Are You Content?

Take a few minutes to ponder on that question…are you content? I can imagine your thoughts wandering and pinging back and forth between yes and no…Maybe settling on one or the other, but pondering the different areas of your life: your health, your relationships, your career, your family, your marriage, your finances…

While I think we’d all like to say yes, we are content, I think the answer for many of us instead sounds like “Well, I am content with some things BUT…” or maybe even for you, the answer is no, you are not content…

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Samuel in the Bible, it begins with talking about a man named Elkanah who has 2 wives. His wives’ names are Hannah and Penninah. Penninah has children, but Hannah has no children at the beginning of the story. We learn a little further into the reading that Penninah actually taunts Hannah for her inability to have children.

Have you ever wanted something so badly that your body has had a physical reaction like crying or being unable to eat because you just feel so sick and sad? As Hannah is crying, Elkanah sees her and this is his response…

When I was reading the story, the words to me seemed to be more from God to Hannah than from Elkanah. I pictured God looking into Hannah’s sad eyes saying, “I know you want children, but Hannah, you have ME!”

It really hit me when I read it and I didn’t realize why until just now as I read back over it…this my personal testimony. I can hear God asking me a similar question, “Am I not enough for you?” I went through a period of many years where like Hannah, I looked for my worth in things of this world. This manifested itself in me desiring relationships. I wanted to be seen as loved and worthy by others, so I pursued relationships to attempt to have that desire met. I realized as I kept reading that Hannah and I have a lot in common. She was finding her worth in her ability to have babies, which was leading her to feel worthless and less than others, like Penninah, who could have babies even though the text itself says in verse 6 that “…the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb.” I find that hard to swallow at first, knowing that God closed her womb and kept her from being able to have babies intentionally even though it was one of her heart’s greatest desires.

I think of the story of Adam and Eve and how many people (including Eve) feel like God was withholding from them by telling them to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While to them it felt like withholding, it was truly protection! I always think about the trap they fell into of focusing on what they couldn’t have (eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil) rather than focusing on all that God had given them! How quickly we too fall into the trap of focusing on what we DON’T have, rather than being grateful for what we DO have!

So I pondered my own personal testimony this week and thought back to how grateful I am to this day that God didn’t let me have what I wanted, when I wanted it.

  1. Marriage: If I had gotten married when I wanted to, I don’t know what my marriage would look like right now! I can say with confidence, that now on the other side, I can se how God used my waiting period to grow myself as an individual.
  2. Teaching: How I pictured what teaching would look like and how it ended up being was nothing like I ever imagined. It’s been a challening journey and while it has been very trying, it has brought me so much closer to God and I wouldn’t trade that closeness to God or the valuable lessons I’ve learned for an easier job.

As I looked back over these different areas of my life, I was reminded of a great truth that brought me so much comfort while I sit here now, wanting and waiting for other things I have yet to receive or see come to fruition…I find this story a great reminder to me that if I have God, I have it all and that sometimes, God has different plans for me that the plans that I have created for myself in my mind. Life is less about what I do and what I get and more about WHO I get to live my life for. No matter what happens, I still have God, which is exactly what he was reminding Hannah of as she was mourning being unable to have children at the time she wanted to have them.

Hannah wept and prayed and did end up having a child. She named him Samuel, which means “Because I asked the Lord for Him.” This is the origin of the famous verse you’ve probably seen on many baby blankets 🙂

At church this last Sunday, our pastor gave a great sermon. At the end, he spoke on contentment and gave one of the best definitions I’ve seen of contentment…

Contentment is a sustained inner peace regardless of circumstance. True contentment is being okay with just being. It doesn’t mean that your goals diminish in value, nor does it mean you’re excused from improving your situation. It means that you are at peace with what has been, what is, and what will be.

I love that. A sustained inner peace that cannot be shaken, no matter the circumstance. The only way to have that is with Jesus at the center of your life. Without Him at the center, you will spend your life constantly searching, seeking, waiting, and hoping to find the next “thing” you desire to satisfy you for long enough before you want the next thing.

I’m learning to be content no matter my own circumstances. I try to remind myself that whatever lot God gives me (even if it’s not what I want), it must be the best for me and He has a plan whether or not I can see it or understand it.

So let go, my soul, and trust in Him. May we be at peace, no matter what God has for us. May our souls be well and God be the center of our lives.

Watch Your Words

Our neighborhood has a Facebook group that is meant to be used to relay important communications. Unfortunately, it’s become more of a complaint board where people feel free to post any and all of their grumbles and gripes…

I log onto the page occasionally just to see if there is anything I need to know and when I went on this Wednesday, I got a real surprise. Here is what one of our neighbors posted:

“I don’t know who was so nice and bagged there dogs poop and left the blue plastic bag on the sidewalk. You know who you are it’s waiting for you.”

Ed and I consistently walk Maverick at least twice a day around the neighborhood. As soon as I read that, my heart started racing…our poop bags are blue…I do sometimes set them down and pick them back up…was it me!?! At first I was scared, then I was angry. I thought about how rude the post seemed, almost threatening…your bag of poop is waiting for you!!

So I told Ed about it…I said I didn’t think it was us, but decided I was going to go back and check. So out I set on my quest for the poop bag in our disgruntled neighbor’s yard. As I walked up I started to panic, worrying she’d come out of her house while I was approaching. Luckily she didn’t, but I realized quickly that it was our poop bag we had accidentally left there. :O

I thought about the situation on my walk back to the house, poop bag in tow! I was angry, thinking how mean I felt she had been with her sarcastic post. This neighbor consistently posts negative things on the page and I couldn’t help but try to think of at least 10 different, kinder ways she could have approached the situation. I was also simultaneously thinking of what I wanted to say to respond to her post. Most of my initial responses, if I’m being honest, were not so kind…

I recognize that I made a mistake and that it is not pleasant to have a random poop bag in your yard…but I couldn’t help but think… is this really such a big deal?? Then I started to feel bad for the lady! I honestly cannot really understand how this was such a problem for her when it has not been a pattern. It most definitely hasn’t been a pattern of Ed and I leaving poop bags in her yard, so maybe someone else has done it continuously to her?

The word grace kept coming to my mind. I don’t know this woman very well…I don’t know her history or story, and I don’t know what her day was like. If I had to guess, I’d say she might not have had the best day and maybe our poop bag was the thing that pushed her to the edge. So I decided to make my response to the point and direct.

“It was me and I have picked it up. I do apologize for leaving it in your yard. It was definitely not done intentionally or maliciously.”

Since I’ve had conversations with her before, I was hoping that maybe telling her it was me would remind her that she was talking to a human, who makes mistakes.

After I wrote that comment back, I sat down, and low and behold, I looked to my left, and look what caught my eye…

These two lovely ornaments…a great reminder of the grace I have been freely given. I felt God telling me that I did the right thing and that even though I didn’t say what I really wanted to say, I did the right thing in giving someone the grace I wish they had given me…whether or not I thought she “deserved” it.

Ephesians 2: 8-10: Made Alive in Christ

8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9) not by works so that no one can boast. 10) For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I thought of the verses above and my mind started to turn to, what can I take away from this encounter? I knew I didn’t want to walk away bitter and angry. The lesson I pondered most on…watch your words. How you approach a situation MATTERS. Our words, whether we think so or not, impact people. I was reminded to give people grace before I make a judgment or get offended. I once heard a quote that said this, “Offence is taken, not given.” Consider that other people have things going on, and maybe ask before you assume the worst of them or become offended and hard-hearted towards them.

