Pam made her writing début in fifth grade when drafted to write the class play, Ghosts! Ghosts! Ghosts! At twelve, she fell in love with the French language. After a satisfying teaching career, she still peeks in the windows of empty schools while traveling and lingers in school supply aisles in August. Her stories show that God is always working in the lives of His children and seeking new members of His family.
Remember that old saw, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”?
Chances are, you’ve been tempted to think that from time to time about a teacher, but probably not often enough to justify the saying. Cassie Franklin, the main character of The Substitute, deserves a bumper sticker on her car proclaiming, “Those who can, teach.”
I’m proud to introduce Cassie and have you share in her professional and spiritual journey. Here’s a sneak peek at the back cover copy of my latest release, The Substitute.
She has a foolproof recipe for success and even shares it with others.
When her family moves, seasoned home economics teacher Cassie Franklin never dreams she won’t land a job in a school district known for hiring the crème de la crème. But when the first day of school rolls around without an interview, she begins to worry.
A call to substitute at Sully High School just might be her lucky break.
Or not. Sour staff members and a butchered budget sabotage her every move.
Under increasing pressure, Cassie fights to prove she’s still a professional. Can she tweak her cherished formula for success before becoming a total flop?
The Substitute is Book Two in the Sully Parkway series and is best enjoyed after reading Book One, The Jesus Car.
No, not “dings,” I wrote, “sing.” I started writing this post in my head, and when I hit the keyboard, auto-correct dictated my first line for me! But it couldn’t have been more appropriate…
I won’t start with the ding, though.
It’s been months since our Sunday service was snowed out and our pastor issued the #phil4challenge in his Facebook Live sermon. We had 21 days of devotions reminding us to: choose to be joyful, pray with thanksgiving, think on noble things, and repeat daily. Of course, the “repeat daily” meant the Lord would be assigning plenty of homework! “Anybody can grow in grace”–even me. Even you.
But first, we make mistakes–dings.
Last Sunday morning I had a lot on my plate and left Angie at the sitter’s house before going to church. After church, I wasn’t hungry, so I thought this might be a great time to strip the kitchen floor. Enough with the waxed-on dirt! It couldn’t take more than an hour, could it?
For inspiration, I started playing the long-time AWOL Young Messiah tape I found. Great beat and immortal words. I opened the front, back, and deck doors and moved most of the stuff out of the kitchen and into the hall. I re-read the directions to the stripping product. Chemical-resistant shoes? Who knows? I ran upstairs and put on a pair of rubber-soled shoes I didn’t like. Mindy the cat was safely ensconced on my pillow. Goggles? I had some downstairs but didn’t want to bother. I needed my reading glasses, and they have big lenses. Good to go! Ding!
Apply generously. I used dollar store mops suggested by the clerk at Home Depot.
Ding! Don’t allow to dry before mopping up. Or something like that. I minced over the floor and worked from windows to doorway, hoping I wasn’t leaving tracks with my Bigfoot shoes.
Whew! That smell is strong. Better turn on both ceiling fans. Upstairs, Mindy had left the pillow. Under the bed. Would the fumes be less toxic for her closer to the ground? Not sure.
Ding! Ding! Do not allow to dry before mopping up. The stuff sure was tacky. And the fumes were strong.
One of God’s growth lessons for me has been asking for help. Little 9-pound Mindy needed help even more than I did. I should get her out of the house asap. Remembering the time I’d mixed cleaning products when I cleaned the bathtub and felt mega-woozy, I realized I needed help too. I mopped a few more inches and caved in to the Lord.
I called three people and struck out. Mopped some more. Still tacky.
Call three, my RN friend with the chemistry teacher husband, finally called back. As they had done many times before, they changed the agenda for their day and came to my rescue. While I waited or their arrival, I called poison control. They could only help if something were wrong with me. Thank You, Lord, not yet.
What a relief to have someone else to help me. My nurse friend insisted that we work on opening the windows I was convinced were painted shut. Success. Much better for Mindy upstairs.
It turned out this speed reader had misread the directions! Do not allow to dry before rinsing two times with warm water. Weheaded out to Home Depot for advice. The flooring salesman, despite the fact we weren’t going to buy anything, listened to our tale patiently and that was about it. Nice guy, though.
My friends encouraged me to eat lunch. We stocked up on dollar store mops and rubber gloves. I sent them home. What amazing friends. Thank You, Lord! I hope I can return the favor someday.
Mopped some more.
Seeing the front door propped open and kitchen furnishings sitting in the foyer, a passing friend inquired if I was okay–or was I moving? Thank You, Lord, for surrounding me with concerned friends.
