Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last Day to Post April Poetry.

My Grandma Greer always jotted down little limericks she loved to share with me and it is one of the things I remember about her spunky personality and sense of humor. I hope I can say that thinking in "rhyme"  is  normal  or that I get this "gene" from her.  I just know when I write, that some things, some stories land in the poetry part of my mind,  fun to tell in this way.  Writing verse for a few friends, I will share a couple here and then my last poem is my most recent; reflections on "test-taking" at school. 

This poem I wrote for my friend Joyce.  We lived catty-corner from each other for many,  many years, having our babies, planning birthday parties, Halloween costumes, swimming, 4th of know.  She is an Italian New Yorker with the strong accent and attitude and I love her dearly.

Baby Boomers, Neighbors, Forever Friends
The Joyce and Coleene Story.

Perpendicular streets
Intersecting our lives
We met in our twenties,
Both new mothers and wives.

You had this noticeable sound;
From New York City, Borough of Queens.
A talkative Italian;
In your kitchen, the coffee steams.

Your Amanda and my Timmy,
Buddies and playmates they would become.
Innocent, precious firstborns,
They kept us busy and then some.

You became my confidant,
Not just a neighbor but good friend.
And soon we'd have more babies,
Brothers and a sister God would send.

It was so wonderful back then,
Birthday parties and elementary school.
Trick or treat and Christmas cookies,
Hangin' out at the Figgins' pool.

When sad times came to us,
We would share our deepest fears.
And laughter...there was a lot of,
And also many tears.

Tim's illness and his difficulties,
Corey's shyness and mistakes.
Jessica's crying, Amanda's surgeries,
And Keith,  well..for goodness sakes...

You Joyce, went on, finished your education
and got yourself  plugged in.
Helping special kids like my Corey,
Learn to read, spell and swim.

Our kids have all grown up
And challenged us for sure.
We have persevered with God's help
And a friendship has endured.

Almost thirty years have gone by
And our lives have surely changed.
You have moved up to the "Hills,"
Me?  finally "teaching," things rearranged.

Amanda is now married
And a teacher herself, too.
Jessica, Keith and Corey,
In college, a career to pursue.

But for Timmy, now in Heaven,
Along with our parents, we've let go.
But connected to our hearts forever
Life has blessed me, for you I know

Coleene VanTilburg
March, 2008

Although the "meter" may be a little off on this next  one, I wrote this for myself and my cousins Jeff and Greg; a tribute to their mom, my Aunt Margie.  I am so thankful that God gave us a great chance to reconnect in such an intimate way and she blessed me so much. Her voice matching my mother's, hearing her words was almost like having my Mom again with me after Timmy's left for Heaven. She always made me laugh with her stories, quite dramatic still into her elder years.  I miss her and cherish what God gave me in the years between my mom's passing and Aunt Margie.  

My cousin Jeff and my cousin Greg with families. 
 My Aunt Margie

My Mother's older sister,
Aunt Margie is her name.
A twin sister named Marian;
Together, the laughter was insane.

Margie and my Mom, Joyce  (1950's). 

Not too often, I did see them
For both lived far away.
But Margie was just up North,
Sometimes she would come for a stay.

Bright red hair was always shining,
And animal print stretch pants she wore.
A love for dogs and especially her cherished bird;
Never caged much; like her free spirit she bore.

A keen wit and sarcastic aire,
Genetically passed along to cope
With tough times and situations like all of us,
But always seeing some hope.

For me, this last year was very special.
We'd talk on the phone quite a lot.
It was like having the voice of my mother again,
Straightforward, but in love, never forgot.

We would speak of her days she knew were numbered,
And my poetry did bless her with thought.
One day I prayed on the phone with her,
I am so thankful for what the Lord has taught.

So now Aunt Margie, you are eternally young again.
Your beauty returned, God be the Glory.
The Greer sisters reunited, Marian, Margie and Joyce,
Our hearts now hold their story.

Love and Thanks, your niece, Joyce's daughter,
Coleene VanTilburg

P.S.  I will truly miss our long talks, her honest words when my voice would crack with sorrow talking about my own recent loss of my son Timmy,  "...You're not going to cry now are you...?"  Something about the way she said it made me pull it together...
I learned she loved Kona Coffee 
and fruitcake.