Have a blessed rest of your weekend…hopefully filled with words of LIFE!

Everything is Meaningless

While many people hate and bash on New Years and setting goals, I personally love it. I think it’s a healthy and helpful holiday where we can take time to reflect on what the last year looked like and come up with tangible and reasonable things we can do to make ourselves more healthy and whole. I find it exciting and refreshing, and that excitement doesn’t dwindle even if I felt like last year didn’t pan out the way I saw it going because guess what…it’s a new year! So the way I see it, I take inventory of my life…what went well, what did I do well, what do I want to do better, am I becoming the person I want to be, etc…then I set realistic and attainable goals to help myself try to prioritize the right things and people so that I can meet my goals.

Have you ever heard the song “Room in Your Heart” by Casting Crowns? I remember many Christmas sermons last year being titled “Room in Your Heart” but the message didn’t really hit me until this year.

Here are some of the lyrics: Is there room in your heart? Is there room in your heart? Is there room in your heart for God to write His story? You can come as you are, but it may set you apart…When you make room in your heart and trade your dreams for His glory.

I’ve been thinking about this song since Christmas and about how true the message is…Not just for Christmas, but for the whole year too! It’s so easy to crowd our hearts up with things we see as “good”…Like some of the new goals we will try to meet this year (reading a certain amount of books, going to the gym a certain number of times each week, traveling more, intentionally meeting up with 1 person for coffee each week) and while all those things may be good, nothing is truly good without God at the center of it all and with HIM being the motivation for WHY we do the things that we do.

I heard a quote recently that said this: “When it comes to marriage, if you get that one aspect of your life right, everything else can go wrong and none of it will matter. But when it comes to marriage, if you get that one aspect of your life wrong, everything else could go right and none of it will matter.”

That quote holds so much truth, but it holds so much truth because of what God has created marriage to be, which is a representation of HIS love for us…so I couldn’t help but see this quote in a different light and take some liberties to change it as I reflected on the last year and was setting my own goals…

When it comes to life and your relationship with God, if you get that one aspect of your life right, everything else can go wrong and none of it will matter. But when it comes to life and your relationship with God, if you get that one aspect of your life wrong, everything else could go right and none of it will matter.

Reading that to myself sends a shot to my heart as I think about this last year and ponder the question of: Did I truly put God at the center of everything I did? I say with a heavy, but honest heart that the answer is simply no. The song said it best, we have to MAKE room for God in our hearts…We cannot expect ourselves to grow closer to God without making Him a priority in our lives and centering EVERYTHING that we do AROUND Him and FOR Him.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Ecclesiastes…I love it because it’s such a honest book of the Bible, in which King Solomon (known to be the wisest and richest man to ever live) is wrestling with this question: Is there meaning to life? The book walks through his questioning and experimenting to try and figure out what the purpose of life is. The first verse says this: “Everythng is meaningless…completely meaningless!” The last verses say this: “Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.”

Life without God, as Solomon learned, leads to emptiness. You could have all the money, fame, fancy items, etc that you desire and still feel empty if you don’t have God.

So whether you like New Years or you hate it, I think we can all make a resolution this year to dive more deeply into our relationship with God. If you make 20 goals, make sure they are all for the glory of God and not your own glory. If you make 1 goal, let it be to grow closer to God. No matter what goals you set this year, if being close to God is not your first and foremost goal, you will end the year feeling empty.

The song above so beautifully captures it…you can have it all, every little thing you need, and still feel empty. You can have it all, you could have the best this life could bring, living everybody elses dream, and stil feel empty…It’s the missing that tells you there is something more.

You were created for relationship with the God who created you and the God who loves you.

I was reading Ezekiel 47, which is a picture of what it looks like for us to have a close relationship with God. Take some time to read the passage below for yourself 🙂

Ezekiel 47: The River From the Temple

The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side.

As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits[a] and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. 5 He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah,[b] where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. 10 Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. 11 But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. 12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river.  Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

God was with Ezekiel. He brought him to several places, He took measurements, He asked Ezekiel to notice the water, He led him, He taught him…God was with him, and God is with me and with you every step.

I have felt the difference between making room for Jesus in my heart and keeping Him out of my day-to-day and this story so beautifully captures the difference it makes having Jesus as our guide and our source of life.

God wants you to draw near to Him, to seek Him, and simply, to spend time with Him! That’s the only way you will feel content and grow in this life. Nothing else in the world will satisfy you no matter how many goals you set, but it requires a choice of you and I both making room in our hearts every single day for Him.

God brings healing, life, and growth…With Him as our source, we will be like the trees whose leaves will not wither in Ezekiel. We will be watered by the river flowing from the temple, our leaves will be food and healing to others with God as our source. Will you make room for Him this year? Let God be the most important thing in your life…you will not regret it.

Crossroads: In the Middle, What Do You Choose?

As I am sitting here in the middle of a situation for which I am just waiting for God to provide a solution, I am frustrated. I am frustrated with myself for oscillating between feeling good about my choices to stand up for what I believe to be right and feeling bad for the choices I am making and the impact they have on others. I am sad that I feel like a banner that says “Ye of little faith” is flying over my head at the moment, when I want so badly to believe that what I am doing is right and that God is moving, but at the same time I am doubting…I am wondering if God is proud of me and the decisions I am making or if He is like, this girl is missing the point!!

In the midst of this waiting and doubt, I decided to go in to Crossroads church, a place where my friends and I meet weekly to do our small group. I was here yesterday as well and while walking in today, I thought to myself…Well, here we are again at crossroads…since I was just here yesterday mid-day, last night, and now this morning too! I sat with the thought for a moment and I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I realized how funny and true the comment was, both literally AND metaphorically. I am here again at the physical Crossroads church building, while at the same time, I am at a crossroad in this situation (still!), in which I am waiting for an answer to a drawn-out problem that has yet to be resolved for what feels to be a long, tiring amount of time.

I laughed too because I wrote a whole blog post yesterday about how confident I was in God and in the fact that He was moving and working in this situation while I am waiting, but something didn’t quite sit well with me for me to post it last night so I waited, as I told Ed that it didn’t quite feel right yet or like it was meant to be posted as it was.

I read over it again this morning hoping that I tweak it and post it but it sincerely felt like it would be fake to post it this morning as I felt like I had so quickly and easily lost my faith in God in the situation. I felt that it would be disingenuous to post it in the middle of my unbelief, all the while proclaiming my great faith in God! So, here we are now…

Originally, I wrote about how I had started to read the book of Joshua in the Bible and that when I started had a hard time believing that I’d be able to relate to the book because unlike the Israelites, I hadn’t wandered in the desert for 40 years and I had no literal rivers that I was going to be crossing that I knew of…so how could I relate?

I sit here now thankful God, because while I am not crossing any literal rivers, I do feel like God has spoken to me in the neatest ways through reading just the first few chapters of Joshua. While I am not in the middle of a literal river crossing, I am at a crossroads in which I am metaphorically “crossing” a raging river, just like the Israelites and I am faced with a choice that I have to make not once, but time and time again to believe God and to put my faith and trust in Him with in the middle of this river crossing/crossroad.

