A New Hope

Little Doomsday Preppers

Hope is a funny thing, it turns up when least expected and yet most needed.

I’ve been in and out of special education facilities over the last three weeks, for my class on the Exceptional Child in the Regular Classroom, and I was surprised by hope.

I’m learning about different ways to teach all my students, especially those kids who struggle with various types of disabilities.

I had a powerful learning experience at The Joshua School, which was founded by several Denver Public School teachers to help educate kids with autism.  Visiting the school was emotionally draining, but also uplifting at the same time.

Typically I feel very comfortable in a classroom, but when I toured the school I felt pushed, uncomfortable.  At one point a young boy started screaming and I didn’t know what to do.  The incredible staff didn’t lose a beat, they helped him, as they do all of their students, and soon everyone was back to learning.  Most of the kids were learning one on one with a teacher, using iPads and other cool gadgets.  It’s the goal of the school to find out what motivates each student, so that all of the kids, with their varying difficulties due to autism, are able to learn.

One of the school’s main goals is to help the kids learn how to socialize.  It is a struggle for most of the families to take their kids out to movies or dinner, but The Joshua School believes that learning is almost useless if the kid cannot enjoy life with his or her parents.  The kids struggled with the simplest of tasks, but they also all were so human, so like me, with wants and needs.

Hope is when you see someone hurting and you stop at nothing to help.

Havern, a private school for kids with learning disabilities, and the next school I visited, made me realize how broken we all are.  None of the kids looked different from the students I taught in Guatemala, as they looked like normal kids, but the students at Havern find it difficult to verbalize their needs.  They need extra help learning how to read and write due to learning disabilities, but because of this school many are able to reenter regular schools by the start of high school.

This got me thinking (a miracle, I know).  We are all broken, aren’t we?  We all have our struggles, just like the kids at Havern or The Joshua School, some of us might not have the best social skills or know know how to spell (just read most of my past blogs).  Yes I know, not everyone has difficulty learning, or needs a special school, but we’ve all had our problems in life.  We’re all broken or have been broken in some way or another.

Hope helps you see the spectacular in the normal, the beauty in the broken.

On Tuesday January 22 I drove to the Children’s Hospital to hear about brokenness.  The Kempe Children Center used to house a day care for physically, emotionally, and sexually abused children.  The stories the presenters told were extremely difficult to listen to.  The two speakers told stories of how these kids had been broken.

At the end of my time at the Kempe Children Center I was asked to do more than listen.  I was asked to give my students hope.

Hope allows someone who has been broken to stop being helpless and realize he or she can survive, but more than that, thrive.

Giving hope to my students wasn’t a new idea, but it seemed strange to come in such an unexpected place.  The people who work at the Kempe Children Center hear so many horrible stories, I would assume they would feel a little hopeless, but they told me that they have to live with hope or they could not go to work each day.  They deal with such heavy burdens, but they also have the hope that they can help that broken child learn to live again and maybe even thrive.

Where can hope be found?

I find my hope for each day in Christ.  This is a cruel world we live in.  We seem to love to hurt each other.  We’re born with imperfections, in need of someone to come along side us and show us how to live and love.  We are a failed people who need fixed.  Yet, when we were our most broken, Christ loved us.  Like the teachers I observed at the schools I visited, He will go to great lengths to meet our needs.  Even death.  That is because He sees the humanity in us all, and loves us still.

Why I’m Still Celebrating Christmas

Christmas Morning

I know that it is January 9th and that my parents have taken down all of the Christmas decorations in the house.  They’ve piled up all the boxes in the basement and now the house looks drab, well as ordinary as a house looks after the most festive season.  But I am still celebrating Christmas.

Deliciousness

Christmas day is a special day in my house.  We wake up early, open our gifts, eat a spectacular breakfast that the woman of the house prepare and then enjoy each other’s presence.   Christmas in my house is a day for true joy and I love it so much that Christmas is no longer going to be a one day celebration in my life.

It’s not even just a 12 day celebration.  Did you know that traditionally the twelve days of Christmas actually mean something more than just whatever that silly song suggests?

All I know is we passed through each day of the twelve days of Christmas.  We’ve already celebrated day 6 of Christmas, where we received six geese a laying, which means we are to remember to give thanks to God because he is the creator and caretaker of our world.

I know that the Epiphany already happened.  The magi have already given their gifts to baby Jesus, and that even the most Orthodox Christians are already putting Christmas behind them.

But I am not done celebrating!

No, this does not mean that I am still listing to Christmas music.  I am not one of those people (Although my sister and her oldest kid are both as Christmas Crazy as it gets)!

Joy of Christmas

I’m still celebrating Christmas because it’s the only way I can make sense of the world.

2012 was a hard year for many people.  I have many friends who spent the year struggling with health issues.  Two of my friends had a year from hell.  They moved to Denver in early 2012 only to find out that their new apartment was infested with bedbugs.  Then the wife found that that she was allergic to the bug spray, so they had to move out, breaking their lease.  Their year got worse, and yet they weren’t alone.

Here in Denver, on July 20th, a madman entered a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” and killed 12 people.  That day, going to the movies lost their innocence.  Later that year things would get worse.  I remember going to bed on December 13th praying that God would keep all the people safe who were at the premier for the Hobbit, only to wake up to find out that another mad man had forced his way into a school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing innocent little kids and heroic teachers.

I’m still celebrating Christmas because Christ gives me hope.  I cannot make sense of why these tragic events took place this last year.  I do not know why my friends had such a hard year.  I do not know why people would want to kill, especially innocent little first graders.  All I know is that I can set out to be different.  To love the people around me and treat everyone with respect.

