Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom


As Autumn Prepares to Leave

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 30, 2013
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Last night after almost 6 hours in the car and a full day at an educational conference, I sank into the couch with my laptop determined to delete the emails accumulated in my inbox. As I clicked to remove ads that I would normally consider and blogs I read on a regular basis, I scanned all the messages to make sure I didn’t eliminate any family, church, or school news.

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As my eyes traveled down the sender list, one subject caught my attention. “As Autumn Slips Through My Fingers” is the latest blog article written by Margaret Langridge, a writer and photographer I enjoy following. But as I read this particular title, sadness gripped my heart.

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Margaret’s article is about autumn slipping away to be replaced by winter’s gloves and slick sidewalks. She anticipates a special occasion, her anniversary, and reflects upon the time she lacks for her writing. It’s a thought-provoking, gratifying article.

Unfortunately, the phrase “Autumn slips through my fingers” means something totally different to me. My 17-year-old, senior in high school, beauty and brains daughter, Autumn, will be leaving me soon. She is entrenched in the college and scholarship application process and is excited for her future.

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I’m also thrilled for her, but I find myself counting the weeks I have left until she leaves. If we move her into her college dorm mid-August, the magic number now stands at 41. That’s not a very big number, especially when so much of her time is spent at her job. I love Chick-fil-a and working there has been good for Autumn. She has grown in confidence, and the level of responsibility required to take college courses her senior year and work 20 or more hours a week has forced her to improve her time management skills, which will certainly come in handy at college. In spite of the positive effects, I am starting to feel resentment build every week when she sends me her schedule and I count the evenings she won’t be home with the family.

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Frequently while completing chores around the house, I wonder what it will be like without her at home. What I’ve always referred to as “Daddy moments”, instantaneous tears when my dad crosses my mind, have started concerning her as well. Putting clothes in the washing machine can open the dam of tears in an “Autumn moment” that I can’t control. My liquid emotions flow, and I am left with red eyes and a runny nose as a result of doing laundry. Yes, it’s crazy.

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Autumn hopes to attend George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Have you ever heard the phrase “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”? I’m sure the whole time we were touring the campus, God was chuckling. We thought we were there to discover Autumn’s second choice because she had been determined for years to attend a different school. After the visit, we were both in shock. GMU seemed to be the perfect fit. To make sure, she scheduled appointments with a professor in her desired field of study from each of the schools. The interviews solidified her change of heart. GMU rose to the top of her list.

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Now we wait. The early application is complete, and Autumn should find out by mid-December if she is accepted into the GMU Honors College. I’m praying if that’s where God wants her, that’s where she’ll end up.

Oh, and I’m also praying God helps me control my tears.

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God’s New Angel

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 15, 2013
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On Sunday, God decided it was time for Bill Gardner to become his newest angel. Bill’s 96 years of life were spent in the service of others – the military, the church, his community, and especially his family. I am blessed to have been a part of his family since my dad made the wise decision to marry Suzy, Bill’s daughter.

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For fifty years, Bill Gardner sang in the church choir. I’m certain those years of practice have prepared him well to sing God’s praises in heaven. If God has committees, Bill is probably already serving on one (or two or three). His obituary inspires me to spend more time serving others, and I want to share it here to hopefully encourage others to do the same.

Rest in peace, Papa Bill. Enjoy some of the books in God’s library. Share ideas with military heroes of the past. Kiss your wife again. And most of all, give my daddy a hug from me.

Obituary:
William A. Gardner, 96, of 102 Holloway Court, widower of Katherine “Kitty” McNeill Gardner, died Sunday, October 13, 2013 at Hospice House.

Born in Hartsville, he was a son of the late Sidney Kelly and Loucelle Gwin Gardner. He was a graduate of Hartsville High School and received his B.S. degree in Agronomy from Clemson University in 1941. Bill served in the US Army during World War II, retiring in November 1947 with the rank of Major after being wounded in action 1944.

