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The Last Dragon

Here in the woods, the pain seems distant.

All around are the sounds of the gentle hush of raindrops falling on the multitude of leaves. Each tiny patter whispers a secret to its hearer. It is as if God is soothing the recent sharp edges of life that have cut to my very soul; tween bone and marrow. Only He knows the passionate struggles with which the past months had presented themselves. It is not lightly nor without conviction that these memories now torment the heart of one who gave his all to hold onto the belief that this was his calling.

There were choices; there always are.

Like the tale of two roads diverging in the yellow wood, as Frost would write, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

There is not one day, no not one – even those that made you wonder why you ever chose to teach- that I would give back. Their pain made the creases in our soul; etchings of love emblazoned upon our inner being, never gone, never forgotten.

Yes, it is only from the heart that I write this story.

Each day that we walk in faith, we know not where the path will lead. That first day that those keys turned the lock in the door, it felt as if I had entered the den of a sleeping dragon. There was the overwhelming feeling of a darkness present. As the door opened, the emptiness of room 3212 would echo silent cries; a foreboding of things to come. Eventually, that room would become the classroom from which many stories would unfold, both good and bad. I could never imagine how it would have ended. As we are only human, we can never fully comprehend what God has in store for us. When we walk in that journey in which He hath prepared, we are refined by the fires of trials and tribulations. When the love that we share is genuine, it becomes even more painful when a door closes.

The sound of the swollen creek reverberates the feeling of how my cup had runneth over these past few weeks; the culmination of seeds planted long ago had come to fruition; some still waiting; some may never grow; yet, in all, the thoughts of the students left behind return. The image of the expansive whiteboard in room 3212 returns. On it, in its entirety, drawn with dry-erase markers, from one end to the other, is the picture of a red dragon breathing fire on a sword inscribed with one word, “Mathematics.”

It will be the last dragon.

Each semester, from the first to this one, God gave me the message of sharing my gifts through the telling my students of the parallels of the dragon and their fear of Math, the class that I would be called to teach. The first few days of each semester would find the dragon begin, always with the eye. From there, the image would slowly, during the course of the entire semester, grow into the final piece of artwork. To think of this as simply the entirety of this story would diminish the truth from all that there is to convey. It is more than just a picture, but a story of heartache, struggle, and a multitude of life’s blessings to which one may never fully know.

Behind the scenes, Satan would attack, lying in wait ready to strike another blow. When it seemed there couldn’t be any more things that could pummel my life further into the ground, there would be another twist that would sink my life into deeper darkness. Each time, from my knees, my cries would resonate to heaven; each time, God would give me renewed strength to carry on. Each time I drew closer to Him.

Just as I told my students not to fear Math (the dragon), so must we not fear the devil; for whom shall we fear if we have God? Yet, we should not be ignorant of his power and deceitful nature. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”-Eph. 5:12

Whenever there was doubt about the effectiveness of the light within, God would send a confirmation. These would be the moments that will be cherished.

One of the many beautiful memories was when one of my students finished his end of semester review package we called, Dragon Flippers. The purpose was to tie in all the units of the semester into a flip-review package and to also allow students who might not have been as mathematically inclined to shine through their artwork, which was required on the cover. It was part of our end of semester review. Before the student handed his in, he pulled me aside to tell me something that will forever be with me. He told of how he had struggled with his own demons, and that through the light God had allowed to shine through me, he found a new purpose, a new reason to live. If you had known this young man, you would have never guessed that he would have such inner turmoil. He was the model student; always on time with his work, an “A” student, and as gracious as they come.

He then handed me his project. As I fought to regain my composure, I looked upon the picture of a young man facing a mirror. In the reflection was an angry dragon looking back. Inside the package, he showed a pictorial description of Ephesians 6:14-17, and how he had used the armor of God to battle this demon. He then continued. He said that he would not be returning to High School but would finish his studies at home since his family felt the public school environment was not healthy for his wellbeing. He went on to share how he had read many of my devotionals and that because of those writings, he knew that God wanted him to do in life. “Mr. Tron, I want to thank you for helping me to see the demon within me and to show me how to defeat him. You have been the best teacher I have ever known.” The flood gates opened as I watched him leave room 3212 through tear stained eyes, never to return.

