Assumed Dead

For my birthday this year my lovely secret pal at school got me this beautiful plant, which was perfect because I love plants. It had these big gorgeous pink blooms with a mixture of greens in the bottom. I kept it in my classroom, and my kids and I enjoyed it and cared for it there.

The problem was, I struggled keeping it alive. The reason for the problem: I didn’t know exactly how to care for it. Sometimes I didn’t give it enough water. Sometimes I gave too much. Maybe not enough sunlight. I tried cutting some of it back. It was a struggle. Everything I tried seemed to fail in the end. I ended up bringing it home. Continued caring for it. It ended up dying.

I put it outside on my back deck to be thrown away.

I depend on instructions when caring for a plant. Those nice little tags that they stick in the dirt tell you how much sun they need, how much water they need, whether they need to be indoors or outdoors, how big they will get and all that good stuff.

I believe this flower was from a flower shop of some kind so it didn’t come with instructions.

I was very frustrated because I, like my mother, love plants and enjoy caring for them and seeing them grow and change. And I felt like I had failed. Y’all I even tried to research this plant even though I had no idea what it was called.

I looked outside one day at this plant that I had thrown out. It was brown, withered, and hopeless looking…

all except for this one green sprout.

The green grew.

Days, weeks, months passed.

The green continued to multiply.

Y’all, this plant was dead for weeks before I gave up, and put it on the deck.

**Side note: Turns out the plant is extremely low maintenance… it needs direct sunlight and rainwater is sufficient. Figures! Ha!

But oh, my goodness, what a lesson. I assumed this plant was dead. I saw nothing in it. I had given up hope completely. I was going to throw it in the trash.

”But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

God sees us. He sees us when we are withered, lifeless, and hopeless, when we are ready to give up, when we see ourselves as good as trash, and I believe He says to us, “Come, I am doing something you cannot see. It is good. I am making it beautiful. Life is here! I am bringing something new.” (My paraphrase)

It’s like in Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

God is not done. He is working, and He is near. I don’t have the specific instructions I want sometimes, and that can be frustrating when I have my hands gripped tightly around a part of my life, especially if it is not going the way I want it to go. And my instructions that I make up are absolutely worthless.

BUT I know with my whole heart that God provides and delivers in ways I could never imagine or dream, and I need that reminder all the time. Sometimes I look for something specific in the distance, but I am missing a whole new beautiful thing that is right before me. Sometimes, it is as small as a sprout, and so we need to lean in close so that we can see.

“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD, all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple.” Psalm 27:4

Hold fast to His Word. Lean in. Enjoy life with the Father in the middle of the valley or the peak of the mountain. He is nearer than you think.

Come, Lord. We need you.

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When your head is in the clouds…

I wonder about the clouds.  They glide across the sky so gracefully, slowly changing the light we see on the earth.  They change shapes constantly.  Their color sometimes is blue, gray, and white.

The Sun loves them.

Through the clouds, the rays can shine in their brilliance, reflecting off of rain drops, outlining them in blinding bright yellow.  Though some days the sky is clear of clouds, and these days are no doubt lovely, the days that clouds are scattered in the sky are truly the sky’s most beautiful stage.  The clouds display the glory of the Sun in the most beautiful way.  The Sun brings out the most beautiful colors in the clouds,  neon orange, pink, and purple.

It’s truly beautiful when you think about it, isn’t it?  By itself, the Sun is remarkable and majestic.  It is life-giving, and warms our Earth perfectly.  We see its benefits daily.  But the best way that we really see the Sun’s direct beauty on this earth is the way it shines through the clouds.

In this relationship, I see God and us in our weaknesses.  Through our weakness, God shines all the more.  Because of Christ, He shines through our weaknesses, displaying his might and splendor to everyone who sees.

When we hide behind our weakness, it is like the sky is full of clouds and God’s beauty is sometimes hard to see.  Sometimes it takes that release, the emptying of the clouds, the release of a tight grip to see God and to feel His warmth.  The rain pours and pours and it seems dreary at the time.  But after the release, after the rain, God’s light shines all the more.

The most brilliant and beautiful skies and sunsets I have seen have been after rainy days.  Clouds are still in the sky.  The sky is not flawless.  The clouds are not gone.  They are there, waiting for the Sun to exalt them in their weakness.

