God’s People

The best part of teaching has to be the kids themselves and what they say.  I’ve compiled a short list of favorite phrases I have heard since becoming an elementary music teacher. As you read this, I think you’ll begin to have a deeper understanding of why I love my job.

(Names have been changed)

Jimmy age 5, came into the classroom with a strange expression on his face, so I made the mistake of asking, “Jimmy, how are you today?”
Jimmy: “Not so good. Every time I fart I poop my pants.”
Wanting to comfort him, I quickly answered, “Ah yes! I hate it when that happens!”

Another day, Jimmy came in smiling, so I asked, “Why are you so happy?” He sang a spontaneous song, “Because I love music class, I love music, and I love you!”

Kenyan age 5, always had the biggest smile on his face! As he was leaving Music one day, I said, “Kenyan, I sure love that smile!” He grinned even bigger and said, “I’ll bring it with me tomorrow!”

Once I told a classroom of students my age, at the time I was 48. Parker exclaimed, “No way! You act way younger than my mom and she’s 32!”

Another day I mentioned my age, and the whole class audibly gasped. I said, “Hey that’s not that old!” One student said, “I thought you were 24!”

We did a 2nd and 3rd grade program called “Can You Imagine?” last fall and I received a hand made note from a 3rd grader that read, “You have helped me believe in myself! I can imagine all the things I can do because you’re one amazing you!”

In the middle of singing a group song in class, Allie exclaimed, “I LOVE THIS PLACE!”

Kayla asked, “Mrs. Noller, have you ever heard of Michael Jackson?”

After singing a song that I was teaching the 1st graders, Carter said, “You should be on tv! You sound famous!”

Shelly, age 5, hugged me tight, breathed in deeply and exclaimed, “Oh Mrs. Noller! You smell like butterflies!”

All I know is, butterflies must smell amazing and teaching elementary music is one of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced. There’s a reason children are called “God’s people.” They’re honest, straightforward, big hearted souls with no ability to hide their true feelings and no inner monologue. Makes for entertaining and inspiring conversations.

 

 

 

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Invincible

If you’re lucky enough to have a good mom or dad, you probably have the memory of thinking they were invincible…god-like. When fear gripped your heart, if you could just get within a few feet of them you be safe, nothing could touch you. I remember as a child thinking that our family was as perfect as any family could be. I felt secure in who I loved, who loved me, and as long as we were cracking jokes and laughing, we were close.

That’s one thing my dad made sure of, that we laughed…a lot. I think he learned it from his parents, and laughter was synonymous with intimacy in their life playbook. It wasn’t until I hit 30 I began to realize they are not synonyms, and no amount of laughter can make up for direct communication, tough love, and mental health.

Mike and I are not any more invincible than my parents were. I’m not sure if our boys ever thought we were, but I do know we’ve been telling them since they could talk that we aren’t perfect and we don’t expect them to be. We only want them to be honest with themselves and others, work hard and try their best in all their endeavors. We still laugh a lot, but we don’t use it to avoid serious important discussions.

This blog idea came to me last Sunday as I sat at my father’s bedside. He is so frail, a mere shadow of the larger-than-life, boisterous, choleric man I remember from years past. My dad, King Jon, is not invincible. He is human, as I am, and as amazing as he was on this earth, the best part of him was the decision for Christ he made as a boy. That choice grabbed hold of his heart and his generosity, love of family, and entire life’s purpose were centered on his faith in Jesus.

As a physician, Dad regularly wrestled with his faith, and I had many heartfelt honest conversations with him concerning pain, doubt, and the mystery of creation, but as his brilliant mind has diminished, two things remain…his love of Jesus and Lorna June. Invincibility isn’t an option, but vulnerability is where genuine love grows, and above all things in heaven and on earth, love remains.

 

King Jon’s Legacy

King Jon, or Dad, as I call him, began collecting when he was in grade school. He started with stamps and moved on to coins in high school. A trip to Egypt and Israel with his family at the age of nineteen gave him a new excitement for collecting. While standing at the tomb in Jerusalem where Jesus may have been buried, Dad’s faith and his interest in collecting were profoundly impacted. For him, history had come to life, and this inspired him to share his experience with others who might never have the opportunity to travel.

Dad continued acquiring coins over the next few decades, and after he made some money as a physician and from investments, his collection expanded to ancient artifacts and fossils. By the time I was in college, he had many of the US presidential signatures and extensive Greek and Roman artifacts. Searching for rare Roman coins and other interesting finds became his passion after he retired from medicine.