Bill was president of Supreme Propane Gas Co., Inc. (1947-1979) and president of Alexandria, Inc. (1969-1996). He served as president of the SC LP Gas Association (1955-56), Chairman of the Board (1971-79) and became a Life Member in 1979. He also served as the State Director of the National LP Gas Association in 1957.

Bill served the Ninety Six community in numerous ways, including being a member and past president of the Ninety Six Lions Club and was named their “Man of the Year” in 1961. He was also a member and past commander of the American Legion Post 103 and served as president of the Ninety Six Chamber of Commerce in 1959, was named their Man of the Year in 1979, received Commendation in 1980 and served as chairman of the Historic Heritage Commission 1980-81. He was a member of the Ninety Six Town Council from 1955-58 and served as Mayor of Ninety Six in 1959-60. He served as a commissioner with the Ninety Six Commission of Public Works from 1990-93, served on the Greenwood County Planning & Zoning Commission from 1974-80, served as chairman of the Self Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, chairman of the Greenwood County Council on Aging, chairman of the Greenwood County Easter Seals Society, served on the United Way of Greenwood County and on the Greenwood County Beautification Commission. He served on the Elmwood Cemetery Association Board from 1982-2003.

As a member of St. Paul United Methodist Church, he served on and chaired the Administrative Board, chaired the Building Committee, sang in the choir for 50 years, taught the Jeffcoat Men’s Sunday School Class, was church treasurer and a delegate to the SC Annual Conference. He also served the SC United Methodist Conference as Greenwood District Lay Leader, chaired the Greenwood District Council on Ministries, served on the SC Annual Conference Nominating Committee, the SC Annual Conference Council on Ministries and served as chair of the Greenwood District Superintendency.

Bill was awarded The Order of the Palmetto in September 1996 and his Bronze Star in August of 2007.

Surviving are his daughters, Katherine “Kit” Gardner Adkins and her husband, Thomas Terry Adkins, Jr., of Greenwood and Susan “Suzy” Gardner Farrar of Ninety Six; a grandson, Thomas “Tom” Terry Adkins, III of Spartanburg and a granddaughter, Willa Katherine “Willa Kate” Farrar of Ninety Six.

He was preceded in death by his wife and a son-in-law, James Gerald “Jerry” Farrar.

Pallbearers will be Bobby Wells, Richard Shealy, Paul Johnson, Paul Walker, Butch Attaway and David Henderson.

Honorary escort will be members of the Jeffcoat Men’s Sunday School Class.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to St. Paul United Methodist Church, PO Box 66, Ninety Six, SC 29666.

I Haven’t Written Anything Lately

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 7, 2013
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I have not posted on my blog for one month. The words haven’t been flowing, or maybe I’m swallowing them along with all the emotions I’m attempting to hide. My emotions have been so raw lately, blood might ooze onto the page with every keystroke. An illness in the family, surgeries, hospitalization, and more surgery to come, and yet my life keeps moving on, day by day, while I don’t write.

My family is far away. The majority of my family members live in Missouri; I’m in Virginia. Being many states away makes it difficult when I know I could help if I lived closer. Helplessness, sadness, and guilt become braided together tightly enough to create a noose, strangling me and making me unproductive.

I have been alternating between bouts of intense prayer, times of fighting the liquid emotions that flow freely at inopportune times, and periods of numbness. Happy moments seem faded, but welcome, like an old pair of tennis shoes that had been drying in the sun.

News from Missouri has become more positive of late. Thank you, God. Hope continues to grow, and my numbness is starting to wane. So for today, a few words flow from my fingertips without too many emotions welling over.

No, I haven’t written anything lately. But prayer is powerful.

Hug Your Babies

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 7, 2013
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This morning, Mark left early for work, and Autumn is on a trip for school. When Colton stumbled sleepily from his room, I stood at the kitchen sink rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher. I said good morning over my shoulder to him as he crossed the hallway to the bathroom. In just a moment, he flopped on the couch as I continued my work in the kitchen. We chatted a bit, but then he became engrossed in a television show about sharks.