The reason God sent me to Watauga High School would never leave my thoughts. Each day, after the pledge of allegiance, I would pray to God for guidance, strength, and wisdom. Behind me, a legion of His angels was there to protect and comfort me. For if it were not true, I would have never made it. Today, as the rains fall all around, it is as if those same angels were crying, knowing that the place to which I had been called has found a way to push me out. In their mourning, my soul is once again warmed; their compassion, a representation of God’s unending love, soothes the rough edges of my broken heart. No longer will I be able to stand before all those troubled teens to convey to them God’s love, through my own, by trying to help them in their life’s journey.

Early before school began during the last week of school when the morning sky had yet to awaken, another touching moment occurred. One of our EC teachers pulled me aside and shared what one of my students had said to her when he had heard the news of my leaving Watauga. In his words, she said, he couldn’t understand why they would be getting rid of Mr. Tron, when I was the only reason, he (the student) made it through Math 2. She continued to tell me that the young man was considering dropping out of school. But once he began to do well in Math, he realized that if he could do that, then he could handle anything else that was required to graduate. She then said what touched her the most, when he said, “We need more teachers like Mr. Tron,” he told her in a very solemn tone. Once more, the tears began to flow as my heart knew the struggles the young man had faced, both in the classroom and at home.

Stories like this one and the countless others made the door closing all the more painful. We are but of the flesh, and with that, we are weak. To know that our Savior has prepared for us a new path is comforting, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. When a door slams on your finger, the momentary pain is almost blinding; when a door slams on your heart, it bemoans your spirit to the core, driving you to your knees. It is from there, kneeling on the floor that we must seek Him most.

Like those dry-erase markers with which the dragon had been drawn, the image could have easily been erased. So too are we here for a short time, as a mere wisp of smoke, here for a moment in time and then gone. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”-James 4:14. To those we encounter we have but one chance to share with them the purpose for which we are called. Many times, we are unaware of the role or the effect we’ve had, as God is working through us, such that on the rare occasion we are told of these influences, then we too know of how much we are needed in this dark world.

Another heart-wrenching moment was when the students were saying goodbye after I had shared with them the rest of the story behind the dragon; how that I was sent there by God and that God was now leading me on. The young man told of how he had been in a deep dark pit, and because of what I had said to him, beyond the limitations of the state’s standards for Math, he had been saved. Quickly I reminded him that it wasn’t me, but rather, God speaking through me.

I remember the day of which he spoke vividly.

He was one of those students who had extreme anxiety for courses in which he struggled; Math was the worst. On one of the days in which not only was Math causing him to question himself, he had also been going through a spiritual battle. When my co-teacher came to the room and beckoned me to the hallway, I was more than a little concerned. She then shared with me how he had called for me and how he had told her he was lost without hope. As my footsteps carried me to the room where he lay, I prayed to God to give me the words to speak; there was no manual, there was no guidance for this sort of thing; yet, all I could think was simply to rely on God, His Holy Word, and that He would speak through me. As those prayers were lifted, a surge of what felt like electrical energy pulsated from my head to my toes.

Looking back, I know in my heart that the Holy Spirit was with us that day.

When I opened the door, the young man was lying in the fetal position. His cheeks were stained from tears. As I walked in, he slowly sat up and thanked me for coming. I don’t remember the words that were said, I don’t know all that God had worked through me, all I know is that from that day forward, there was an obvious change in the young man’s demeanor in my classroom. From that day forward, it was as if he had been born again.

It was just one of many stories that transpired over the past three years.

One cannot look back and move forward.

In the end, the dragon stood for more than a parallel to Math. As we learn in Revelations 12, the red dragon represents Satan, who chases the woman (the church), who has a child (Jesus). The dragon tried to kill the woman and her child, but the earth protected her. God becomes our protector in all things should we choose to believe. “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”-Rev. 12:13-17

For many of my students, they realized that the dragon also stood for their ability to conquer any fear, including that of Satan. Their belief or unbelief was never questioned, rather, the light was present for all to see. In our walk, we can either to simply follow the law, or we can provide more than being the shell of a being living in a world of flesh; we can choose to be the light.

So it is, with this journey upon which I trod, answering His call to march onward, seeking that new shore. Yes, this may be the last dragon, but the story doesn’t end. When this path began nearly five years ago, those fateful words continue to ring in my ears today, “Wherever you say to go, Lord, I will follow.”