So, the story of Joshua…God gives very specific directions to Joshua about how to cross the river. He tells him that when the priests enter the river first and set their feet in the water that the flow of water will be cut off and the river will stand up like a wall so that they can cross through on dry land. God’s plan was to transform a flowing river into dry land during the harvest season when the Jordan river was overflowing it banks…so not only did God plan to have them cross a river, but a RAGING river at that. I know that if I had been there I would’ve been questioning and wondering if God maybe meant for us to cross in a few months once the water went down…Then I thought to myself that maybe God did that intentionally, asking them to cross at the most impossible time for His glory to be shown and for them to truly experience a most unexpected miracle…to grow their faith BECAUSE of the most unbelievable circumstances and timing that God was asking them to walk through! Under the leadership of Joshua, they choose to obey and to cross the river!

The Israelites begin to cross and as the feet of the priests who were carrying the ark touch the water at the river’s edge, the water began backing up a great distance…until it was a dry riverbed, just as God said would happen. It says that then all the people crossed over but that the priests stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by. They waited there until the whole nation of Israel had crossed on dry ground. Can you imagine being the priests? The ones standing and staying in the middle of the riverbed that was just raging?? What faith!

A little further on into the story it gives more detail, reiterating that the priests who were carrying the Ark stood in the middle of the river while everyone crossed and adding that meanwhile, the other Israelites hurried across the riverbed.

My revelation yesterday: It makes me sad to think that the Israelite people were literally experiencing a miracle and their natural inclination was to hurry through it, rather than to be like the priests…firmly planted, trusting, and experiencing the miracle God was literally walking them through.

My conviction today: I am sad that I am the Israelites. I am the one hurrying across the riverbed. I am scared, full of fear and doubt that God IS working in this situation because it hasn’t panned out the way I imagined that it would this morning.

I realized then and I realize now that God is and will continue to ask me to make a choice: I can choose to be like the priests or I can choose to be like the people. Will I stand and be patient for the Lord, confident in Him while He works everything out, or will I hurry through with fear deeply rooted in my heart to just get through the situation as quickly as possible?

The TRUTH in this situation is that God can cause great opposition to disappear at any given moment that he chooses. Though our challenges may feel too great to us, they are not too great for God. He can do anything!

I am reminded of the importance of reading the Bible DAILY…Of saturating (as my wonderful co-teacher likes to say) your environment with scripture, worship songs, and prayer…It is so EASY for us to lose faith! So we HAVE to remind ourselves of truth and continually be asking the Holy Spirit to help lead and guide our every decision, conversation, thought, etc…

So here is the CHOICE I am making AGAIN in FAITH today…While I am waiting for God to move, I will wait with faith and confidence like the priests. I will be still and quiet. I will trust Him and remind myself that He gives me everything I need while I wait. I will remind myself that the Bible says that He calls me beside peaceful streams, and I will be patient until He calls me to make a move at my own crossroads. When He does, I pray I have the courage to finish crossing it with faith and not fear…to stand FIRM and CONFIDENT in His power and might!

I am making a choice that even when things don’t seem to be going the way I think they should, that I trust God. We have a choice in every situation to either make ourselves a victim to our circumstances or to see God moving, ask Him to reveal His presence, and wait…

I am making a choice to give thanks. To keep praying. To keep hoping! I will continue to rejoice and be obedient step by step, day by day. I will look to God, rather than to my circumstances. I know that no matter where God has me and no matter what happens, that I am upheld securely by the hand of God. I believe in a good, loving, God who is in control of ALL things. I will see my circumstances as opportunities for me to learn and to grow closer to God, knowing that the hardest times often bring me the closest to God and that God uses all things…no matter how this situation turns out, I trust that God has my best at heart.

Some of my all-time favorite verses come from Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 which says that God has made everything beautiful in its time. I have a tendency to be like the Israelites and to rush through things that are hard because I want it to be over with, but this verse continually pushes me and brings me to tears as God reminds me gently that everything has a place, a purpose, and a time in our lives…even the things that don’t feel good. I’m reminded of how much He has taught me over my first years of teaching, and I am so grateful. When I look back, there is nothing I would change, even though it was hard. I wouldn’t choose to go to an “easier” school or place…I instead can now see how God grew me and helped me through and I am so so grateful for that and for how close it has brought me to Him. I know that sometime in the future, I will look back at this and feel the same way! God WILL get me through this crossing!

The song below has been on repeat for me…I love the rawness of it and the beauty and simplicity of her voice and the words. I can relate to it all…my mind racing, thoughts all over the place, feelings not lining up to what I know to be true…all until God’s voice comes in. I’m reminded that I’m not alone and that God will fight my battles if I am still and if I am quiet and let Him speak.

I don’t need to know what comes next…tomorrow is in God’s hands. I trust Him with my future, which He already sees. With God, I have all that I need. He will make all of this beautiful, in His timing. Today I choose Him. Today I choose faith…today I choose to wait on the Lord and to be led by the Holy Spirit while in the middle of my crossing. I wait in FAITH!

A Covering

The older I get, the more and more I realize just how cool plants are. I’m not quite what I’d call a crazy plant lady, but the more and more I learn about plants, the more I see how full of analogies and lessons plants are. The other day as I was on a walk, I noticed that a neighbor had put bed sheets over their bushes. At first, I thought it was funny and looked a little silly, but then I remembered how cold I was and I realized that it was actually a very practical and kind thing they had done, to save their plants from the first frost of the season!

For some reason, this analogy has stuck with me for weeks now and I am just piecing together why. I have been facing a big issue at work lately, probably the heaviest and most challenging issue of my teaching career yet. I’ll spare you the details, but essentially, I’ve been reminded that we have a real enemy, the devil, at work in our world. I have felt discouraged, defeated, tired, and unsupported. The spiritual aspect of this problem has felt heavy at times, but I’ve been encouraged by God little by little and dealing with this issue as best I feel I can as it progresses and continues.

With all that said, these little plants being protected by their owner, reminded me of myself and of you. I believe that God is our protector and that he covers us in ways that we don’t even notice. So while we have an enemy at work around us like the frost…we also have a God who loves us, sees us, and shelters us, like the bed sheets 🙂

The “Threads” of God’s Covering For Us:

1. Scripture. Reminds of us God’s truth and His promises. God’s literal armor for us…it teaches us, guides us, gives us hope, encouragement, correction…It equips us for the work God desires us to do. It reminds us of God’s truth and of His commands. It helps us learn about the character of God and in turn, helps us to live our lives in a way that pleases and honors Him…we want to reflect His character and we can’t do that if we don’t know Him or His word! His word, if we read it and meditate on it, turns into revelation, which allows us to know what God wants us to do and ushers us into obedience and the path God intends for us.

2. Worship Music. Ushers us into the presence of God! Helps us to be able to express our gratitude, joy, sorrow, and all the ranges of emotions we feel to God. Helps us to speak and sing truth over ourselves, through good times and hard times! A way for God to speak to us and encourage us!

3. Prayer. Connects us to God, and gives us a line to speak to and hear from Him. A way for us to share how we feel with God, a way for us to repent, to receive correction and guidance!

