Sunday, July 20, 2014

Life...in Perspective

Can't help but put life in perspective with so many of the things I have heard about this week.  Earlier in the week I heard news about a couple of people I had already been praying for who are sick with cancer, that both situations have worsened a bit.  Situations so different, yet in some sense similar.  One is a man I don't know at all, but I've heard wonderful things about him from friends whose lives he has greatly touched.  He is a great pastor, a devoted husband and loving dad to two daughters, I believe.  He found out that he had pancreatic cancer about a month ago, and the doctors have only given him months to live.  He just recently walked one daughter down the aisle, and the other daughter is getting married in August and prayerfully he will be able to do the same.  What a sad and difficult time I'm sure this must be for him and his family.  I read a recent blog post and he is just trusting the Lord for whatever His plans are.  He loves the Lord and would love to see Him and be with Him, but he also loves His wife and children and would love to have more time with them.  But He knows God's plans are best even when we may not understand them.  
The other situation is a young lady, in her early 30's, who I had the chance to meet at church and have talked to a couple of times.  She was very sweet and I enjoyed meeting her and her mom, when they came to church with another friend.  She is a great doctor, she was engaged to be married, but sadly things didn't work out, so she is just a young single woman.  She recently found out that she has bone cancer.  She was living on her own in a really nice place until she got too sick to continue living on her own, and now she is back home with her mom.  They are living each day one day at a time, traveling every week or every other to get treatment from a cancer center.  As a side note, I was able to be so blessed by her.  When she had to move back in with her mom she decided to get rid of lots of things.  She was giving things to the Goodwill, but told my friend to check with people from church or to check with anyone else she might know who might be able to use some things.  My friend thought of me and I was able to get some great clothes, shoes, bags, house decorations, a couple of outside planters, seeds, and garden tools.  I came away with so many things, not just things that I wanted, but many that I needed and now I didn't have to worry about going out to spend money on those things.  It was truly a blessing to me!  Each of these situations are so different.  One a pastor with a family, who probably doesn't have a whole lot, but has a family and a church family that he loves dearly.  The other a single young lady with a great job, and someone who could afford nice things, but also loves her family dearly.  Both are saved, and both realize the most important things are not things, but the people that God has given to them to love.  Both are finding ways to accept this path that God has chosen for them and to live the rest of their moments to the fullest with the people they hold dear close to them.    
After hearing updates on these two people and thinking of their families and praying for them, I then heard of a terrible tragedy on the news.  Almost 300 people were on a Malaysian airliner headed to Kuala Lumpur when it went down in the Ukraine.  All those lives were lost.  Some of the stories of the people put life in perspective.  Sadly, there were about 80 children on that flight. (Being someone who loves kids, that broke my heart!)  One family of three kids was just heading back home to see their parents after traveling with their grandfather.  There were young couples recently married, young college students, and even many AIDS researchers on that flight.  What an awful tragedy for these families to now endure, such senseless loss of life! 
On Wednesday I was thinking of things in a different way.  I got to hold a miracle when I was in the baby nursery at church.  Friends had these sweet little twins, but they came early, and had to be in the NICU for quite some time.  The sister progressed quicker and was able to get out of the hospital and home sooner than her brother.  He still had some serious issues that we were constantly praying about.  Being able to hold this little miracle made me think how precious life is and how God does love and care for us, even in the face of some of our toughest moments.  Sometimes it's tough to trust, but somehow we must.  He cares!  Life and death are in His control.
The next night I got a text from a friend with a picture of her son, one of my former kids, after he came out of surgery.  Now this was strange because I had just been over to their house a couple of days before.  I heard he wasn't feeling well, but it was just thought to be a bad sinus headache.  Well, when checked further it was found to be a large abscess behind his eye, and the doctor said that 50% of kids with that kind of infection don't make it because of how fast it spreads.  But this young, almost 7th grade boy told the doctor it wasn't his time to go because he hasn't fulfilled his purpose yet.  Wow!
Then yesterday, I heard from another friend whose mom has been sick with Alzheimer's.  My friend told me that her mom had to go to the hospital, she's been in and out of the hospital for different things lately.  But the doctors told my friend that she may just have a couple of weeks left.  That broke my heart for her and her family.  We have especially connected because of the Alzheimer's and she is taking care of her mom at home just like I was.  This is going to be a tough time for this family, and they, along with all of these other families are in my prayers.
With all of this how can I not put life into perspective?  What is my life?  What is your life?  Are we fulfilling our purpose? Are we taking life for granted?  Are we loving those around us?  Are we seeking what is important in life?  Are we trusting God through it?  Do we have the right perspective?  Having lost both my parents and some dear friends and loved ones, I am often reminded of how precious life is and how important it is to love others and let them know.  Because life is a vapor and goes too quickly, let's make sure we keep the right perspective.
Lord, thank you for these things you are helping me to learn.  Help me not to take my life for granted, or any other life for that matter.  Help me to use it for your honor and glory.  Help me to show love and appreciation for all the wonderful people you have placed in my life, and to remember those amazing people that I have been blessed to have had in my life and who I will see again someday. Help me to keep things in the right perspective.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I'm Not Perfect, Are You? Part 2

