A Small, but LARGE, Piece of the Puzzle

Psalms 27:13

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord.

Thought for the Day:  God has a plan, we just have to wait.

One week, one wonderful week with twenty-two second graders walking into my room.  One week of being back in the classroom after two years of being in transition from the school where I taught second grade for seven years, to kindergarten, to substituting, to Early Intervention/second grade long term substitute, to full time EIP, and then back to second grade. Over the past two years I have seen a few doors opened that allowed for me to work with children in the classroom.  It has been wonderful and I have loved those opportunities but they were not permanent positions.  I have had so many interviews attempting to find positions that were just right for me, and those doors were closed.  I drove long distances to those interviews, as far as over an hour, but those doors were closed.  I drove shorter distances to those interviews, as few as ten minutes, but those doors were closed as well.   Along the way, I met some awesome school administrators and had wonderful talks with them.  Some were looking for part-time teachers, para-professionals, long-term substitutes, upper grades, etc.  Although I knew the positions were not what I was looking for, I gave my all in the interviews but still didn’t get the positions.  I began questioning what I was doing and if it was worth it.  I began questioning God and asking, actually begging, for Him to lead me to where I was to go.

One wonderful evening, that call came and the voice on the other end was a fabulous administrator asking me to join the staff of her school, my son Jonathan’s school.  In an instant, in a very tiny instant, I knew why God has closed all those doors.  He had something in mind for me and had to keep it hidden until the small parts of that plan could fall into place.  When I reflect back over the two years of uncertainty, I picture a huge jigsaw puzzle…I had already put together the border as I moved to a new place and our family began our precious relationship in our new church.  Many pieces began being placed on the puzzle as we found our children enjoying school and finding new interests.  More pieces began being placed as I began leading a children’s choir.  More pieces were put into place as I continued my writing.  But scattered through the puzzle were many missing pieces…and one big one…the one piece missing was a full time position for me.  But that call came and then later a visit to the administrator’s office asking me to join the second grade teaching team.  That puzzle piece was found (maybe under the sofa)….that God kept hidden until He was ready for me to find it.  Now, is life perfect? “No”, we will continue working through some of the rest of the puzzle.  But has God placed a huge piece of the puzzle in front of us? “Definitely Yes!”

One week, one wonderful week with twenty-two second graders learning together in my classroom.  The piece of the plan has fallen into place.

Prayer:  Precious God, all praise to you this day!  Thank you so much, God, for your plan.  Sometimes we do not understand where you are leading us but we know you have the perfect plan for us.  Help us wait for you and help us refrain from getting ahead of you. 

Prayer Focus:  Waiting for God’s plan

Advertisements

How are You Still Standing?

Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, He who abides in shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  

Thought for the Day:  God is as close as our next breath

Spending time in conversation with my new work partner, who will be sharing a classroom and teaching experiences with for the coming year(s), was so special.  We have learned about each other’s children and we have talked about our past work experiences and what brought us to this place.  As we listened, we learned that we are very much alike in personality and that we are anxiously excited to be working with each other.  Neither of us has ever shared a classroom with another person so we will both be experiencing something new….but we can already tell it is going to be special.  Maybe it became special when we realized she was born the year I graduated from high school.  Toward the end of sharing, as we shared about past experiences, I shared about my family and what brought me personality to the place I am today.  Her reply was, “How are you still standing here in this place?  You’ve been through so much.”  I have heard similar statements many times through the years, but there was something in her voice that was different.

Over the past few days, several have brought up the subject because of a song I sang in church on Sunday about finding God’s blessings in the struggles of life.  This morning, awaking very early on a Saturday morning, I found myself contemplating the question, “How are you still standing here in this place?”  My answer, the only answer I can explain, is that I am here because in every tragedy and in every heart-break, God has placed the people and events and memories and His planned blessings in front of me where I knew the direction I was to go.  I sang the words Sunday, “What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near.”  As we have almost made it out of the last tough period, I thought about those words.  From the day that my husband’s position was eliminated in our previous church to the time I was offered my position to teach this coming school year was 1,011 days.  Laura Story’s song, Blessings, became a theme song for us a few months after our time of change began.  I remember hearing those words, “A thousand sleepless nights” and thinking…”I hope this doesn’t take a thousand days.”  But it has.  But in those thousand days we have fallen in love with our new church family, we have made wonderful new friends, we have found a place to live that is beautiful and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  God has blessed us in a mighty way and looking back, we can see where His hand has led us in such a mighty way.

