Saturday, September 29, 2012

Twirl (2012 version)

Today I saw a picture of a project for making a "Twirl" dress for little girls and it reminded me of the very first blog I ever wrote. I'm adding a little bit to it, but here is a blast from the past that I was reminded of today. (New "parts" are in purple.)

Okay, this is my first attempt at a blog, but there are things I want to share - so here goes.

Recently I was doing a Bible study and was looking at how God took our sin. Now, I know you've probably already heard that, but hold on. I saw something new this time. In this study, we saw that God is clothed in majesty - that I think I knew. Yet He chose to trade with us and put on our sin and give us His majesty. Let me try and paint a picture of what I saw.

Earlier that day, I had stepped in some dog poop in our yard (we've all done it). Everywhere I went, that smell seemed to drift upward and spoil my day. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from and then realized there was still a smidgeon of it on my shoe. Somewhere in all this, I got a picture of my sin being like clothes that had been rolled in poop. The stench of sin permeated everything I tried to do....but God in His mercy took on my sin, smell and all, and instead gave me His majesty. But it gets even better.

I remembered when my daughter was very young and we'd buy her "twirl" dresses. These were the dresses that would twirl when she would spin around. I got such joy out of watching her spin around and twirl with joy. That's where the rest of the picture comes in. God not only took our sin and gave us His majesty, but He doesn't constantly remind us of what He did (as many of us would do). Instead, with the joy of a father, he simply says "Twirl little one, twirl". He loves us so much that it is His joy to bless us. For if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more does our Heavenly Father know how to bless us.

In the Old Testament, when someone made covenant, they switched robes. God made Covenant with Abraham AND HIS CHILDREN. We are those children. We have been given a robe of righteousness, not because of something we have done, but because of what HE has done...because of HIS great love...because of the Covenant HE made and completed. It is important to realize that in that covenant, God caused Abraham to fall into a sleep and then God completed the Covenant Himself. It was not dependent upon Abraham, and it is no dependent upon me, a child of Abraham. It is not something I "do" - other than accept this gracious gift. God did this because of His great love for us. He took on our filthy rags and in turn gave us the robe of righteousness...much like the father ran toward the prodigal son and commanded that he be given a robe and a ring in place of his pig-scented rags. When we put on someone else's robe, we in essence take on that person's identity...the two become one. 

This covenant also involved and exchange of weapon belts, vows, names, a mark, and a meal....but those are topics for another day. 

So there is the first of what may be many random thoughts.

May your day be filled with moments when you hear our Father God say, "Twirl, little one. Twirl."

Isaiah 61:10 (New Living Translation)
I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In way over my head...

Ever hear that analogy? "In over my head..." Well lately that's exactly how I've been feeling. I'm in WAY over my head. 

Now lot's of people may think they know what that feels like, but if you are a "non-swimmer" like me, in over your head takes on a WHOLE new meaning. Think drowning. Fighting for your life. Desperately wanting OUT, OUT, OUT!

I was thinking about all this today. Overwhelmed. Sinking fast. Trying to believe the encouragement that if God called me to it then God would see me through it, but let's be honest. It's tough when you're swallowing water with every single breath.

I was reminding God that I was in over my head and that I really couldn't swim when a familiar Bible story came to mind. It was the story of when Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat and walk to him. What struck me was that, even though I'm sure Peter knew how to swim, he didn't have to. He just had to keep his eyes on Jesus and walk.

Did you get that? Let it "sink" in. Just keep his eyes on Jesus and walk. One step at a time. Focused not on how scary those waves were, but on the eyes of His Lord. 

Simple. No need to swim at all. Just walk on water. But hey, if He said do it, He's sure to keep me from sinking. (And to be honest, walking on water is a LOT less scary to me than trying to swim!)

No need to be overwhelmed, in over my head, or any other analogy that means I can't possibly do this. Of course I can't - but He can. I'm guessing that somehow He's even made a plan for me to find joy in the journey. 

Today, I was reminded of another story...Joshua crossing the Jordan river. He had to step out in faith and God parted the waters so that they could walk across on dry land. That's even better! That way I don't have to deal with water at ALL! 

I've just got to keep walking....and all who see it will know it was nothing I have done, but it was because of the Son of God for sure!