At least the stuff dries quickly, even if the yellow stains on my floor were still there! With just enough energy to put everything back in place and stumble to the car, I texted the long-suffering dog sitter again. “On my way. Finally.” Yet another friend. We’d shared about more than dogs. Thank You, Lord.
Thank You that I survived the fumes. Thank You that I have such great friends. Thank You that even I can learn to reach out.
I don’t think I walked Angie that afternoon, but I definitely sang in the car. Songs of thanksgiving. I’d been protected, and I’d learned to reach out for help.
Don’t wait as long as I often do to reach out for help! The results are worth singing about!
…who do we appreciate? If you can finish this rhyme and know the context for its use, you might be Holly Bush, but you’re definitely not Pam Green! I had no clue that it’s used by youth teams at the end of a game to cheer their opponents!
I was just looking for a clever way to approach Teacher Appreciation Week and introduce you to Holly Bush, the PE teacher heroine of The Jesus Car.
My dreams of writing mini-tributes to the teachers who encouraged my writing efforts fizzled as I wrestled my manuscript to the mat for submission on Amazon.
Why did I, named last for the team in a grudging tone, make my heroine into a PE teacher?
Holly Bush entered the world of Sully Parkway as a minor character in The Substitute, Book Two of the series, which I actually wrote first. Holly’s optimism, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm charmed me so much that I wanted to know more about her. As I planned The Jesus Car, I “learned” that Holly was most at home on the volleyball court, and didn’t consider herself much of a scholar. She also wanted to grow closer to God and farther from the influence of a fellow named Frank. She came to Northern Virginia and landed her dream job teaching PE at Sully High School. The Lord began to refine her faith, because anybody can grow—in grace.
I survived those miserable years in PE class, bullied by classmates (and occasionally by teachers) and lived to tell a different tale. God used those tough experiences to teach me empathy and perseverance. When I became a teacher, I vowed to be like my many encouraging teachers and to watch out for the underdog.
What a blast to dredge up the once nauseating gym smells and routines and weave them into Holly’s day! Thank goodness I never had a class with Holly’s colleagues Yolanda and Katrina! But there’s a story behind both these ladies, too. You’ll see!
Meet Holly and her colleagues in The Jesus Car, now available in Kindle and paperback versions on Amazon!
For those of you who’ve already met Holly, here’s a trivia question that you can prep in advance of my Facebook launch party in June (exact date TBA): Name at least one reason the lovely coach pictured above CAN’T be Holly Bush.
Please don’t answer in the comments. Email your response to me at:
If you’d like to receive my newsletter, you can request it in your email!
Thanks to an unfortunate mishap last week, Angie has been on a new medication that’s been tough on both of us. Her tummy has been upset and her appetite has been poor. We will soon rate a brass plaque on our exam room at the animal hospital. What a week!
Because I had an early orthodontist appointment this morning, I had to skimp on some of my usual morning routine. Angie had slept with her crate door open overnight so she wouldn’t be trapped if she had GI “issues.” I found her on the gold chair when I came downstairs. The crate was in good shape. She rolled over a bit for a tummy rub but wasn’t overly perky. I carried her into the back yard for a quick potty break, but she came right back inside and plodded upstairs. Reluctantly, I crated her with the door shut and left for my appointment.
I’m grateful that I’d seen an email devotion while I scarfed down a banana and yogurt. Susie Larson urged me to “scoot a little closer to Jesus.” I tried to do that on the way to my appointment. The germ of a plan began to form regarding Angie.
At the orthodontist, they took multitudes of pictures and scans in arcane positions. I have about a month wearing my current aligner only at night, and now I’m celebrating that freedom. At the time, I was in a rotten mood. I think I stopped short of being rude, but I was far from cheerful. I ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompt to compliment the receptionist on her necklace, but at least we exchanged the obligatory wishes for a nice day before I left.
I’ve had to make a dogged attempt to choose joy over the last two or three days. With the exception of Angie’s situation, nothing about my life circumstances has changed. I am well aware that the enemy would be delighted if he could get me to procrastinate on my writing, start dreading my role helping with the new Freedom Group, not invite any of my favorite couples to the Love and Laughter Date Night (they’d be on their own, of course), and panic about Angie. Sometimes choosing joy is counter-intuitive and just a dogged act of obedience. Feelings (may) come later. The enemy wants me to think that depression, which troubled me as a young adult, will come back to stay–that God hasn’t freed me from it. That’s not true–he is guarding my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.
