First Day of Teaching

Daily Prompt: First!

Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us BEGINNING.

Although it happened over two years ago, it still seems like yesterday. I can remember the fear that gripped my soul as I looked around the table of eight women who had come for a Ladies Bible study. A Bible study I was leading. How did I get myself into this. I wondered.  I was so far outside my comfort zone it wasn’t funny. Did everyone at the table notice it was my first time to take attendance or pray with a group of adults?  Was I doing it right?

I have been teaching children since forever.  I’m comfortable in most any setting with most any subject. Education, experience and a love for children has lead me to spend most of my life with children. And by children, I don’t mean junior high or high school. I mean two year olds to about sixth grade.  So, when I was approached about leading a women’s group, I was excited for the teaching aspect, but knew it was outside my comfort zone. But, I’ve been trying to do things outside my comfort zone, so I said I would lead.

Ah, yes.  I remember those emotions of the first day so vividly.  I also remember starting a habit that continues to this day. I prayed  about everything.  I prayed for the weeks leading up to the study, for each woman who would be attending, for God to be the ultimate leader – leading and teaching each one there.  That habit has freed me from my fears and allowed me to enjoy seeing God change lives, including mine.  I have seen him answer so many prayers and my faith has grown so much as a result of that.

Some verses I have prayed are:

Ps. 141:3-4 “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” I asked God to shut my mouth when I needed to shut it and open it when I should speak. 

John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  What a comfort these verses were to me.  God was truly the leader.

2 Cor. 12:9 “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.” How often driving home from the study was I amazed at God giving me the right words or just working out details of the night in a way I knew it was Him.

I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone those years ago.  It is a privilege and blessing to be able to learn from and grow with all the beautiful women God has brought into my path. I’ve come to realize that adults aren’t much different than children.  Each has a story, if we take time to listen.  And adults like stickers too.  At least I think they do, because everyone says the memory verse each week. Or maybe they are just humoring the kindergarten teacher that still lurks inside of me.

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His Grace is Amazing

 

Sitting, head bowed, I feel the weight of the morning wash away. It was one of those mornings I’m none to proud of. Knowing what I should do, yet unable to reach past my emotions I ended up in a complete meltdown.  During the meltdown, which I knew it was illogical, I felt paralyzed to stop the hurricane of emotions that spilled forth. Thankfully, my dear husband sopped up the emotional mess before everyone else in my close proximity saw it.  Bless him.

But,  after all was said and done the guilt didn’t dissipate.   Rather, it grew. “If I was a better Christian I would have…”  or “I should be beyond such immaturity”. No matter the cause, it’s so discouraging to fail. My afternoon was overcast with the earlier episode.  How I wished for a do-over button – I would be gracious and kind and smile too.

As the afternoon progresses to evening, my sour mood continued and now I found myself at church. The words of the songs that usually bring delight to my soul felt like gravel in my mouth. The final song before the message the pastor suggests we sit quietly and pray if we’d like. As I listened to the words, truth, forgiveness and freedom flooded my soul. My shortcomings weren’t any surprise to God. He’d already forgiven me when I’d asked. The guilt wasn’t from Him, nor was it accomplishing anything positive.

Thank you Jesus for your unfailing love.  One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 136.  Twenty-six times David repeats the truth that God’s love endures forever. It endures through the good and the bad. How thankful I am that Jesus is enough. He is good and does good things.  He made the heavens and the sun – yet He remembers us in our lowly estate.  Wow!  I just have no words.  Thank you, Jesus!

Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights
His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever

Rays of Sunshine

Who gets beautiful, hot sunshine in October? Not me. At least usually not me. Today was replete with surprises though, as I enjoyed one of my favorite activities that is usually reserved for the summer months.  It felt a bit like heaven with the hot suns rays hitting my back as I absorbed my book, ice tea in hand. Quiet, relaxed and at peace – perfect, simply perfect.

What makes this experience different from the typical cool autumn days with sweaters and coffee? The combination of hot and cold is a blissful mixture, such as soaking up sunshine and ice tea, enjoying a hot bath with a cool breeze coming in the window, or running into the ocean on a hot afternoon. Autumn usually affords the opposite mixture – cold and hot. The crisp, cool nights and a warm jacket or  the early morning walk in the woods when you  can see your breath with hot cocoa in hand are a magical blends.

Given the choice though, I’d choose the feeling spring and summer allow. Nothing beats the warmth of the sun radiating on my skin. Knowing this will be a distant memory for the next five to six months as cold man winter descends upon us, I cherish the few last moments, hoping to hold onto the feeling until the calendar flips and another spring is upon us.

Humble Pie

I just spent the morning somewhere I never envisioned I would be. Court. Juvenile court for my unruly child. Even as I type the words, the whole scenario seems surreal. It still feels like a really bad dream.  It’s funny to me, the way I perceive myself and what is accurate don’t always seem to align. I guess that realization is what humble pie tastes like. It’s actually not as awful as I would have suspected – humble pie, that is. It goes down kind of roughly, but once you’ve eaten it, like with broccoli, you can feel that satisfaction of doing something that was good for you.