4. Wise Counsel. A way for us to seek not only wisdom but encouragement and help in times of need in our lives. To hear from people with more experience who can speak into our situations…people who truly know you, know God, and who are willing & able to tell you the truth!

Just think…one prayer, two prayers, a worship song that shifts your focus back to God, a verse that speaks right to the situation you’re in…a friend who speaks an encouraging word over you on a hard day…little by little, God creates our coverings to shield us from the enemies attacks. I’ve been thinking of it as a blanket…” thread” by “thread” (in the form of scripture, songs, prayers, encouragement, etc.) God is knitting together “blankets” to protect us.

Here are some of the “threads” God has been using to make my covering lately…

While the situation I am facing is not resolved, I choose to continue to seek God and to see His hand in this situation. True faith is reliance on God. I am making the CHOICE to act in accordance with this truth, despite the fact that I can’t yet see the outcome! In the meantime, I know that God has me. He has made that very clear in giving me peace beyond my understanding…Peace to the point that I am not worked up or worried. I am sad and wish I knew what the outcome will be, but what I do know is that GOD is in control. God has me covered. He is protecting me, and I am grateful to have the greatest protector I could ever ask for. He is my shield!

If you chose to focus on Him, He will be your shield too. I was reading on a website that said if you don’t cover your plants, they can get frost damaged…aren’t we the same? If we don’t CHOOSE to pray, to worship, to read God’s word, we can become “frost damaged” too. just looks like discouragement, giving up, anger, jealousy, and so many different things on us. We sometimes ALLOW ourselves to become more susceptible to satan’s attacks. That same website said that this “frost damage” can be pruned back, but that if you don’t want to live with “brown, crispy plants”, you should cover them…the same is true of us. CHOOSE to let God cover you today! Lean into scripture, worship songs, or trusted family members/friends, or turn to God in prayer!

I hope that encouraged and helped you…but if not, here is the cutest picture of Maverick that makes me smile every time I see it…maybe it can be the first piece of your “blanket”…the cutest boy, with those big brown eyes, is cheering you on and is here to encourage you!…Thread #1 of your covering blanket, CHECK!

Freezer Meals: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes!

Where to begin??? Freezer meals have been a “thing” for me for a little over a year now. There’s a lot to learn, so if it feels overwhelming, that’s probably because it IS! Learning something new is always a lot at first, but little by little, you’ll learn what works best for you. SO, just stick with me and keep at it!! Here are some tips/tricks that I’ve learned and some of my favorite recipes to help you get started.

First, you should know that this is more money upfront, but I have found that it saves me money in the long run since I’m not having to buy meat or food to make meals…which also makes my grocery trips lighter since I am just going for things like fruit, veggies, milk, etc.

I’ll say that there are 2 ways I’d recommend starting…

  1. With FRIENDS 🙂 I recently just hosted my first freezer meal party (more to come, especially now that I know how interested people are in this). A week before the party, I asked my 2 friends to send me a recipe that they wanted to make. Once I got their recipes, I printed off copies for each of us and made a grocery list. Obviously, since there were 3 of us I tripled the ingredients, checked what ingredients I already had, then the next day we went shopping together! We then came back to my house and we decided to each make all of the meals so we could have the experience of what it was like to make each one…I’ve found that some freezer meals just take way too long to make, so I make them once, and ditch the recipe 🙂 The cool thing about this is that instead of leaving with 3 of the one recipe we each chose, we each got to go home with one of each of the recipes which helped us try new ones with might not have tried before! Pros to this option are that obviously it’s more fun and you can try new/various recipes…Cons are that you don’t make as many freezer meals, but I think it’s a great option to start and not feel overwhelmed!
  2. On your own! If you want to do more meals, then I’d suggest doing it on your own. If you’ve never done freezer meals before then I’d honestly say to choose 2 or 3 recipes and make 2 or 4 batches of each to start with. Freezer meal cooking can definitely feel overwhelming and become time-consuming quickly depending on how labor-intensive the recipes you chose are…more on that later though 🙂 When I do freezer meals, I first look for recipes. I usually just go to google and type in “Healthy freezer meals”…I open up a bunch of tabs and try to find a variety of chicken, turkey, pork, and beef recipes. Once I find a few I like, I print the recipes, make a grocery list, then depending on how much I need of each item I’ll either add it to Kroger click list OR my Sam’s club click list. I’ve found this to be helpful because 1) I only have to go pick my groceries up rather than having to shop twice and 2) I don’t have huge quantities of things I only need a little bit of! After I get the groceries, I come home and clear my dining room table. I lay out the recipes and I either put a large freezer baggie (add this to your click list too if you don’t have them on hand) OR I put out an aluminum freezer meal pan (also add this if you don’t have them they are a lifesaver because you can prep the meal in the pan, cook in the pan, AND throw it out when you’re done, so NO DISHES!!! Hallelujah! Lol), then I sort the groceries into their recipes so I can visually see each recipe, what ingredients go with it, and what dish/baggie it will be placed into. Pros to this option are that you will have more meals. Cons are that it’s more work and can feel more stressful, so make sure you have PLENTY of time OR choose fewer recipes (like 1-2 and make more of each recipe rather than make a few batches of many recipes).

Now for some tips I’ve learned!