After eating a Panera breakfast (plus my lunch baguette!) in the car on the way home and washing it down with real iced tea (not herbal), I felt better. I decided it was worth the risk to discontinue the medication. I told the doctor when she checked on Angie later today. We worked out a compromise I’m happy with.
The sun came out while Angie and I took a nice walk. It was a great opportunity to sing as much of “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as I know. It really is true that praise is a powerful spiritual weapon. This time, the feelings of joy came along with the spontaneous (not dogged) praise.
The Prince of Darkness grim– We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
What do you think is the “one little word” that will fell the enemy?
I was convinced I’d be Teacher of the Year in no time. Make that at no time. Eventually, I made my peace with that. I concentrated on doing a good job and learning to be content. I loved Blaise Pascal’s take on contentment in his Pensées:
[…] we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.
Of course, the Apostle Paul learned the secret of contentment the hard way: beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment. And I thought I had a rough time of it with impossible classes, papers to grade ad nauseam, and unreasonable colleagues!
In Living Beyond the Daily Grind I*, Chuck Swindoll addresses the “grind of discontentment.” He asks the reader to consider what Jesus’ life would be like if He were on earth today, and whether He’d be content or not.
If Jesus were to live on earth today, where do you think He would be employed? What kind of car would He drive? How much money would He earn? Do you think He would periodically fly first class? Would He ever feel the slight sting of discontentment? Why? Or why not?
No, this wasn’t God’s chosen era for Jesus to live on earth. But here we are, as His ambassadors now—His hands, feet, and voice. Swindoll’s questions are a great priority check.
Finding the ideal place for Jesus to live isn’t as easy as you’d think. In the United States, our weather maps focus on—you guessed it, the United States. I admit I was a bit surprised that French weathermen started with France and put North America last in the weather review. We are not the center of the universe in everybody’s eyes, so Jesus might not pick the United States! Wherever He wound up—Israel? Venezuela? China?—I think He’d choose a city because modern cities feature a cross-section of the population. In the New Testament, Jesus touched all strata of society, and I’m sure He’d do the same today.
If Jesus had a home base, it probably wouldn’t be a wealthy neighborhood. He’d be a working man in a lower income area, but not necessarily a slum. Although He could choose any noble trade, I’ll make Him a carpenter. Prior to beginning His ministry, I see Him working with a passion to bring joy to people through His craft. He wouldn’t build any old dining room table but the perfect dining room table with a well-loved family in mind. The enthusiasm would be ten times what Joanna Gaines exudes when she conceives a design idea with Clint Harp!
Maybe Jesus kept working as He taught. Just think of the possibilities a construction site would offer for parables and memorable images. In addition to the wise man building on a rock and the rich fool craving a bigger barn, He could talk about hard hats, bulldozers, window washers, and realtors.
A true minimalist, He wouldn’t own a car. He’d find flexibility in using public transportation and allowing others to drive Him around. After all, in the New Testament, He walked, rode in fishing boats, and borrowed a donkey when He needed it to make a prophetic point.
As someone who touched everybody’s lives, Jesus would occasionally fly first class, but not for comfort’s sake. He’d be after Zack up there, who was itching to see Jesus. Of course, this would draw the ire of the folks roughing it back in coach. Don’t their sacrifices entitle them to Jesus’ attention?
Would He be discontent? Never. The temptation might have come but would never be indulged. Jesus would have had such a clear sense of purpose for His life on earth that He could be content in all circumstances.
Jesus was driven, but in a different way. Am I? Are you?
*Swindoll, Charles R. Living beyond the Daily Grind. World Pub., 1988
I went to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve. I’m not into ringing in the New Year.
Lately, though, I “wring out” the old year. (No, I’m not alluding to the unusually wet year we’ve had here in Northern Virginia.) I don’t evaluate the year as it ends and set perfectionistic goals for improvement. Been there, done that. No more.
Having a word or a scripture verse for the year–or both–is popular now. A writer could get behind that, right? Not when her internal editor transforms one word into three and insists on alliteration to boot. Imposing a verse on myself at the beginning of the year feels too much like a resolution and smacks of legalism.
Over the last three years, though, a wonderful verse has burst onto the scene of my life midway through the year. The concept would pop up in Bible study and in my quiet time, and then again in a book I was reading. What was the Holy Spirit up to?
With His help, the verse and theme of the year took hold of me in the spring or summer and ushered me straight into the New Year. Whether “official” or not, they were inescapable. God was working in this area of my life, and He was encouraging me to cooperate with Him so that I could grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him.
