Monday, February 17, 2014

I'm Not Perfect, Are You? Part 1

*I started writing this post in the very beginning of February, but only had the first paragraph and a couple sentences of the second written before I got any farther.  So, it's so interesting to me, that just a couple of days later at our Ladies' Seminar a couple of the speakers touched on some of the same ideas I was thinking of for this post.  And then Wednesday night's sermon did the same.  Which was pretty cool!*
**As I'm trying to finish the post, I'm realizing it is getting pretty long, so I have decided to break it up into two parts, so stay tuned for part two. :)**

        This has been on my heart quite a bit lately, and I've even shared these thoughts with others, but I think I have been hesitant to write it, though I'm not exactly sure why.  Sometimes it seems the words just don't want to come, but then I think sometimes it may be somewhere inside they are a bit afraid to come because of the fear of how they will be perceived.  But my blog has been a wonderful place for me to share dealing with the loss of my parents, to share little glimpses of my school life, to vent about things, to share some current events that have moved me, to help me with the loss of friends and loved ones, and sometimes just to share some silly things.  Well, as I write this post, honestly, I'm struggling.  It's hard to admit that, because I fear people may just automatically assume it's because I am not spiritually where I need to be.  But if we were honest with ourselves...are any of us?  We all have things to work on to be where we should be spiritually.  None of us have it all together.  I have to say it has helped me so much lately to talk to some real people, some that have struggled with loss, or loneliness, or fear, or heartache over loved ones, or concern for the future, and other hardships.  We shared some real and honest struggles we have felt, and it was a blessing.  And some of the best, most helpful blogs I have read lately are some where the bloggers didn't try to act like they had it all together. They were just honest and put some of their real feelings out there.  And what a help and encouragement they were to my soul!
        I would love for this post to be an encouragement to someone else.  But that would mean some real talk, and possibly even some transparency.  And as I stated earlier, sometimes that makes me a little timid.  But as I said I have been thinking of this for a while, and even after talking to some of those friends recently, it has brought it even more to mind to go ahead and share this.
        I have been struggling lately....struggling with sadness, discontentment, fear, jealousy, loneliness, frustration, and other things.  I'm sure the proper Christian responses are already forming in some minds to help me "fix" this, but I know them, too.  I know- the joy of the Lord is my strength; that in whatever state I'm in, I need to learn to be content; that when I'm afraid I need to trust Him; He hasn't given me the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind; I shouldn't covet, or want what others have, God has a plan for me, I need to rest in that, I just need to trust Him and wait on Him, and again be content; He promises never to leave me or forsake me, He is always there; when my mind is stayed on Him, He gives perfect peace.  I know these things, many of us do, and they are wonderful, and spiritual, and can be extremely helpful.  But sometimes when a person is really struggling and hurting and in so much pain, these can be more harmful than helpful. Sometimes these thoughts just make the person going through some hard struggles feel worse...like they are wrong for not having it all together...for not being that perfect Christian who wouldn't dare let these things get to them.  That's hard to live up to, and many times that is how we turn people away.
        Melinda Cazis, one of the speakers at our Ladies' Seminar said something that was just so good.  In one of her workshop sessions she said one of the things that is really dangerous, and really hurts a church is perfect people...people that act like they have it all together.  She said that is what often keeps people out of our churches because they feel as if they can't measure up.  That is also what sometimes discourages new or young Christians, and even some older ones for that matter.  But then, I also have been thinking lately that this is what many times turns our kids off.  Now I know we don't want to glorify our struggles to kids, but letting them know that we do have struggles, too, might just help them feel a bit normal.  It's hard enough to feel that with so many pressures from all around them each day.  It might also help them to realize we are normal, we're not super Christians that they have to work so hard to "catch up" to.  We are very similar to them in some of our struggles.  I know that's what I enjoyed about the other blog posts I mentioned earlier, it was just so comforting to know that someone else felt, thought, and struggled like I did.  It helped so much.  So, instead of throwing the proper Christian phrases and verses at people, first just really listen to them...really listen, listen with an open heart, then seek the Lord and listen again, carefully, to know what He might have you say or not say to someone.  Remember Job's friends, at one point Job called them "miserable comforters", let's strive not to be like them.  I talked to one young person recently who was struggling because of circumstances, but ended up struggling more just from people around them.  