I Don’t Have to Imagine

September 29, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

Note:  I’ve been extremely busy with other things in my life.  The blog was something that got pushed to the side.  Too bad I can no longer page Dennis when I need him. I’m hoping to get back to normal posting schedule in a week or so.  Until then, please bear with me.  And now on to today’s story…

There are moments in my life that everything just becomes crystal clear.  I see things the way God sees them instead of how I usually do.  Very rarely do I know one of those moments is coming until it’s right there, and then I am simply blown away.

Sunday evening was just such a moment.

Now I have loved the song “I Can Only Imagine” since it first came out.  Something about that song captures the delicate, precious, incredible moment it will be when finally, after all this time on earth is through, I’m once again in the presence of my Savior.  The song asks, “What will my heart feel?  Will I dance for You, Jesus?  Or in awe of You be still?”

Well, we were sitting in Mass, and truly I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention.  Oh, I knew the song, and I was singing it.  But besides that, I was kind of zoned out.

It happened that they were playing the song during Offertory, which for those who are not Catholic, is the time that the plate is passed.  At our church during this time, the kids are encouraged to come forward with their money to give it to the priest.  I think it gets them ready for giving later on in life, to get them in the habit of giving, and it makes them feel special to get to go up front all by themselves.

I know for our family this has always been a special time.  When my oldest was small (three or four), she would walk back to our seat, down the center aisle and wave to every single person as she passed.  Not like a little girl wave, but like a queen on a float wave.  Everyone knew us because they would turn to look at us to see who she belonged to!  I still tease her about her princess wave.

So here we are.  It’s Offertory, and my son who is 8 goes up with his dollar in his hand.  Now, every one of our kids when they come back have loved to be praised for being “such a big kid” and doing so well.  They always have.  So I guess I had kind of stopped thinking about that too.  It’s not unusual.  It just is.  And for some reason, it’s always DAD they go to.  Oh, they may pause as they go by me to get a high-five or a quick kiss, but the bee-line is straight to Dad.

I guess I’d never really thought about it or paid attention before, but here’s how it went on Sunday:

My son comes back from giving his dollar, doing his good deed for the day.  He comes into the bench just as they start the chorus.  “I can only imagine what it will be like…”  He crossed past his sisters and then me… “When I walk by Your side… I can only imagine…”  Between me and his dad, there was the space he had left to go give his dollar, and he went straight for that space because it was his–still his, right by his dad.

“What my eyes will see when Your face is before me… I can only imagine…”

And then my little boy with face glowing, jumped into my husband’s arms.  My husband, his dad, collected him up into a hug, gave him a kiss on the head, and said, “Good job, buddy.”  The hug was extra long and meant just for him.  Then he sat him right next to him and put his arm around him.  My little guy snuggled into his daddy’s arms, safe, happy, warm, and loved.

“Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?…”

I no longer have to imagine.  I think I got a really good glimpse of just what that moment is going to be like.


Looking to Do Good

September 20, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

I have great kids.  I do.  Oh, they have their moments–the meltdowns, the scraps.  But most of the time, I have great kids.

One thing I have learned about my kids in the last week or so is how they actively look for ways to make their worlds better.  I don’t mean “their” as in “their personal” world better.  I mean the world around them, the one they inhabit.  They look for ways to make life for others around them easier.

Two quick examples.  My son came home the other day and asked if we could go to Office Depot.  Why?  To get a clock for his second classroom.  They are in one classroom most of the time, but sometimes they go into this other classroom.  That one doesn’t have a clock.  He said, “It really needs a clock.  Can we go get one for in there?”  Guess what.  That classroom will be getting a clock tomorrow.

My daughter came home distraught because some of the boys in her class got wild and threw the teacher’s crayons around the room.  Several of them got broken.  She said the teacher was very upset.  “So can we go and get her some new crayons?  I think that would make her happy.”

My oldest daughter came home from school with a request for a raised podium/stage for her speech class.  It would have been easy to put off until the 12th of never, but she was adamant and stayed with the project until it had been completed.

I’m going to assume this way of thinking can be taught.  I am going to further assume that they learned this by osmosis because it wasn’t a direct lesson taught about the value of helping others.  I think they’ve seen me do it, and so they are just modeling what they’ve seen.

In which case, I really need to watch what else I’m doing because they might be picking up on more things than I realize!

Over Puddles, Underappreciated

September 16, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

In the process of doing ticket sales for our elementary school, one of the fun things I get to do is stand in the drive line in the mornings and help the kids get out of cars.  Now at our school, we have the “safety patrol.”  These are our fifth grade students, who stand out in the drive line in their orange safety vests and help get the kids out of the cars and to the school door.

I happen to be working with three very wonderful kids–two boys and a girl.  Over the course of the last couple of weeks, we have come to enjoy working together and teasing one another.  This morning something happened that I think you should hear about.

See, I hear a whole lot of noise in our world about the upcoming generation being “lost” or “unfocused” or “lazy.”  I hear a lot about how people don’t know what this world is coming to, and they are fearful for what comes next when “this bunch” gets to be in charge.  Well, I’ll be frank with you.  I’m not worried.  The kids I work with are polite and helpful.  They will go out of their way to assist you.  They are bright and enthusiastic and kind.

