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Loving…the sun

Today is a beautiful, sunny day.  It may only be 30+ degrees outside but the sun makes me feel great.  And it will even be better on Tuesday and Wednesday as it is expected that Chicago will have both sunshine and 60-65 degree weather.  This is almost unheard of in the windy city but I’ll take it any day.  There’s something about the sun that just makes you feel good but when I think about the sun I can’t help but also reflect on the Son, God’s only Son, Jesus our Savior who makes life even better than the sun.  It’s so interesting that both words sound the same but one makes us feel good for awhile while the other can change your life forever.  Ancient cultures and civilizations knew how important the sun is and some even worshipped the sun but how much better to worship the Son, the only being capable of making us whole and giving us life eternal.  I’m thankful today for the sun, but even more so for the Son.

 

I am a Professor of Education and Director of the Alexander De Jong Center for Special Education at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. I hold a B.A. from Calvin College, a M.Ed. from the University of Arizona, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago. I was awarded the Studs Terkel Humanitarian Award of Illinois for incorporating music into the lives of children with disabilities, the 2001 Illinois Woman of Achievement Award and the 2007 Illinois Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children Excellence in Teaching Award. I have received two State Farm Campus Compact grants to incorporate service-learning both into her special education coursework and into the lives of students with disabilities. I have also taken sign language I students to work at the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf in Montego Bay for the last ten January terms as a service-learning project and have been blessed to see lives changed, values clarified, and future goals transformed. This January-May, 2011 a Fulbright Scholarship will allow me to teach at Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College in Montego Bay, helping them integrate service-learning into their curriculum as well as teaching special education classes and writing curriculum for their deaf education major. In my spare time I hope to become involved in The Meeting Place (a church that I attend when in Jamaica), scuba dive, continue taking yoga classes or at least do yoga to DVDs and play my flute in the Sam Sharpe Community Band…oh, and eat lots of jerk chicken!

“It is in this all-important journey of life, we discover our purpose and define our individual identity.” From “Charting the Hero’s Journey” by Linda Chisholm

Not everyone hears “the call” but for those that do, the journey can be a life-changing event. In the book, “Charting the Hero’s Journey” we find that “the hero” is someone that goes outside of their comfort zone for a purpose.

“The variations are endless. In some stories the hero is a man, in others a woman. The journey may begin with a clear inner call or merely by accident or chance. A few stories end prematurely when the would-be hero rejects the opportunity before him.

For those who accept the challenge, the journey may be by land or by sea. En route, there are difficulties and challenges—rivers to ford, deserts to cross. There are angels to wrestle with and dragons to slay. There are feats to perform and puzzles to solve.

Sometimes the course is clearly charted. At other times the hero must make her own map as she enters new territory. In most versions there are guardian spirits in one form or another who guide the way and protect her from danger, often snatching the hero from the jaws of defeat just in the nick of time.

The climax comes when the hero arrives at the place she has been seeking, the magical moment when the purpose of the journey is revealed. Enlightenment comes, the boon is uncovered, the good which the hero set out or was destined to find is now in her possession.

A few heroes remain wanderers forever. But most return, bringing back their discoveries and the stories of their adventures to share with those remaining at home.” From “Charting the Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm

Jeremiah 11:29 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Stage 1: Hearing the Call

Stage 2: Preparing for the Journey

Stage 3: Departing and Separating

Stage 4: Crossing the First Threshold

Stage 5: Taking up the Challenges

Stage 6: Battling the Beasts

Stage 7: Passing Through the Gates

Stage 8: Recognizing Guides and Guardian Spirits

Stage 9: Celebrating the Victories

Stage 10: Discovering the Boon

Stage 11: Charting the Course

Stage 12: Returning Home

Not everyone goes through the stages in the same order and some may in fact skip various stages. But everyone begins with Stages 1 and 2 and ends with Stage 12. Enjoy the journey with me!