They have been told they can't be mad at God, that they need to just pray more and read their Bible more, that they have to be thankful even in their tough situation, that they need to get over being upset and hurt, that it's time to move on, etc.  Believe me, I understand the good intentions and ideas behind where these thoughts came from.  I get that they were meant to help and encourage.  But they didn't, they hurt them.  Were people really listening to this young person?  Were they really seeking the Lord about how to properly respond to them?  This person is already mad and upset with God, someone telling them they can't be isn't going to change that, no matter how many times you say it or whatever way you say it.  And doesn't the Lord already know this, too?  He knows the heart.  This person wasn't trying to or even necessarily wanting to be upset with God, so that advice just made them more upset.  This person is obviously struggling, they are not feeling thankful right now, and cannot just easily get over what they are feeling.  I talked to this young person and heard...that they were upset with God because of their situation.  I told them that I couldn't tell them not to be upset because they already were, I couldn't change that, and that God already knew that, too.  But I did tell them that I would pray for them...that they would feel the Lord's love embracing them.  They also told me that they didn't really want to pray, they said when they are upset with people (friends and family), they usually don't want to talk to them, and since they were upset with God they didn't want to talk to Him or pray to Him.  Through God's wisdom I shared with them that if they didn't want to talk, then they could yell or just simply cry out, just like they would sometimes if they decided to finally talk to that friend.  He is our friend, and He can handle it, but at least that way the line of communication stays open, which is so important because Satan doesn't want us to keep that line open.  So I told them, just keep communicating, even if it's not the "traditional" way.  I told them I had done it, I don't like doing it, and don't make it a habit, but it has happened.  I think it shocked them, but it seemed to relax them a little bit.  I think it made them feel sort of normal.  Even with Bible reading, maybe it's not about having them read and find all the answers, but to start them off reading some of the struggles people had first, then let the Lord take over and show Himself to them, and how He helped those people make it through.  There are so many stories of struggles and heartaches that God put in His Word for us to read, and to learn from.  It wasn't to show us how "all-together" these people were, because they certainly weren't, but it was to show us what He could make of their messes, and their struggles.  He wants to do the same for us, but if we have it all together, then we don't need Him.  He uses these examples to remind us of how much we do need Him.  But I also think He shows us that not every one comes to that same point, at the same time or in the same way.  And He didn't always say the things that it was thought that He should say.  He was a great example at meeting people at their point of need.  May we strive to be like Him.
Lord, You know I desire for the things I write in this post to honor You.  I know you've put this on my heart, and I pray that I shared this first part in the way You would have me to.  And I pray the next post will do the same.
     

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Snow Games

As I woke up in the morning, there was anticipation in the air.  I knew what the day was, and what was going to be expected of me.  I got up and got my little girl Bella dressed.  Then I got myself appropriately dressed so we could go check things out.  It was just as they had said, there was a cold, windy, biting chill in the air.  I took Bella out for a little bit to take care of business and to get a little taste of what it was really like out there.  I quickly convinced Bella to go back inside, I knew she was too little to be out in those elements for too long.  I was going to have to be the one to handle the situation, and take on the challenge.  After I got some nourishment and a little rest, I decided it was time to go out and participate in what I could hear was going on all around me.  There were scraping sounds and motorized sounds filling the air.  I went out, chose my weapon of choice...a shovel, and got to work.  I felt strong, and felt that things were off to a great start.  I was getting through the snow at what I felt was a good pace.  I wasn't going to let it get the best of me, and it wasn't.  Not long after being out there a different element came into play...the wind.  The wind came hard and made me wonder if I was going to make it.  It was trying to bite through my coat, hat, hood, pants, and especially my gloves.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to continue on, or if the wind was going to win out.  As I kept going...determined, I realized the wind was not going to win out.  I was stronger than the wind, it really wasn't as bad as I had originally thought.  I could do this!  But then came a new mountain of snow that I needed to think about getting through.  I needed to conquer it early because it was just going to put more of that snow on my driveway.  I also had to think about a new weapon for this new challenge.  For this challenge the weapon I chose was a broom.  This was a great choice and was getting through the new challenge well.  Once that challenge was complete, I could continue on in my plight to finish this driveway.  I went back to my original weapon, my shovel.  I was doing well, still feeling strong.  Then another element was thrown at me, at a certain point in this game, the sun started shining brightly down on me.  