*Here is the continuation of my previous post.*

 I  also talked to another friend recently who lost a loved one and we were sharing some things with each other about comments that were made after the deaths of our loved ones, she said she was told that she should be thankful that her loved one was no longer in pain and was in heaven, which I also heard.  She was also told she needed to remember that she would not want them back to suffer here, and she can just be thankful that she will see them again someday.  And of course those statements are true, and right in a sense, sometimes though, it may not be the right thing to say at the time.  Because of course we are so thankful for that, that is the blessed hope we know that we have as Christians, but there is a point where in our minds we would just love to have them back, even for a day.  We both said we wished we could tell people that, that we would love just to see them, kiss them, hug them or hold them again.  Even just to take care of them again, but we feel people would not understand that and we would just be thought of as selfish and wrong. So we don't say it, and keep it hidden in our own hearts and minds.  But how nice and freeing it was to share  with someone who didn't judge the thought and actually felt the same way!  I know it seems weird, but even when my mom was sick, at least it was another "being" in the house, she was there, I could love on her, hold her, kiss her, talk to her.  I can't explain how lonely it can sometimes get without her here.   Even if I was talking to her and she didn't remember what I said minutes later, at least it was someone to talk to, or laugh with each day.  Someone to share with after a long day, or a fun day.  Someone to spend time with, even if that time was just sitting listening to each other breathe, or me just listening to her breathe.  I just miss her spirit here...she was my family, she was my heart.  That's just hard to share without someone thinking it's not OK, or wrong in some sense.  This friend and I both feel that we are better about being thankful now, but it took some time for the Lord to help us get there...which I think is normal.  At the time those statements were more harmful than helpful because of the strong hurt and loss and struggle that we were dealing with.  They were almost just salt on the wound.  Now, the point of this is not to make people feel badly for things they've said, I've said things like that, too.  It's just to make us all, myself included, more aware of what we say, and how and when we say it.  We need to pray and then think so that our words or even lack thereof, may be a source of encouragement to someone hurting or struggling.
        Another issue is when we say, or expect someone to just "get over" or "get past" the hurt after a certain amount of time, that can also be hurtful.  Sometimes there just needs to be compassion for what they are going through, and instead of telling the person all the things they need to do or not do, maybe we need to tell ourselves just to uplift them fervently in prayer, and then let them know we are praying for them.  God is the only one who can help them get through the struggles and hurts.  We also need to remember God made each of us differently, so while you may be able to move on quickly after a struggle, hurt, or loss of a loved one, someone else may not have that same resolve as you do.  Our emotions are different, our situations are different, so our responses will also understandably be different.  We need to be sensitive to that.  Just because someone has lost a parent, it doesn't mean they can totally relate to someone else who has because each situation is different.  Someone that's lost both parents may have brothers or sisters or a husband and children to help them through their time, where someone else may not.  Someone that lost a child, may have other children to hold on to and cherish, to help them get through their tough time, and someone else may not have that blessing.  Someone may have been abused, but has great help and support all around them, while someone else may not have even told anyone because they fear they can't.  Someone may have financial issues that are overwhelming, but have sources of help if they just ask, and some may not have that luxury.  Yes, I have lost my mom and can be a help to someone else who has, but I can't fully relate to someone who lost their mom at a young age, or someone who lost their mom suddenly.  So when I share with them I need to be careful and sensitive to their personal pain.  One of the things I try not to say is, "I know what you're going through", because I don't know exactly.
I also know and have heard from friends, that it is very difficult to listen to someone tell them how to act, react, or be in their struggle, when that other person has never been in that situation and has no idea what it's like.  For singles to hear from someone that never had to wait, never had to wonder if they would ever be loved or have the family they always wanted, telling them how they should be content and thankful for the life that they have now, can be very hurtful.  For a young person that loses a parent, to hear from other young people or even older people who still have their parents here on earth, telling them they need to keep going, and move on from this, and just be strong, that can do more damage than good.  For someone who has never been abused to tell someone who has that they need to forgive and not harbor bitterness, and not let this define them, that can bring on more bitterness or anger.  For someone who has never had money issues, to tell someone struggling financially all the things that they need to get rid of and to stop doing, that can be damaging.  We just need to be careful and sensitive to other people's hurts and needs.  Just as we would love them to be for us.  Just remember we're all broken.  We all have needs, hurts, struggles, and none of us is perfect.  We need to be able to open up to each other, and share our hurts and needs without fear of being judged or criticized or looked down on for what we say or how we feel.  Christ listened, and had compassion, and lovingly encouraged.  We're not perfect, we don't have all the right answers...we're not supposed to.  Let people get past the sadness, let people get past the fear, the hurt, the grief, and whatever else, and be there to support, uplift and encourage as Christ did.  We're supposed to simply point people to Jesus...our Savior, our Comforter, our Friend, our Rock, our Father.
Lord, help me to remember these things as I try to encourage others that may be going through tough times or struggles.  You have allowed us to go through things so that we can be an encouragement to others who may go through something similar.  Help us to remember we all handle things differently and we all need understanding and encouragement and not more hurt.  Thank You that we can come to You with our hurts, struggles, fears, and losses.  Thank You for caring for each of them, and loving us through them.  Help us to do that for each other.

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!