Great example:  The two boys I work with on the drive line.  Don’t get me wrong, the girl is great too.  But I expected that because I know her and know that she is great.  The boys surprised me.

There is one suburban that pulls up every morning and the three of them race to unload it.  Here’s the thing, though, in this van is a set of twins.  The twins are about three years old, and they cry every single day! They are both in carseats with backpacks and lunch boxes.  It is a job to get them out.  Half the time we end up with one or two safety patrol in the van unbuckling and helping the kids out.  In many cases even once they are out, they are crying–not angry, just sad.

And these boys and this girl–the “lost” generation–race to this van to get to help these kids into school.  Often they end up carrying one or both of them, the backpacks and the lunchboxes, going, “It’s okay.  It’s going to be fun.  You’ll see.”

This has always amazed me.

Then this morning they topped even that.  A small sport utility vehicle pulled up and because of where the parent stopped, the child had to navigate a rather large puddle by the curb.  The boys immediately recognized that this would be a problem.  The first one opened the door.  The child, about 4, was having trouble getting out of the carseat, so our hero boy gets in and helps her.  As he went to get out, the other boy came over to help.  First boy hands out the small pink backpack and the lunchbox and mat to second boy.  Then the first boy said, “We have to be careful.  There’s water here.”

He gets out, straddles the water, and lifts the little girl from the back over the water, safely to the curb.  The grateful mom said, “You boys are so sweet to her” even as the second boy was helping her get her backpack on and handing her the lunchbox and saying, “Tell Mom bye.”

“Lost”?  I don’t think so.

If I’m ever in need of a hero, these are the guys I want on my team!

The “Lost” Ticket

September 13, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

Now THIS is cool!

As I told you a couple of days ago, this is one of my crazy seasons through the year.  It’s Carnival time and that means raffle tickets.  God decided I really had nothing better to do (that’s a joke!), so He sent me to sort, count, and record-keep for two different raffles at the same time.

One raffle sells 600 tickets.  The other sells 4,000.  It’s interesting.

One of my jobs with the 4,000 one is keeping parents straight and not panicked.  Tickets are lost or misnumbered.  With 4,000 tickets, it’s always something.

The other day we were selling after Mass, and there was a family that is not from this country.  Last year they came at the end and hadn’t sold their required tickets.  There was nothing at that point I could do to help them.   I told them, though, that when this year started, to go to the Masses.  You can always sell there.  So they did.

Here’s where it gets strange.  I was manning the table while the kids all fanned out to sell.  I happened to glance across the lobby and saw this family selling… to my sister-in-law.  Not a big deal.  She always buys some from us and some from others.  I just got this mental note/picture in my head of that exchange and went on with life.

Two days later the woman who was selling came up to the office in a panic, looking for me.  She said she had lost a ticket!  I told her it was okay.  We could replace it.  No.  No.  I didn’t understand.  It was a ticket she had SOLD… to a very nice lady, but she didn’t know her.  She had the money (cash) but no ticket.  However, she knew the number of the ticket and part of the lady’s name.

Now, I’m sure she thought I was crazy because I was standing there literally about to burst out laughing.  (God can totally do that to me sometimes.)  I said, “Well, what was the part of her name you remember?”  To which she said my sister-in-law’s first name.  I completed the name, and the lady looked at me with these huge eyes.  “Yes!  How did you know?”

I told her not to panic.  My sister-in-law is very sweet, and she actually used to run this raffle.  She would understand, and we would fix it.  But because we still have a month to sell tickets, I told her to keep looking she might end up finding that ticket after all.  She said, “I don’t know.  I think I pulled it out with the other tickets and it dropped.  I think it is gone.”  I assured her it would be all right, but to keep looking anyway.

Flash forward 10 days.  I ran into the lady again yesterday.  She was telling me they had almost sold their ten, and then she said, “Did you know I found that other ticket?”  “No!  I didn’t know that.  Where?”

Then she says (as if she is really perplexed by this as again, I’m trying not to laugh at how cool God is!), “Well, I went to my brother-in-law’s business.  We hadn’t been there in nearly two weeks.  And I was standing there at their counter, and I looked down and there was this orange little thing.  I thought, ‘Surely not.  That can’t be it.’  But I picked it up and it was that ticket.  But that wasn’t even the weird part.  I was standing there holding the ticket, trying to figure out how it got there, and this man walks up and asked what it was.  So I told him, and he said that HE WANTED TO BUY TWO MORE TICKETS FROM ME!”

Sometimes you just have not choice but to shake your head at how cool God is!

Making the Right Things Important

September 9, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

I know everyone is not as lucky as I am.  I grew up with two parents who worked hard, but who also worked hard at making the right things important.  I’m not sure I appreciated it at the time.  To be sure, they’ve gotten better about it since our family’s tragedy.  But let me tell you, my folks know it ain’t about having the perfect grass and the shiniest car.  It’s about who you help, what you do, and how much you care.