Matthew 14:22-33

The Message (MSG)

Walking on the Water

22-23 As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.
24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
32-33 The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Like a blanket

It had been one of those weeks. 

Discouragement was clinging to me like a wet blanket, pressing in on my skin and hindering my every move. I felt heavy. Tired. Like I'd missed God and had no way to turn things around. Discouragement wrapped around me like that wet blanket and made it hard to even breathe.

Ever have a week like that?

I wanted to run away. North Carolina looked pretty. Florida seems nice. Just about anywhere but here seemed like a good place to be. 

What in the world was going on?

As I looked back at the previous weeks, I'd been weaving this wet blanket a little at the time. Dealing with a negative outlook here, a discouraging word there, a critical comment caught in passing...they each contributed a thread or two to the blanket. Before I knew it, I was adding my own threads and was feeling completed weighted down. 

So what's a person to do? (Running away still sounded like a pretty good idea. I guess it's a good thing payday was still two weeks away and I didn't really have the money to run anywhere!)

I admit, it was tempting to just sit down and pull that soggy old blanket over my head and cry. Discouragement began to give way to anger and resentment. Anger at myself, anger at the situation, even anger at God! (Oh come on - don't tell me I'm the only person to ever get to that point!)

Then, slowly, that blanket became too uncomfortable to wear. 

I started to see little things that reminded me what I needed to do. 

It began with an email inviting me to join a Bible study with some new friends...friends that I knew not only loved God but loved laughter and had the ability to share their joy with others. 

Next came an email inviting me to a painting party. Wow...I don't remember the last time I painted just for fun. Don't remember the last time I did ANYTHING just for fun.

I was slowly shrugging off the smelly old wet blanket that itched and made me so miserable.

Still, I knew that just throwing off the old wet blanket wasn't going to be enough. 

I needed to weave a different one, choosing different threads along the way. This time, I needed to weave a blanket with God's Word. 

Light. Warm. Comforting. Encouraging. 

I'm so thankful that God is patient with me. He didn't fuss at me for weaving that awful wet blanket and then wrapping up in it...instead He sent messages of light so that I could toss that old wet thing to the side and replace it with the comforting blanket of His love.

It's up to us to choose which threads we weave into this blanket of our lives. The negative threads will still come our way, but I don't have to use them. I don't know about you, but I like God's blanket a lot more than the one I made by myself.

Psalm 55: 6-8 (Message)
“Who will give me wings,” I ask—
    “wings like a dove?”
Get me out of here on dove wings;
    I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
    I want a cabin in the woods.
I’m desperate for a change
    from rage and stormy weather.

Psalm 55:22a (Message)
Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
    he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.

Colossians 2: 2-4 (Message)
2-4 I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.”

Sunday, September 9, 2012

They just don't "get it"

This week I gave a test. I had worked all week to teach subordinate clauses and writing to my students and now it was time for them to show what they knew. But I had a large number of students who "didn't get it." 

My first reaction was to look at the test. Was there something wrong with the way it was written or was it somehow confusing? I immediately made another test using different wording and a different format. There - that should fix it. Only it didn't....they did a little better, but not enough to convince me that they really understood the concept. In fact, those that "got it" really did well, but then there were those who didn't understand...and they REALLY didn't understand. There was only one option left - to look at myself. I had to own the failure and look at my teaching. I don't mean I beat myself up - I just had to be honest with myself and recognize that what I had been doing wasn't working for all my students. It didn't mean I was a bad teacher, just that something I was doing wasn't as effective as I thought it had been.

All this got me to thinking...perhaps this is true for more in my life than just in subordinate clauses. When things aren't going well in relationships, work, or whatever, I need to stop and first ask myself, "What part do I need to 'own' in this problem?"As a teacher, a leader, and most importantly as a Christian, I want to ask "What part have I played in the situation?"

I'm not saying my students have no responsibility in this, I'm just talking about taking responsibility for the part I can - which is ME. Perhaps the way I have been communicating isn't as clear as I thought it was.

This was on my mind when I got to church and the sermon was about getting along with others. Okay, God...I'm paying attention.

