The wonderful world of untapped innocence in the classroom

One kindergarten student was visiting a classroom and having such a terrible moment in class that within five minutes of him crying, two other kindergarten children gave him their special classroom rewards they had just received from their teacher.

For the last 40 days of school, a first grade student always makes sure the special needs child is securely sitting in their carrier seat on the bus and and tries to cheer him if he is having sad day.

Julie always helps five-year old Amanda on the playground when swinging on swings or going down the slide just to make sure she is having fun safely.

Five year old John helped another another boy, Tom, who was angry, pick up blocks that he had thrown so that Tom would have a better day.

Seven -year old Mary made a special picture for her friend that is very sick and was not instructed to do so. This gesture was created during indoor recess at school.

One boy always makes sure a friend that is new to school finds the right classroom he is in everyday.

Mira always asks another to play with her at recess or when they have a break because the other one feels left out.

Robert struggles with assignments but will sit and concentrate for a long time reading The Pigeon has to Go to School and many of the Mo Willems books as a special treat with his teacher.

A second grade student, Elisa shared her favorite book patiently with a first grader and helped her improve her reading, reading some words for her and sounding out others. She asked if she could help her in the future if she needed assistance.

Sheri McCabe, fourth grade instructional assistant, made a great Wonder Wall last year for a student she was working with and learned about the teaching idea from others on the Internet. She wanted to use it again so she put it in the room she is working in this year. She told the class about. Whenever they have a question about something they wonder about, they can put the questions on a post it and put it on the wonder wall and they will discuss them once a week. Sheri went back to the class a couple hours later and all these post it’s were up on the wall. Here are the questions they asked: How does it feel to be blind? I wonder how a rocket blasts off? Why is there school? Who made books? How do you drive a car? How is candy made? Do plants fart?

It doesn’t get much better than this. God bless them all!!!

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Taking our ministry to the streets

I don’t remember mission trips in my early childhood church life. Though at one point in time, I wanted to join the Peace Corp and so did my daughter…not really sure where that came from but many of us thought that was the road to take….especially if we were going to run away from home.

However, I do remember my own children helping and giving to charities through church and school here in Downers Grove but never in the same capacity as a mission trip out of the state or country.

Mission trips help to promote generations of strong disciples connected to churches while leading with God. I wish that I would have started a tradition in my own family. Though it is never too late; parents or even grandparents can can set an example and travel with their children growing closer together in God’s love.

First Congregational United Church of Christ of Downers Grove traveled over 1,000 miles to Houston Texas last month to help people in need and returned with a message never to ignore any of God’s people. We have the power to build A Beautiful City, a song by Hunter Parrish, presented by Dena Provenzano, Director of Youth Ministries at the Sunday service describing the trip.  Other mission workers were eager to share a summary of their participation in Texas.

Many of the youth that have attended mission trips in the past found this trip to be the most impactful; finding that just simple loving conversations with the underprivileged was how they could help the most.

Madison talked about one homeless lady who wanted a certain bag of chips and Gatorade so they went to buy her the food. Madison said that when they came back to give the lady the food, she could not believe that they did come back probably one of Madison’s most memorable experiences.

Luke enjoyed working at the food bank and was amazed at the number of meals they made which totaled about 5,000.

Faith sat next to a woman at Crosswords and despite all the women’s problems she asked Faith questions about her life, what she did and really listened to Faith’s answers.

Erin talks about Crosswords also for the homeless and she talks about one guy who was having a bad day. She was able to calm him down and it truly opened her eyes to what others go through. Erin is so fortunate for what she has and will never forget that experience.

Joe said just giving homeless people food was one of the most positive events in his life.

George talks about how anyone can be homeless at one time or another such as a linebacker he met who had played in the Rose Bowl. Vinny talks about how grateful  people were at the time for the little help that they could give. No matter what happens in life  …Madison says…… God will be there, no matter what.

Mady talks about bringing sack lunches to Rainbow house and it really opened her eyes on how she had food when so many children did not.

Pastor Scott Oberle, who also attended the trip, was amazed at the fantastic group of young adults that were like shining stars in the darkness and was proud that he could serve with this group.