That brought a new challenge; a horrible challenge, an awful challenge, my toughest challenge yet... sweat.  Now sweat for me is a game changer.  Right away it breaks me down, makes me want to quit and go right inside to get a shower.  So, I really had to determine to either stick it out or take a break for a few minutes, which would probably include a shower, which would mean spending more time inside, which would make it harder to want to head back outside (at least not any time soon).  At that moment, as I'm trying to make that tough decision, I hear something in the distance.  As I stop and listen closer I realize, it's my little girl, Bella inside the house screaming for me.  Her curiosity was getting the better of her and she was anxious to know how I was faring in the game.  I wanted...needed for her to know I was doing just fine, so I brought her out with me for a little bit so she could see for herself.  Again, I only let it be for a few minutes...I didn't want her out in that for too long, I didn't want her to get all worked up about the others around us who had also chosen to take on the challenge, and...I just simply needed to finish.  I was doing this for her, and for myself, of course...but for her, so she could confidently leave the house and not have to be confined to only a few feet of space to comfortably move.  I brought her back inside, but that little time with her gave me that extra boost of energy that I needed to keep going strong.  I got through the biting wind, handled the mountain of car snow wisely, pushed myself through the awful sweat challenge, and now I was almost finished with this game.  But the Town had one more challenge to throw my way to try to keep me from finishing.  Big orange monsters with shovels much bigger than mine were sent out to throw me off.  They would grab more snow...chunks of it, and push it right onto my finish line.  Did I have enough left to handle these extra mounds...these large, chunky mounds of snow?  Well, I was surely going to try, I was almost finished, may as well just keep going.  I kept going, although my shovel was no match for theirs, I felt that I wielded it well and started making my mark in those mounds.  Through the wind, the sun, and the sweat, I kept plugging away.  It seemed as if it would get the better of me, but I knew I was strong enough.  I could do it, I could beat this.  I kept chipping away.  It was heavy, and there was lots of it, but I wasn't going to give up.  I had a point to make...the Town and their big orange monsters couldn't break me down.  I would finish, I was determined, I kept plugging and chipping away...and finally, I did!  I finished strong!  I had conquered the elements and challenges and was able to come out on top...victorious!  The games were over for me, and there was not going to be a part 2.  I fought, finished, conquered, and came out strong!  I was a victorious winner of...The Snow Games!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - What a Year It's Been!

I can't believe I'm sitting here looking at the end of another year...another year that has gone by so fast!  I've never been a huge New Year's person, getting really excited or making resolutions, it's just not quite me.  And a little over five years ago, I was a little nervous as to what the New Year might bring, and just 19 days after the New Year, the most important man in my life, my wonderful, loving dad passed away from complications with leukemia and diabetes.  That was tough, a tough way to start out the year.  But then the years after were filled with concern for my mom, as she was never quite the same after my dad passed.  Then we found out that she had Alzheimer's.  And each year, it was the concern of what that year would bring, would there be any stabilization, would it get worse, would there be anything that we could do to slow it down? And then as she got worse, the question became, is this going to be the year she loses her battle and I lose my best friend, and sweet mom.  And just four years after dad's death, mom passed away from that dreadful disease.  So, it's hard to say I'm excited, but then it is nice to think of a fresh, new slate to work with, and of leaving behind some of the sadness and stresses from the past year.  But I do always find it interesting to think back on some of the moments of the past year.
2013 started off with me still struggling with the death of my mom, and not long after her death, the sadness of my friend Erin passing, and the awful tragedy of Sandy Hook.  Things started off OK, though...got back into the swing of school, made it through the 5th anniversary of my dad's death, and mom's first birthday in heaven, and then my first birthday without her.  It was a bit strange celebrating with no immediate family for the very first time in my life, but I was treated very well, and spoiled by my kids at school, and my friends.  It was pretty special!
Then came March, and my heart broke again in ways I couldn't imagine as my dear friend Angie passed away unexpectedly!  It was devastating!  I didn't know I had that many more tears in me after my mom's death...but boy did I!  I miss her so much every day!  We did some special things to remember her, and special things for her family, which were helpful to us as well.  But of course the school year went on.  There were many things still to come, Fine Arts, the Amerathon, the play, the banquet, and then graduation.  Things ended well, and I was more than happy to have my summer vacation.  I was very tired...emotionally and physically exhausted.  I was excited, but yet very sad, as I would be spending the summer without my companion, my friend, my sweet mom.  I really missed her!