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As the morning progressed, he poured himself a bowl of cereal. I switched laundry loads and folded the dry clothes. I showered and dressed, and he pulled on a pair of shorts and a shirt. We left the house and drove to pick up two of his friends for some bowling alley action.

While the boys gave up their shoes in exchange for the fancy bowling alley substitutes, I placed my hand on Colton’s head and realized it was the first time I had touched him all day. I fought the urge to wrap him in a hug because he wouldn’t have appreciated it in front of his friends.

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Three weeks ago, a car wreck left a young girl from the county where I teach in the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Kirstin graduated high school in June, but I still remember her in eighth grade. She, as well as her siblings who have passed through my classroom, were always a pleasure to teach. Each is a polite, kind-hearted, and enthusiastic teen. Kirstin’s tragic car accident has pulled the community closer as everyone rallies together to help the family with visits, prayer vigils, gifts, and financial support.

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Last night at the high school football game, I was pleased to see some members of Kirstin’s family. I hugged her older sister and received an update on the next steps planned for Kirstin’s recovery. I’m certain they recite the same information dozens, maybe even a hundred, times a day. The plan is for Kirstin to move to a recovery center in Richmond to continue receiving the best medical care possible.

Today as my hand ruffled Colton’s hair and I controlled my motherly urge, Kirstin’s mom flooded my thoughts. I can’t even comprehend the depth of her desire to wrap her arms around her baby girl and feel the hug reciprocated. I pray the day she feels Kirstin’s arms around her neck comes soon.

Needless to say, as soon as the friends were deposited back at their homes, Colton received a tight embrace from dear ol’ mom. This morning I let chores and busyness cause me to ignore the chance to show my love. I pray I won’t allow that to happen again.

Hug your babies. Tight. Even if it embarrasses them, do it often.

And for those of you who would like to show your support for Kirstin, visit the Prayers for Kirstin Facebook page. Leave a message to let the family know they are all in your prayers.

Have You Ever Felt Adrift?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 9, 2013
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Last week, I spent an amazing week at Lake Greenwood in South Carolina with my step-mom, Suzy, and her family. Every year the days at the lake take on a familiar pattern. We wake up, eat, take a walk down the road to visit the donkeys that reside in a pasture nearby, spend time in the lake, eat lunch, more lake time, eat dinner, and play cards or a board game late into the night.

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It’s a calm, unplugged week with poor cell reception and two television stations. If we need to make a call or want to go online, we usually have to stand on the end of the dock or walk out to the road.

While on the water each day, we boat, tube, ski, jet ski, swim, and float. Mark and Colton spend many hours fishing, which rewards us with a delicious fish fry dinner. Of all the time on the water, I have to admit I love to laze on a raft most of all. The speed of the jet ski, excitement of the tube, and freedom of boat rides are glorious, but basking in the sun while bobbing in the water makes me content and happy. Usually I close my eyes, listen to the kids play, feel the water ripple around me, and chat with whoever is floating alongside.

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On Thursday, the breeze tried to ruin our raft time. We ended up floating to the neighbor’s dock and paddling back numerous times. Although I could use the exercise to combat the many meals we consumed, it wasn’t our normal relaxing float. The old quote says, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In this case, laziness gave birth to inspiration. Digging a ski rope from the boat, I hooked the handle around a dock piling and looped the other end around my ankle once I dragged myself back onto my raft. Suzy and her sister Kit paddled up, grasped the neighboring float, and created a raft convoy.  Once again, we were able to enjoy our raft time without drifting away.

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Suzy commented that our spiritual life resembles our raft experience. We held on to each other and also tethered ourselves to a stable structure. As Christians, we must stay connected to one another while tethering ourselves to Jesus to keep us in the right place. Without Him we become adrift, never really knowing where we will end up, and once we are lost, we struggle mightily to return to the path He has planned for us.