  • Like I mentioned earlier, I like to print the recipes and get out good old-fashioned paper and pencil to make a grocery list. It’s easier to get a count of things like onions, bell peppers, etc. and to then make a click list/decide if you need an ingredient in bulk or not. Yes, you have to go to 2 grocery stores, BUT all you have to do is pick it up! Then when you get home, you can sort the ingredients back out into their individual recipes.
  • Use aluminum pans and be sure to cover then with tin foil and their lids before placing them in the freezer. I always write the name of the recipes and directions for how to cook the recipe on the foil or on the ziploc baggie so that I can easily know how to cook the meal. You can buy aluminum pans at Sam’s club, but a mistake I recently made was getting the pans without lids…this makes it harder to stack the meals because the aluminum foil caves in! So, don’t be like me. Buy the aluminum pans with lids 🙂
  • The easiest type of freezer meals to make and to cook are called dump meals. I know, a really lovely name! Haha. They are like what they sound like, you literally dump all the ingredients into the bag and it involves very little prep. When you’re ready to cook these, you thaw the meal, then dump it into your crockpot and you’re done! I’ll list some of my favorite dump meals later on in the post!
  • Use crock pot liners!!! Then you don’t have to spend time soaking and scrubbing your crock pot! You can buy these in bulk at Sam’s club.
  • Once you make your meals and put them in Ziploc baggies, lay them FLAT in the freezer at first. You want to do this because then once they freeze, you can more easily store them by standing them up! This will save you a lot of space in your freezer and help with organization!
  • Another note on storage, if you find that you really like this and it’s helpful to you, you might want to invest in a deep freezer. Ed and I got one and it is now completely full outside! I have a section for beef meals, turkey meals, and chicken meals that are all stacked up. In our inside freezer, I have pork meals and other misc. meals! We find that organizing by protein makes it easier to meal plan for the week and get a variety of different meals.
  • As far as prep goes, I’ve learned that it’s easiest if you’re doing many meals to cook the ones that use the same meat at the same time. So for example, last time I cooked mexican turkey soup and turkey quinoa casserole so what I did after I sorted out all of the ingredients was I first started to cook the meat (I just learned a new way I”ll explain next!!!) and as the meat cooked, I prepped the rest of the ingredients by chopping and cuttings lots of onions, peppers, etc., opening lots of cans, draining juices, washing corn, etc. so that when the meat was done, all I had left to do was add the turkey meat to the Ziploc bag or to the aluminum pan.
  • As far as cooking meat goes, I have a gigantic dutch oven that I used to use to cook lots of meat at once…now I just use my crockpot because you can, as they say, set it and forget it 🙂 The other nice thing about using the crock pot to cook meat is that if you start by getting the meat going, you can prep all the other ingredients and have it ready to go while the meat cooks! I find that this makes it go a little quicker 🙂
  1. Chicken=Bake in the oven or grill out if you need chicken breasts, Cook chicken in the crock pot if you need shredded chicken, or buy a rotisserie chicken if you don’t want to have to wait/cook chicken yourself you can buy a rotisserie chicken and quickly pull the meat off!
  2. Turkey & Beef=Cook in a skillet OR cook in the crock pot. I cooked 4 lbs of turkey in my crockpot (with a handy dandy crock pot liner) and it took a few hours to I was able to prep all the bags/casserole dishes and just add the turkey once it was finished cooking. I made the mistake of trying to cook 10 lbs of beef in my bigger crockpot at once time (I know, silly) so I ended up having to get out a skillet to finish browning it which wasn’t a huge deal, BUT I’d say only do up to 4, maybe 5 max lbs of meat in the crock pot at a time. It cooks usually for 2-3 hours on low or 4-6 on high. I used a thermometer to check it and it was a lot easier to drain all the meat at once using a strainer and letting it go into a bowl before I put it in a jar!
  • As you assemble the Ziploc meals, there is a handy tool you can use so that you don’t accidentally drop of let your Ziploc bag fall over (it happens a lot more quickly than you’d think and is quite frustrating!) They make these holders that will hold your baggies upright so they don’t fall over and create any messes. This makes it a lot easier to double or quadruple a recipe at once as well as you just drop the ingredients in each bag, then onto the next one!

Now, onto the good stuff!!!! Here are some of my favorite recipes 🙂

Dump Meals: These are meals that when you prep, you literally dump all of the ingredients into the bag. When you’re ready to cook it, you thaw it in the fridge (I usually do this 2 days before I want to cook it), then dump it into your crock pot and typically cook it on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours. I’ve found that cooking it on high tends to make the meat dry, but also cooking it on low for 8 hours does that same! So it’s all a toss-up and a learning curve! These are the easiest meals to start with if you’re new to this! The ones below are some of Ed and I’s favorites…The peanut chicken satay is the newest one we’ve tried and is sooo good!! We have it on top of brown rice with naan bread and it is to die for!

Easiest Ones to Start with…(Require no chopping!)

“Level 2” Dump Meals (Require a little more chopping)

Casseroles: These are nice because they’re often a whole meal that require no sides or extra cooking once you are done making them…they do require a little more time/effort to make though!

Just for Fun: Ed and I love these little pizzas because we can individualize them and they help us out on nights when I forget to thaw a meal or we are in a time crunch! We make a bunch ahead of time and have an aluminum pan of “Kassie’s” pizzas and a pan of “Ed’s” pizzas 🙂

What I love about freezer meals is that I always get to come home to a meal already cooked AND I rarely have to do dishes and try to scrub casserole out of a dish…because honestly who wants to do that after a long work day! I hope this helps you get started!! If you have tips or questions or want to be a part of the next freezer meal “party” I have, comment or reach out! If you have other good recipes, drop them below!! Happy freezer meal-ing…that’s a thing now 🙂

Where Are You?

Nothing is more precious to me in my life than the voice of God. By the “voice” of God, I don’t mean that I tangibly hear Him all the time. What I mean is His presence…the way He shows His self in small ways like through a song, through a quote that just hits your right in the feels, in the way the sun rises up in the morning and paints the clouds all different kinds of colors. I think this song expresses it well…

I am still learning (and will be for the rest of my life!) how to “hear” God’s voice. For me, it requires slowing down, living life with more margin, and allowing myself more time to quiet my soul. Really I’ve learned that it’s not about God showing up, but about ME making space to RECOGNIZE His presence in my life because. He is always there…I am not always aware.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a theme that seems to keep repeating itself…I’ve noticed God asking people this question: “Where are you?”

This question comes up within the first few pages of the Bible with Adam and Eve after they have just sinned by eating from the tree God told them not to eat from. Moments after, they hear God walking about in the garden so they hide from him. As they are hiding, God calls to them and asks “Where are you?” The first time I read it, I was very confused because God knows everything, so why would he ask them where they were?? Wouldn’t he already know?

If you keep reading Genesis, you get to the story of Cain and Abel…another well-known story in which Cain murders his brother Abel. After Cain commits this heinous act, the Bible says in Genesis 4:9 that God asks Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” I had a flash-back to Adam and Eve and thought again, why would God be asking when he knew Abel was dead and he knew that Cain had killed him?

Fast forward to Abraham’s story, which is also in Genesis…God came to Abraham in his old age and promised Him that he would have a son of his own who would be his heir. Unfortunately, as it does for many of us, God’s timeline didn’t match up with Abraham’s, so Abraham and his wife Sarah took matters into their own hands to get things moving along, by having Abraham have a child with one of their servants, named Hagar. While they are in the process of trying to have a child through Hagar instead of Sarah, there erupts a lot of conflict between the women, which leads Hagar to run away because of how badly Sarah treated her. I think this is one of the most beautiful “Where are you?” moments. As Hagar is running away, an angel finds her and says to her, “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” Again I thought to myself, God already knew the entire situation. He knew exactly where she came from, why she left, and where she was going, but He still asked her! Weird! The angel then goes on to tell her the news of her pregnancy and that she is to name the son Ishmael, which means “God hears” because the Lord heard her cry. So I was left to wonder again, why was God asking her where she came from and where she planned to go when He already knew?

Hagar gives birth to Ishmael and as more time passes on, Abraham still hasn’t had a son who will be his own heir by conceiving with Sarah…until we get to Genesis 21. After a lot of waiting, Abraham finally receives this promise of his own son at 100 years old! This would’ve been such a joyous day, a promise fulfilled that he had waited decades to be fulfilled…Isaac.

In Genesis 22, with that context in mind, we come to the next “Where are you?” moment that looks a little bit different. This time, God called out to get Abraham’s attention by simply calling out his name. Abraham’s immediate response was, “Here I am!” He heard God’s call to Him and God began to tell him the plan, which was for Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. So, Abraham was asked to give up the very thing that God gave him to fulfill His promise to him…the son he waited decades for! Can you imagine? But what blows my mind, even more, is his response…the Bible says that he got up early the next morning and went. That is a man who must’ve truly known and loved God to be obedient so quickly and to be willing to let go of what God gave him, despite loving it so.