By 1998, Dad’s entire collection was stored in his basement. Unfortunately Mom and Dad lived along a flood-prone creek which could swell with big rains and had flooded their house several times through the years. On October 31st that year the rain began and didn’t stop until 11 inches had fallen (now known as the Halloween Flood). Just after midnight, my parents called every family member and close friend, asking for help to get the enormous amount of artifacts out of their basement before the flood waters came rushing in. They all worked quickly, and as my brother in law, Stan, was bringing up the last presidential signature, the basement sliding glass door shattered, giving way to the massive flood waters. The impact embedded pieces of glass in the walls. If Stan had been a few seconds slower, he might have been impaled and definitely would have been trapped. We were so thankful no one was injured. The next morning, my mom confronted my dad on the idiocy of storing priceless artifacts in a basement. She said, and I quote, “We are NEVER doing this AGAIN!” That moment led to the conception of the Museum of World Treasures.

By 2000, Dad had now acquired a triceratops skull as well as an Egyptian mummy. He held a special showing of his collection at Century II in downtown Wichita, and philanthropist and businessman Willard Garvey offered some unused space in the Garvey Center to be the museum’s first home. He began inviting other collectors to display their treasures as well. He started giving school tours and when I first saw him in action, I called him “The Willy Wonka of History.” His passion and love of storytelling was infectious…I’m sure he inspired many children to be paleontologists and historians!

In 2003, the Museum of World Treasures moved to its current location at 835 E 1st Street in Wichita’s Old Town district. It is a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) Kansas corporation that owns over 75% of its artifacts, with the remaining on loan from various private collectors and organizations. It is run by a Board of Directors. Dad’s last and arguably single most significant contribution to the Museum was the T-Rex fossil of Ivan, discovered and excavated in 2005. Ivan was put on display at the MOWT in May of 2007 and has since been appraised as the 6th best T-Rex specimen ever discovered.

Dad brought my husband Mike on staff in 2005 to succeed him as President and CEO of the Museum. Under Mike’s leadership the Museum has grown extensively and has been named Wichita’s top museum in Trip Advisor for seven years and running. The MOWT has from 40,000-60,000 visitors a year, and has been featured in many archeological and travel articles.

While the Museum of World Treasures is definitely part of my dad’s legacy, probably the most measurable part, his legacy of joy, passion, fun, love, faith, and generosity is immeasurable. Its influence reaches beyond time and history, embedding itself in the hearts of any who encountered him as a husband, father, grandfather, physician, teacher, traveler, collector, tour guide, and friend.

Visit MOWT’s website at http://www.worldtreasures.org

The Seven Wonders of My World

You’ve heard of the Seven Wonders of the World right? There’s both an ancient list and a modern list. Well I’ve made my own personal list of the seven most mind-boggling wonders in my world.

7. Wine-In Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit calls it “pure nectar” and the Ghost of Christmas Present likens it to “the milk of human kindness.” Need I say more?

6. Sex-when both parties love each other and are exclusive there is a level of trust that catapults someone to another level and can send that same person into another dimension of fulfillment! YES!

5. Autumn-the vibrant colors, the rich harvests, the crisp air, the reminder that winter is coming (shameless Game of Thrones plug) the pumpkin spiced lattes, snuggly jammies, Charlie Brown Music, and family time all point to the best joys of heaven.

4. Labradors-the reason people say dog spelled backwards is God.

3. Children-the best form of people, they still have hope, they still believe in Magic, and they’re still searching for love and acceptance.

2. Faithfulness-in today’s world of instant gratification, entitlement and excuses, this is absolutely baffling in a marvelous and cherished way. Faithfulness is to be held as a priceless diamond exclusively given.

1. Unselfish love-that which is given freely, without expectation or measure. It has no to-do lists or unspoken requests, it just is. It is always waiting to be discovered and acknowledged but sadly, rarely is.

Yes, these are the Seven Wonders of My World. I challenge you to make your own list. This is the way we find our own passionate hearts which leads to understanding of our individual purpose in this world, and reminds us to fall on our knees in unadulterated gratitude.

Happiness

I was flipping through channels and caught My Big Fat Greek Wedding on HBO. I’d forgotten how darling it is! The best part of it is the crazy Greek family who’s going to be there for Tula no matter what happens in her life. Oh, she’ll hear about how she’s disappointed everyone and her dad might try to say she’s giving him ulcers or a heart attack, lots of manipulation and unhealthy enmeshment, but in the end, Tula knows her family, crazy as they are, will be there.