“How are you still standing?” I am still standing, I believe, because through tragedy one learns to keep the faith and to know God is there…”Closer than your next breath”… and He will never let you go.  There might be a lot of blessings in the tears and there might be many nights where rest does not come.  But, God is in that next breath and God is placing who and what you need to lead you through the hard times.  “How am I still standing?”  That’s easy…God is why I am still standing.

Prayer:  Almighty Father, thank you for loving us in such a special way and for bringing us through storms.  Thank you for sending the blessings of people, experiences, and heartaches to bring us through with the knowledge that You are right there beside us.  You are our Almighty Father and it is humbling to know that you are always as close as our next breath.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Blessings

Mary’s Love

pietaJohn 19

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag’dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother,”Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 

Thought for the Day:  All she could do was love.

As parents, we see our children through their times as babies, toddlers, children, and teenagers.  We pray for our children and promise to protect them, to hold them, and to love them through everything.  When our children hurt, we hurt for them and want to take away any hurt and pain.  I know Mary prayed for Jesus and gave him the same assurances as we do as parents today. On Good Friday, Mary couldn’t do anything about the pain and suffering Jesus endured as He went through the trial, persecution, and suffering on the cross.  She could not hold him and keep him from that harm.  All she do on that day was to love him as he hung on the cross and as her heart broke for him, the son she brought into this world in a manger, raised through the toddler years, early childhood years, and teenage years.  She then witnessed him as he called His disciples and showed His ministry to the world.  She loved him – she was his mother.

There is a beautiful song, “Pieta”, from the cantata, “The Power of the Cross” by Mark Hayes.  This piece so clearly shows the agony Mary experienced as Jesus went through his suffering on that day.  The more I have listened to the piece, the more I have visualized Mary as she followed Jesus through the day and then to the cross.  She could do nothing but to follow him holding on to the only promise she could fulfill, to love Him.

Prayer:   Our most gracious Father, how difficult it must have been for you to send your son, Jesus Christ, to earth knowing that he would be sacrificed for our sins in such a terrible and painful way.  But you loved the world so much that You sent him, that whoever believed in Him would have eternal life.  Thank you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  MOTHERS LOVE

I Will Listen

Jeremiah 29:11-14

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Thought for the Day:  I will listen to His voice

Each morning I write.  I journal my thoughts and place them “out there” for everyone to see.  All who read my words know my heart and in knowing my heart they know many of my thoughts about my faith and about my times of fear and doubt.  On Monday evening, I was driving to make copies of my updated resume and cover letter.  As I drove I listened to my Pandora Radio with songs of Twila Paris.  Through the last couple of months, I have kept my phone set on Twila Paris hoping to hear a particular song but it never played.  It was the first song I ever sang in the presence of my husband, Mark, and led to a wonderful relationship and marriage.   As I drove, I again sang along with Twila Paris.  Then it happened.  Familiar music began and I looked down at the system menu.  I looked and saw the song title, “I Will Listen”.  I immediately began singing and as I sang I listened to the words, “This is the faith, patience to wait when there is nothing clear. Nothing to see, still we believe Jesus is very near.”  I began weeping and couldn’t even sing the words.  I called my husband and he reacted in a special way and I cherished his remembrance of the song.  On Tuesday, I had a wonderful interview at a school for a position they had available.  It went great and I felt wonderful about the time we shared together.  As I left and drove toward my house, something remarkable happened…”I Will Listen” came on Pandora again and this time I was able to sing feeling that something wonderful was about to happen.  But, God doesn’t do what we imagine, does He?  Hours after this happened, the phone rang and I missed the call, but returned the call after I heard the message.  I was being asked to take a long-time substitute position in a school even closer than the one I interviewed with.  I don’t know what this means in the long-run, but I know for now I am able to share my passion of teaching in a special way.