After sharing this story with a friend who lives in the northern suburbs today, a guest speaker at her church; a young teen just returned from a mission trip in Houston, Texas. Imagine….he said the he never felt more embraced by the love of Christ and how Christ changes lives.

For more information about the music, arts, teaching, worship and mission programs you may want to experience, please click on First Congregational United Church of Christ in Downers Grove.

Thoughts on Good Friday

I can still remember Good Fridays where I would wait. I was very young and be outside before it happened. Sometimes, I sat on the porch of my house or ride my swings in the backyard. My Mom and especially my Aunt would share the story of Good Friday. Good Friday was a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It was a day for many to fast and go to church services.

But I had to keep watch as a child and, amazingly, what I watched for always came true. I was told that regardless of where you lived, how warm or cold it was outside, how sunny or cloudy the sky was, at 12 noon the sky would darken until about 3pm, sometimes storm, and then the sun would shine. This would be the time that God was angry because of Jesus’s pain on the cross but then when he dies, God begins to rejoice. And, of course, on Easter, Jesus has arisen from the tomb for all to see.

During my childhood, there was never a Good Friday where the skies would not become dark and storms threatened the horizon. I can’t say that as an adult. Many of my Good Friday afternoons have had a cloud show up here or there.

Maybe it was just my imagination growing up but how many of you experienced the same? It was amazing how God loved his son that he would change the weather every year.

As an adult, most Good Fridays were filled with sadness remembering the pain that Jesus suffered for us. Generally, attending a Good Friday service was on my menu to better understand how Jesus’s love is so strong that he is willing to sacrifice himself. How God does allow suffering in this world. And how we must forgive. We must forgive those that have hurt us and how we need to be less absorbed in our own problems. That is what Good Friday means to me.

It is Good Friday right now as I finish my thoughts. Where I live in the Midwest outside of Chicago, it is the Central time zone and it is 8:30 in the morning. As I pour another cup of coffee, I open the drapes and it looks like it may rain. Cloudy, gloomy and quiet.  I check the weather online. Mostly cloudy with a high of 49. And I open up the hourly forecast for the afternoon. Mostly Cloudy with no precipitation.

I will wait a few more hours and I will watch. It is 10 am and the sun is now shining brightly. So much for the weather online. However, now it is about noon and clouds are slowly beginning to come in from the West. They don’t last because the sun shines with distinction all afternoon…….then again?

Whether the sun, sky or earth changes between the hours of 12 pm and 3pm, Good Friday will always keep me balanced on what is important. Living especially for him and grateful for what I have right at this very moment.

Have a blessed Good Friday!

For the love of God

I took a day off from school/work last week. I did not feel well that morning and had not slept the night before. As the morning progressed, I felt better and then the guilt began. I took a day off of work…..for the love of God! But as the day continued, I found out that taking that day was how God decided to share.

It was a rainy day which are always my favorites for creativity and I finished an article on my new computer given to me by my partner where I can open one Internet tab after another without delay and enjoyed my research without re-starting the machine again and again.The light in my office was just right, cozy and warm, as I researched to my hearts content and wrote.

I was allowed the day to take breaks…. to stretch out on my bed or venture downstairs to my living room with all the beautiful things I love in furniture and design. Though I had lived in the home over 30 years, raised my children, I normally see the daylight shining on the remodeling work that needs to be done like replacing the carpet and the dinghy walls. Today, I saw the new furniture, artwork, dolls, plates and knick knacks in a whole new light and I knew why I chose this place to live; then and now.

Still feeling healthier as the day moved into the late afternoon, I went to Target, only a few blocks a way which is my usual stop for just about everything and anything. Today, it was cat litter…a must my Joe Bo cat can’t live without. The store was quiet since it was a weekday and not a holiday. Items in the store seemed fresh and new though I had been down the aisles thousands of times before. I slowly walked; watching my toddler son and daughter in memory point to their favorite toy which was a great Mommy field trip to the store. Then, I watched me alone today, and I enjoyed the trip just as much. Today!

After Target, I stopped at Hobby Lobby, almost in walking distance from my house. Going to Hobby Lobby was like going on vacation. I wanted to buy some blank canvas for my new art room where I am attempting to color and paint, another gift from my love who truly likes to bring out my creativity. Canvas’s are in the back of the store but I take my time.