As I wrestled with where all this was headed, I thought back to when my son was little. He was having one of his "melt-downs" that was stretching my parenting skills once again. He wanted to go outside, but it had started to rain and a chill was in the air. I told him that it was wet and cold and if he wanted to go outside he needed to put on his shoes and a jacket. The next thing I knew, he was having a major meltdown and had taken off ALL his clothes and kept crying, "You said I couldn't go outside!"

I remember I tried the whole "come let us reason together" approach. It got worse. I tried the repeat back to me what I had said approach. That didn't work either - he changed it every time and said what he wanted to believe I had said. This meltdown went on for 45 minutes with me trying every way I knew to get through to that curly little head. Finally, I asked one more time, only this time I said, "Before you answer, remember in this house we spank for telling a lie." He paused and said, "You said I couldn't go outside without a jacket and shoes." Good grief! Seriously? That's all it took? If I had known that I'd have said it 45 minutes earlier! It was never dull learning to communicate with this 4 year old! Sigh....

As my husband says, we learn so much about God in this parenting journey. This whole situation made me think of how God patiently teaches me. I'm so thankful that He never gives up on me. He communicates the truth to me over and over in different ways until I truly "get it." I want to grow to be more like Christ - unwilling to give up until my students understand. I don't want to say, "Well, I said it - they should understand!" I want that to extend to all my relationships in life. I don't want to think they should just "get it" and move on.

I also want to take responsibility for my part in this breakdown of communication - in ALL areas of my life. This does NOT mean I change my message. After all, a subordinate clause is a subordinate clause no matter how you say it. Perhaps, however, I need to look at the way I am communicating. I can't just take the attitude that "they ought to get's always worked for me to communicate this way before." I also can't think, "They should know this already! This is a 5th grade skill"...or a this common sense! You get the picture. If they don't understand, they don't understand! I can't waste my time getting frustrated about what they are NOT doing, I have to focus instead on what I CAN do. 

(On a side note...I wonder how this might work during my discussions about the upcoming election. Instead of getting angry that those who differ from me just don't seem to understand, am I willing to examine what I believe and how I am presenting the information? Am I willing to listen to their arguments and examine my own beliefs? If they are right, they won't change. Remember - that subordinate clause stays a subordinate clause even if you argue it's not. My job is to find a better way to communicate what I see.
None of this is easy. It's a WHOLE lot easier to just say it's THEIR problem. The only problem with that is, Christ won't let me take the easy way out. He'll keep right on putting the "problem" in front of me until I "get it." 

Hmmm, maybe this week I didn't just "give" a test....maybe I "took" one as well. So thankful for a God who loves me that much.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

New International Version (NIV)
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor your legs and a challenge...

Today I ran in our local Labor Your Legs race and I thought back to one year ago today. 

While I don't really remember what the beginning of that race was like, I do remember the end. About 3/4 of a mile from the end I started to feel a little weak - but hey, it's South Mississippi and our cool is considered sauna setting to most others. I finished the race beating myself up for not running the entire race, but I did finish. As I waited for the door-prizes and awards, I felt like hammered out puppy poop! Something was wrong, I just didn't know what.

I now know that I was on the edge of a low blood sugar episode....I was an undiagnosed diabetic. About a week later, thanks to a wonderful secretary at our school, I was forced to go to the doctor and told I was diabetic. Not possible, was my reaction. I'm a workout machine and I have no family history of the disease. The nurse practitioner patiently listened to my denial and then told me okay, but I needed to come back the next day and learn to give myself injections. My numbers were astronomically high - no wonder I was tired!

Now, a year later, I am off injections and balance my levels with diet, exercise, and a pill. (Wish I could get rid of the pill, but at least I don't start my day with a needle.) I ran the race today, and while I was by no means fast, I finished second in my age group. I felt fine after run/walking 5K and honestly could probably have done a full 5 miles had it been called for. My, what a difference a year can make.

In the past year, I've learned a lot. I've learned I am not invincible. I have learned to listen to my body. When something feels "not quite right", I stop and take inventory. I've also learned that when my mind begs for massive amounts of chocolate cake, I have to take charge and say NO! I need to use wisdom. Sometimes I have to be a big girl and do what's right no matter how much my little girl begs and pleads. 