I think that’s one of my biggest grievances in today’s society. It’s so easy to leave nowadays that most people do. If we’re feeling lonely, misunderstood, or neglected, magazines, fb friends, tv, and everything else tells us to spice up our lives with a love affair and shake the dust off of our feet and move on. The problem is, once you move on, it can become a habit. Whenever you feel dissatisfied it becomes even easier to leave. Look around you. Who can you count on to always be there, to have your back, to tell you like it is and still love you, to share a bond of trust and respect? Can anyone around you count on you to do the same for them? Perfection isn’t an option, but perseverance is. I’m so tired of people around me complaining about others who behaved in a hateful, selfish manner, but are blind to the fact that they behave exactly as the people they profess to hate! As South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu said, “When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.”

The “me” generation is seemingly every generation born after 1960. I haven’t seen the pendulum swing back in my lifetime, and the irony is the more you search for happiness in a self-focused world, the more unhappy you will be. For example, during one of my unhappiest seasons of my life I had given up my music career in Nashville, had quit singing entirely, had lost my purpose in life, so I decided to volunteer at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital once a week. That two hours a week of playing games in the lobby with children waiting for orthopedic appointments completely changed my perspective and gave me a new balance in my life. I realized as I had pursued music I had become self centered and somewhat of an emotional black hole of neediness. I was always thinking of myself and never satisfied. I had become unbalanced and was seeing everything in my life as a half empty glass. Doing something for others gave me a joy for living again, a sense of purpose, which is directly related to how content we are. My whole view changed and suddenly I saw my husband, my kids, my home, my life experience with new eyes filled with gratitude rather than envy.

Staying in an abusive relationship is never acceptable, but leaving an imperfect one that has potential isn’t acceptable either. Too many people give up too soon in this day and age. Happiness is usually found when we stop comparing our lives to everyone else’s and feel grateful for the one we have with all of the imperfect people in it.  There’s something beautiful and sadly, rare, in a messy, loud, imperfect but dependable family, whether they’re Greek or not.

 

RV Season

Mike and I spent most of the day researching motor homes. If someone had told my 20 year old self we’d be seriously considering an RV in our 50’s, I would’ve laughed hysterically!

Yet here we are, excitedly looking through different makes and models, researching reliability, and planning fun future trips together. This is not Gramps and Grammie’s 1970 Airstream like you see in the above picture! The 2018 RV decor is actually more hip than our house (which is in need of updating)!

Speaking of Gramps and Grammie’s Airstream, I have very fond memories of being in the Rocky Mountains in that silver bullet, as well as at Anderson, Indiana Camp meetings. G and G travelled all over the US and Canada in their giant Cadillac pulling that Airstream camper! When they were back in Wichita it used to sit out in front of their house in the Dell, and my cousin Holly and I would pretend it was our house, playing in it for hours on end. Now, I can already envision Theo and our future grandkids doing the same thing in just a few years.

We plan on taking many fun road trips with the kids and grandkids in our deluxe home on wheels. Fishing, camping, hiking, and touring the country in style! I think I’m gonna like this stage of our lives.

 

Sheepish

“The noonday devil of the Christian life is the temptation to lose the inner self while preserving the shell of edifying behavior. Suddenly I discover that I am ministering to AIDS victims to enhance my resume. I find I renounced ice cream for Lent to lose five excess pounds… I have fallen victim to what T.S. Eliot calls the greatest sin: to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”

The above quote is from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. I wish I could enter through more church doors and hear this message being taught. I wish more pastors were reaching beyond their traditional parochial roots to the deeper calling of truth. As Paul wrote in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

If the word is living and active, why do we treat it as if it is immovable and unyielding? Why do we read the Bible as if there is only one way to interpret it? Why do we often choose to live in a church bubble that keeps us from being the salt of the earth? This is the biggest problem I have with the religion of Christianity. It has a tendency to feel clean to the point of sterility, and like all religions tends to become a large group of conforming sheep that follow the wrong shepherd, a pastor and a community of believers that are so afraid of the world and those who believe differently, that they only see the world and nonbelievers as a place and people that need to be saved. When we view others in this way, we demean and devalue their own experience and stories. We forget that God spoke to Abraham when he was a heathen, God spoke to Moses when he was a murderer, and God still speaks today to anyone who will listen, whether they belong to a church or not.

God is bigger, Jesus is bigger, infinitely bigger than the Bible, yet we treat the Bible as if it is equal to them both, instead of the guidance tool that it is. Please don’t misunderstand me, I love the Bible and live by its teachings, but it also reminds us to humble ourselves lest we begin to think we know the mind of God. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?”
‭‭Job‬ ‭38:4-5‬ ‭

Many people say the Bible is the word of God, yet John 1 tells us Jesus Himself is the word. If we accept His grace we are free. Not free of pain, not free of sin, not free of bad decisions, natural disasters, or evil. We are free from judgement. Yet organized Christianity continues to spend so much time judging others. We are called to love. We are called to serve. We are called to share the good news. GOOD news! Christ himself instructed us, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Yet somehow we convince ourselves we are able to judge because we have the truth.