And I realize that I am in one section where I am surrounded by love at Hobby Lobby. Every crafted wall design that includes, let love grow, P.S. I love you, every day I love you, hello love, love you lots, love you lots and it goes on. I slightly turn to gaze at the messages and I realize in a whisper that it is a special message to me. I am surrounded at school, in family circles, with friends and my partner by love. Most of all, God’s love.

Then I see my most favorite of them all…. Love never fails!

When we give and receive love, and find it most important of all things, life doesn’t fail!

The spirit world is strong these days

My friend received a text message from her deceased husband’s old retired cell phone. Same night she woke up in a panic…it was 3 am. She was dreaming that she was running through a house engulfed in smoke. She was heading for the stairway but was trying to get someone out. She began choking. This dream stayed with her. It was disturbing and vivid. She called her brother in New Mexico early in the morning only to find out exactly at the time of her dream, he woke up choking on smoke from his fireplace. A huge windstorm hit and pushed the smoke down through the house.

She also said that Jupiter entered Scorpio for 13 months with the Sun there as well. Potent time for just these issues.  Death, the spirit world….the dark and the light. Ultimately, a time of purging old wounds.

And what about me and my feelings of spirits? Actually, I wrote a book filled with those stories of dreams and premonitions since as a young girl, I have had a connection, gift, and sometimes a curse.

The answer has been simple for me as far as ghosts, spirits or messages and premonitions. The closer we become to God, the more we are able to see, help others and move on from our own obstacles.

Generally, my premonitions or lessons have not been in the form of dreams, but just recently, I, too, had a dream that represented a message or lesson learned.

I was in a huge building, one floor that looked like a warehouse. And all these people that I had worked for in various jobs, throughout the years, were sitting in front of computer screens, one long cubicle that would house six or seven people at a time.  It didn’t matter what job it was whether they were teachers, or in a more active position, they were jammed up against these screens. They were individuals that I had known in real life that were not happy, had insulted and talked about others, and several were bosses that I had experienced through several lay offs. They were being forced and strained while I was standing by the front door watching. Nobody was walking around, nobody was paying attention to me and I turned and looked outside the glass plate window of the door. There was a beautiful path that lead to a mountain and trees of color. I looked back for only a second, smiled while I walked out the door and into the beauty of life.

I have been employed in several positions and have always wished that I could have stayed in one position with a number of years of stability behind me.  And, finally I was able to let go of that unrealistic expectation . In fact, the job as a free-lance writer and elementary education teacher today is the most full-filling I have ever known.

I leave those real glass doors of the school everyday looking at the same beautiful sky and feel like a hero helping the little ones grow and experience love.  It is not a dream. Then, I come home to write about the dreams of others and my own.

That is what God wants for all of us at the end of the day. To truly realize who we are and what we deserve. Some feel that until you do, happiness cannot come to you.

Concentration on not having enough or how much we make, or how much time left to build that retirement nest, never works.  It may take a lifetime but we must realize that when one door closes and we have done the job faithfully, it is truly closing for our benefit.

The light on Quiet Harbor

In the early 1990’s, it began at the Clipper Ship Gallery in LaGrange, home to Charles Vickery, a local artist who showcased his work with paintings of the sea. His eyes lit up as we walked through the store admiring the beautiful work of clipper ships and Charles Vickery’s ability to make water come to life. I knew then what Kevin Sullivan’s next birthday gift would be. So my Mom, young Kris and Kaleigh returned to choose a Quiet Harbor, a limited edition print, framed with a light to highlight the respected artist.

As the print became a new highlight in our home, with a picture taken of Kevin and his children sitting on the couch in front of the new painting, Charles Vickery inspired others and through the years, has become a renowned artist for tall ship collectors. He passed away in September of 1998.

Until death do us part, Quiet Harbor remained in Kevin Sullivan’s life until he passed away almost a month ago. Kristopher, his 30 year old son, displays the Vickery today on his own wall and shares an email sent to the Charles Vickery Clipper Ship Gallery.