Then financial troubles started coming my way, things that were so discouraging because there was no quick, easy fix for them, and they weren't getting better or going away.  And there wasn't much I could do about them.  It wasn't just one or two little things, it was one thing after another, after another.  So, I couldn't do much, but I worked at the school, and then spent the rest of the time at home so I wouldn't be spending any extra money.  So, though I got rest, it still wasn't a very restful summer, with so many things on my mind.  There were other heartaches and sorrows over the summer as well that just made things hard, sad.  Then not too far from the new school year starting I found out my job description would be different, and that scared me quite a bit.  First, I have never taught a combined class before, whereas the other teachers all had.  Second, I would have that tough class again, and add another interesting class to it.  Third, there were going to be 19 of them!  Yes, I was quite nervous!  But as I've had to do so many times in the past year... several years, I had to learn to put my trust in the Lord.  Now don't get me wrong, I didn't do it all cute and spiritual-like.  I'm sadly not that good!  I did it with a little decent bit of kicking and screaming, but just telling the Lord, no matter how upset, or worried, or afraid I was of what He was doing to me, that I was going to try to trust Him.  That's all I could say, Lord, I'm trying and I need to know that You know that I'm trying!  There was a blessing that came out of that conversation, too.  The Lord allowed me to find something that was able to help in one of my financial situations.  So, I was able to know that He knew that I was TRYING to trust Him.  The school year started, and it has been an interesting one.  As I thought, my classes are quite colorful personalities, and we are all learning a lot this year.  But not far into this school year, I had some more heartbreaking news as our wonderful, fun-loving, kind, caring girl's basketball coach passed away unexpectedly.  Another tough time for our school, and the kids.  Another tough time for another family trying to process this loss.  But again we have been pressing on.  And here we are halfway through this school year, and at the end of 2013 with it's many ups and downs.
As usual, I don't know (none of us does) what this year holds in store for me, but I will just try to stick with the truth that I learned this summer, and just try to trust.  But you know what, I hope I can do better than that, and just simply trust.  I'm very human, though, and not always that good.  Hopefully though, I can remember the Lord loves me and wants the best for me, though sometimes I don't see or understand what He is doing...
....but Lord, help me to simply trust You this year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Relationships

This is definitely the time of year when relationships are strongly recognized.  Whether it's family relationships (immediate and extended), friend relationships, work relationships, church family relationships, romantic relationships... Then there are other kinds that come to light as well...old relationships, new relationships, new relationships that have put a strain on old relationships, and even broken or lost relationships. Most people have many if not all of these different relationships.  This time of year is when some of these relationships become very prevalent. People coming or going home to be with family.  Friend relationships connecting or reconnecting to enjoy time together. Work relationships celebrating with parties, gifts, or eating out.  Church family relationships growing through special times and services.  Many couples become engaged around this beautiful time of year.
It's everywhere!  Most Christmas movies are about relationships of some kind.  Walking around the malls or stores you see families enjoying (most of the time:) the season together.  You see young and old couples strolling along, holding hands taking in the sweet, magical enjoyment of this time of year.  You see moms and dads with their little ones willing to wait in long lines to get that special picture with Santa, or moms and dads by themselves trying to get as many special things as they can for their precious little ones.  You see friends getting together for coffee and shopping and fun.  You even hear it in many of the Christmas songs that are playing all around.  It really is everywhere!  It shows how important relationships really are. They mean so much to us in our daily lives.
But we can't forget that there are some who are dealing with broken, strained, or lost relationships.  Sometimes because of hurts or wrongdoings or differences in opinion, or even because of death.  Some are saddened to have a strained relationship to deal with that they didn't have last year, and it will be a little difficult for them.  Or maybe for someone it's just a broken relationship, maybe it's been broken for a long time or maybe it's very new.  It could be in family relationships, which would make the whole "family" feel of the season very difficult for them in some aspects.  Maybe it's a broken friendship or a broken romantic relationship, either way it is a struggle and often quite difficult to deal with.  Then there are the lost relationships- husbands and wives who have lost their spouses, brothers and sisters who have left siblings heartbroken, parents who have lost their precious children, and children who have lost their incredible, irreplaceable parents.  These are all very difficult things...and it doesn't matter if it has been years or is pretty recent, it still has a very strong affect this time of year.  There will always be that sense as some look around them that they are missing one or more of those key relationships, and it can be very painful, and very hard to deal with...and that's OK.  There just needs to be understanding.  When people are missing certain relationships that fact just seems to get magnified at this time of year.  Don't judge, just understand that some people go home to an emptier house than usual, missing special people that made their past Christmases so memorable.  Some people are missing family and friends that used to be a part of that special day, and it is difficult without them.  Some are missing family and friends that would love to be there to be a part of these special times, but are not able to right now.  Some never got to even know the precious, sweet relationships they lost, but will always hold them in their hearts, and with so much focus on the joy of children this time of year, that makes it difficult for them.  These people are not just looking for a load of sympathy, but just wanting people to understand even in all of the joy of the season, there are moments...many times just in the confines of that special place called home where memories were made or had hoped to be made, that people are struggling, and they just need prayer and understanding.