I've learned that this is the only vehicle I will get while on this earth and I don't want to stand before my Heavenly Father one day and say, "I know You had more for me to do, but I just was too tired." I want to be able to give all I've got during this life and run across that final finish line to hear "Well done." That means sometimes I have to deny my flesh...and that's REALLY hard when it comes to chocolate cake!

I've learned (make that AM learning) to run my race - not someone else's. I'm not one of those elite runners that finishes the 5k and then passes me TWICE in their cool down run, but that's okay. I run MY race and remember I'm still faster than my couch. I do what I can do. Some weeks that is more than others, but every week I make sure I do something.

I realize that a year from now, I'll wish I had started today...which brings me to the challenge. I stumbled across a blogger that has issued a 5 week fall challenge: 5 week challenge - Living and Active and it looks like just the sort of thing that helps motivate me to do a little more. It includes a physical challenge, a spiritual challenge and some accountability...I definitely need all three. I will try to post each week about how I am doing with the challenge - and I will be honest...even if I fail miserably! I'm great at starting things, it's the follow-thru that usually messes me up! Feel free to join me in this challenge and to "call me on it" when I fail. Maybe it'll even help with my chocolate cake cravings!

How about it? No need to wait till January first...let's make this a new year that we can be proud of. What a difference a year can make.

Hebrews 12: 1 - 3 (Msg)
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Ecclesiastes 4:9 - 12 (NIV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

It's all just Jr. High...

The following is a post from two years ago...with all the bickering I've been seeing on facebook lately, somehow it just came to mind.

I am one of the lucky few in the world. I actually get to spend at least 8 hours of every day smack dab in the middle of Jr. High. I can almost hear you gasp in amazement. I know, you are jealous. You wish YOU could spend each day knee deep in drama, hormones, pimple cream and books. It's almost like living in a green house of emotions! Nothing is ever minor. It's just one big life crisis after another. It's just so - Jr. High!

Truthfully, I don't think I've ever met anyone who would willingly go back to their life during the Jr. High years. Just the mention of the words are enough to make grown men shudder and seemingly confident women break out is a cold sweat! It's almost as if when they escaped that time period they were set free! The one thing they knew was that they NEVER wanted to go back.

I recently asked my students what were the toughest parts of being in Jr. High and the answers ranged from pressure from parents to pressure from friends. They deal with mean girls/guys and tests and tough teachers and fickle friends. They are tired and excited and bored and frightened....sometimes all in the same day. In addition, the expectations of those around them seem to, at times, overwhelm these young teenagers. I think every day must be one constant battle of learning who they are and what they can and cannot do. They feel more grown up than they are and yet at times lapse back into being just a kid. They try to wrap their minds around lessons in math, language, history, computers and science all while juggling moods that can be far more frightening than the Tower of Terror roller coaster ride. Oh, and just to make things more interesting,  they are surrounded by hundreds of others dealing with the very same things. Oh yeah, Jr. High is one wonderful/rough place to be.

So often I want to tell my students to just hang in there. Jr. High is NOT the real world. It will be over soon! Yes, they may be dealing with difficult people, even difficult teachers, but it won't last forever. Before they realize it, it will be over and they will move on. The things that seem so huge today won't even be a blip on the radar of their lives in a few years.

And then I heard it. That nudging voice of the Lord inside me saying "That's what I've been trying to tell you." I am still stunned when I think of the simplicity of those words because right then it hit's all just "Jr. High."

The things I am dealing with, which may be tough, are still really just a stage of life. They will pass far more quickly than I realize and I'll move on. My goal is heaven...that's what's really real. Everything else is just Jr. High. Once we reach heaven, we'll be able to look back and see just how Jr. High it really was. We'll see things we wished we'd known then that we know now. We'll see places where we were doing better than we thought, and we'll see things we wish we could have changed. We'll realize we were surrounded by others who were going through their own Jr. High. Mostly, we'll look back and realize - we don't want to ever go back!

Life is definitely much better now than it was in Jr. High....and that gives me hope. If my life now, even with all it's trials, is that much better than Jr. High; then how much more wonderful must heaven be?

For me, this has been such an eye opener. Almost every day, I find myself laughing and saying, "It's all just Jr. High." Graduation day is going to be something else!