Timing, yes timing. Yes, God’s timing!  In the last two weeks, I have been called by several schools for interviews during a time in the school year when hiring teachers should not be needed.  But it has happened, and the one that came to fruition is one I would love to be a part of.  “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLKQ41QjdMA

Prayer:  Father, you are faithful!  Even when our faith falters and we begin doubting your greatness, you remain faithful to your children.  Help us in our unbelief to know you are with us every moment of our lives.  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Those seeking jobs.

Morning Time with the Cat

Psalms 69:13-18

But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Lord.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of ty steadfast love answer me.  With thy faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.  Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.  Answer me, O Lord, for thy steadfast love is good; according to thy abundant mercy, turn to me.  Hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in distress, make haste to answer me.  Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies!

Thought for the Day:  God is there, reach for Him.

Although I am not excited when I wake up in the early morning hours and realize that I cannot go back to sleep, I do recognize that is the perfect time to spend time with my sweet pets.  They seem to want to come around me as I sit on the couch hoping for a little more dozing time.  As I watched my fourteen year old tabby this morning, I saw him immediately stand up from his rest on the ottoman to jump over to his place beside me on the couch.  His purr was very loud and I found him nuzzling my hand where I would pet him under his chin.  I petted him for a few minutes then pulled my hand away only to feel him nuzzling my hand again.  He yearned for the comfort in knowing I was there.  I loved putting my arms around him feeling the softness of his fur and the warmth of his body.  We both felt the love from the other.

As I began writing, not knowing what words would come, I looked at my cat who had found his way back to the ottoman.  He looked content and at peace as he rested once again in the wee morning hours.   My relationship with God is similar in a way to that relationship my cat has with me.  When I need to feel God’s presence, I try to move to a place where He feels close.  I try to communicate with Him that I need the warmth and love that only He can give.  I wonder if God recognizes and gets excited when I begin coming closer to Him.  As I see my cat standing up from his resting place, I tend to get excited when I see him jumping over to sit beside me.  Does God get excited when we come to Him?  Does God rejoice when we come to Him for comfort?  I believe He does.

Prayer:  God, you are present and you are Almighty!  Thank you for being present for us when we reach out for you, and even when we don’t.  Your ever present in our lives and we know you rejoice when we acknowledge you.  Be with us today!  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us

New

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old, Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Thought for the Day:  God brings us a newness each morning

Waking up each morning, even when I haven’t slept well, is a moment when a new day is in front of me.  New possibilities, new dreams, and new thoughts.  I do have to start the same way each day, however.  Waking with the alarm clock chiming for the third or fourth or maybe even the fifth time, my thoughts are on two things.  My first thought is of that morning cup of coffee that awaits being poured in our kitchen and my second thought is of opening my computer to read devotions to start my day.  Each day begins differently as the devotions seem to take a life of their own bringing new thoughts and emotions.  It is only after these two things happen that I can begin writing.  In those early morning moments, I am sharing time with God and I am sharing time with myself.  As I write, my heart is on words I have read that morning or on emotions that come in my waking.  My writing does not have a constant theme as so many writers seem to have.  My writing fluctuates in different directions as I awake with different thoughts each morning.

Reading two devotions began my thoughts this morning.  The first devotion was The Upper Room devotion where I read the scripture from John 16, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive so that your joy may be complete.”  The second devotion was from Jena Forehand’s blog where I read the scripture from 2 Corinthians 4, “The inward man is being RENEWED day by day.”  As I read and as I thought of life experiences in the past few years, I pondered deeply the meaning for me.  My first thought was, “Have I been praying wrong? – Have I not prayed in “His” name?”.  My second thought was, “Have I let the enemy wear me down through fear and insecurity so much that I am not feeling the newness God wants me to feel each morning.”  Jena’s devotion read, “When you lay hold of the grace God has given you to start each day NEW and FRESH, you actually are beating the enemy, because he can no longer pile on lie upon lie and trial upon trial.”  She said begin the day with a smile on our face because God renews us each day.