The clouds know the brilliance of the Sun.  They know its power and its control of this universe.  They know that without the Sun making water evaporate into the atmosphere, they couldn’t exist.

I have seen God shine the brightest in people who have admitted their weakness in the middle of it all because in that weakness, we know that God truly is our life and our strength, and we only exist because of Him and we can only “go on” because of Him.

God knows every drop that makes up the clouds.  He knows exactly where they came from.  He knows that sometimes they connect with other weakness and cause us blindness.

At some point, though, he is there to remind us.  He is there to redirect us.  Sometimes it is through His Word.  Sometimes it is through His Spirit.  Sometimes it is through His people.

When your head is in the clouds, let the rain fall.  Loosen your grip and let God’s glory reach to every crack and crevice.  He is present in the doubt.  He is present in the confusion.  He is present in the fire.  He is present in the change.  He is present in the things that feel too big.  He is present when we can’t seem to measure up.  He is present, ready to bring redemption, ready to display His glory.

God doesn’t want a flawless sky.  He wants you, weakness and all.

May we not get stuck in the clouds, friends.  May we remember our Maker and Savior.  May we see God’s glory, and may others see His glory in us.

He is the source of beauty and redemption. His redemption is never lacking.  He is always enough.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;  the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”

-Psalm 19: 1-2

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s  power may rest on me.  That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

-2 Corinthians 12-9-10

Testing and the Pivotal Moments

Well teachers, testing week is here in TN. This means a lot of things. It means this school year is coming to an end. It means summer is near. It means that soon you will say goodbye to the faces that walked through your door every day. It means that you will soon do all of those “end of the year” things and no doubt, the kids will be outside of their minds… and let’s face it, you probably will be too- if you have not arrived already.

A lot of people say that this “testing week” or now shall we say “testing weeks” are the culmination of all of our work this year. It is the time for kids to show what they’ve learned. It is the pivotal moment of the year.

But the truth in the heart of education is that the real pivotal moments do not at all happen during the weeks of testing. No, they happen pretty much every day besides testing days.

The truth is that every moment that a child learns a new letter, a new sound, a new word, a new operation. That moment that a child makes a connection with an author or character in a book they’re reading. That moment that a child sees you stand up for them and feel loved. That moment that a child laughs in your class and you laugh with them and soon enough the whole class is laughing. That moment that children celebrate each other’s successes and encourage each other in their failures. That moment that a child comes completely out of their shell because they can hear you clearly for the first time. That moment when a child who struggles to get the right answer, gets it and the whole class cheers him on. That moment when a child connects history to the present and is thankful to go to school with a friend who has a different skin color. That moment when a child passes their multiplication quiz they’ve been stuck on for weeks. That moment when a child helps another child up on the soccer field. That moment when a child makes a connection with a story in the Bible and tells you the whole story. That moment when a child no longer says, “I can’t do it,” but says, “I will try!” That moment when a child tells you they are getting baptized over the weekend. That moment that a child looks at a picture of the planets and says, “Wow, God did that?”

These moments when they make connections between all the facets of their lives and hearts. These moments when they connect with their friends in simple but truly deep ways. These moments when they see you love and care for them deeply…

Friends, these are the pivotal moments that we think back on when we reflect on our year. We don’t remember that child’s test score. We don’t remember the strategies they use on the test. We remember and treasure the moments of learning that fill each school day. This is why we teach.

We do not teach to test. We teach to children. We teach the babies of parents. We teach children of God. We have been entrusted with them for this whole year.

Over the next few weeks your kids will take long and hard tests. But some of them will also have hard things still going on at home. Some of them will still struggle with learning disabilities. Some of them are facing things that are scary in their lives. Some of them have cried in your embrace because their life is just too hard for them to hold in any longer.

Some of those babies will be accountants, marketers, counselors, janitors, business owners, athletes, waitresses, policemen, nurses, teachers, and preachers. Keep helping them become who they were meant to be. Don’t get caught up in the testing funk. Keep teaching kids. Keep making learning fun. Keep making them laugh. Keep teaching them about the world around them. Keep cheering them on. Keep challenging them. Keep showing them that they can be successful even if it’s not how the state defines it.