Not everyone tries to treat people with love and respect.  There seems to be plenty of hate in our world.  We might never know why those two tragedies occurred, but I think what may have been wrong with the killers is a microcosm of what is wrong with the world.  It’s a loss of love and hope.  Instead of loving our neighbors, we’ve decided to live selfishly.

We have become a me first society and so when people need help, they are more often than not, pushed away, which makes for a sad and lonely world.  I do not know why my friends had a year from hell, but I do know they experienced Christ’s love and provision throughout all of their struggles.  They weren’t alone.

See, I’m still celebrating Christmas because I have decided to live differently.  I don’t want my friends to feel alone.  I’m going to live in hope and I’m going to try to share that hope with my friends.

I can have hope because God is my provider.  He gave me, and the rest of this broken world, Jesus.  So even when everything seems to be crumbling around me, I can have hope because Jesus “heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.  He counts the stars and calls them all by name.  How great is our Lord!  His power is absolute!  His understanding is beyond comprehension.”

Christmas is not over because Christ is working in our lives.  So even when things get rough this year, remember that God is our provider and that Jesus has come to heal your broken heart.

Today the Christmas tree has been tossed out into the back yard, waiting to be mulched, the boxes of Christmas decorations are piled up in the basement, but those seasonal reminders of Christs grace and God’s provision, do not have to fade away.

What if we all lived a little differently and celebrated Christ year round?  Would we then start to see all that Christ is doing in our lives.  Would we see Christ’s love during the joyful times as well as the sorrowful times?

Let’s find out together!

Join me this year in living differently, living completely engaged in all that God has for us.  Living Spiritually.

Gravestones and God

10 Things I Will Do In 2013

2012 was a banner year for me.  I did some things I said I wouldn’t do (Against my will I used American Airlines), but I also did a lot of things I wanted to do.  In August I kick started my masters program at Regis University. I’m now well on my way to holding a masters degree in teaching.  While restarting school made my year feel busy, I was able to have a lot of fun in 2012.  So much so, that I have a few adventures that I want to repeat.

The Ride To Pine

1. I will Bike to Pine, Colorado! On October 12, 2012, I rode my bike mountain bike up the Colorado trail from Waterton Canyon to Pine Colorado.  After months of training the ride was almost ruined by a violent flat tire, which exploded on me, bending my wheel and shooting me like a cannon ball into the air.  With a new wheel and better tires I pedaled my way through the rain to end of the trek, just in time to see a bull elk boss around his harem.  Interested in doing this ride?  Join me this summer and we can make the trek together.

Bull Elk

2.  I will visit Guatemala! Last March I spent a week in Guatemala helping lead the Spiritual Emphasis retreat for my old school.  Sharing Christ’s love with my former students was the highlight of my year.  I don’t know when I’ll fly back down to my second favorite country, but there are several people who want me to be there for their graduation.

3.  I will continue to live my life like a Hobbit!  Okay, I’ll wear shoes, but Hobbits tend to live with a unique sense of excitement and hope ; they never give up.   I don’t know what is in store for me this year, but I want to be like the Hobbit, Sam, who doesn’t lose hope when he is facing mount doom and sure death!  You’re right, if you guessed that I’m already excited for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to come out later this year, but I want to live with excitement and hope in all things in my life.

4.  I will run another half-marathon!  I plan on running the Pikes Peak  Half Marathon this year with a couple guys from my small group.  Running halves has taught me a lot about life.  To run a half you need to know how to be committed.  Training takes months and once you start the race, if you want to finish, you’ve got to know how to keep the feet moving.  I know that running up to the top of Pikes Peak will be hard, but it will make a great adventure.

The Cook Book

5.  I will continue to learn how to cook!  On New Years Eve I baked my first cake, an oatmeal brown sugar cake that turned out very sweet.  I also learned how to make the marinade for my family’s Christmas dinner.  We had Tacos al Pastor.  The pork meat turned out so tender my sister thought it was Chicken!  I want to try to cook a meal for my family at least once a month, so send me some recipes.

6.  I will finish my short story!  I have been working on this particular story for a little over a year and a half.  I want to submit it for publishing by next September.  Keep me accountable, so that I keep writing.

7.  I will finish my masters in teaching!  The masters in teaching program at Regis Jesuit University has really been a great challenge.  I’ve been learning a lot, and even though I’d rather be teaching the information, than writing papers on it, I’m excited to complete my education.  This time next year I’ll be looking for jobs!

The Colorado Trail

8.  I will continue to study Spanish!  Acquiring a second language has slowed down over the last two years, especially since I started back to school.  I’ve been listening to Spanish music and trying to start up conversations in Spanish (This is the hardest part).  This means I need to actively look for people to speak Spanish with, let me know if you know anyone.

9.  I will spend more than a month without sugar!  Last year I spent July and a little bit of August without sugar.  I was amazed by how much better I felt when I subtracted sugar from my life.  I was going to live 2013 without sugar, but I still have leftover cake and so I’ll have to eat that first.

10.  I will continue to live spiritually! In 2012 I challenged myself and all the people in my life to look for God in all aspects of our lives.  My goal, to engage with life and God every day, meant I continued to read my bible each day.  Daily, I started looking for things I was thankful for, things I found joy in, and blessings I felt God let me be a part of.  Last year was a true adventure and I am looking forward to engaging with all that God has for me this year.

A Storms Coming