We Christians are likened to sheep in the Bible in both favorable and unfavorable ways. It’s important to remember, sheep are very stubborn, and have small brains. They need the shepherd to keep them safe, especially from their own stupid choices and stubbornness. God loves sheep, but He also loves all the other animals He created. We must love them too and recognize they are no less than we. God loves us no more or no less as believers than when we weren’t. His Spirit is always actively searching the world for hearts that are seeking truth, and God is love. What is love? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-8‬a

Triangulation

Triangular talk drives me crazy. I grew up with it, not realizing how unhealthy and enmeshing it is. Girls tend to triangulate more than boys, so if you grew up with sisters you most likely know what I’m talking about. Instead of going directly to the person you have an issue with or need to talk to, you talk to a third person who also knows the person. This is easier than talking to the person directly because the third person is a buffer and usually sympathizes with you. Then the other person hears from the third person that you have an issue with them, even though you had said you would take care of it yourself and a misunderstanding occurs and all three people end up hurt and confused.

This may sound like a middle school issue but it’s a common pattern in many adult relationships. The point is, we must consciously choose direct communication. Rarely do I find myself triangulating, but occasionally I will unconsciously fall back into the old pattern and when I realize it I feel so angry at myself! I sleep so much easier when I know I’ve spoken directly to whomever I need to and haven’t confused the situation or myself by including a third party.

Many people triangulate without even realizing it, it’s just the way they’ve always communicated, and they talk about things with whomever they happen to be around. It’s another unconscious habit that keeps us from having healthy relationships with our supposed closest friends and family. In my younger years I used to talk to my girlfriends about my husband more than I ever talked directly to him. After we entered into counseling together and learned how to trust each other’s intentions and directly communicate, our relationship grew exponentially.

Direct communication is imperative to a relationship. Triangulation actually increases confusion and mistrust and will weaken the strongest bond, often dissolving it completely. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

To Become

How many times in my day do I make unconscious decisions? Not only do I frequently find myself on autopilot with mundane tasks such as making breakfast or driving to and from work, but I also often make unconscious choices concerning my relationships. I tend to struggle with boundaries and take on too much emotional responsibility for others, and then I find I am irritable and frustrated without realizing what the root of my unrest is.

What scares me is I am a person who is constantly self-analyzing and working towards actualization, and I’m still regularly unaware of my own decisions and why I make them! What about those individuals that rarely try to understand themselves? Are most people walking around in a fog of sadness and confusion, unconscious of their choices that actually add to their pain? I’ve known many who press the default button, blaming everyone else for anything that’s ever happened to them instead of taking responsibility for their own decisions and lack thereof. Not making a choice is a choice to be reckoned with as well.

Why are we humans so clueless to our own motivations, fears, and core issues? Sometimes I wonder if it was a survival skill for when we had to beg, steal or kill for our every need. Who had time to think about feelings and core issues when a Neanderthal is about to club you to death!

As I wrestle with my own shortcomings, I also recognize perfection isn’t an option. That is no longer my goal. My ultimate target is to become more aware, more intuitive of myself and others, and learn, by God! Yes learn from it all, the good the bad and the downright hideous! To be or not to be is no longer the question, but rather to be-come…

Fall EXTRAVAGANZA

Have I mentioned how much I love Autumn? In case I forgot to share with you how special it is to me, I’ll elaborate just a smidge.

Every year on SeptemBER 1st I begin listening to my Fall playlist filled with Charlie Brown’s music, David Lanz, Nat King Cole, the soundtracks to When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, George Winston’s Autumn, and my personal favorite which I found in a large bin for 4 bucks at a discount store…David Huntsinger’s Autumn in New England. I actually wrote him a note to tell him how much his music means to me each Autumn and he wrote back thanking me! Just goes to show you we need to let people know more frequently how they affect us!

I also decorate my house for Fall/Halloween within the first week of SeptemBER. I used to wait till Sept. 22 and always felt like I didn’t have enough time to celebrate my favorite holiday! Now by the time Halloween arrives, I feel fulfilled that I’ve experience 7-8 weeks of it and can happily move on to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My niece, Brynne, and I always plan a day we call our Fall EXTRAVAGANZA. We wear our pumpkin spice shirts, shop all over town for exciting Autumn decor deals, drink Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes and end with wine, dinner, and a movie. It’s one of THE most wonderful days of the year and we talk about and plan for it all year long!!! IT’s TODAY!!!!! I must leave you now as I ready myself for the celebration!

Happy Fall y’all!  Check out our vlog!