  At 84, she still loved to "flirt"...
She was proud of her grandchildren but wished she had understood her own mother more.
We'd always ended our own phone conversations with "I love you" and she'd say "I love you too, honey. I'll talk with you again soon".

And finally, the week before Spring break, the kids at school had State testing.  It's long, it's boring but it is what it they say, part of my job.  So, with notebook at hand, this poem came to mind.  

Testing, A “State” of Mind

It’s testing this week,
Four days of gloom.
Hovering and watching
These students in a room.

The packets are opened,
Bubble in your school name.
Let’s see what you remember
“Let’s score higher, not the same.”

No I pods, no cell phone
Or backpacks nearby.
A sorrowful separation,
For some…”Could just die!”     

Sharpened #2’s
Is all they require.
And teachers now daydream
“How long ‘til I retire?”

Reading comprehension
Inference and understanding;
Math and its numbers,
Calculations withstanding.

Life science and history,
Discovery and change,
What’s new, what’s old;
A lot of ideas to exchange.

Can the kids that we teach
Learn and grow from their mistakes?
Will computers soon replace us…?
“Can I get a bathroom break?”

When this week finally ends
And the tests are packed away,
We’ll all get a break;
Spring fever, time to play!
Enjoying Spring 2011

Coleene VanTilburg
RSP Aide, Ayala High School

(I will add pictures this week...wanted to get this posted before midnight). 
Comments are encouraged and welcomed and needed
(Am I sounding desperate?)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

more poetry... The Persistent Neighbor

Knock neighbors, the Zavaletas  come to our door frequently, usually something to eat in hand and ready to share; a very compassionate, giving, "thinking always of others" type family. Isn't that a great example to set for your kids? The tables are turned in this parable of Jesus that I journaled  on a while back. The neighbor actually needs to ask for some food.  Unexpected guests arrived.  Late in the evening,  and preoccupied with other things,  his neighbor was not too accommodating at first.Twenty-four hour Wal-Mart?  Well, they had their open-air markets, but not quite 24 hours yet. A man's  reputation as a host really mattered in those days.  If Twitter were around back then,  this unprepared person would have been slammed as very inhospitable to his arriving guests.  He did not want his reputation to be the talk of the Jerusalem Star News. So what is Jesus trying to teach us here? ... To bug our neighbors for last minute things?  I don't think so. 

This is another lesson Jesus is teaching on prayer.  He wants us to see the persistent neighbor, knocking and asking, not giving how we should be in prayer.   When we pray for something, be persistent. From the Greek it translates, boldness with confidence. (Check out Hebrews 4:11).  We need to pray believing God will answer us.  Most importantly, we need to pray with a humble spirit, asking but not demanding and examining our own motive and heart.  God's timing is perfect timing and as the persistent neighbor finds out, he is given what he is in need of and more.  

Pulling this poem out from my archived journals,  it reminds me of the many persistent prayers I prayed, some answered in amazing ways and some,  much harder to understand God's answer to. Hopefully, when God answers differently than we expect,  it should  lead us to another kind of prayer, one in which we  ask for understanding and wisdom. There continues to be many persistent prayers. During this Easter weekend, we are reminded that with His death on the cross and His glorious ressurection, Jesus has the power to change things.  He is just as powerful today and He works through the hearts and minds of those who believe.  If you are a Believer, than Believe!  Ask Him for what it is you need! Taking a priority  in my life,  I still long to spend more time seeking His face.Some may wonder why I just don't give up.  Well, because Jesus said to pray continuously without ceasing.  He knows how to answer and when to answer, He only asks us to keep asking.  May our faithful reward bring Him the Glory.


Knock knock.
"Who's there?"
"Your neighbor, Ira.
I'm outside on the stair".

"Hey, do you know the time?
It's midnight, aren't you sleepy?
What is the problem that cannot wait
Until I have my sleep so deeply".

"Well, a friend of mine has shown up
After traveling so long.
Can you spare three loaves of bread?
To feed him cannot be wrong."

"Go away, do not bother me."
And SLAM, the door is shut.
But he knocks on the door again,
 This neighbor will not give up.

Knock , knock once again,
"Please neighbor, be you oh so kind,
I really need this bread
To feed my hungry friend,he whined. 

"I'm sleeping and so are my kids,
Do not bug me now again.
I won't get up to answer you,
Wait until morning please, my friend."