The pivotal moments fill our days up. This test does not define you as a teacher and does not define your kids as students. The state will never know just how much your kids have grown this year. And that’s okay.

I cannot help but to share the successes and “aha!” moments of my kids because it fills my heart with overflowing gratitude and joy.

But I want to hear your pivotal moments! Without sharing names please feel free to comment one of your favorite pivotal moments from this year! Please share your pivotal moments with other teachers because it is in these things that we celebrate and rejoice!

Let’s make it our goal to talk about these more than we talk about testing these next few weeks!! Wahoo! Let’s go!

The Chasing

We chase what we want.

But sometimes we chase what we do not want at all. Sometimes we chase what falls in front of us. Sometimes we chase what we fall over. We chase what chases us. We chase what catches our eye.

So easily, we fall, stumbling over something that is not at all what we were chasing after to begin with.

We look up, wondering how we fell down. What did we trip over? What were we chasing after?

Isn’t that a great question.

What are we chasing after?

I find that often my heart lies to me. (Jeremiah 17:9) My heart is deceitful. It tells me that what I’m chasing is good and right. I deserve it, and it will make me happy. It tells me to be better. It tells me to try to be like her. It tells me if you do x, y, and z you will be happy. It tells me that I am better than her because I (fill in the blank). My heart lies to me, and sometimes I am blind, and I believe it.

Lie, after lie, after lie. That is where the stumble comes in. Catching that first lie is the tricky part. I’ve always heard that once you tell one lie, you have to tell another one. So it is a snowball effect. Makes sense, right? The more lies you believe, the more lies you tell yourself, even more lies you believe.

The first lie. What is your first lie? The one you believe the quickest? The one that is easiest to compromise on? The one that you make excuses for? The one that you cannot shake?

Knowing this lie, your lie, is foundational in your walk with God. Lies are straight from Satan, but he sure makes them look pretty. He makes them enticing and reasonable. He makes them look real good, y’all.

Don’t fret. God turns these weaknesses into the most beautiful rays of redemption.

I really do believe that lies are a foundation of our sin. Lies are where sin makes it’s home. Kind of makes me sick.

*Where are you in this cycle? First lie? Third lie? On the ground?

1. Tell Satan to BACK OFF.

2. Pray that God would open your eyes to your first lie/s and protect you from further belief of these lies. Thank you, LORD.

3. Repent. Turn away from the path you are going and pursue the things and promises of God.

Excuse me while I go repent and repeat steps 1-3.

Identity: Endowed with Splendor

A few weeks ago I wrote about my past struggle with identity, but I want to take the time to share about our identity in Christ. Like I mentioned, I am constantly learning about my identity in Christ. I’ve been reading Isaiah and just finished Isaiah 61. “Splendor” kept jumping out at me. “Endowed with splendor” “a display of his splendor.” I realized this is a part of my identity in Christ. Like, woah. What is this Love?

What is splendor? I compared the ESV and NIV. They interchangeably use the words splendor, beauty, and glory. This glory, beauty and splendor begins with God. In my understanding, His glory is his radiance and beauty, and he allows us access.

“Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:15-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The glory of the Lord is a gift he imparts to us when we turn to him. God tore the veil when Christ was crucified, and therefore we have access to his glory. But in addition to that, we are being transformed in his glory more and more. We behold his glory with no veil. We look upon his glory. We watch and see it. We experience it wash over us in his presence. We are free in his Spirit. Free to say “no” to the old and “yes” to the new. Free to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Free to participate in his kingdom purposes. Free to live in Him and not the bondage of this world. Free to accept truth and abolish lies. Free to live in surrender and not control. Free to live in victory instead of defeat. What we see now is just a small part of what we will see one day in FULL.

We earn no part of this. There is no good in this world that I could do that would earn this-not one thing. “But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:4-6, 8

This is part of who I am. This is part of who he made me to be. This is my identity. The veil torn before me through Jesus Christ alone, and I stand in his radiance, in his glory. I witness it over and over again in my life. I experience his redemption and cleansing. He makes me new and makes me right with him. He chisels away the old and sometimes it hurts, but I’m reminded of who I am, of whose I am, of what he says about me.