When it is your time to answer the call, choose your words carefully, for God will surely lead you to places you never dreamed and because of Him working through you, you will achieve things you never imagine. It will not be easy. There will be moments of incomprehensible pain, just as there will be times of unspeakable joy.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen,” and in that, we will always find comfort.

Let us not dwell on things of the past any more than with which to inspire us toward a better path in the future.

Keep all those in prayer who have had their journey’s door close and now are awaiting the next one to open; for in the waiting, there will be learning and hope.

Thanks be to God. riority

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In Memory: Mom, RDHW

The gray, overcast sky hung close to the mountain. The air held a damp chill that threatened to sink into one’s bones, yet he didn’t let it bother him. He stood off to the side, away from the crowd, away from the rest of his team members. The sound of the announcer introducing various dignitaries for the day’s event, the first annual High Country Run/Walk for Breast Cancer, was a distant echo. Like that of when you are about to fall asleep when all the world around you begins to fade. His mind was deep in prayer, for the reason he was really there was more personal than anyone knew.

The vision in his mind was as clear as the sunrise he had seen just minutes before. Her long golden hair floated in the breeze as she walked in the vast garden of vibrant yellow roses, her hands skimming their tops, like floating on the wind. She wore a white linen dress that flowed down to her bare feet; feet that barely touched the pathway upon which she danced. It was his mother in her youth, once again alive and vibrant. The chill in the air wisped across his bare neck, but inside, her warmth made him whole once more.

He remembered those last days, how she insisted they get her mailbox painted. He worked with her on just the right font and color of lettering to use, to the point she made him look through books of fonts she had set aside in some type of craft, but they never found them. He eventually sketched it out for her, and she was satisfied with the result. Then the last thing was to paint a yellow rose, her favorite, on each side. It would be the last thing they would ever do together before she passed. There was that feeling of being alone again, which he tried to push away. Yet, in a way, it felt like she was there.

He didn’t mean for the day to become this.

Moments earlier, inside the hosting facility, all manner of bright pink ribbons, balloons, and decorations brightened the gathering space. Cancer survivors and those participating in the day’s fundraiser warmly and graciously greeted one another. Understanding the nature of the event, he tried to elude the grasp of the thinking of her again, at least not here. As he turned to leave the room before emotion could grab him, there it was, the very thing he was trying to avoid. Near the exit was a wall where someone had placed a small hand-written sign, “In Memory Of.” Without thinking, he grabbed the fluorescent pink sticky note and wrote, “Mom, RDHW,” then peeled it free from the stack and stuck it to the wall. Stepping back and looking at those around it, his eyes couldn’t focus on anything but the one before him. Hurriedly, he walked out, trying not to make eye contact and soon found himself on that distant corner.

Although she had been gone nearly five years, it still seemed like yesterday.

As he sighed Amen in closing, he looked up to the floating pink archway covering the starting line. It had been over 25 years since he last stood at a race starting line. In fact, the year of that last race was the same year his mother had been first diagnosed with her cancer. Countless miles of water under the many bridges had passed since that day.  He thought of how it would feel once more, now that he was no longer the athlete he once was. In truth, he wasn’t really here to race. The real reason he thought he had come was to support the team from his High School, for the courageous fellow-teacher, whom with three children of her own, had been diagnosed with cancer just the year before, Elaine Bishop. The news of her story had struck him so hard, he found himself avoiding the empathy he so often could provide to others. It was someplace he couldn’t go, not yet. Elaine had become a survivor and an encourager to so many. The day she returned to school during their monthly faculty meeting and entered the auditorium he had fought back the tears of emotion; the sting of pain went to the core of his being; yet, here he was.

Moments later, the crowd had amassed at the starting line, and before he knew it, they were off. Before starting, one thing was apparent, he would be running this race for Mom.

Every time the pain becomes too great,” he thought to himself, “remember the struggles she had endured for the twenty years she fought the disease.

When that knot in your stomach from that hill gets to be too great, remember the tumor that grew inside her, pushing aside her organs until the pain became too great to bear,” his mind recalled.

Again, and again, he pulled all that she had suffered into his mind to push away the aching of the moment. He had never raced up a mountain before today. The sting of his lungs pushed his mind to grasp again and again of those final days; the feeling of her slipping away before she had gone, but then she would battle until the end. Before long, he was numb and in agony at the same time.