Prepare my heart to reach the hearts of my students, both from Trinity and Sam Sharpe while in Jamaica. Give me words to speak and an attitude of service as I lead the team from Trinity and as I teach at Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College. Give me leadership skills as I do my CCCD board work and may there be oneness as the board meets to make decisions about CCCD. Bless my relationship with Rick while I’m away and fill it with your love. Keep me safe and help me to grow stronger in you as I worship each week at The Meeting Place and work with my fellow lecturers at Sam Sharpe. Equip me with your grace and love as I venture out into this great adventure that You have prepared especially for me!

This was the prayer that I wrote as I prepared to leave Palos Heights, Illinois in January to live for four months in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It was based on two Psalms, 1 and 27.

Psalm 1:
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 27:
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall. 3 Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. 4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent, he will set me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies round about me; and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. 7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! 8 Thou hast said, “Seek ye my face.” My heart says to thee, “Thy face, LORD, do I seek.” 9 Hide not thy face from me. Turn not thy servant away in anger, thou who hast been my help. Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me up. 11 Teach me thy way, O LORD; and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. 13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the LORD!

Now the time had come to pack up the condo, rid myself of extra food, wash the towels and linens for the last time, pack my belongs and gifts and come home. I had my share of going away parties and dinners but it was when I said my last good-bye to my driver, Mr. Johnson, I knew that I really would be leaving Montego Bay for good…at least until next January.

I left with mixed emotions…excited to again be headed back in my own home with Rick, my dog, Bella, and my family near by. But I knew I would certainly miss opening wide my curtains each morning to greet the sun rising over the Caribbean Sea and watching it set daily from the pool outside of my condo. I would be happy to again have my cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee several mornings a week as well as good Mexican food but would certainly miss my newfound love, cheese patties. And I would certainly miss the many friends and students that had found their way into my heart.

I believe that God answered my prayers in so many ways. He kept me from harm and evil, kept me on a level path, helped me see the goodness of the Lord in so many ways and allowed me to yield fruit in its season. I experienced the power and beauty of the Holy Spirit each week at The Meeting Place and received emotional healing and amazing grace. The work I began at Sam Sharpe and continued at CCCD may never be fully done but my time was fruitful and blessed by God and my personal journey made richer by this experience. Work wise I was able to help the special education lecturers at Sam Sharpe change their program from a 3-year diploma program to a 4-year degree program, I co-taught an Introduction to Special Education class with Sharon, getting to know the year 1 students, I visited and advised numerous student teachers and was able to introduce the concept of ‘service-learning’ to the school at large.

To God be the glory, great things He hath done!

Prepare my heart to reach the hearts of my students, both from Trinity and Sam Sharpe while in Jamaica. Give me words to speak and an attitude of service as I lead the team from Trinity and as I teach at Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College. Give me leadership skills as I do my CCCD board work and may there be oneness as the board meets to make decisions about CCCD. Bless my relationship with Rick while I’m away and fill it with your love. Keep me safe and help me to grow stronger in you as I worship each week at The Meeting Place and work with my fellow lecturers at Sam Sharpe. Equip me with your grace and love as I venture out into this great adventure that You have prepared especially for me!

This was the prayer that I wrote as I prepared to leave Palos Heights, Illinois in January to live for four months in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It was based on two Psalms, 1 and 27.

Psalm 1:
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 27:
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall. 3 Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. 4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent, he will set me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies round about me; and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. 7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! 8 Thou hast said, “Seek ye my face.” My heart says to thee, “Thy face, LORD, do I seek.” 9 Hide not thy face from me. Turn not thy servant away in anger, thou who hast been my help. Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me up. 11 Teach me thy way, O LORD; and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. 13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the LORD!

Now the time had come to pack up the condo, rid myself of extra food, wash the towels and linens for the last time, pack my belongs and gifts to come home. I had my share of going away parties and dinners but it was when I said my last good-bye to my driver, Mr. Johnson, I knew that I really would be leaving Montego Bay for good…at least until next January.