Are you adrift? Are you floating slowly in the wrong direction, seemingly unable to change your course? Tether yourself to Jesus and connect with other believers. Your spiritual life will be transformed. It could even feel like a peaceful, contented day at the lake!

A Humbling Experience

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on July 23, 2013
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“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

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Last Monday morning, I woke up before 2:00 a.m. to prepare for a trip to Louisville, Kentucky, on a bus with 40 teens. When we arrived at the campus where we were staying, accommodations left a bit to be desired. The M-Fuge mission camp attendance made it necessary for four people to stay in rooms that normally housed one or two. There were two showers and two bathroom stalls for over 40 girls on our floor of the dorm building. We grew very close during the week, and joined together to moan, groan, and complain.

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However, it didn’t take long to be reminded of our blessings. It was nearly impossible to continue complaining while we served throughout the city at various ministry sites.

Some of the campers served at crisis centers for women and children, while others visited nursing homes. Some went to apartment complexes with residents who were refugees from other countries. Teens from our church and churches around the country played with children, sang songs, made balloon animals, splashed at water parks, and shared Jesus.

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Camp attendees knocked on doors and asked if they could mow lawns and pull weeds. The elderly and infirmed eagerly accepted the offers and exuded an enormous amount of gratitude. With the temperatures in the high 90s, they were unable to tend their own lawns, so the Fuge teens and adults wiped their brows, fought to stay hydrated, and got down to business.

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Part of the week, I served at homeless shelters. The first day we split into two groups to clean and to sand some furniture to be painted. It humbled me greatly when the director from the center explained they had run out of cleaning products so we only had two small buckets and one mop bucket with cleaner. The people working at that center were feeding the residents, rehabilitating those with addictions, training those who needed jobs, and yet their resources were so limited they ran out of basic cleaning products. I envisioned the cabinet under my kitchen sink, the shelves in the laundry room, and the closet in my hallway, all full of cleaning supplies. What an eye-opening experience.

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We also worked at a program called the Lord’s Supper. These wonderful people serve the community by driving trucks of food to housing areas and apartment complexes. They explained that during the summer, children in these areas might not get to eat breakfast or lunch because they weren’t at school where meals are provided, so the Lord’s Supper brought meals to them. Some of our teens made sandwiches and filled bags of cereal for delivery on the trucks, while others served food at the center. It was open for an hour at lunch for anyone who needed to come in to eat, so we donned hair nets and gloves to help out.

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While I was in Louisville, I called home every day to speak to Mark and Colton. We have been experiencing problems with two vehicles lately, and Mark told me one day the cost of the repairs had reached an astonishing level. He said, “We’re going to be broke this month.” The only response I could come up with was, “No, we won’t. I’ve seen broke this week, and we aren’t anywhere near it.”

When we weren’t on site in the city, the Fuge campers spent time worshipping together, in Bible study, and competing in some friendly competitions. All of the youth I went with and the ones I met from other areas dedicated their time to this ministry. Some may not have wanted to go, some may have been reluctant to serve in uncomfortable situations, but I was impressed with their efforts and blessed by spending time with them.

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This is the third year I’ve chaperoned the M-Fuge trip with the youth group. The first two years were life changing and inspiring, but they didn’t come close to my experience this year. I can’t remember anything I’ve ever done that has humbled me to this extent. I pray God will continue to place opportunities in my path to renew the humility I am feeling because it is something I don’t ever want to forget.

Have you done anything humbling lately? Have you stepped outside your box and served others? Look for chances to serve and you will be reminded of all your blessings. It’s an amazing feeling.

It’s Worth Every Minute

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On June 19th, I turned west and put my foot on the gas pedal. Ten days later, I returned home having spent over 40 hours behind the wheel of the car, the last 14 of which were spent with the engine light glaring angrily in my eyes and my car sputtering in protest at certain moments.  And it was worth every minute.