These stories when combined together, paint a bigger picture and lesson we can all learn from as we ourselves seek to hear from God, be in His presence, and be obedient to what He asks of us…

God calls out to all people at any and all times…Adam and Eve had just sinned. Cain had just committed the first murder the world had ever seen. Hagar was a slave. Abraham was a faithful man. God called out to ALL of them, not just the one who was faithful. He cared about each of them, despite mistakes they made or things they did, and the same is true of us today. God is calling out to you! Despite what you have done or who you are! He loves you all the same!

God calls out to us to help us, not to actually have us answer his questions so he can know things. It seems kind of funny when you first think about it, but the more I think about it, the more beautiful it becomes. The same question of “Where are you?” can have different purposes for each of us. I believe that for Adam and Eve, God was trying to get them to repent. To be honest about where they were and to allow themselves, mistakes and all to be seen by God…and to give them the freedom of knowing they were still loved, despite their sin. The same, I think, is true for Cain. That God was giving him a chance to come clean, to repent and admit what he had done…to finally give to God his anger and his jealousy that he could no longer contain or hold onto without hurting others. I believe that he asked Hagar because she needed to know that God saw her and heard her in the midst of her distress. He wanted her to consider and process through all that had happened and to know that despite all of it, He saw her and He loved her, even when she felt like nobody else did. He would be with her and take care of her.

If you listen, you will hear Him. If you notice, you will see Him. God desires to speak to you, for you to hear Him, and for you to respond to His call and questions…

So, where are you? Where have you come from? Where are you going?

Something is Always Blooming…

Every summer my family takes a trip down to spend a week in Florida, which has become a really special time and place for us as we make more and more memories there each year. In reflecting on the trip we just took, I wanted to share a lesson from my great-Grandma Sara that has stuck with me and been something I can’t get off of my mind…

First, let me tell you a little bit about my great Grandma Sara. The first thing to know about her is that she is AMAZING. Quite literally, she astounds me…here is why…She is well into her 90s and fully embraces and imparts the great wisdom that comes with that. She currently lives in an assisted living facility in Florida but still has all her wits about her. She can still get around and she is always eager to share her own precious memories that you can tell she holds so dearly within her heart and mind. I am always so impressed by her mobility and her ability to remember…I pray and hope that when I’m her age I will be as blessed as her, but for now, she is a big blessing and a joy to spend time with.

Anytime we go down to Florida, we always take a trip to see Grandma Sara, which usually consists of us going to her place, getting a tour, and playing lots and lots of games like rummy and mexican train dominoes. This year was no different as we reached out to her on the long drive down and asked if we could meet up! She was able to fit us in before her virtual reality experience that she had to be back on time for (How cool is that?!).

On the way to pick her up, I noticed some pretty trees that were blooming and pointed them out to my Mom and my husband Ed. Their red and yellow buds just stood out so vividly! Ed then commented that they were pretty and he wondered if the people who lived on the island or in Florida noticed them and how pretty there were or if they just got so used to them that they didn’t notice or appreciate them anymore. He recalled a time when my sister had come to visit us in Ohio and had pointed out a tree she thought was neat and how he thought to himself that it was just a tree, as he couldn’t figure out what was so cool about it to her…we wondered if the people of Florida would think the same of us pointing out this tree!

Fast-forward to our arrival at grandma Sara’s, as we pull up and she is sitting outside with her cute tote bag with scripture and flowers on it, full of games, and of course, she had a big smile on her face, ready to take on the day! (and probably beat us at any game we play :)) We get into the car and head out, only to pass those vibrant trees again. Without any prompting from us and with her having no idea of the conversation that we had just had about the trees, she pointed out BOTH of them…the red and the yellow…and stated just how beautiful she thought they were and how she loves when they bloom.

I didn’t think too much of it at the time, I just thought of our conversation and noted in my head that she did in fact notice the trees even though she was a resident, so I was impressed.

Later on, while we were at brunch, Grandma Sara again pointed out a flower (the orchid below) that she thought was beautiful. I was astonished that again she had pointed out another flower blooming, but then she went on to say something that will always stick with me. She said, “Something is always in bloom”. I’ve been unable to stop thinking about this because she is so right. It makes me tear up just to think of it again, but what a beautiful, powerful, hope-filled statement to say, that something is always in bloom. A lesson in noticing and a lesson in gratitude!

As we went around the island the rest of the week, I noticed the blooms. I remembered what our precious Grandma Sara said about something always being in bloom and I just find it so poetic and truthful. You could choose to see what’s not blooming or what isn’t growing in your life, or you could choose to take the time to notice, celebrate, and be joyful for what IS blooming all around you.

For me, I am taking that very quote with me in my daily walk, especially as a teacher. God speaks to us in themes and a common theme for me has been God speaking to me through nature and gardening. Last year, I was so encouraged as I felt God tell me my job was to plant the seeds…That I might not see the blooms, but He wanted me to plant the seeds and trust Him to do the rest. This year, my job is to remember that something is always blooming, even when I do not see it. It reminds me of the verse below…

It’s so easy to give up and to feel discouraged when we feel like we don’t see progress or blooms, but we cannot give up. The Bible tells us to persevere, to be grateful for what we do have, and to trust GOD to give us what we need.

We place our confidence in God, who is the ultimate “gardener”. Our trust and faith are fully in Him…check the blooms around you, I guarantee you that if you take the time to stop, you will see something in bloom…

If You Don’t Quit, You Win: Dealing with Disappointment and the Answer You Didn’t Expect

I heard someone say once that a perfect, shiny life is not relatable. So this is me in a moment of vulnerability, sharing something that I am struggling with because I believe that others are struggling with disappointment too. I want you to know that you are not alone and that God has a plan, even if it’s not the plan you had in mind or were hoping for. I hope that this encourages you and gives you the courage to share what you are going through with someone you trust so that you don’t walk through your disappointment alone.

Last year at about this time I was going through the process of fighting off a lot of self doubt and uncertainty with regards to my teaching career. After a lot of praying, confusion, and waiting over the summer, God made it abundantly clear to me that I was made to be a teacher and that He wanted me to continue to teach, specifically at Woodford Academy, even though it would be hard. Long story short, here is what I wrote about what I felt God speak to me about my teaching…

My job is to plant the seeds, not to wait and watch the blooms appear. I will not always see the fruits of my labor right away. There will be hard days and there will be failures, but that does not constitute the calling God gave me as a failure. I may never know the impact I made while here on Earth, but I am called to be obedient nonetheless, and that is what I am going to do!

Around that same time, I was involved in a Bible study in which we were reading a book called “The Armor of God” by Priscilla Shirer. God revealed so much to me through this study, including the fact that I had let the devil define my identity. Specifically, I had let him define my identity as a teacher. I 100% let him infiltrate my mind and convince me of my inability as a teacher, to the point where I was considering quitting and finding another career.

It was a season in which I felt God encouraging me and determining to use me and mold me into more confidence despite all of my insecurities and doubts. I knew that God wanted me to continue to teach and I felt Him telling me that He was starting to prepare me for a tough school year. This is what I wrote…

I know that this year will not be easy, but I also know that God has equipped me with this awareness, His protection, and the tools of His spiritual armor that I learned about in that study to start to rewire my mind to know and believe in what GOD says about me, rather than the lies that satan so badly wants me to believe!

Fast-forward to a year later…otherwise known as now, after I’ve spent the entire school year taking those promises with me and holding onto them on all the days, good and bad to remind myself that I was right where God wanted me to be so that no doubt could seep in and convince me otherwise.