So, I am wringing the good stuff out of 2018.
Last year in Bible Study Fellowship we studied Romans. It’s a complex book, but I’d studied it before. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this glittering treasure in chapter 6:
We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. (Romans 6:6-7, New Living Translation, emphasis mine)
Wow! As a believer in Christ, sin has lost its power in my life! I don’t have to do what sin tells me to do. Revolutionary.
When Satan says, “You might as well give in. I won’t leave you alone until you do, but then I won’t bother you anymore,” he is lying. I don’t have to give in. Hallelujah! What freedom!
I can’t escape freedom. Sometimes God reminds me I’m free so I can simply enjoy my status, and sometimes He allows me to practice declaring my freedom by choosing to obey Him. There’s a clear purpose to my freedom, as it says in Galatians:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)
We are set free with the intention that we stay free. What grace! How can we not grow in it?
What word and/or verse have you wrung out of 2018? How do you ring in your New Year?
Happy New Year from Pam, Angie the dog, and Mindy the cat!
No, it’s not wrong, but that doesn’t mean I always do.
Growing up, we prayed in King James English and said a memorized grace at meals. (I confess I resorted to that memorized grace a lot as an adult, too.)
In college, there were group prayers where I spent most of the time thinking up what I was planning to say and trying to sound spiritual.
During much of my adulthood, I enjoyed journaling and those journals often morphed into real prayers. Praying in the car on the way to school worked for me then, too.
But I’ll confess to years at a time that were close to prayerless.
In His grace, God didn’t let me stay that way. Eventually, I had to pray.
Fast forward a few years to the present.
I still struggle. I love the idea of praying continually, but do I have to wade through an interminable list and feel guilty if I leave someone out? What do I do with the “are we done yet?” in the back of mind, or the thoughts about my grocery list?
Visuals help. I “pray around the country” for family members and unsaved friends, going in different directions for variety’s sake and zooming off to a foreign country on a tangent, then back again.
I pray when I walk Angie the dog or when I’m driving. I’ve given myself permission not to finish in one sitting.
I’ve tried a schedule with a different focus on each day, but I always feel like I’m leaving someone out. Scratch that.
A couple of weeks ago, as part of our Wednesday night study on spiritual warfare, our pastor, Josh Daffern, discussed “Praying on Purpose.” One of the strategies he described was to pray a word for someone, letter by letter–a sort of mnemonic device. (Hang in there. ACTS never worked for me, either.) His first word was PURPOSE. You can check out the recording of the study to hear how he used it, along with a great story. I guess this process is somewhat addictive–in a good way–because Josh went on to generate several more words!
I got hooked, too. I couldn’t stop thinking of words. At last, a different focus for people and situations–something to make my routine, often burdensome list fresh and exciting. When a word popped into my head, a prayer was born, letter by letter. It was easy to tuck a quick but meaningful prayer into a stray moment.
Here’s how I used LEADERS to pray for our nation’s leaders. You might come up with something different:
L-Pray that they will LEAN on God’s wisdom and strength.
E-Pray that they will lead with EXCELLENCE.
A-Pray that they will be ABLE leaders.
D-Pray that they will be DEDICATED to serving God and their constituents.
E-Pray that they will have ENCOURAGERS in their lives.
R-Pray that they will LIVE RIGHT. (Thanks, Pastor Josh, for R.)
S-Pray that they will be SAVED.
What can you do with THANKS? (See my answers below.)
Before you grab a notebook and pen and go crazy, let me tell you why this has been such a liberating strategy for me:
Since I live in a world of words, this process automatically puts me in “pray continually” mode.
As I use little bits of time throughout the day to pray, I connect more often with God.
I avoid meaningless repetition because I can change the mnemonic when things get stale. I don’t dread a particular category on my list.
When I forget what a letter stands for, I’m prompted to think of a different meaning–hence, more variety.
If you pray in a group, with a spouse, or with your children, generating words to pray would be an engaging activity. You could even use a person’s name as a springboard for prayer.
No, my prayers haven’t become one giant acrostic, but this strategy has answered a need in my life. I hope you’ll try it, too.
It’s okay to enjoy prayer.
Let me know how it works for you!
Here’s what I did with THANKS:
T-TANGIBLE blessings; H-HEAVENLY blessings; A-ADVANTAGES; N-NATURE and creation;
A lot has happened since the Singing Dog Walker last checked in! I’ve decorated the house for Christmas and purchased many of the gifts. This weekend I resolved to get my blog ready for e-mail newsletter subscriptions! Rah! Rah!