There is one thing that helps...and that is the most important relationship of all.  The relationship that we can have with our Heavenly Father.  It's through Him that our ability to have relationships even exists.  But He especially wants to have a close relationship with us.  Even He understands and has sympathy, He tells us to come to Him when we are heavy laden with burdens, cares, and struggles.  He wants to give us rest.  He tells us to cast our struggles and cares on Him because He cares about us.  He knows we're going to struggle, He just doesn't want us to forget that He is there for us in those moments, and He wants us to come to Him, to look to Him, to rely on Him, and keep growing closer to Him.
So cultivate and enjoy your relationships, don't take them for granted, enjoy each moment because they go too quickly.  Pray for broken or strained relationships to be restored or strengthened according to His will.  We need each other and need to be there for each other.  Pray for those who are dealing with lost relationships, sometimes all they need is just prayer.  But most of all cherish that greatest relationship, let Him provide comfort, peace, joy, and rest in His loving arms.
Lord, this has personally been a bit of a tough Christmas season for me...watching Christmas specials, seeing sweet commercials, hearing the beautiful Christmas music, seeing so many different relationships, all the while really missing those key relationships in my life.  The ones I share the most Christmas memories, laughter and fun times with.  I do know that You are the main reason for this wonderful season, but You also made my heart to miss those special relationships that meant so much to me.  Thank You for them, and for the time I had them, and I pray for my other relationships to be what You would have them to be...most especially my relationship with You!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chapel Lesson - Awesome Lesson

It's funny, it has been a crazy day, and I just knew today that I needed to take some time to write.  It helps me so much when I do.  I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.  I had to write about the chapel lesson the Lord gave to me for last week.  The reason that that is funny to me, is because I just looked at the title to my last post and it's a similar theme, but I didn't even realize it until I looked at the title just now.
Last week I was asked if I would be willing to do the first chapel of the school year for elementary.  I LOVE chapel, love to do chapel, so of course I said I would be willing.  But once I said that, then I had to think and pray about what I should talk about.  On the way home from church Wednesday night, the Lord brought to mind something about new things, beginnings, starting, and growing.  Then the neatest thing happened!  He just randomly (which was of course not random for Him...just for me :) brought to mind my plants, specifically my spider plant.  A couple of years ago, one of my students brought in a spider plant for me as a gift.  I was so excited, I love plants and we used to have spider plants when I was growing up, so it was cool to have my own now.  That spider plant has grown a lot since she gave it to me, I even have two new plants that I have grown from the one she gave me...and there are still some other small plants hanging from the original that I need to replant.  But the Lord made me think of that plant and also brought a great lesson to mind thinking about that plant.  Here it is:
It's a new school year, students are in new classes, with new friends, and even a new elementary teacher this year.  And even some of us have new roles this year.  With all the newness, it made me think of what a clean slate the beginning of a new year holds.  Some students are just starting school for the first time ever, they have to learn to get up in the morning and be ready for a school day.  Others are in new grades learning new things from last year.  It might cross some of our minds to think, man, I wish I was back home, or back in kindergarten, or back in the previous grade where it was easier.  But if that were the case we wouldn't be able to grow and learn.  The Lord didn't intend for us to stay in one grade and never to learn more or grow more.  He has a plan for our lives.  This spider plant is a neat plant because of the leaves and how they grow, but also because from the main plant, some smaller plants also grow.  (I showed them the spider plant with the smaller plants hanging from it)  These smaller plants have been hanging off of my main spider plant for several months now.  They have not done much.  They haven't grown much, just a little, but there is not much to notice about them because they are just hanging from the main plant.  They are probably comfortable just hanging, they are getting there nourishment from the main plant.  The problem is, these smaller plants are not much of a help to the bigger plant because they are taking some of the nutrients and nourishment from the main plant.  