Friday, April 25, 2014

Feeling the weight of the wait...

Okay, I admit it. I thought my re-post of my last blog was for someone else. Yeah, right. Like most things I write, they are for me. If anyone else gets anything from them, that's Lagniappe.

Right now, I find myself waiting on revelation as to what to do in some areas of my life. I followed God's lead to the best of my ability and thought it would be an easy process. I did what I knew to do and now I am waiting on what comes next. Waiting on God's timing is never easy, but today I'm really feeling the weight of the wait.

In my head, I know that God's timing is perfect, that He knew every one of my days before even one of them came to be, that He knows what the plan is even if I haven't got a clue. That's in my head...but my heart feels heavy, wondering what's up.

I'm not really good at waiting. I live life at high speed and I always like to know what's coming. I want to know step by step directions with the assurance that if I do "x" then "y" will happen, don't really have time for waiting. But life doesn't work that way. Life has all these pesky variables and the fact that things do not necessarily revolve around what I want. Oh, please tell me I'm not the only one who deals with these flaws in my nature.

I'm trying to make the best of the "waiting" but not sure how well I'm doing. While I'm not sure what God has in store, I do know that each day He places before me the opportunity to serve Him by serving others. I do not know what tomorrow holds; but He is already there, and it will surely be an adventure. It always is.

This blog will be incredibly short simply because I have not yet come to any real answers. All I know is that I will wait and trust that God knows what is best for me and my family far better than I do. I will do my best to lift the wait up to Him and I trust that in the process, God will make me strong...cause that's what happens when you work out with waits. (Yes, I do know I used the wrong one here! It went against the English teacher in me, but I just couldn't resist the pun.)

I'll keep you posted....

Isaiah 40:27 - 31

The Message (MSG)
27-31 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Stop...and waiting on God to say Go

After a conversation last night with a friend who was waiting on her "perfect job" I recalled a similar time in my own life and this blog written about 3 years ago. I am still learning to rejoice in where God has me, knowing that my future truly is in His hands. Knowing that allows me to live each day looking for how I can serve....and I love it.

We have all been there. We want something so very much, but the answer is "No." The sting is real. The hurt aches just as much as a punch to the stomach. Your shoulders drop, your smile fades, and you are left standing there as the crowd moves away and goes back about their business. You feel as if you have failed. Today I received a "No" and I will be honest. It hurts. The enemy tries to use it to nibble away at my confidence and cause me to just give up. But I'm learning...."No" is not always such a bad thing to hear.

For example, there was the job I tried for over and over again, only to be told "No" each time. Then one day, after deciding I was just fine where I was, I felt that nudge to try one more time. To step out in faith and rely totally on Him. He would lead where He wanted me to go. So I tried...and I got the job. The whole story is a blog for another day.

After I finally got that "yes", however, I had to ask God why. Why now? Why not all the other times I tried. The response I felt in my heart was simple. "Because you weren't ready. I'm taking you into a land of milk and honey...but there are giants in the land. If I had allowed you to go in before, you would have been consumed." Now, I've got to be honest; I really liked all that milk and honey part, but the giant part I could have done without! Once I got the job...I met a few of those giants and I'm so glad God made me wait!

I'm learning....slowly, that "No" is not always a bad thing. How many times in my life has God said "No" and it wasn't till years later that I discovered why? It's as if the word "No", really means - "I love you." It is a way of saying, I've got something much better in mind for you. Oh, we can't imagine it as that because we have our own plans, our own way of viewing success. But as I have to remind myself daily, my thoughts are not God's thoughts. My ways are not God's ways. His way is perfect - fully mature and without flaw or blemish. My ways...well, they are just that - mine.

So for today, I'll take the "no" that I received and choose to rejoice in it. God loves me and He knows I'm not ready yet. Maybe I never will be....but it's really not mine to decide. Once again, His gentle voice says "Trust me." I want my response to be simply "Yes."

Isaiah 55: 8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Some of you may remember this song from years ago...I'm choosing it to be my anthem for today:

Yes, Lord, Yes" - Shirley Caesar
I'll say yes, Lord, yes
To your will and to your way
I'll say yes, Lord, yes
I will trust you and obey
When your Spirit speaks to me
With my whole heart I'll agree
And my answer will be yes, Lord, yes

Lord, I give you all the glory
For what you've done for me (or "for what you've given me")
You fill my life until I overflow
All I have (or "am") is yours to use
Anyway you choose
You're the Lord of lords, so how can I say no?

I'll say yes, Lord, yes
To your will and to your way
I'll say yes, Lord, yes
I will trust you and obey
When your Spirit speaks to me
With my whole heart I'll agree
And my answer will be yes, Lord, yes

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A box to hold the promises...

I am currently working on a "crafty" type of project. I do occasionally find time to do something like this for fun, but this time it is for a definite purpose. I am making a gift for a special young lady who is going through a really hard time. I wanted to give her something that might bring a little comfort and discovered a list of Bible promises in a format that allowed me to insert her name in each one. I hoped it would help in some small way. 