I left with mixed emotions…excited to again be headed back in my own home with Rick, my dog, Bella, and my family near by. But I knew I would certainly miss opening wide my curtains each morning to greet the sun rising over the Caribbean Sea and watching it set daily from the pool outside of my condo. I would be happy to again have my cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee several mornings a week as well as good Mexican food but would certainly miss my newfound love, cheese patties. And I would certainly miss the many friends and students that had found their way into my heart.

I believe that God answered my prayers in so many ways. He kept me from harm and evil, kept me on a level path, helped me see the goodness of the Lord in so many ways and allowed me to yield fruit in its season. I experienced the power and beauty of the Holy Spirit each week at The Meeting Place and experienced emotional healing and amazing grace. The work I began at Sam Sharpe and continued at CCCD may never be fully done but my time was fruitful and blessed by God and my personal journey made richer by this experience. Work wise I was able to help the special education lecturers at Sam Sharpe change their program from a 3-year diploma program to a 4-year degree program, I co-taught an Introduction to Special Education class with Sharon, getting to know the year 1 students, I visited and advised numerous student teachers and was able to introduce the concept of ‘service-learning’ to the school at large.

To God be the glory, great things He hath done!

Today I again experienced the perfect way to say good-bye to the year 1,2 and 3 special education majors from Sam Sharpe…over lunch. I had heard that the students wanted an end of the year party but no one seemed to be taking the lead in planning something so I offered to host a party at the pool and restaurant adjacent to my condo, a place where I have spent MUCH time this semester. The students were all for it so the planning began.

I’ve learned that planning anything in Jamaica is challenging because of the ‘fuzzy’ time element that everyone seems to live with, but I persevered and we ended up having a pretty awesome party.

I talked to Ruth, a caterer from the hotel, El Greco, that manages the restaurant and we were finally able to settle on a menu that the students could afford with a little help from me. Then we talked about the type of party we could throw poolside. Our party was planned for 12-3 or 4 but of course, no one came until close to one and we finally started eating at about 1:20 but once we began, we had a party!

Our lunch of small sandwiches, French fries, salad, muffins, ice cream with chocolate sauce and fruit punch was perfect for the group of almost entirely young women. We took over most of the restaurant and had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch.

Then we made our way over to the pool and the real fun began. I had planned some simple games, had students sign up for at least one game and they were certainly not shy about singing up to participate! The first game, a race around the pool with a hard boiled egg on a spoon, was something entirely new and a bit crazy to these Jamaican students but once they got the hang of it, they were into it, and I mean INTO it! The second game, a water balloon toss was even more foreign to them. Why would you throw a water balloon at your partner? But again, once they got the hang of the game, the purpose being to NOT let your balloon pop on your partner, they jumped right in and had a great time. The bun eating and Pepsi drinking contests were much more familiar to them and I found myself scrambling to find more buns and Pepsis for all of the participants. Our final event, a dance contest, complete with a DJ, was the most fun since Jamaicans KNOW how to dance! It must be in their blood because just about everyone participated and had quite the moves.

It was time to say good-bye, a difficult but necessary closure for me, and I did so hoping that I will be able to stay in touch with many of my new students. I’m anxious to see where they end up teaching (the year 3 students) and how student teaching progresses for the year 2’s. I asked them to find me on Facebook so I expect to have many new ‘friends’ very soon.

Saying good-bye over lunch was VERY good!

From ‘Letters’, Rainer Marie Rilke writes, “ Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other against the sky.”

Rick, my husband of 31 years, gave me the greatest gift this semester…letting me pursue my dream of teaching in Jamaica for a full semester. He not only let me go, he encouraged me to pursue my dream to become all I could be…and I believe I will be a better person for having gone to Jamaica and taught at Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College.

I have learned that loves really does mean being willing to let go and let the other person choose their own path and Rick did that for me. Now it’s time to return home and adjust back to life in Chicago and all that that means to my family and me. I will definitely miss waking up to the beautiful Caribbean Sea each day but it will be even better to wake up and again see Rick each day. He truly is my better half.

Thanks for encouraging me to take this incredible adventure…it was quite the ride and one I will NEVER forget!

Enjoying our anniversary at Geejam in Port Antonio, Jamaica.  What a great night!

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