I embrace that identity in Him because he embraces me. I can’t possibly throw that identity away! It is too precious. It is too expensive. My new identity was bought with the blood of precious, worthy Jesus.

This world tries to sneak in and make my new identity dirty and impure. It seeks to strip it away. God protects me. I choose to be reminded of my identity in his word because I trust Him. The Spirit reminds me over and over again. I trust what he says is true because he has never failed me. He has redeemed me from the pit of destruction. He lifts me from the mire. He sets my feet on a rock and gives me a sturdy place to stand on (Psalm 40:2). I need nothing else in this world, though my flesh sometimes disagrees. He is so gracious and patient with me.

This week, may we be reminded of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May we rejoice in what he has sacrificed for us. May we rejoice in what that means for our identity. We have something to rejoice in every second of this life!

How have you seen God’s glory? How have you experienced God’s beauty? It’s all around us. It’s in Scripture. It’s in us. And it’s lived out through us. Let us reflect upon his beauty. Let us look upon his radiance so that we, too, may be radiant.

Hallelujah! Christ rose! The veil is torn!

Identity: Miscellaneous

Have you ever seen an elementary school’s lost and found?

It is quite a sight, especially after the winter months.  Piles of jackets, shirts, glasses, and other odds and ins.  These items have been forgotten about multiple times.  Even when you announce to the whole school to make sure and check through it and see if anything belongs to them, though it dwindles some, more piles on.  “How is this no one’s jacket?”  It is truly a mystery in elementary school.

Will anyone claim these items?  They do belong to someone, but they have been piled up, forgotten, and hidden.  They will probably stay there until someone throws them away or takes them to a thrift store.

My identity was once a pile of lost and found.  A pile of people’s things they threw on me, and I caught each time.  I took each piece to heart.  Though it was thrown about carelessly, and often not meant to be left there long, it lingered all the more.

I began to really look through all of the things laid on me.  Why were they there?  I didn’t want them there.  I didn’t put them there.  I did, however, allow them to remain there.

This world, friends, will label you and place expectations on you and demand of you and plaster false identities all over your heart until you realize you don’t even know who you are anymore.

What I learned next was life changing for me.

I began to realize that though I believed a lot about God, I didn’t really believe all of the things that God said was true about me.  I believed them about my sister, my neighbor, and my friend, but I didn’t believe them about me.

THIS, dear friends, this was the issue.  I had NOTHING to stand on.  I had no rock.  I had no defenses, so I let everything in.  I had an identity of “miscellaneous.”

Have you been there before?  Feeling like a big pile of “miscellaneous”?  Feeling like you’ve been tossed around by others?  Though others definitely have an effect on us, we have to take responsibility for what is piled on us.  They are not going to come pick it up.  They may not even know it is there.

The fact is, our identity is not “miscellaneous.”  Our identity is clear, purposeful, light, and beautiful.  It won’t be handed to us though.  Miscellaneous will be handed to us.  Our identity in Christ has to be desired and sought out.  It is there in the Scriptures.  It has to be found by you.

Ready to throw all that junk away?  It’s been there for forever!

Ready to stand in the light of Christ in freedom?  THAT’s the forever I want!

(That kind of sounded like an infomercial. LOL…sorry guys, but I’m leaving it.)

Ever since my realization, I began this wondrous journey of seeking Christ and in turn, seeking who I am BECAUSE of Christ.

Though every single day I am learning more about my identity in Christ and even experiencing shifts in my beliefs about my identity, there are some things I have learned thus far from seeking my identity in Christ.

  1. When you are finding your identity, it will take time.  It doesn’t happen in a few days or months.  It didn’t in me at least.  It has taken me years to shake off all that was thrown at me.  Though I did have great moments of clarity, I didn’t get a firm grip of my identity in Christ until years after studying
  2. When you are finding your identity, it will take prayer.  Praying to our Father who gives us our identity helps us find our identity.  Makes total sense, right?
  3. When you are finding your identity, it will take studying.  The Bible is FULL of promises from God about our identity, and I continue to find them over and over again.
  4. When you are finding your identity, it will take FIGHTING.  Satan doesn’t like you finding your identity, and he sure will come after your weak spots.  Fight back with Scripture and what you have learned to be true about yourself.
  5. When you are finding your identity, it will take daily surrender.  Those false identities were my default setting.  They were my comfort zone.  It takes a daily acknowledgement of who God is to let go of those things so that he can work in my life and my heart.