I worked diligently on inserting her name in each promise and prayed for her as I worked. Now all I needed was something to put them in. Finally I decided on the idea of a box. I pretty much knew what I had in mind, but I also knew it would take some time to find the perfect one. It had to be just the right size to hold the promises, not too big nor too small. I wanted it to be ordinary, but kind of special, too. I knew it would have her name on it. 

I made a trip to the local craft store and looked at a number of boxes that were almost right before I found my way over to the unfinished wood section. Truthfully, I had hoped to find one that was already just what I needed, that only required adding her name, but nothing was quite right.  Then there, on the top shelf was a small box with a tiny gold latch that was just right. Well, I say just right. It was totally unfinished.

I walked around until I found embellishments that I could add to the box. Tiny little plaques that represented things she loved. They would fit nicely on the sides. The top would still hold, simply, her name. I came home with my treasures ready to begin the process.

After a call to a friend to find out what her favorite color is, I started the sanding process. Now anyone who knows me knows I don't like the "prep" work. I wanted to get right into the creative part of this. Still, I knew without the sanding, the box would be rough and not at all what I wanted.

I sanded, at times with a really course sand paper, and at times with a fine steel wool. It took a bit of work, but the wood started to feel smooth to the touch. Next I added the first coat of paint, inside and out, trying to get just the right look and shade. Time to sand again. I wanted the box to look old and so that it almost begged to be touched. After each "sanding" I would take a soft cloth and wipe the wood, clearing away the dust. I added a coat of sealer and went to bed.

In the morning, I picked up the box to discover the sealer had actually made the wood rough in spots. Okay, so it hadn't made it rough - it had revealed what I couldn't feel before. Again I got out my steel wool to make the surface touchable again. I added her name to the top and waited for that to dry so that it could also be sanded slightly. Of course, I didn't wait long enough and when I sanded it smeared a bit, requiring touch-ups. Now I sit here waiting for all this to completely dry so that I can add a final seal and the embellishments that will make her smile.

That's when it hit me. I am really doing a lot to make the box special, when the real treasure is inside. I am sanding and painting and smoothing and painting and adding - all so that this box will make her want to reach out and pick it up so that she can find what is inside.

Isn't that a lot like what God does with us for a hurting world around us? He has the promises to deposit in us, but first there is a lot of sanding that has to take place. I have laughed that in my teaching career I find God gives me either the students who need me or the ones that I need; unfortunately what I seem to need most is someone to sand away my rough spots. 

As I sanded that little box, I thought about that process. It was tougher in some places than others - especially those tucked away in a corner and hard to reach. But after each sanding, I rubbed the wood with the softest cloth I could find and then felt the wood to make sure it was smooth. I know I've been through times when I have felt God "sand" me, but immediately after I have felt His touch, His precious touch.

We may have gifts added to our box that make us special to someone, but mostly what makes us special is that our wood is worn and soft to the touch. The edges have been rounded by time, the surface looks worse for wear but at the same time you know that the box will be smooth, ready to be opened to find what treasure lies inside.

I'm taking a lot of time on this box, so that those who see it will want to open it and look inside. Truthfully, it's just a ordinary wooden box, nothing all that special except for the time and love that I've tried to put into it. 

Doesn't that sound like us? The truth is, God allows us to go through things so that others will be drawn to us to find the treasure inside, for that is what is truly important. That is what truly brings comfort to our wounded souls. God is making us into a box to hold His promises to a hurting world...I want to be one that is soft and worn and that begs to be opened. How about you? 

Happy sanding, my friends.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12

The Message (MSG)
7-12 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Easter basket is so full....

This morning I was overwhelmed with a thought - my Easter basket is so full.

Maybe it was because I was thinking, here it is two days before Easter and I haven't even done one thing about putting together a basket for my kids. Of course, since they are both now bigger than me and their thoughts go more toward i-phones and cars than toward chocolate bunnies and peeps, perhaps I can get a pass. Still, I'm not sure I'm ready to let go filling a basket with little goodies for them to wake up to on Easter morning. The question is, what do you fill a basket with for someone who has "everything"?

Somewhere in all this, my mind took a detour. One of the many benefits of being slightly ADD I guess. I got to thinking about, well, EVERYTHING.

My mind wandered to a few years ago after Hurricane Katrina when I lost all my clothes when a tree crashed into my closet. I could choose between my jacket that had pink insulation filling the pockets or the one covered in pine sap and bits of tree bark. Nothing could be salvaged - especially since we were without power and water for over a week. (No way to wash what might remain.) I went to church that week wearing a shift dress I kept in a drawer to use as a beach coverup. That afternoon, two dear friends came driving up to our house, the one with the delightful pine tree decorations plunging through the roof, and brought me clothes. Not just old stuff - some of their best stuff. They shared what they had and suddenly I had an entire wardrobe that was nicer than what I had lost!

My mind flashed to a more recent event when one of those same friends saw me at church and could see the hurt in my eyes. I was feeling overwhelmed at the loss of one of my student's parent. I just didn't really know what to do with the pain. She was there. The next day I got a text letting me know she had been praying for me and my students as we tried to process it all. She is that friend that just somehow senses when you need someone to walk along side you. This isn't the first time I have realized that thanks to her, I don't have to try and do it all on my own. 