1 Corinthians 13:12 (Amplified Bible)

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].


According to, the word overwhelm means 

1. to overcome completely in mind or feeling
2. to overpower or overcome, especially with superior forces
3. to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche
4. to load, help, treat or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything. 
5. to overthrow

Example sentences include: 
  • Those who don't become part of the solution will be overwhelmed.
  • Children with autism are easily overwhelmed by information and can react badly-even violently-to the wrong kind of stimulus.
  • Sometimes your imagination is overwhelmed by a single subject or event.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or inadequate is not a terribly unique feeling either.
  • Roberta does her best to help, but she feels overwhelmed.

I'm thinking those last two pretty well hit home for a lot of us. Honestly, for most of us I probably didn't have to give the dictionary definition or example sentences - we probably could simply point to our own lives and say "This is what overwhelmed means."

Whether it is the daily demands of life, parenting, or the news of the day - most of us feel pretty overwhelmed most of the time. 

But today I heard overwhelmed come from the lips of someone who truly knows what overwhelmed means. Today I got to hear from an extraordinary woman, Allie Mellon of The Hard Places Community as she shared about the mission to fight against sex trafficking around the world. 

As I heard her share the stories of looking at these precious children who were being sold into slavery and because of the laws of the land being unable to do anything, I truly felt the weight of the word "overwhelmed". 

So much pain. So much hurt. So much damage. How do you fix that? Overwhelmed. Looking at how great, how impossible the need is and thinking, I'm not smart enough, rich enough, anything enough to know how to fix this! Overwhelmed. The need is so great. I don't know what to do. Overwhelmed.

Then she said a very simple phrase. God told her to just get out of the way and let Him meet the needs. He knows what to do. The need is great, but He is greater. Just share what He has given you - pour it out on them and get out of the way.

Overwhelmed, but this time by the love of God for the least of these. Overwhelmed by the desire to wake up and do something....anything. Overwhelmed by the knowledge that God loves these little ones and has spoken a dream into their hearts (have I forgotten that?) Overwhelmed that God wants to use me in this process. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmed.

I wonder if Moses looked at the vastness of the Red Sea and feel overwhelmed, yet he obeyed when God told him to hold up his rod. Did Joseph look around at the prison cell he sat in and yet still hear God speak to him about that dream he'd had so long ago? Did Nehemiah look out at the city that was torn to ruins and feel overwhelmed, and yet hear God tell him to go rebuild the walls.  Surely Peter must have looked at the stormy waters and felt overwhelmed - yet Jesus told him to step out. I wonder if even Jesus, when he looked at the cross that was before Him, feel overwhelmed, yet He went forward still.

Maybe it's time we felt overwhelmed not by the impossibleness of the task, but by the power of our Lord that calls us to it. That dream - the one you thought could never possibly be because it was just too overwhelming...maybe it's not so overwhelming after all. The needs He allows you to see, the ones you hope someone else will meet...maybe they are there for YOU to see so that God can work through YOU. 

The things you never thought you could do simply because you felt so inadequate and they seemed so overwhelming....Maybe it's time to realize that the things that look so overwhelming to us are not nearly as huge as the overwhelming love and power of our God. How overwhelming is that love? Remember the feeling you got the first time you looked into your child's eyes and thought no one had ever felt a love this great? Well that is only a small grain of sand compared to the vastness of God's love for us. (Yeah, I know - impossible to wrap you mind around, isn't it.)

I don't pretend to understand how so much evil can exist in the world today...all I know is that now I am overwhelmed with the knowledge that somehow God wants to use me to take back that which the enemy has stolen.

I try not to think too much about the "how" - since that overwhelms me. It's sort of like standing too long at the end of the high dive and looking down. Do that long enough and you'll talk yourself out of diving in at all...the kiddie pool looks like a much safer place to be. I'm thinking it's time to stop thinking so much and just walk to the end of the board and dive in. Then I can be overwhelmed by the depth of God's love instead of fear. That sounds live an overwhelmed I can live with.

Psalm 139:17-18

The Message (MSG)
Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
      God, I'll never comprehend them!
   I couldn't even begin to count them—
      any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
   Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!

"We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God's messenger. Accepting someone's help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing.

"The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.