Knock, knock, "It's me, Ira,
Persistent neighbor I am.
Just three loaves I need tonight.
Please don't let this door slam."

"Persistent you are,
I will answer your plea.
Here is six loaves and honey,
Plenty of grapes and sweet tea."

Persistent neighbor who asked.
Persistent neighbor who sought.
Persistent neighbor who knocked.
Persistent neighbor, unblessed...NOT!

God instructs us to ask Him,
Given to us, it will be.
God tells us to seek,
He will reveal for us to see!

God allows us to knock,
And the door will never slam.
For every one who persistently seeks,
Will find abundance in His plan!

Inspiration from Luke 11, parable of the persistent friend.

Coleene vanTilburg
(June 21, 2007)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It is National Poetry Month

Journaling and scribbling down a few rhymed verse is how this...THIS whole thing with me blossomed. After working many years at a retail job, totally switching my career and working for the school district, my brain once again "turned on" to the playfulness of words and the fun with language. Penned with rhymes and silliness, most of my earlier notebooks contain a combination of  these random observations as well as the more serious studies of devotion, rewriting scripture passages  in verse. So, with that said,  for this special month, a few of my favorites I am posting here for your enjoyment.

These first two, I wrote while living in a cramped apartment, one step up from the motel we stayed in for 2 months. After my family suffered a bad fire in November of 2003, we became displaced temporarily from our home. In these days, God taught me so much and like the children of Israel in the book of Hosea, God moved in my heart literally taking the ashes and  rebuilding and restoring a dormant faith. Days of frustration, uncertainty and loneliness numbered more on the calendar than not. What better way to deal with things than to write. A Starbucks frappachino and my journal kept me company. Selelcting two poems from that time really gives insight into how far my "world" spins in a forward progression. Although Tim would go to be with the Lord in 2007, 2004 through mid 2006 my life was on the threshing floor and God's purpose was to sift out the grain and replant me into a strong, productive field, able to stand firm against the storms clouds to come.This first poem is an observation of my surroundings; the second, a genuine request-prayer to God. (For some of us though, the Promised Land still lay ahead).
Roach Rent.

If I could charge the roaches rent, 
A nickel, a dime, a shiny red cent,
I'd have a coin jar full to the top,
With money to spare, maybe to shop.

I'd charge the bumble bee that lives in my fence
A dollar fifty, a fair rate I sense.
And the black widow out for the kill;
A two-dollar tab to add to the bill.

 But most of the dough would come from those bugs 
 Who like to crawl out from under my mugs.
 Behind my toaster and in my coffee pot;
 They scurry and hurry, not to be caught.

There are small ones, many who don't have a clue.
Which way to go or what next to do.
Then there's the brown ones, faster they are.
Disgusting, annoying, and gross by far.

If I could charge the roaches rent,
Perhaps one day the money spent,
Could take care of the problem once and for all,
And living here would not make my skin crawl.

END  Coleene VanTilburg

Like I mentioned earlier, this next poem is actually a prayer.  We were finally moving on, out of the apartment. Deciding to sell the house, for all of us a pivotal, exhausting but humbling move; a chance to start over.  God brought us to another place of learning and seeking, another place where my tears forever softened the hard ground that existed there. For some of us though, the Promised Land still laid ahead...


On the move again, think I want to stop
Never really settled in, never bought a mop.
No family pictures hang on the wall.
Does not feel like home, as I recall.

No splash of color or decorator’s flare
Just a few candles to freshen the air.
Boxes from Christmas stacked up high
Boxes of bills from hospitals he’s tried.

The family room doubled as a bedroom too

With pillows and blankets and soda to spew.
The carpet is gross, I try to remove
The spots of not caring and busyness prove.

But changes were made here, both life and heart
I know God’s plans are for another new start.
Somewhere He’ll plant us and continue to grow us
Closer to you Lord, a spirit most joyous.

My prayer is for a garden to work with my hands,
A hearth and a fireplace with pictures on stands.
My dining room table, china and hutch;
I just need some space Lord, to breathe and such.

A place to study and have friends over;
For my dog to live his last days in clover.
Lord, may you always be served in our home
Praised as our Savior where ever we roam.

Coleene VanTilburg 6.15.2006

More poetry to follow in next few days. Stayed tuned!

Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV)   May I add to verse 31...where we should live?... God provided every place and in every place I learned something and continue to do so. 

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.