Do you have family or friends you rarely see? Sure, in today’s world, we can be in touch with everyone on a daily basis. With email, Facebook, Skype, Instagram, blogs, and a million apps to help us stay connected, there’s no need to miss any news. But is it the same? Have you seen the emotions shining in their eyes? Have you wrapped them in your arms and hugged them tight? I have friends who only live an hour or less from me, but I still only see them a couple times a year. I have family scattered all across the country. The busyness of life fills our calendars and makes it difficult to spend time with our loved ones, but for ten days, I did. And it was worth every minute.

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As an 8th grade teacher, I know boys change a lot after they leave middle school. It had only been two years since I’d seen my nephews, but they have grown into handsome young men from the cute boys they were. My sister, Lauren, lives in Reno and we’re in Virginia, so it’s hard to align our schedules for visits. Colton was in awe of Ian and Tate, wanted to be with them every possible second, and tears poured when they left.

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Living so far from my family makes it difficult (impossible?) to go to family weddings most of the time. God must have taken pity on me for not attending one in decades because my cousin Gabriel married his long-time sweetheart Katie while we were in Missouri. My “little cousin” Gabriel is now a college graduate, an engineer, and a husband. His siblings have all grown up as well. The little kids I remember now have precious kids of their own. What a blessing for me to see each of them and meet the rest of my family.

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I rarely engage in nostalgia, but I couldn’t help searching for – and finding – the home my grandparents lived in when my mom was a child. This contrasted sharply to seeing with my own eyes the “progress” which obliterated my other grandparents’ home. I knew it was gone but seeing it firsthand stung like a slap.

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My mom and Fred always spoil us rotten when we visit. Every day is an adventure. We visited the City Museum, toured the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, went up in the Arch, went to the local pool (actually a waterpark!), and listened to a concert in Faust Park. But most of all, we spent time with family. I only get to see my parents once or twice a year, which is never enough. We also visited with many other aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even though everyone has a different version of the same story (business and busyness, kids’ activities, aches and pains, births and deaths, summer plans), it’s such a joy to share the details. Yes, I can get most of that information online or over the phone, but it doesn’t compare to face time without a device in between.

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I’m back home in Virginia now. My car will be admitted to the hospital tomorrow morning. Autumn goes back to work tonight, and Colton and I are going to run a few errands and relax a bit now that the piles of laundry have diminished. As I reflect on my trip, I am reminded of a few things:

1) Sometimes I’m stronger than I believe.

2) People change, but not that much.

3) 5–Hour Energy really works.

4) God has blessed me with an amazing family, and my greatest regret is living so far from them all.

5) Time spent for love is worth every minute.

Do you have loved ones you haven’t seen for a long time? Who do you need to go visit? I can promise you, however long it takes to get there and whatever obstacles you must overcome, it will be worth the effort!

When the Network Betrays Us…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 3, 2013
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No internet? The network is down? How am I going to print the worksheets I spent hours creating last night for today’s lesson? How will I give the online assessment I planned? What in the world will I do with my students for 90 minutes? How am I going to keep them engaged?

Some days, progress comes to a screeching halt. As a language arts teacher, I have to take step back, pull open the file cabinet, and switch gears. Technology is an amazing tool, but it can’t become the only tool used when teaching because it doesn’t always work. When the panic begins to rise in my throat because I’ve lost my connection, here are a few things I turn to for help:

1) Picture books for narrative writing.  I have a collection of picture books I keep in my classroom now that my own children have grown beyond that age. My favorites are the “Carl” books by Alexandra Day. I usually put students in groups of 3 or 4 and give each group one picture book. As a team, they must “read” the book and write the story that goes along with the pictures. It’s always interesting to listen as they share their interpretations of the pictures and elaborate on them as they write their version of the story.

2) Engage in some team competition. Postpone the lesson planned for the day and have a little friendly rivalry in the classroom. Two of my favorite go-to games are Lingo Bingo and Horrible Homonyms. The kids enjoy them, even while practicing skills they will see on the state tests. Having a Jeopardy game saved can also provide a great review day when the internet isn’t cooperating. This can be used with literary terms, concepts from a recent novel unit, or any other information you want to review.