I remember my Mom buying Quiet Harbor for my Dad and admiring the models the Clipper Ship Gallery offered. I was just a kid then and we were in your shop alot back in the early 1990s 

Charles Vickery has touched me as well  considering he, myself and my Dad shared a similar passion for the sea and sails. Since my Dad and Mom divorced, the Charles Vickery print has always been on my father’s wall; Quiet Harbor print number 321/950 for over 20 plus years. When they were married, it had a light on it and he even asked me if I remembered the light not long before his own death just a few weeks ago.

It has been through many homes and yet pristine, he cared about it as he cared about his own children. My father had a passion for the sea and the tall ship. He was an avid sailor, I, his son, was his first mate. Toward the end of his life after being diagnosed with stage four cancer, he didn’t have much time but he did have time for the Vickery which still hung by his bed when he passed away on August 17th.  He was only 58 years old.

 Its one of the few things he had left and something I can appreciate and remember him by. Recently I bought a plate to commemorate the picture ….the same print which seemed to be difficult to find.

What am I trying to say?

I hung that picture the day after he passed away in my own home. I cried as my lighting lit it up for the first time in over 20 years.  Charles Vickery art touches more people in ways you can never imagine. For me, its sailing, its my Dad. I just wanted you to know.  Thanks, Kristopher Sullivan

And you know my personal feelings about the light for those readers that truly know me……a beautiful world beyond this earth without pain, suffering. A quiet harbor with peace and tranquility, a place to go home to the light.

Closer to God

My ex-husband, Kevin, passed away this week from Stage 4 cancer after being diagnosed in May. And now I watch my love and concern for the children we had together, my almost 30 year old son and daughter, Kris and Kaleigh, grow in a new direction as I help them take one day at a time through the grieving process of losing a parent. Though, I lost my Dad at an early age, this is not about me. This is about their Dad.

After he was diagnosed, I had spent more time with Kevin who only lived a short distance away. I wanted to be there for my children when they needed me to take them to tests and cancer treatments. As so many cry for his loss, I celebrate the time that was blessed to him so that he could be with those he loved.  I watched sharing texts or phone calls every night with his daughter, making sure each other was ok and most of all, saying I love you. He was able to spend quality time with his 13 year old son Mikey from a previous marriage, advising him of what to do. He had celebrated my son’s 30th birthday in July helping to host the party and stayed a long time even though he was sick. We, too, as many of his lifetime friends will remember, celebrated Kevin’s 30th surprise party and still visible on VHS. However, it will be transferred either online or DVD for those to enjoy soon.

In the last few months, he and I were able to talk about those friends from the party as well as others from that day. He talked of his friend Jimmy who always called Kevin Fred still in contact today. He talked about his friend Davey who came to visit him just a few weeks ago….so proud of the time he could spend.

And he talked about visiting his Mom who lives out of state, not able to travel , proudly showing me the new sailboat weather vane she had purchased; sailing was always his first love. Our first date was on a sail boat in Lake Geneva. He shared his love of his Dad who had passed away a few years ago. How he missed his close friend Billy. Kevin was known as the Sal-man or Salsky in Billy’s eyes who had also passed away from cancer a year ago. He talked of his sisters and brothers, many who lived out of state, but always came to visit and he would take them to his favorite bar and grill called Paps. A memorial service is being held on Saturday at Paps in Mount Prospect on August 26th at 2 pm.

Most of all, he talked of God….that he truly believed now more than ever!

I had a strong premonition early on, that he would not live any longer due to complications that can occur when battling  this terrible disease and tried to prepare my family. Unfortunately, there really is no way to do that; Kevin passed away in his sleep at home on Thursday.

Today, I watch my son and daughter reach out to those in his life that were important and continually amazed at their strength and courage. I watch how they share each others tears and pain.. until numb with spent emotion And my pride grows even more pronounced for dealing with the pain of death; a true adulthood tragedy.

And Kevin? He is more impassioned in spirit than ever before; being greeted by his Dad, his grandparents, and Billy, welcoming Salsky with a beer in his hand to a world that offers no pain but only love. He is always there for his family to say good morning, good night and just sit down together to pray for their lives here throughout the years as they experience struggles and new opportunity.

He is always there to say “sgood” a common phrase for that’s good that he was known to give on earth…. but more powerful than ever in heaven. They will hear that more than ever before.

Thank you for all of your wonderful prayers!