I’ve always prided myself on being a good parent. And, if effort is what we are judging on, I have indeed succeeded.  I left my job to stay at home with my children and have been involved in every area of their lives since infancy.  Basically over a decade of my life can be summed up as an outpouring into their lives.  Somehow, I thought if I tried hard enough, I would have a cookie-cutter mold perfect child. You know the kind, the one who says, “Yes, Sir” and hold the door for old ladies and is just downright perfect in every way.

I would look down my nose at anyone who had a rebellious teen. Because, in my mind, any rebellious child was a direct result of poor parenting. The parent must not have been strict enough or taken their child to church or spent enough time with them.  Like baking a cake, if you put all the right ingredients in you would be rewarded with a yummy cake.  Mess up one of the ingredients and the cake would obviously flop.  I was forgetting that children have wills of their own and can make choices independent of what you desire.  How I wish I could take back the judging comments that rattled around in my head before I had teenagers.

I’m now realizing raising children may still be like baking a cake but there are more pieces to the puzzle than just the ingredients. The cake still needs to be baked and that is the area my teen has complete control over and I am realizing, I have none. He is not a robot, but a intelligent, thinking individual.

My boy, he’s going to be ok.  He’s going to be more than ok.  These hiccups in the road will shape him and make him into the person he is meant to be become. These don’t define me as a parent, nor do they define him as a person. It’s just part of the process. I’ve done my best to give him all the ingredients he needs for life.  I’m here now to guide him as he walks his path. In the baking process, the cook doesn’t mess too much with the cake. Rather, he lets the heat of the oven turn a gooey mess into the cake it was meant to be. The mixing, measuring and stirring parts of parenting are behind me now.  Now it’s time for me to keep a close eye on the cake as those ingredients turn into what they were meant to be.

Why do I Care

IMG_1661Why do I care when my teenager is unhappy with my decision – or when my husband doesn’t parade after me singing accolades of all I’ve accomplished during the day?  I also find myself worrying if my house is clean enough – will the friends who stopped in think I’m a slob? Or, maybe they will notice my laminate counter tops – with a gouge in it?  After they leave I’m rethinking the conversation in my head. Did that pause in the conversation mean they were offended? On and on it goes…

That little voice creeps up telling me I’m not good enough.  The voice I know all to well.  The one I’ve heard from childhood.  Early on I was desperate for my parents to notice my accomplishments amidst the chaos of their day. Then in elementary school I heard the taunts of the boys chanting, “four eyes, four eyes” seemingly endlessly. As I moved into middle school and got contacts, but I found myself taller than most.  Hence I acquired a new nickname – Jolly Green Giant. High school – now high school was better. It was better because I learned to watch people around me and see what they were doing and how others were reacting to them.  I then patterned my words and actions accordingly.  I learned the art of masks.

In some ways, I still feel like I’m wearing those masks as watching to see what everyone else is wearing, how they are decorating their homes, how they are interacting with their kids. The fear of failure or of being deemed a loser ties me to chains of acceptance that are squeezing my wrists tighter and tighter.

I love my children. I don’t want to hurt them. But, it is unrealistic to expect they will be elated with every restriction I place on them. If they are frustrated at me, but not because of some offense but because I’m upholding God’s Biblical standards, that’s ok.  It doesn’t make me a bad person.  I can feel the chains slipping off as this thought becomes clearer in my mind.

I don’t need others to affirm my every move. If my poor tired husband doesn’t notice the clean clothes in his dresser drawers before he’s even gone upstairs –where the dresser is – it doesn’t define me.  When I think about it, I don’t even notice the ding on my counter tops And honestly, I’m kind of glad they are older laminate, I can just use them and enjoy them and not worry about staining them.  I’m sure I would love new granite ones someday, but there are just so many more important things that come into my life every day.  I just don’t have the time or energy to worry about them right now. I realize I’m ok with that. I was just not ok with the idea that someone else wasn’t ok with it. Someone who doesn’t live here, who doesn’t use them and who wouldn’t be putting the energy into changing them out. Clank, clack…I hear chains hitting the ground.

instead of fretting at every conversation, what if I just pray before I meet with someone and ask God to, “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3) It will help me feel more confident.

I feel like a weight is lifted.  I can jump and run, no longer bound by the chains that have held me since I was a wee-one.   I can just be me.

What if others don’t like me?  Does that make me a failure?  Do others determine that?

Am I a failure?

No! A thousand times, “NO!”

I love Jesus. I am trying to be more like Him every day. That is success. Success is not defined by dressing right, saying the right thing, decorating my house a certain way or having people verbally affirm me. No, success is walking each moment hand-in-hand with Jesus. Quietly listening for His promptings, obeying His word and by asking myself at the end of the day, “Did I please Jesus today?”