3) Act up! One great thing about a language arts classroom, there are always plenty of books around. Sometimes I divide my students into small groups and give each one a short story or a folktale. They have to read the story, decide who will play each part, and then act it out for the class. With little preparation and practice time available, the performances can sometimes be quite entertaining.

4) Round-robin writing using pictures. My students love this activity and always beg for time at the end of class to share what has been written. I usually divide students into groups of 4 and give each student in the group a picture from a magazine (I keep a folder full of them in my file cabinet and reuse them every year). Each student begins writing the story of what is happening in his or her picture. After 5 minutes, I tell them to pass their picture and story clockwise. Each student then reads the beginning of the story he or she receives and continues writing it until time is called to pass it on again. Usually the students strive to write the most outlandish stories they can, and the results are normally hilarious.

5) Get out the marker boards. You remember them, right? Mine are simply plain white paper that I laminated. Hand one to a student or a small group of students with an Expo marker and they are immediately more engaged in the examples or questions I’m presenting. Even though my laptop won’t connect to the printer, it will still connect to the projector in my room. Instead of having my students circle the correct letter on worksheets I created, I can project each item on the whiteboard or Smartboard and have them answer on the marker boards. I benefit from instant feedback plus I won’t have a big pile of papers to grade at the end of the day.

Technology certainly makes our lives easier when it works, but don’t let it ruin your day when it doesn’t. Be creative and innovative. Your students will probably enjoy switching gears for a day.

Some Amazing Teens…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on May 23, 2013
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This blog is a shout out to the teens in my youth group. They are amazing! They continually impress me with their hearts to serve and their love of Jesus. Whether to pray together, play together, or serve others, they choose to spend their free time week after week in positive ways.

MBC Youth…you ROCK!!

Last weekend, they fed the homeless in Richmond.

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They pray unashamedly and publicly.

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Competition gets fierce!

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Helping others makes them happy.

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Worship is an important part of their lives.

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I love all of you! Thanks for allowing me to be a part of the best youth group around. Anyone who believes teens are lazy, uncaring, and/or disconnected needs to come spend a few hours with you.

Quit Beating Yourself Up

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on May 20, 2013
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Since May 3rd, thanks to a new accountability partner, I have dragged myself out of bed every weekday morning before 5 a.m. to tackle some distance on the “dreadmill”.

Well, I’ve done it every morning except one.

Last Thursday, I received a call from Colton’s school nurse to inform me he hurt his arm/wrist while playing on the playground. After a trip to the doctor and an x-ray, it was determined all was fine, but it still hurt which caused him to have a restless night. Because Colton and I were up and down, the dog didn’t sleep well and between trips to put Colton back in bed and give him Tylenol, I was also shoving Rico out the door to take care of business. Overall, it wasn’t a restful night, so sometime after 3:00 a.m. I reset my alarm clock and gave myself permission to sleep a little later than usual.

Perfectly acceptable, right? Not in my  mind, apparently. Instead of focusing on the many miles I’ve logged lately and that I can even feel a bit of a difference in the way my pants fit, I can’t seem to forgive myself for the day I skipped.

Why? Why do I do that? Why do women everywhere do that? (I’m not saying men don’t ever feel defeated or useless, but it seems to be a more significant problem for women.)

Recently, I saw a video online from the Dove Beauty Campaign showing how tough women can be on themselves.  A forensic artist drew women from their own descriptions and then from the descriptions of their friends. The differences in the drawings are astonishing. Take a look here:

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Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Why, when God’s word tells me I’m worthy, useful, and wonderful, do I believe the negative voices that weasel their way inside my head and my heart? I don’t know the answer, but I know I’m not alone. Why do we waste so much time in our lives without confidence, filled with anxiety?

Do you know a beautiful, productive, essential woman who beats herself up regularly? I’m sure you do. Today, take the time to tell her what you see in her. Maybe the reflection from your eyes will fill her heart for a moment and brighten her day.

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