Plus, I know that these smaller plants can become so much more if I do something to them.  What I would need to do to them, may seem cruel, and may not be pleasant for the young plant, but I know that in the end it will make the smaller plants absolutely beautiful!  I need to cut the smaller plants from the main plant.  Of course plants don't have feelings like we do, but when we think of things being cut, we think of pain.  Sometimes in our lives this is what the Lord needs to do for us.  He needs to cut us...cut us from where we are comfortable, cut us...to make us grow and be more beautiful and useful for Him.  I don't like to be uncomfortable, I don't like change very much, but there are times in my life, before and now, where the Lord has had to cut me from my comfortable place.  He had something more for me, and the only way that He could produce that was to cut me from where I was.  These smaller plants have looked the same for months, they haven't grown much, and really are not of much value just hanging off of the larger plant.  Me, being the plant caretaker, I know the best thing for me to do is to cut them off, and replant them on their own.  When that happens, it's tough at first because those smaller plants have to learn to get their own nutrients from the soil, they have to learn to get used to a new place and to stand strong on their own.  It's not easy at first, but then they get used to it and realize what they need to do to survive.  And once that happens, they thrive in their new environment, and grow beautifully.  (I then pull out of a bag one of the smaller plants that I cut from the year before that has grown beautifully into a new, vibrant, healthy plant)  This is a plant that used to look just like these smaller plants, there wasn't much to it at first.  When I put it in the soil, it took a bit for it to get used to it's new surroundings and new life apart from the main plant.  But it did get used to it, it did survive, and it is a beautiful, thriving plant.  And from this new plant, in the future it will produce some smaller plants that it will help start out until I as the planter cut them to grow on their own.  We are at the start of a new school year.  We have a lot of new things to learn, learning letters and how to write them and say them correctly for the first time for some...to starting to have homework for others...to learning multiplication and division, to learning about different countries, and many other things.  We as teachers hope by the end of this year, you all will have grown.  We expect you to grow physically...taller, maybe wider for some :).  We expect you to grow academically...learning all the things you need to learn before you go on to the next grade to learn more.  But more importantly than those things, we, as Christian school teachers hope and pray that you will each grow spiritually...closer to the Lord, knowing and understanding more things about Him, so you can share them, and help others to grow in Him as well.  The Lord has cut us from where we were, and He is challenging us to grow in the new places He has "planted" or placed us.  He wants us to learn to adjust so we can grow beautiful and healthy in Him, and for Him.
(This chapel lesson was such a lesson for me, the Lord used it to really speak to my heart as well, as I shared it with the students.)
Lord, thank you for bringing this lesson to mind when I asked You for something.  And thank you for using something so simple to help teach your truths.  Kindergarten all the way through Sixth grade, and even on up to us as teachers, could all relate and understand this wonderful lesson.  Thank You for what You taught me as You brought these thoughts to my mind for me to use for chapel.  Help me to remember this important lesson, You know this is a struggle for me, so bring me back often to the spider plant to remind me that You want to make something beautiful of me for You.  I may not always like the process, but the outcome is always amazing and beautiful!  Help me remember!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cutting and Growing

It has been a loooong week!!!  A bit stressful, a bit crazy, a bit emotional...just lots going on.  It was just one of those weeks where one thing after the other was knocking me down...taking the wind out of me.  One of those weeks where Satan kept trying to get the best of my mind and my spirit.  One of those weeks where it was just a struggle to try to keep going.  One of those weeks where so many things were weighing heavy on my heart.  One of those weeks that exhausts you physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  One of those weeks that just seemed as if it would never end.  Well, it's Friday, and here I am at the end of this long, crazy, stressful, emotional, hot week!
Of course that has nothing at all to do with me, the Lord helped me through, even though there were some times this week where I wasn't sure if He was helping me at all.  Times where I was just feeling so beat up, pushed down, on the verge of drowning with no help in sight.  Then came yesterday!