As he struggled up the last hill toward the finish line, he could hear the screams of those encouraging the runners. The young lad that had passed him in the last half mile was within reach, but there was no sense in catching him. It wasn’t why he was here. In the blink of an eye, the scene of the pink floating balloons passed overhead, and he was done. Body bent double, he gasped for breath as his lungs burnt. “It wasn’t enough, she suffered far more, so much more,” he told himself as he stood there still reeling from the pain.

Gently, as a bird calls from the morning window sill, there was a whisper of voice from beyond, and he looked up to see who spoke. There ahead of him, on the edge of a manicured garden, amongst the myriad of greenery stood a single yellow rose.

For a moment, the warmth of a mother’s love washed over him.

He smiled and thanked the Lord. She had run a good race, she had fought the good fight, and now, her journey’s end was complete; and so was his.

Thanks be to God.

Donate Here Today for High Country Breast Cancer Foundation Support

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Life on the Run…

Today I looked back in my blog journal to see what was going on last year at this time. I had just started writing my first blog and was still finding my legs, so to speak. It was July and we had just begun the 100+ temperatures, which would become known as the hottest summer on record. I also began running again, even in the heat. I read what I wrote at that time, which can be found in the following link:

https://timothywtron.dreamhosters.com/the-thief-called-time/

It was obvious that I was struggling both with my out of shape legs, which had not known this type of physical runningactivity in nearly 20 years, and with the heat. I was determined that if I could run in that heat, I could run in anything if I didn’t kill me first; I was nearly correct. I made it all the way to December of last year before getting extremely ill with the respiratory illness that was going around. I had been increasing my mileage each week up to that point until I was able to run 10 miles on my long run. It was a far cry from the days when I trained for marathons, taking in an 18 or 20 miler on the long days. Yet, along the way, my body had become healthier. I felt better and had more endurance which certainly helped on those long nights at work; I work the night shift.  Sleep is too often sacrificed in order to keep up the daily schedule my life creates. Yet, the more I got in shape, the further sleep I did get seemed to go. In other words, my recovery rate also increased.

Lately, I’ve been running with my daughter who is trying to get in shape for her attempt to run cross country this year. Today, she was still mourning the loss of another cat, so I was on my own. I went out for a couple miles, just to stretch my legs and wound up running four instead. It just felt too good to stop. It was still in the mid 90’s temperature-wise, yet I had now been running off and on for a year and my legs are now in much better shape than last July. Now when I go run, I don’t think about dying and the pain; I’m once again free to allow my mind to wander and take in the scenery while thoughts randomly pop in and out of my consciousness. Sometimes I find myself writing verses to songs, chapters to my book’s sequel, or just making plans for an upcoming event. Either way, it’s a freedom of thought, to become one with nature, to experience the feeling of movement without thought of doing so.

I now enjoy running once more.

buckI now get to experience on a personal level the world around us. This past week alone I saw two majestic bucks, antlers in full velvet; the likes of which I had never seen in pictures or in person. I’ve seen beautiful butterflies float in the sunshine, with the azure blue sky for a background. I’ve been escorted by Red Tail hawks as they cross my path, two and fro, looking for prey far below. I’ve seen neon green caterpillars, so bizarre in color that they appear man-made. Then there are the forests themselves, the full bounty of a summer rich with long deep rains. The leaves so full, they appear to pull the canopy down with the weight of their abundance. Yes, the humid warm air might be uncomfortable on the surface but inside, the lungs are enriched by the comforting fullness filling every tiny brachium with oxygen and life.

Yes, I’m enjoying my runs once more.

Last year at this time I didn’t know if that would ever be possible to run pain free ever again. I still have a long way to go. I’m not in the best shape I could be in. I lost a lot of ground after stopping when I got sick last December. It took a while before I got started again. Yet, I now know that all it takes is consistency and patience; two things age teaches you very quickly.

Some things in life we can never go back too, nor would we want too, but sometimes, with the blessing of the Lord, we are able to once again achieve that level, physical or mental, we once knew; this is feeling is greater than any earthly reward.

Here’s a question for you: What is something that you’ve neglected for some time and then gone back to and either regained your former level of ability or was able to raise above that level?

I liked the scripture that I used in the previous blog so much that I included it here again. Enjoy,

“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” – Ecclesiastes 9:11

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