So, what do I take from reading today?  Today, I hear the words from God to me, “Go out with a smile on your face – show the enemy that he has no control over you – remember that today is a new day!  Then, think about what you truly need and ask….ask in MY name for what will truly bring you joy in Me.”

Prayer:  Thank you, Father God, for writers who bring Your words to us through their devotions.  Through them, we can look into ourselves more where we can know you better.  Be with us today, Lord, as we begin a NEW day in You.  Bring us joy, today, Lord.  Bring us that special joy in You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those who are needing to feel closer to God.

 http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2017-01-17

 http://www.jenaforehand.com/2017/01/03/all-things-new/

 

 

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Isaiah 40:29-31

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, and they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Thought for the Day:  What will you do in the wait?

“But those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  I shared with my husband this morning that it seems that we are always “waiting for the other shoe to drop” as we go through life together.  That is probably normal in more families that we might think, but it does seem that it happens a lot with us.  “Things will be better when ….”  As I read my devotion scripture words this morning, I once again had that unnerved feeling that I must be doing something wrong as I do seem to wait for other things to happen.  The devotion in The Upper Room today was about waiting for flower bulbs to bloom.   As I think about waiting for those bulbs to bloom, I can’t help but think about what makes my walks so wonderful.  Much of my excitement comes when I see something beautiful, but still more excitement comes from wondering what beauty I will see later.  What colors will I see next week when more leaves change color, what flower will bloom next, or what baby animals will appear soon.  So, what about this “waiting thing”?  As my husband and I shared discussion this morning he said, “Just imagine how great things are going to be when you get your answer!”  “It is going to be great!”  The wait has been long and there are many days I get down, but maybe God is letting me wait where I will realize how special His answer is when it comes.

God loves us and desires that we love and trust Him as we go through each day.  “But those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles.”  So we wait, but how do we wait?  As we “wait for the other shoe to drop”, what do we do?  We look at other opportunities that come to us in our wait.  We enjoy doing things in the now that we might not be able to do later.  We share in new ministries or we share time in some type of mission program.  We find those unopened bulbs and watch as they open and bloom.  Watching the unopened bulbs brings excitement in the moment.  Watching for God’s answer to our wait should bring excitement in that wait.  Wait in peace, wait but do something in the meantime, wait for God’s glorious answer to come.

Prayer:  Lord God, thank You for reminding us once again that it is okay to wait.  It is hard, Lord, to wait when things seem tough.  But we trust You Lord to bring that excitement after the waiting time passes.  We love you Lord, We trust you Lord.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those who are waiting

 http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2017-01-13

I Want to Turn Back to You

Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Thought for the Day:  Feel Closer to God today

Reading a devotional blog by a female evangelist this morning, I reflected on how her words could enter my heart to bring me closer to God.  As I read her words, her words about what happens to us when we get complacent in our relationships with those around us, I was touched.  Not only does it affect our human relationships, it also affects our relationship with God.  The last week has brought several trials for our family which have caused a few tears.  As I read the words in the devotion this morning, I realized how easily I personally can let these trials create a bitterness inside me that can affect my relationship with those around me and my relationship with God. She gave three very important instructions for getting those relationships back where they need to be and she has given me personally what I need to do right now in my life. 1) Remember – Remember how wonderful it was to walk with God and feeling the Spirit so deeply that you want it back.  2) Repent – Change our mindset that has taken our thoughts away from God and turn our thoughts back toward God. 3) Repeat – Start doing the things you did when you were closest to God and talk to Him about everything.  As I read her blog this morning and saw these three words, I began thinking about what I could do.  Today, I will strive to remember my closeness with God and talk with Him throughout the day in praise and thanksgiving.  Today, I will work to change my mindset from a “woe is me” mindset to “God, what would you have me do” mindset.  Today, I will go back and do those things that I once did that brought me close to him.  I haven’t walked and taken my pictures lately – today, that will come back.

I am thankful today for Jena, the writer of the blog I read this morning.  God brought her into my life as a conference speaker in March of last year.  I remember crying as she spoke as I was in the midst of strong questions about where God was calling me.  Now, I find that my questions about God’s calling for me are still emotionally driven as I still try to foresee His plan for me.  Her words today, written from her heart, touch my heart and bring me to a renewed mindset that God loves me and that He has a plan for me.  God is in control and God is Who brings me peace and joy.

