Friday, September 28, 2012

Lessons Learned

When you speak about the lessons you have learned well in your life, I bet you don't list the ones learned at the side of a 10 year old. Yet, there was a time in my life where a 10 year old boy taught me many lessons and I have never forgotten those sweet moments or lessons learned.

In honor of my student, Chris Mortell, who passed away this week, this post will be a sweet tribute to him and those lessons learned so long ago. He may have only be 10, but he had an amazing faith and no shame about sharing it.

So here we go, top 10 things learned at the side of Chris Mortell:

10. Little things matter most. Chris loved playing with my fingernails or holding my hand as we walked through the school. What sweet memories those are today.

9. The brain is fascinating and should never be underestimated! Chris may have had developmental delays due to brain cancer treatments, but that boy would memorize entire movies! He would sit almost trance like and recite them word for word. That was my first clue into how he learned best! I figured if a boy can do that, he can learn to read and do math facts! :)

8. Never underestimate the power of a sibling.  Chris has a twin brother, John. Due to the school they attended, they were blessed to be in class together. I was Chris' assistant for two years and was able to watch this dynamic duo in action. John was highly protective of Chris and very encouraging. Chris wanted to do what John did. John was his motivation. So, when Chris didn't want to do something, I just might have mentioned that John had done it and BOOM! it was done. :) I will never forget John coming to me and asking if we could talk to the class about Chris. So we did. I remember having Chris go on a walk to wake him up before lessons. John and I sat the class on the floor, read a story, "Leo the Late Bloomer" and talked about how everyone was made with differences. If we make fun of all kids with brown hair and say they can't do whatever because they have brown hair, how would that feel. It amazed me to watch this brother take over the talk with his peers about his brother. We had no issues with kids making fun of Chris the entire time I worked with him. John is to credit for that, in my opinion.

7. Not all people share the same passions and can still be friends. Chris adored Halloween, the ride at Disney Tower of Terror and the Goosebump books. I, on the other hand, really don't like any of those things per se. I am more of a Winnie the Pooh, Christmas/Easter, classics kind of gal. However, I adored this little guy and we had a sweet connection until the end. I still giggle at the almost horror he felt when he realized I had never read a Goosebumps. His reaction was so cute.

6. Some people may see angels in this lifetime. I recall a time when I was going through some yucky infertility treatments. Nothing was gong our way. My siblings were all expecting their first babies within six months of each other and every day I walked into work sad, until I saw Chris. His smile lit up a room...and my heart during that time. There was a time where Chris was seeing double vision at times. I know some people will say this experience was just that. However, for me at the time, I needed to hear his words. We were sitting there working. Chris was staring off just above my head. I kept trying to get his attention and he shushed me, saying,"Sh! Mrs. have angels all around your head. They are beautiful." Now, I don't know what he saw. Probably the double vision, but at that time and when I think back of what was happening in my life....I wanted to believe that little boy saw what he said. The comfort of knowing I was being watched over was beyond words.

5. A family can be the biggest cheerleaders, support, friendships you need. Chris' family is amazing. His parents never stopped fighting for him and what he needed. His sister was the same way and even more so after becoming a doctor herself. She knew what to try and helped keep him with his family a bit longer, according to his mom. I have never met a family who is more upbeat, positive and thankful in my life. I pray that I am able to take that from this time of life and pour it into my girls.

4. A faith in God is not optional....well at least not to Chris. :) When he was 9, I worked with him and two other kids. One of the others shocked Chris one day in saying he didn't go to church and he didn't believe in God. The reaction Chris gave should be what happens when I hear of those who are still not believers....he wept. I had to shut down the lesson, take a walk and talk with him and to the horror of most administrators....I prayed with him. :) We shared a faith in God and I knew that. I knew that would bring peace. But to him, the trees and sunset spoke of God so how could this child not believe?!

3. One smile can truly lighten up a room. As I said before, Chris was in my life during a very dark time. I was never so happy to see that kiddo smile at me. But it didn't just stop there. When he walked in a room, his cherub face would grin as he walked to his seat and he held the attention of the class. They could not get enough of that smiling kiddo. I agree!

2. Never underestimate the ability of someone with special needs. Chris was proof to me that often we try to put limits on people due to what we think they can do. Chris busted out of every limitation placed on him from other people. The fact he lived to be 27 is proof of that. Chris was able to learn his math facts and read. He did learn to write stories. Chris did things people never dreamed he could. I was thrilled to get to witness some of that.