–>Let’s shake off all that has been put on us, and let’s put on Christ.  Every day, y’all. Praise God who has brought us out of darkness, into his MARVELOUS light!

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9

The Fight for Quiet

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Mark 6:31 NIV

This verse gripped my very core back in the fall.  The title in my Bible says “Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.”  You’ve heard this story right?  I have heard and read this story more times than I can count.  After I read these words in verse 31, however, I had to stop.  I read them again and again.  It’s like I couldn’t believe what I was reading- that God’s Word was speaking this to me.  It was freeing yet challenging.  God anointing my head with this grace.

In this story Jesus does feed the five thousand, however, I was glued to the disciples.  In verse 30 the disciples were telling Jesus about all they had done and taught.  It says in verse 12 that they “drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”  No doubt the disciples were busy and in high demand as word spread about what they were doing.  So I imagine them being excited telling Jesus all they had done.  But Jesus saw need in them, “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.”  They were hungry and tired.  They had been very busy.  This place where they were even reporting to Jesus was busy- people all around.  Jesus knew they needed some time alone.  They needed time to be with Jesus.  So they head off to a solitary place.

Then, in verse 32 it says they were on their way to this desolate place when people “recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.”  They can’t catch a break!  So again, there are people everywhere and Jesus had compassion on them because they were lost.  Jesus began to teach them and knew they were hungry.   Jesus gives the disciples an opportunity to feed them when he says, “You give them something to eat.”  They return with a logical answer that they didn’t have enough money to feed them.  I imagine Jesus saying “Oh you of little faith,” and then he feeds them with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.

After Jesus fed them, it says in verses 45 and 46 “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat… he went up on a mountainside to pray.”  It was urgent to Jesus that they get away.  (Then, Jesus proceeds to walk on the water… nbd.)

So what?

  1. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, and I cannot neglect him for good deeds and ministry.  Hebrews 12:2-3 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…”
  2. When I get caught up in the busyness, I forget my need for Jesus.  I tend to get caught up in the doing instead of the being.  This can lead to selfishness and pride and self-dependency.
  3. When I get caught up in the busyness, I forget the power living in me!  I begin to think in the realm of possibility within my power instead of the power of God.  The disciples totally fell into this, and boy do I fall into this!  I forget God is the source of life and healing and provision.  I also forget my identity and start believing what the world wants for me.  It can truly turn terrifying.  When opportunities arise, I miss them or have no strength to act.
  4. When I am not purposeful about spending time with the Father,  it will never come.  Opportunities to do things are ALWAYS there.  There are a thousand excuses and alternatives that I can choose.  People will demand things from you endlessly.  Jesus sought quiet and sought rest.  I need quiet and rest, and I have to plan it and make it happen.  I have to say “yes” to it.
  5. When I am purposeful with spending time with the Father, it is easier to discern what I should say “no” to and what I should say “yes” to.  Sometimes I feel empty because I take on too much, but sometimes I am empty because I take on things by my strength instead of depending on God.

At the end of this story EVEN Jesus had to be purposeful about his time with the Father.  He went to a place where he knew no one would be, and he prayed.

Jesus is speaking to you and me face to face, “Come with me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest.”

If you have kids, I know this can be tricky.  And no, I do not know what that life is like.  But what I do know, is that time with the Father is worth fighting for in our busy and loud and crazy lives.

Y’all, this world is loud and obnoxious, and it’s always telling you how to eat and cook and dress and shop and spend your money and act and be a parent and get a boyfriend or girlfriend…  BLAH BLAH BLAHHHHHHHH.

It’s time to fight for quiet.

Where can you go for rest? Outside? Drive in the car? Early in the morning? After the kids go to bed? In the bathroom?… moms, you know.

Maybe we need to turn off the tv, phone, or radio.  Maybe you need to call the babysitter.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I have all kinds of quiet time!”  Well, BLESS YOU, and please share that blessing with others.  Maybe you can help provide quiet for someone else. Let’s be willing to give and even receive so we can all have some quiet.

Let’s fight for some quiet in our lives.  Together.