 I read one of my devotions that I have set up on my phone that was titled "When You Are Weak, He Is Strong".  And one of the lines that stood out to me was, "Stop focusing on your weaknesses...focus on His strength."  I was definitely focusing on those weaknesses this week.  Thinking of my failures and how weak I felt, but forgetting that when I am weak, He is strong, and is my strength. Then Psalm 50:15 popped out at me yesterday morning as well, "And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."  I called out to Him and claimed that promise that He would deliver me.  I want to glorify His name and tell of the wonderful things He has done, but when Satan is constantly attacking and feeding me lies that's a hard thing to be able to do.  I love how God works, though, because then I hopped on Facebook for a bit, and one of the first posts I saw was from author Michelle McKinney Hammond, she wrote, "In spite of how you feel choose to praise.  Exchange the garment of heaviness for something lighter. Worship your way through the storm. #trust."  That definitely got my attention! Just minutes later she posted again, "If you are having a face pressed to the floor kind of day.  First, you are not alone.  Second, this too shall pass.  Wait before God. #trust."  And a few minutes later, this one that I truly loved..."Even if u can't see anything different happening in yr life. Anticipate it.  A lot goes on beneath the surface before you see a flower #trust." Isn't that good?  And a little later..."Anticipate God's best even when u can't see it.  Embrace His love even when u can't feel it.  Trust His Word even when u can't hear it. #trust."  Those were some of the exact feelings I had been struggling with!  No, I'm not done yet, these next two were hitting me right where I was as well..."Doubt is the devils way of distracting you from God's promises.  Speak faith to your soul and override his voice with worship. #trust." and "The devil specializes in making us question God.  It is a futile attempt to steal the joy of your salvation. Don't go there! #trust #Faithful."  Whoa!!! Love that, "Don't go there!" :)  Boy, did I need all of that!  The Lord woke me and got my attention for sure.  There were others, too, that were such a blessing that I will share at the end.  I definitely started to speak some of those truths and words to the Lord...and to Satan, reminding him that my mind didn't belong to him, but to God.
As I went to work that morning, some of those stresses that I had been so burdened with earlier were not looming so heavy on me anymore.  And at school I get to work with such amazing ladies that I couldn't focus on those negative things anymore.  Then Mama G and I got to talking and she was just randomly started telling me about the plant she had in the window.  It is a really neat looking plant that I have always liked. She started telling me that when she got it, it was pretty much dead.  She just started to cut the stems back a little and it started doing just fine.  She said she just recently had to cut it back a little bit again, and then she said, "Yea, I had to cut it, because then it gives it the strength to grow."  Right after she said that God jolted my mind and I looked at her and said, "Wow, that is a great spiritual lesson right there!"  And when she thought about it, she agreed and we both ended up with goose bumps!  We ended up sharing some things with each other, and were able to encourage one another!  I'll tell you, I don't like the cutting, I don't crave it or seek it, but I guess it just helps me to think and know that through that I can have the strength to grow in Him!  What could be more special!
Lord, you know this week has been a tough one for me!  You've been there through it all, though, I'm sorry I know at times I complained to You that I didn't think You were.  Satan was getting the best of me. I was weak. Thank You for breaking through to speak to me Your truth through Your Word and through others that you allowed to be a blessing.  It's hard to go through these times, and I don't like them.  I know they'll come again, but thank You for a little reprieve from Satan's strong attacks.  And thank You for encouraging me! Help me remember these truths!

More posts from Michelle McKinney Hammond:
"I shatter the power of discouragement over you today.  Take courage that God is God and is able to do what He has promised."
"Have a blessed day anticipating God's best for you.  Never settle for less.  Hope all things.  Believe all things.  God never fails."
"Sometimes you just have to talk to yourself.  Say self, God is faithful, no matter what. Bless the Lord.  Anticipate a miracle."
"Sometimes when you can't stand on the promises of God you need to cling to them.  It's always darkest before the dawn."
"You have to go through the storm to get to the rainbow.  So wait for the light. It's on the way.  Rest assured.  This too shall pass."
Amen! :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Learning From the Potter

So it is officially summer, has been for about a week now. (Well, a couple of weeks now.  You can see it's taken me a little bit to get this finished.)  It's nice to have a break.  I did get a bit emotional on that last day of school, but it didn't seem to be as much as I usually do.  I was so ready to be done as I said before.  Things ended well, and after going back the next day to finish cleaning my room, I was officially finally on my break.  Saturday was busy with graduation parties, and Sunday was church of course.  So Monday was my day to be completely knocked out...and I was!  My exhaustion certainly caught up to me, it's been a full year of constantly being on the go, constant struggles, constant emotion.  I was very thankful for a couple of days where I just chose not to think about anything or worry about anything, but just to sit back and relax a little.  Yet, my heart was still so heavy from sadness and stress from the past year.  Instead of time to be still and know that He is God, Satan was definitely taking this time and using my mind as his playground.  It was and is, a struggle.  "What am I doing wrong?"  "Have you forgotten me?"  "Why do I see other people getting blessed?"  "When will I get my blessing?"  "When will I see my prayers answered?"  "Don't you see my struggles...feel my pain...hear my cry...see the faith I'm trying to have.......care??"  I had seen some great blessings, on the last day of school, not only did I get some wonderful gifts from my kids, but I also for some reason received a generous anonymous gift from people that wanted to be a blessing to me!  It was such an amazing surprise!  It was a huge blessing!  I had also been finding some great encouragement through my devotions.  Yet, in the back of my mind, the struggles and questions still rose.  It was hard to quiet them.