Galatians 1:10 (NIV) says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

 Thank you Jesus for opening my eyes and showing me where I was walking on the wrong path. I don’t want to walk the path of acceptance of others. The burden is too heavy.  Thank you for accepting me and loving me even when I was unlovable.  I want to be a blessing to those around me. I want my time to be freed up to enjoy people and not be a slave to what I think they might be thinking.  Thank you for your everlasting love.  Amen.

The Key to My Soul

Writing is the key to my soul. When my fingers touch the keys, I find a hidden, secret part of me.  All the millions of colliding words in my head, form in proper order and march out onto the screen -one by one – like little soldiers.  I feel a rare sensation in my brain – stillness, quiet. All is in order in my world for these few rare moments. The process is like an old friend sitting up with me in the dorm room long after everyone else have turned the lights out. All the fluff is gone and life’s deep questions are being chewed on. Sometimes the words bring laughter and sometimes tears. But it the end, those moments are rare and cherished.

When Hope is all You Have

Darkness

Black enveloping my very existence

Hopelessness – what an ugly word

Yet in the distance I can still sense hope. I hang on to the thread, knowing I will be ok.

Lord,

I’ve told you over and over if you can bring more glory to your name with me having difficulty seeing than if I had full sight, that was ok with me.  Yet, you see my heart. You know my pain and in the moment when the reality of loss hits me and all I see is black, there, in that moment I feel your loving arms engulf me. I know you are God and all is going to be ok. Even if ok means I don’t see any better than I do at this moment again. All that I spent a decade being afraid of, is beginning to become reality.  

I feel my faith grow and I instinctively know there is good in pain. It’s one thing for me to say I’ve given something to God. It’s another thing for Him to take it – then I see what’s really in my heart. When that which I love is gone and I can still say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” – what peace. I relish in that moment. Gone are the carefree, innocent laughs of my youth – replaced with a deep sense of calm and a feeling of maturity. 

So, God, when I tell you I release my child to you – I realize as you always have – that it is a two step process. While every fiber of my being wants to cling to him as tightly as I did when he was an infant wrapped in a swaddling blanket, deep down, I know I can’t. It would end in disaster. Everything done apart from you ends that way. Will you take him – if I give him to you? I guess that’s the point of trust. I don’t know now what the future holds. So, while my words give what was never mine to keep, my heart knows that if you do indeed take that which I love, you will meet me inside the darkest black. And in knowing that, I know, come what may, I will be ok.

But I Don’t Want to be the Grown up!

The look – you know the one – the one that cuts you, as a parent to the core. Why? This time beacuse dinner wasn’t the prefered meat of choice. Earlier today –  because I put up the window and the said teen prefered it down. Crazy thing is, I’m putting more effort into being patient and encouraging parent as ever. I don’t understand it, the simplest things seem to set him off. I never know when my happy will be crashed in upon.

I’ve also found my guard is up more in an effort protect my inner being. Words – hurtful words come flying when I least expect it. One of the toughest things is to turn the other cheek. I’ve not yet mastered laughing off the hurt, instead it still cuts to the core. Showing emotion when there are teenagers in the room is like sharks who smell blood.  Things get ugly quickly.

The crazy thing is the talent he has at convincing me black is white. If I try and explain that my feelings were hurt, we will end up in a lengthy discussion about how I’m always hurting his feelings?!

When did it become so hard? I miss the days of bath ritual at 7pm and bed at 8pm with sweet bedtime stories and “I love you” all the way around.  Now I spend the better part of the day repeating “I’m the grown up” over and over in my head in an effort to not react to the ugly being hurled at me in suspecting and unsuspecting moments.

How can the thing I love with my whole being and I’ve dedicated years of my life to care for it, give back just the opposite of what I would expect? Sometimes I just want to stomp my feet and scream, “It’s Not Fair!” But, then I hear my mom’s voice in the back on my head saying, “No one ever said life would be fair.”  Ah, yes…the memories of my childhood.  Now that I think about them, I vaguely remember stomping out of a room in utter frustration at my mom on more than one occasion.  I was just so frustrated she didn’t undersand me or she was in the way of me doing what I wanted to do or becoming who I wanted to become.

Maybe things will turn out ok after all.  And maybe I need to call my mom tonight and remind her how much I love her.

Is Peace Illusive?

As I lay down, the cares of the day seem weighter than they did moments before. How I long for calm, contented sleep. Why does it illude me? I wish I could will myself back out of bed to deal with my thoughts, but fatigue overwhelms me and my longing for this night to end differently than all those in the past is fast fading – that somehow to chaos in my head will resolve itself.

Why does what seems managable during the daylight hours become ominous monsters when the lights turn off?

Ps. 30:5 “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

What a blessing the first rays of sunlight bring – hope – new beginnings – and best of all, the mosters go to bed.