As time went on and the days got harder near the end of the school year (as they do), I started to convince myself that I had been faithful, worked really hard, overcome a lot of challenges, and that God was probably ready for me to move on to an easier teaching job now. I was not going to quit teaching because God made that very clear to me that I was made to be a teacher, but I was ready and dedicated to the cause of finding a school closer to home to minimize my commute time and hopefully find more time to rest each day. So, I started the job search and began to knock on doors…At first I kept an open mind, hoping for a closer job, but knowing that if God asked me to stay at Woodford again that I would. As I hoped for a change, I stayed faithful to the end of the school year, but by the end my “possibility” had turned more into a “guarantee” in my mind. I had resolved that this would most likely be my last year at Woodford. All I had left to do was to persevere and in the mean time continue to look for other openings, apply, interview, and let God work. I wrote on a note card: “A Call to Persevere” with an encouraging verse and message to help me through the last few days of school.

The day that school let out, I received an email back from a school I had interviewed at and got the “We had many great candidates, but it ain’t you” message. I tried to keep in mind that it was ultimately God who chose where I ended up, so it must not be not meant to be. I tried to remain grateful for all the provision and help that God gave me this school year and to focus on that…but another part of me was disappointed. If I am being honest, I felt disappointed in God, but more than that, I felt disappointed in myself for feeling disappointed in God.

That weekend, I carried that hurt with me, trying to shake it, but for some reason I continued to feel really confused and disappointed as I walked into church. I was still confident that God would eventually give me an answer in His timing…to be clear, I was hoping (and very convinced) that He’d give me the answer I wanted to hear…isn’t that funny how sometimes we ask questions and then are disappointed when we don’t get the answer we actually already determined was the “right” answer in our mind?

The sermon was literally titled, “Perseverance”. Immediately, I knew I was about to receive the clarity and guidance I had been praying for for so long, but little did I know that instead of receiving the answer I had already decided, God had different plans. The sermon was all about the story of Joseph and how he had to persevere in order for his character to be produced…which is exactly what I wrestled with for much of the school year…How God was using my trials and hard days to grow me, how He was present and with me, and how I needed to be faithful and obedient to what He called me to do.

The first point of the sermon was that Joseph was disappointed. I remember clearly telling my Mom and Ed the day before that I was disappointed and a “sad girl” because of the no I received from the school I had interviewed at. To be disappointed means to believe that we missed out on something that was meant for us. This hit me because I realized that I was operating in what I wanted and what I believed was best for me, not in what God wanted for me or knew to be best for me, which is what lead to me being disappointed. I had led myself to believe that God wanted me to go somewhere else before He had ever spoken that to me.

The sermon went on and gave the point that “You don’t have to understand the plan to trust that God has a purpose” and that “God is moving while you are mourning”. Both of these hit me so deeply again as I realized that God was moving in my life, it just wasn’t in the way I wanted. It gave me hope though to remember that God does have a purpose for my life, and that even while I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself and confused, God was still present and working, trying to speak to me, console me, and let me know He saw me grieving, but that He still had a plan.

The next part of the sermon focused on the fact that Joseph had to trust. Joseph went through a lot of trials, this one in particular was his being thrown into jail for something he did not do. What’s so powerful to me about his part of the story is that it says in Genesis 39 that “The Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him His faithful love.” So God ALLOWED Joseph to be put into the prison, DESPITE his innocence in the situation, BUT He was WITH Him the WHOLE time. Then the preacher hit me with the real zinger…she said that a good filter to make decisions by is to ask yourself, “How would someone in your situation respond if they knew that God would be with them?” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been singing God praises to the moon for helping me to persevere, for leading me through the school year, for teaching me so many lessons, yet I was ready to move onto an “easier” job. God was so faithful in helping me through and in being with me, just as He was with Joseph through all of his trials, but I was ready to move on. Hard thing done, NEXT.

If you don’t quit, you win. If you don’t quit, you win. If you don’t QUIT, you WIN. These are the words the sermon ended with. Over and over, if you don’t quit, you win. And that was it. As tears streamed down my face and my hands were shaking, I knew what the answer was. God was calling me to stay at Woodford another year. God wanted me to choose the hard thing again. And the truth of the matter is, I am still wrestling with is, but I have chosen to be obedient. My contract is signed and I will be at Woodford next year.

For the last few days, I have been avoiding God. I’ve been sad. I’ve been worried. I’ve been wondering how the heck I am going to do this again for another year. I’m disappointed in myself for asking God for an answer, having already resolved my own, incorrect answer. I am sad that while God has provided me with so much help and so many powerful lessons this year that have grown my faith that I wanted the easy way out and was starting to make my own way, rather than trusting and waiting on God’s plan for my life.

I sit here now, feeling a little lighter having admitted that and having talked it through with some of my closest friends and trusted people. While I know the year will be heavy, God will be faithful again and He will help me through. Now, I will spend the summer resting, preparing my heart, and asking God to line my heart, my mind, and my will up to His because I am not there yet, and I think that is okay. I do not feel like God is mad at me and I actually had a thought yesterday while I wondered if God was disappointed in me for being upset with the answer He gave me and it hit me that He already knew. God already knew that I’d sit in that church sermon and that I’d cry and not like the answer, but He still gave me the answer. He still told me what to do and that gives me hope. It gives me hope that He believes in me, He trusts me, and He sees the future where I can come to accept his will for me and be joyful it in. He is still with me right now, He is not shunning me away saying how could you be upset after all the help I gave you this year? He is right here with me, wiping my tears, saying I will help you through this, just like I did last year. I know it’s not what you expected or wanted, but I have a reason I am keeping you here. I can already see the end. It is not by your strength, but mine. Stay faithful and trust me to provide. I need you at Woodford.

Today I start the process of moving forward and I am beginning by thinking of all that I have learned through this last school year. It has been a year like no other, in the most demanding but also the sweetest way. My co-teacher and I had the most challenging group we’ve ever had, and I am proud to say that despite that, I did ultimately feel peaceful, rooted and confident. I think it would be easy to say that teaching has gotten “easier” for me, but the truth of the matter is that what I’ve realized is that it has very little to do with me and that it has everything to do with the Lord. HE is the one who has taught me, helped me, and refined me. He has helped me through! It has not been easy every day, but it has been fruitful and rewarding, because I was obedient and because God is faithful, loving, and gives us JUST what we need at JUST the time we need it.