I had been invited to go hear a friend share what the Lord has taught and shown him through pottery.  I had been invited by him before, but had never been able to make it, but this time I did.  I was really looking forward to it and knew it would be neat to see, and would be such a help to me.  I sat with some other friends who were also there, they had been before, but brought a group of their church teens with them.  They warned me that I may need some tissues.  I did have a couple on hand, but sweet Natalie gave me her packet of tissues in case I needed more, which she figured I would. (She knows me well :)  Right from the start I was amazed at what I was hearing and needed my tissues.  The potter talked about where the clay came from, which I never knew, was the swamp.  But he started working with the clay to get it ready and as he did so, he was constantly pushing it down, applying pressure. He related that to our lives and how the Lord applies pressure to our lives as well.  The reason the potter does this is to help bring the impurities to the surface and get rid of them.  He related that to how the Lord works in our lives.  We don't like the pressure, it hurts, but it is a special time for Him to work with us and help us.  And though we may be screaming that it hurts and telling Him that we want Him to stop applying that pressure, He gently tells us just to hold on.  He is doing it because He knows the final outcome and how beautiful that will be.  He has a plan that goes beyond the pressure to something more useful, but He has to do this necessary part first.  Then the potter even said, this may be when we ask, "Why do I see others getting blessed and why am I not seeing blessings?"  Wow!  Just the things I needed to hear!  The potter then showed how he puts the clay on the wheel, making sure it's centered.  It takes some work to keep it centered because it isn't the natural reaction when the clay gets on that wheel.  The Lord works hard to center us, too, and to keep us centered in Him.  But then another part that I found so interesting was that when he started to make the pot, he mentioned that he needed to get into the heart of the clay.  He pushed his fingers into the center.  He said he had to get into the heart of it, so that way he could build it up.  Then he started shaping it, working on the inside and outside to build it up as much as he could.  The Lord gets into our hearts so He can build us up in Him.  Even through that process it took some pressure and some careful time.  Once he got the height he wanted he started to shape the pot the way he wanted to.  He said as he worked with the clay, he could picture what he wanted it to look like, he could see his plan for it.  That's the way the Lord sees us, though we can't see His grand plan, He knows.  It amazed me how almost precious that piece of clay seemed to the potter, he really took time and care with it to make it become what he wanted it to be.  It made me think of the Lord with me, He does care, all of these struggles are going to make me more of what He wants me to be.  I don't know what that exactly is, but He does, and that's why He is working hard, and though it may be painful for me, He is excited because He is starting to see His plan take shape in me.  The potter even mentioned some of the struggles we may face and totally got some of the ones I face.  He said we need to be careful not to be angry at God for things that Satan has done or is doing to us.  He even "scarred" the pot...put some design marks on it.  He said we may have some scars in our lives, but instead of being so ashamed of them,or trying to hide them, we should use them as a testimony to show others how good God is.  Those "scars" are what so many people are attracted to when they look at the pots.  The scars in our lives can attract people to us, so we can show them to Christ.  So many great lessons, and yet there was so much more that he shared and there were some truly deep moments, but they were all beautifully illustrated with this potter and his clay.  I was so touched, as were so many others.  What an incredible journey to see the Lord and His love for me illustrated in this way!  I was beyond blessed and learned so much that I will continue to carry with me!  It was wonderful and I plan to go again another time when he is giving his presentation nearby, and to invite some other friends!  I want to keep those reminders in my mind and hope others who need it will go and be as blessed as I was.  Here's the link so you can take your own little Journey to the Potter's House.  You can also find him on Facebook at Facebook.com/AJourneyToThePottersHouse.



Lord, thank you for this amazing lesson from Dr. Ferris!  Thank you for giving him such wisdom and insight to relay this beautiful message to us in such a special way!  The illustrations were such wonderful learning tools, help me to hold on to them and not forget the things I learned, and that You wanted to teach me through this!  Thank you for loving me and wanting me to be beautiful for you, even if I don't always see it!