Immediately my mind shifted to an event from this week. I was waiting on my son to arrive home from a track meet, and I sat in the school parking lot dealing with thoughts and emotions that threatened to overwhelm. "Who did I think I was?" "You really have nothing to give." "Why do you keep writing that blog? You're not really saying anything anyone needs or wants to hear." "You are old. Anything that you might have once been able to do is past." These thoughts and similar ones kept stinging me like mosquitoes on a hot summer day. They came from no where without warning and left their mark. Just then, my phone lit up. It was a message from another friend who now lives far away sent just to encourage. I cannot tell you how perfect the words were at that moment. It was if she had sat and listened to my thoughts and sent a salve that took the sting and itch out of everyone of those "bites. "

Last night, I sat and looked at facebook and instead of the negative messages that can so often find their way to those pages, I saw faces of families I have been blessed to know through the years. I saw children I once taught who are now adults or close to it. No longer are they in the "larva" stage but they move forward as adults making their mark in the world for God. 

I see my own children who, despite all the mistakes I have made, still tell me they love me. They are gifts I truly do not deserve.

Through all this, I realize, my "basket" is so full to overflowing with gifts, not material ones, but gifts from God. His Grace overflows all around me. 

My eyes are spilling over with tears as I attempt to write this simply because I cannot believe I have been so blessed. 

Now, if I could just figure out a way to fit those same blessings into a basket a teenager will understand, I'd have it made. Somehow, however, I think this kind of basket is best appreciated by one who has lived a while longer than them. I guess I'll just have to go out and find a chocolate bunny...and a gift card they can use with friends so that they can build a basket of their own.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9 - 12
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.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A lesson learned in language class...

Teaching writing can be one of the most rewarding and most frustrating exercises of a teacher's day. The events depicted here represent the type of things teachers go through every day. No need to try and figure out which students I might be talking about, because it represents classes throughout the years and at one time or another it represents us all!

I stood there trying to explain for about the sixth time how my student could improve his introduction to his essay. Every time I tried to explain, he would answer immediately and tell me what he needed to do. "No," I'd shake my head, "that's not what I'm saying." Again I would point out what needed to be corrected only to have him argue with me why what he had was correct. I tried to help him see that he had parts that took away from what he was trying to communicate, to which he argued with me again. Patiently - at least on the outside - I tried to explain again. Nothing seemed to get through. Finally I resorted to writing his sentences on the board and adding corrections so that he could see. I'm certain he was not convinced, but he started to make the necessary changes to his work. 

All I could do was inwardly shake my head. What should have taken only a moment took almost 5 minutes before progress was made. (Honestly - it seemed like it took about 30!)

In another group, students would show me their work and ask me to read it but they wouldn't stop talking! I'd managed to get through about half a sentence and they would start explaining what they had done. I finally had to stop them and help them see I could either listen to them or read their work but I really couldn't do both. We would laugh and muddle through. 

Later in the day, in yet another class, students were calling my name, asking would I read what they had written...they wanted my approval so much that they asked me to read every sentence as they wrote them. I finally got them to understand they needed to write at least a few sentences and then we could check their progress. 

One student who was really dragging his heels in the process finally completed enough that we could check what he had done. I said, "This is pretty good, we just need to look at this one part," to which he hung his head and almost at the point of pouting said, "but I worked really hard on this!" I took a step back, smiled and replied, "I didn't say it wasn't good. You just need to change the word 'buy' to 'bought' because it needs to be past tense." I guess he really didn't want my help, just my approval. He wasn't interested in getting better, just in getting done. He didn't want a teacher; he wanted a cheerleader.

By the end of the day I was exhausted and asking God, "What's the deal? I was very careful to be kind in all my correction. Why was this so difficult?" 

You know where this is going. Through the question and my students, God helped me see myself.

I saw my own life and the way I react to God. He tries to show me what I am doing that is derailing my purpose and I start to argue with Him why what I've added is needed! I start to answer Him with my own reasoning before He even finishes what He has to say. I fix in my mind what needs to be done and then try to convince Him why my way is better than what He is trying to help me see.

Or I go to God and ask Him what He wants me to do but I never stop talking long enough to listen. I'm far too busy explaining to Him what I'm asking - as if He doesn't have a clue.

Or I work "as unto the Lord" and then ask how I've done and when any correction comes I start to pout and complain - "but I worked so hard!" I never hear the words that would make my work stronger because I really don't want to hear anything other than how amazing it is.

In other words, I'm just like my students.

I wonder if I frustrate God. Does He shake His head and wonder why I won't listen to Him when He tries to show me the way...His way. 

Am I so wrapped up in doing things "my way" that I am not listening? Do I pray and talk right through His answer? Do I call Him Master and Lord and yet continue to do things "my way" because the truth is I think I know best?

I learn a lot from my students...and for that I am thankful.

Luke 6:46 (NIV)

 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

Luke 6:46-47 (MSG)

46-47 “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)

5-6 Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.

Proverbs 14:12 (MSG)

12-13 There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough;
    look again—it leads straight to hell.
Sure, those people appear to be having a good time,
    but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.