Aren’t you glad I didn’t quite make it? More information on my stories and an option to subscribe to my newsletter will be here soon. In the meantime, Angie is walking and I am singing again.
Here’s what’s been happening to us:
Angie continued her rehab for her TPLO surgery and mastered the water treadmill:
Shortly before Halloween, Angie was bitten by a dog that had escaped her collar. God answered my prayer, “Lord, please protect Angie!” The other dog owner flew into action quickly and little Ang escaped with a couple of puncture wounds that healed fast. We hit the trail again pretty quickly, but for a few days she sniffed the scene of the crime, and I did a little less singing!
We had a dusting of snow before Thanksgiving.
Mindy the cat kept warm through it all.
Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I did some cat-sitting for two teacher friends, which is always fun. I celebrated Thanksgiving with dear friends from my community group at church.
Angie got her “Master’s degree” in rehab when she graduated for the second time. I will miss the wonderful team at the Veterinary Surgical Center Rehab in Vienna, Virginia. We will go back for a visit when Angie’s in the mood for a car ride!
Doesn’t Angie look pensive as she contemplates her future?
Her “awards” are: Golden Paw Print, Just Keep Swimmin’, Step Master, Ninja Warrior, and Beam Me Up (for laser treatments?).
Our community group at church had an early Christmas potluck party last weekend. Beware of game organizers who hand you a gift and a pair of oven mitts!
I’m not whining, though. These wonderful folks are my family.
And so, the Singing Dog Walker and her sidekick Angie are on the move again, bundled up and waiting for Christmas. See you soon with information on how to get my newsletter! Stay warm!
I grabbed Angie’s leash, collar, and harness, stuffed them in my purse, and ditched the umbrella. Anything to save time. It was 3:20 and I’d said 3:00.
I stepped up to the long counter in the emergency room and the receptionist greeted me.
“I’m here to pick up my dog, Angie Green.” It’s not like she was away at boarding school for a year. This was just two nights of medical boarding while you went to a wedding. And now she’s coming home. Relax.
“What was the last name again?”
“Green, like the color.” AmI really that hard to understand? It’s just one syllable. Common name.
“Angie.” I relaxed the talon-like grip on my purse strap and sighed. No “Oh, yes, Angie! We love Angie.”Usually, they say something like that. Oh, well, they did say she was a sweetheart when I called earlier. I’m sure they were nice to her.
“Have a seat and I’ll let them know you’re here. It’ll just be a few minutes.”
I handed over Angie’s paraphernalia and sat down in the seating area. The gentleman to my left watched football on the TV suspended above the desk. I kept my eye on the door through which the tech would enter, bringing Angie, released from captivity. Poor girl. Had she felt abandoned?
Staring at the posters in the hallway grew old after a few minutes. I could check the score. Don’t recognize those uniforms. What?! The Redskins are ahead? No wonder the guy is so intent on the game.
Another man entered through the main door, leading a large dog who sported a red and blue bandana decorated with white stars. Tongue out, the dog grinned at us. His owner sat down at the opposite end of the long waiting room. “Sit. Good boy. Down. Yes, good boy.”
Flurry of activity. No Angie, just people coming and going behind the counter. The Redskins are still ahead. Wonder if I should bother learning some of the players’ names this year.
A client entered and exchanged a couple of words with one of the receptionists, then helped himself to two cans of soda from a fridge under the coffee machine close to Bandana Dog.
Bandana Dog stood up. Uh oh.
“Sit. Good boy. Down. Good boy. Yes. Relax.”
Bandana dog complied happily. His owner sat back and relaxed, too. No wonder.
I checked the score and the poster on the wall about supporting dogs rescued from Hurricane Harvey. Wonder if they’ll update the poster after Hurricane Florence. Where is Angie?
Wait. Was that a skittering of doggie claws in the hall?
The door opened and Angie burst out, sliding and skittering over the three-foot distance between us. She threw herself at me, then stood on her hind legs in a move that would have made her surgeon wince. It should have earned an “Off!” from me. Instead, I let her squeeze between my knees and I kissed her shiny black head.
I tried to listen to the tech as he recited what meds Angie had received. “Do you have any questions?”
“No, thanks so much.”
Angie sniffed Football Watching Man’s feet, did a jig, looked up at me, and sat.
She might not be perfect, and she might not have a bandana, but she does have a pink heart ringed with rhinestones on her collar that says, “Angie.”
She’s mine. My little gift from God.
“Come on, Angie. What a good girl she is. Let’s go home.”