Prayer:  Lord, God!  We praise You today and want desperately to feel Your presence.  Be with us as we remember how wonderful it feels to be present fully with You.  Be with us as we turn our mindset to run toward You instead of away.  Be with us as we repeat the things over and over that brought us closer to You.  Mostly, Lord, help us know You are walking with us and that You are the most important thought we should have at all times throughout our day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Coming Back to God

 http://www.jenaforehand.com/2017/01/11/losing-spiritual-edge/

Be Thankful, God is Walking Beside You

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

Thought for the Day: Be thankful in all circumstances that God is walking with you.

Waking on the day after New Year’s Day, we tend to begin looking at the year ahead and think about what we need to do to create a better year than the year before.  I found my mind doing this as I awoke and even as my mind is more awake, I find I am continuing.  As I read “The Upper Room” devotion this morning, however, my thoughts swayed a different direction.  In 1 Thessalonians 5, we read the words “Rejoice Always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  The writer shared that within a month, she lost both a brother and her father, so thanking God seemed difficult.  It was later that she looked more into the words and found that the words “give thanks” did not mean being thankful for a particular circumstance, but to be thankful to God for remaining with us through the circumstance.  As I look back at my life filled with tragedies and changes, the knowledge that God was with me through each circumstance is clear and has no doubt.  God was with me, walking beside me all the way.  Today, as I enter this new year, I know without a doubt that God will be with me through every instance.  As I pray for a job position, even asking God to put my name constantly in front of a particular person I am thankful.  I am thankful for all those I have met throughout the process and I am thankful for the things God has led me to do during this time.  Thank you, God, for walking beside me every step of every day.

God has not promised us an easy road and He has not promised us that our prayers will be answered in the way we ask.  God has not promised us that our road will be lined with all things beautiful.  God has promised, however, that He will be with us through every circumstance.  All we need to do is open our eyes to see Him and to open our hearts to feel Him near.  That is what we are to be thankful for.

Prayer:  God, You are wonderful and You are mighty.  Thank you for walking beside us as we walk through this life.  You promised us that wherever we are and whatever we are doing that you will be near, and You are.  Today, I am thankful for family, and I am thankful for the knowledge that You are walking beside me every day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Being Thankful

Happy New Year

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Thought for the Day: Don’t wait for the new year for God makes changes in us every day.

Beginning a new year every 365 days has a special ring about it doesn’t it?  We make it to the end of the year just trying to hang on and then we celebrate that a new year has come.  Some celebrate by attending huge celebrations in cities, while others celebrate by putting on warm pajamas and watching the year close.   Then we welcome in the new year.  As the year closes and the new year comes, we hear fireworks going off around us and we see the “ball” fall on t.v. What a great celebration.  But then, what?  Do all who celebrate the new year go home to find that everything is different?  Do those who make New Year’s Resolutions find that their life is more fulfilled?  What makes that new year special?  The new year’s celebrations bring the hope of things to come, the hope that things will be better and that by some magical force things will be different.  It is a special moment, when that new year comes, for us to dream a bit about things to come.  But it doesn’t bring a magical change

As Christians, we know that watching the new year come does not magically make everything better.  It is fun and it gives us excitement, but it really doesn’t change much.  As Christians, we know that the special moment of newness can come at any moment, and that we do not have to wait for that moment when the ball drops.  All we have to do is feel God in our heart, drop to our knees, and pray for what God is leading us to do in order to follow Him.  God calls each of us and when we listen and follow Him, all of a sudden the “ball seems to drop” and we feel so much excitement in our hearts that fireworks of the new year seem dim.  That is where the new beginning comes…”This is the Day of New Beginning” happens every time we allow God to come into our lives to make things new.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for new beginnings.  Thank you for letting us have fun as we celebrate with friends, but more thank you for letting us celebrate newness with you every day.  Be with us as we go through each day and help us listen for Your voice.  You voice will bring us newness in a way that nothing else can.  Please bring change to our hearts today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Happy New Year