There is a story behind each of these lessons…many tears and hard days. But the main story behind each of these is God. A God who daily walked with me, helped me, encouraged me, and gave me just what I needed. Here are some of the things I have learned…

  • How to have peace in the middle of a difficult situation
  • How to re-focus and re-prioritize when I start to get overwhelmed
  • How to be more aware of small moments and things to receive joy
  • How to give myself grace and to know that times of transition are hard and that is okay
  • How to see each day as a NEW, a fresh slate and an opportunity to try again (for myself and my students)
  • How to put myself aside and to focus on serving others
  • How to have a calmness that is not only settling for me, but contagious to others in anxious spaces
  • How to have clarity on those days I feel cloudy
  • How to connect with my students…to share and to be shared with
  • How to truly rest
  • How to accept that I am a work in progress and that is okay
  • How to trust God with things out of my control and to know that I don’t have to have everything figured out or perfectly put together
  • How to see the ability and skills God has given me and to trust His plan and path for me
  • How to trust Him when things start to feel out of control
  • How to lean in and wait for His guidance and prompting
  • How to be okay with waiting and not knowing
  • How to be disciplined and have a routine that helps me to put first things first and to prioritize time with God
  • How to pray each day and how helpful it is to set my mind on God, others, and in peaceful state
  • How to learn to prioritize and ask God what HE sees as most important
  • How to have boundaries and that it is okay and necessary to sometimes say no
  • How to give myself breaks
  • How constant God is
  • How to have community and support, how to ask for help and for prayer, the power of sharing what is really going on
  • How to simplify, because sometimes less is more
  • How to persevere on hard days
  • How to use my words to encourage others
  • How to count my blessings and to see the good in all situations
  • How to prioritize my health
  • How to fill my cup and know that I cannot pour from an empty cup…Sabbath rest is essential
  • How joy truly is a choice and should not depend on what is happening around us
  • How to respond to challenging situations and people with grace, kindness, and empathy to see their side of a situation
  • How to see my students as His beloved children
  • How hard things help us grow and are opportunities to trust God
  • How to find refuge in God and how to ask Him for help on the days I am struggling
  • How stillness and silence are essential to a fruitful walk with God
  • How to face doubts, insecurities, and fears by evaluating WHY I feel the way I do, then replacing them with God’s truth by the help of the Holy Spirit
  • How I’ve been chosen specifically for the place and the children God entrusted me with this year
  • How to have a soft, but guarded heart
  • How helpful Scripture is to teach, correct, and encourage
  • How sometimes a “no” is God opening the door to other things
  • How to choose commitment over mood
  • How to have an eternal perspective and to not get caught up in small matters, but to try to se the bigger picture
  • How my identity is more than my job
  • How to be faithful and that my teaching matters. This generation needs wisdom, they need truth, they need hope, and they need God!

I heard the song below (Firm Foundation) and it beautifully sums up this school year for me and the main lesson that I will carry proudly with me into this next hard school year to give me hope and help as I am at Woodford again. It says, rain came, wind blew, but my house was fixed on God. I’m safe with Him, I’m gonna make it through. Christ is my firm foundation and THAT makes all the difference. A daily walk with God and with other believers can make all the difference, especially when we are going through hard times. When everything around me is shaken, I’ve never been more glad. I put my faith in Jesus. He’s never let me down.

I know that some people will never understand why I choose to stay somewhere that is a huge challenge for me, but I know that God sees me and that He will help me through. I have another year under my belt of being challenged by wave after wave, but standing firm because of the help that God have me. I have a little bracelet that I bought with a wave on it that will serve as a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness to me through hard times. Even when the rain comes and the wind blows, my house will be built on the Lord. I will fail, but He won’t. He is my firm foundation! I’m safe with God, I’m gonna make it through.

And I write this as a reminder on the days when I start to doubt and feel like I can’t go on, that God chose me for these children. He wants me at Woodford, with these students, at this exact time. THAT I am sure of, despite any disappointment I feel right now. This too shall pass. It’s because of GOD that we receive the encouragement, the power, and the desire to continue to walk through hard things, but not just to get through them, but to go through them with peace, with joy, and with intention to live out our purpose and to be obedient to whatever God has called us to do…even when it’s hard and even when it’s not the answer that we hoping for.

Rooted in Christ: I Hope You Dance

Ed and I were blessed to have gotten to go on a little get away trip this weekend. The trip was originally planned for his birthday over a month ago, but the weather had different plans for us that weekend.

We were very excited to finally go to this secluded cabin, as we were eager to find some rest and solitude from the crazy busyness of life. The cabin was quaint and cozy, just as we expected. When we arrived on Friday night, I turned my phone off and committed to not turning it back on until Sunday morning so that I could truly focus on resting as I’ve been having quite the hard time at work lately…as Spring Break gets closer, teaching becomes more and more challenging!

As we slowly woke up Saturday morning, having no clue what time it was and with no agenda for the day, I already felt more at ease.

I made us a nice little breakfast that our host graciously provided complete with bacon, biscuits, eggs, and orange juice…all the yummy things 🙂 After we enjoyed the meal together, I decided to skip doing the dishes right away, and opted instead to take a seat, and do some reading.

I sat down and took inventory of the cabin looking at the cute signs posted on the walls and as I sat there, I noticed a wooden sign on the wooden sign that read “I Hope You Dance”.

After having a challenging week, I was so touched by the sign. When I graduated high school, my Mom made a video compilation of the most embarrassing photos of me throughout my whole life, as any good Mom would do. The song “I Hope You Dance” was the background music to the video, so this song holds a special place in my heart and I feel like it’s a song she signs over my life and wishes for me as I continue to grow.

The crazy thing was, I had JUST stumbled upon the song the other day and texted my Mom telling her I heard the song and was so thankful for her…she texted me back joking that I was overly emotional due to my female hormones and I agreed. But as I saw this sign, it suddenly got much deeper and more meaningful for me.

I took a picture of the sign (as you see above) eager to show my Mom and so excited that I had sat still long enough to see the camouflaged sign. I thought of how easily I could’ve missed the sign if I hadn’t taken the time to sit and contemplate.

I continued to take inventory of the cabin, looking first at the pictures and other signs around the “I Hope You Dance” sign and I realized how ironic the picture actually is and how it offers up 2 very distinct ways of living: by the ways of the world or by the ways of the Lord.

On the little shelf to the left of the wooden sign, I realized another sign that says “Do More of What Makes You Happy”. A very catchy, cute phrase that at first seems reasonable, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how opposite these 2 signs were.

I think we all WANT life to be like the sign on the left. We want to be happy and we want to do things that make us happy and that we’re good at.

BUT…I think God desires more for us. He desires us to take the more “camouflaged, I Hope You Dance” route, if you will…

I couldn’t help but think that while my Mom sings this song over my life, God does too. He has these same desires and wishes for us. He doesn’t always want us to just choose what makes us happy (contrary to what the world will tell you)…sometimes He wants us to choose the hard thing and to trust Him through it, knowing that the hardest things in life have the greatest potential for growth.

If we take time to open our eyes and fix them on God and the truth of WHY we were created, I believe that we will remember that life won’t always be easy or pretty, but that doesn’t mean that the hard thing isn’t God’s will, purpose, or calling on our lives.

I think of this in my own life with regards to teaching and how it would be so easy for me to just quit. I can think of 10 reasons very quickly as to how my life would be more simple if I did quit…but there’s always a voice in the back of my head that wonders, would I truly be more content choosing the “easy” route? I think of all that I’ve learned through the hardships of teaching and I can’t help but tear up. I am proud that I’ve stuck to the hard thing. I’ve kept going and I’ve persevered and it has brought so much joy and growth to my life.

Just like the song says, time is a reel in constant motion. We only have so long to live…and so we need to choose…Are we going to do more of what makes us happy or are we going to accept God’s invitation to dance with him through the ups and downs of life?

Don’t fear the mountains in the distance and don’t settle for the path of least resistance. Have faith and choose to do hard things and challenge yourself. You never know how you will grow unless you try. I hope you dance…

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