1. The sound of one sweet voice is music to your ears. Chris had the sweetest voice. Truly it was precious. He sometimes had trouble with his l's and r's so I became Mrs. Miwwer. I loved it. Last summer,my girls and I were cleaning out the school closet and I ran across an audio tape of Chris reading to me and answering some questions. We listened and all were just smiles. His voice and the way he interacted with me on the tape was just sweet. I put that tape away until I heard of his passing. I pulled it out and listened once more. This time with tears running down my cheeks...but still rejoicing that this sweet boy was in my life at all. That tape was music to my ears. I passed it on to his mom because that is who needs to have it but I did tape it first.;)  There is just something about his sweet spirit that lifts your mood when you hear his little voice.

While I head off to say good bye to my little buddy, I can't help but giggle at one of the other memories of working with him. When I started teaching, I guess I called everyone sweet pea a lot. Chris was taken back by this and one day asked me why I called him that. I told him I just called all the kids I work with that and his reply...:"Well then, I am going to call you cupcake!" And he did. Every time I would ask him to go do his work or time for a morning walk to wake up,  he jumped up and said, "ok, cupcake!" Been a long time since I heard him call me that but it is one thing I will never forget.

So long sweet pea! It has been a joy knowing you and calling you friend. We will walk together again one day.
Love you,
Cupcake. :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Words of Truth

Ok, get the laughs out. I actually have something I want to share with you from my heart about this girl...this young lady who did not know her own worth until much later in life. This girl who chose to listen to the cry of the world more than the cry of her God. This girl with big hair....who is me.

Lately, I have been involved in many conversations with many teen girls about their heartache or despair over either a boy being unkind, breaking up with them, not noticing them, etc. I also have had conversations with moms of teen girls whose hearts are breaking as they watch their girls struggle to figure out who they are in God's eyes and to determine if they will find their worth in what the world says is important as a teen or if they will listen to that same call to follow God and wait on Him.

Oh to have a chance to sit them all down and talk to them. If only they would hear the wisdom that has come from living the life and choosing to follow the worlds ways. Why am I so passionate about pouring truth into my own girls and their friends? Because I chose the wrong way at that age. It is the way that leads to heartache after heartache. The way that leaves you feeling empty and unworthy of love. The way that has you doubting your beauty and comparing yourself to others. The way that leads to deep heartache.

If I had a chance to speak truth into my own 15 year old self today, what would I say? Oh boy! Sweet girl, you are created for big things! God knit you together in such a way to glorify Him with what you do. So what do you want to do to bring Him glory? What? You don't sing well...good. That is not for you. You don't dance as well as others. That's okay..that is not what you are to do. You aren't as pretty as others...oh, He disagrees. You, sweet girl, are beautiful. You have His eyes to see the pain in others. He gave you his tender heart to be compassionate and loving when you feel otherwise. You feel you are not as smart as others? That is a gift He gave so you can be a better teacher and understand the struggle your students will have to face daily. I see in you a future of great moments with God and when you decide to turn your focus off this world and fully focus on God, you will be a force to be reckoned with for sure! Turn your focus to Him and not worry about what the world says. You are enough with out a boy in your life. You are beautiful and precious and honored in His sight. You have been created for a purpose and that is not to be used by others and tossed aside. You are here to glorify your God. What a mighty calling. Your life will be one of heartache, some you can't change, others from choices you made. But what I know today is that each experience God takes you on will give you the strength you need for the battles ahead. Cling to Him when it is tough and know His way is the only way.

Those words seem so easy to say, so easy to write. Yet I know when I was 15 I would not have listened, sadly. Some of those choices to not listen, to put up barriers and walls to those who spoke wisdom into my world, thinking I knew it all....still haunt me today. For now I am still known to some as that stubborn kid. What I think is amazing to share is that stubbornness did turn to a faith to be reckoned that stands alone sometimes. One that makes others feel uncomfortable and while that is not my goal, it is the path God has set me on. A path to glorify Him at all costs.. This time, I am choosing to walk it. Then, I did not listen. I did not hear the wisdom of my elders. And I paid dearly.

 So for these girls who have heartache, sadness and feel ignored by boys.....wait. Wait for God to show you His perfect plan. Wait for the right guy to sweep you off your feet because his faith is so strong you can't get beyond it. Wait for the time to be right and the right guy notice you. Don't try to gain the attention of some "ok" guy by cheapening who God made you to be...wearing tight, revealing clothes, being too made up, doing things you don't want to do....wait. While you wait, focus on where God wants you to serve Him, how God created you and what is beautiful about that! You are worth the wait! God is worth the wait.

Stepping off the pedestal now......

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