I don’t know why I got to thinking about this over the weekend.  Then on Monday my lovely husband alerted me to a song by George Strait called “The Breath You Take.”  I highly recommend it.  The gist is that it’s not the breaths we take, the number of them, or how long they last, it’s being there for the moments that take our breath away.

It’s being there when your kid hits the homerun or plays that symphony.  It’s being there when they skin their knee or just need a shoulder to cry on.  It’s being there to cheer them on and to hold them when they just need to cry.

What’s true about kids is true about all of us.  It’s true for friends.  How long will friends stick around if all they ever hear is “I’m too busy”?  Will they be there for you when you’ve consistently been too busy to be there for them?

In our go-go materialistic world, we too often think in terms of getting ahead, buying the bigger house or the nicer car, keeping up with the Joneses.  But the more I live, the more I realize how empty all of those things are.  We are trying to keep up with an illusion.  We are comparing our cons with their pros.

We don’t see that, yes, they might have a fancier car, but we were able to be there for someone who really matters to us.  When we’re chasing “things,” people often get second-shift.

For the next couple of days, I challenge you to make the right things important.  Stop focusing on the breaths you take and start focusing on the moments that take your breath away.  Trust me, you will never regret doing so.

Coming Undone–Starts This Week!

September 7, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

Check it out!  A new novel by Staci Stallings starts… NOW!

Coming Undone

Ben Warren has life all figured out.  At 35, he’s successful in his work and free as a bird everywhere else.  He has no desire to be tied down like some of his friends, and he sees no reason to change that.  Then the unthinkable happens and causes him to rethink everything about everything.

Kathryn Walker can’t figure out what she’s doing wrong in the dating department.  The rest of her life makes sense.  She’s compassionate, strong, honest, hard-working and still alone.  She wonders if she is doomed to spend forever single.  Little does she know that fate is taking a major turn in her life.  In fact, she doesn’t even see it happening until it has.  Can she ever get past the fact that Mr. Right didn’t show up in the way she thought he would?


Be sure to subscribe over at Spirit Light Works to get the newest chapters.  I will only be posting an update or two over here about it, and you’re not going to want to miss this book.  It’s GOOOOOD!

One Piece at a Time

September 6, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

I am learning.

Really I am.

I wish I could maybe learn a little faster, but then again, I’m not sure how I could.  But it would be nice to know everything I will know in a year about what I’m doing now.

I’ve shared with you about my son’s dyslexia.  Well, he started school in August, second grade.  Second grade to me has always been big.  You’re just not a little kid anymore.  So I let him start and get settled before I talked with the teacher.  She was very concerned, had already noticed his reading was below where it should be, and she set up a meeting with her, the principal and two other teachers who might have some insight into this thing.

Insights.  Wow.  That’s a good word for it.

I got another book to read, which dropped more pieces into place.  It seems there are two types of dyslexia (when it is only about reading).  Dysphonetic.  And dyseidetic.  Dysphonetic is trouble breaking sounds and letters apart.  Dyseidetic is having trouble both encoding (spelling) and remembering the phonemes you’ve learned.  Then there is the third kind:  When a student has a mixture of both.

This is why we’ve been having so much trouble.  It took forever to understand that he was dysphonetic, that he wasn’t connecting the sounds letters made to their placement in words.  He was looking at each word and trying to memorize it as an entity all unto its own.  No sounding out.  In fact, sounding out was a foreign concept to him.  As we got a grasp on this issue, I thought we had this licked.  As we went over these letter combinations, linking them carefully and practicing them, his reading did improve markedly.

The trouble was:  The phonemes we learned didn’t stick like they should.  He would learn a letter combination, and I would think, “Okay, now he has it.”  But when we went on to the next thing, the first thing got shaky.  I didn’t understand that phenomenon at all.  What sense did it make to have learned something small like that, that you use a lot?  I was getting frustrated, and so was he.

So now we are searching for an answer to the second part of our issue.

In school, the teacher is very helpful and interested.  We are trying to navigate how best to assess him and to give content to him when he is at least a year behind in reading.

I’m finding out new ways and programs that show a lot of promise.

I just wish I knew which ones ultimately would help, so we could use those.

I told my mom the other day that when I look at how far we have to go, I get really discouraged.  But when I look at how far we’ve come how quickly, I know there is hope.

Then my son got in the van the other day on a particularly discouraging day.  The day before reading had been really rough.  He was tired.  I was tired, and it got to be a battle.

That next day he got in my van and told me he had won something for me in library.  He handed it to me.  It was a bookmark with a cross and a dove.  Underneath, it had the words to one of my all-time favorite songs:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.  Because He lives, all fear is gone.  Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”

I do not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds it.  Many times that is the hope I cling to because I have no knowledge or understanding of my own that makes any sense.

Strangely, as I go, I can look backward and see that He was always there–even in the midst of the biggest trials, and that gives me hope and belief and confidence that one day I will look back on all of this and see His hand clearly–guiding us, protecting us, keeping us, helping us, and loving us.

Right now, it’s called faith.