-shoes in your heart.
When you want to be mad, let His voice squeak words of love.
He wants you to see the person who’s wronged you as He does.
As someone who needs a squeak of love in their own heart.
It’s hard to stay mad when you’re wearing squeaky shoes. Those are true words!
It’s hard to stay mad when you listen to Jesus. Those are true words, too!

Enjoy this cute video from Metacafe.

That’s A Thing?

thatsathing“You mean, that’s a thing?”

That question is asked often around our house. Our three kids (one teen, one tween, and one very smart 9 year old) are often amazed at what goes on in life. When something new crosses their path, something they haven’t conceived as possible until that very moment, they ask:

“You mean, that’s a thing?”
Chili in a bread bowl. “That’s a thing?”
Throwing away underwear in a public restroom (if need be). “That’s a thing?”
Having ice cream for supper. “That’s a thing?”

Our kids have had the benefit of much love, care, and encouragement in their first decade of life. We live in a home where food is consistently provided. Our beds are warm and they don’t have to share. If they have a problem, David or I come to the rescue. They are by no means coddled, but they know we are here.

January 12, 2010 the worst earthquake recorded in the Western Hemisphere struck the country that had the fewest resources to handle it. There were already thousands of Haitian orphans; the earthquake made thousands more. There was already much sickness and death; the earthquake upped the numbers tremendously. The government already had challenges; the earthquake amplified them. Haiti is a beautiful country, and tucked within the beauty is much despair. Unfortunately many Haitian children don’t know that things could be better. They don’t know that regular meals are “a thing.” They don’t know that reading and writing is “a thing.” They don’t know that parental love and care is “a thing.” They only know day by day survival.

David and I have developed a vision to make nutrition and education “a thing” for Haitians. Yes, there are many orphanages already in Haiti, but guess what? They are overcrowded and there are children who will lose their caregivers this very day, this very hour, from malnutrition or disease and those children will need a place to go. Through our non-profit we want to change things for the children God will place in our path. Change begins with a vision for a new “thing.” It begins with even knowing that change is possible.

If you want to be in the loop to know more about these plans as they develop, please subscribe to this blog (see below). You can buy a copy of my book, Maneeya, and part of that sale financially supports our ministry efforts.

This month, as Haiti marks off 6 years since that horrible day when the earthquake struck, I will share more news and faces from Haiti with you. Thanks for reading.