A New Thing: He IS Doing Something!

With this school year being done, I am taking time to reflect. This has been the hardest year yet encompassed with so much heavy spiritual warfare. Not only that, but I am ending my chapter of teaching within Cincinnati Public Schools and with the ending not being “pretty”, it makes finding closure just a little bit more challenging.

On on hand, I could call it a bad year. When I share the story of what happened, people are in awe. Their jaws drop and they can’t believe all that my co-teacher and I endured.

On the other hand, I can’t help but feel grateful to God. He was so evidently with me the whole year. He carried me through, encouraged me, and brought me out on the other side protected, stronger, more resilient, and with the blessing of a new chapter I’m starting…

As I’ve been combing through my thoughts and feelings, one thing I know for sure is that I have decided to refuse to call this year a “bad” year. Was is hard? Absolutely! But God was present and I grew in so many areas, which I believe was His will for me.

I sit here processing all that has happened not only this school year, but within my last few years at Cincinnati Public. I don’t know where to begin, so I am starting here. This blog, while hopefully a source of encouragement to you, also serves as a way for me to talk to God and process what He is teaching me.

One of the ways God has given me peace with starting to look back through all of this is with this song. This song is very special to me right now and I hope you will take moment to listen to even just the first 2 minutes…

I’m so comforted by the words of that song. I am worn down and in need of a real rest. It brings me great peace to know that God desires me to be myself and that He wants me to share what’s on my heart…He already knows it all! While other people don’t know what I’ve been through this year, God knows where I am as well as what I’ve been through and what I’ve seen. He wants me to release my burdens to Him from all these heavy days.

Another way I usually process each school year is looking back over my scripture wall. Every year I fill up a wall in my classroom by my desk with scriptures. This wall serves as an important reminder to me of the encouragement God gives me each day to press on. In the morning when I felt led to, I would write a verse on a little notecard and place it on my desk for a few days or even weeks at times then I’d tape the notecard up on my wall. By the end of the year my wall is full and I take all the verses down and read back over them. It’s such a beautiful reminder of how God helped me and brought me through and it always helps me to process and reflect on what God taught me each school year.

This year was no different in that regard. In the mornings I wrote my verses out, put them on my desk, and each one again ended up on my wall. By the end of the year my wall was full, but there was one problem…

The last few weeks of the school year there was a sub in my room so when I went to clean it out, naturally I was worried about what the room would look like. My main concern though, was my verses. I told myself that as long as my verses were there, everything else I could deal with. It was all replaceable expect those verses. So imagine my horror when I walked into my classroom and stared, jaw-dropped, at a BLANK wall. My heart sank.

I immediately started to look for the verses hoping the sub had put them somewhere. I was so frustrated, wondering why someone would even take those down! After about 10-15 minutes of searching, no luck.

The janitor came into my classroom and we laughed as he told me he tried to tell the sub how neat I keep my room, but that clearly that didn’t matter to her. I told him about my verses and how upset I was about them being missing. After a while he left and I was left to continue to pick up the pieces and pack all my stuff up to have my entire classroom out of the building by the end of the day.

But God had a surprise in store for me…

About 30 minutes later, he came back into the room with a stack of cards in his hand. He had dug through the trash and found my verses!!! I was disheartened that someone had thrown them away when they held so much value in my eyes, but I was so happy to have them back in my ownership!

Now that I have the verses and have been able to read back through them, I wanted to share some of my verses and notecards from this year that looking back mean even more to me now. I also want to share some of the lessons I am taking with me from my time teaching at Cincinnati Public Schools as I now transition to teaching at West Clermont. My hope is that not only encourages me as I close the door and look ahead, but that it could encourage you too in whatever season you are in!

With that being said, here are some of the things I learned this year…

-Pressure truly does refine us…God uses our struggles to help us to grow and to look to Him and know He is with us while we struggle

-God doesn’t intend for me to live a life of fear. He desires to give me joy and peace and good things. I won’t let fear overtake me! I will pray and foster the fruits of the Spirit in my heart.

-It’s a gift to breathe…I often need to re-center my focus and my thoughts on God, giving my worries and anxieties to Him through prayer moment by moment. I will calm my racing thoughts so I can hear God over everything else. It’s okay to say no to things, especially when you feel you need space or time to be a peaceful person/presence again

-Discipline is a GIFT we give to our students. To be noticed and corrected in a SAFE place is a gift and something God calls us to do for them

-God is with me and God is for me through it all!

-You always have a choice in how you see & respond to all situations…it is okay and often necessary to take time before responding or deciding what to do

-My faith is a shield! The Lord is my refuge…I look to Him at all times for whatever I need or am lacking!

-God sometimes sends us into dark places to be a light in the darkness. This doesn’t mean it will be easy or that everyone will like us. In fact, many will hates us just as they hated and rejected Him too

-I am allowed to stick up for myself and to have boundaries when I feel unsafe

-People WILL misunderstand you and that’s okay. Look to the people who know you best for advice and wisdom but ultimately look to God for affirmation

-Your obedience to God is more important that your reputation with people

-God sometimes calls us to do risky/uncomfortable things in order to build our confidence, faith, and trust in Him

-God can do a LOT with a LITTLE…even when I feel inadequate, the power of the Holy Spirit within me can and will complete the work

-I can have peace at ALL times, no matter the situation!! I have a choice in what thoughts I choose to entertain whether it’s the truth or lies.

-I get my strength and encouragement from the Lord, whether it’s a verse or a song, He is always there to comfort, guide, lead, and help me

On one of the notecards early on in the year I wrote this: “Wade into the darkness of loss, pain, despair, and unrest to sow seeds of hope and seeds of light in the darkness.”

Cincinnati Public Schools, being an inner-city district has many students facing loss, uncertainty, poverty, and pain in their lives at home. Little did I know when I wrote that out just how much darkness, pain, and unrest this year would hold!

On another notecard I wrote out Job 23:10-12 which I think also sums up this year and my experience within Cincinnati Public as a whole well…

10 “But he knows where I am going.
    And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
11 For I have stayed on God’s paths;
    I have followed his ways and not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from his commands,
    but have treasured his words more than daily food.

This year brought a lot of testing! Testing, as the Bible says, brings about character and endurance!

For me to call my years at Cincinnati Public a “failure” because they were challenging would be doing a great disservice to all that God did through me and in me while I was there. I read these quotes the other day that hit home for me in describing my experience over the last few years…

Another quote I recently read said this…“The win is not about coming in 1st, but in finishing the race.”

I choose to claim my years within Cincinnati Public a win because God taught be so much in these years! Did my students score perfectly on all their tests? No! Did they have perfect behavior every day? No way Jose! BUT I chose to show up each and every day, to press on to what God called me to do, and to lean in to what He was teaching me through it all…and THAT is a win!

Through the hard times, I am closer to the Lord than I’ve ever been before and I am forever grateful for this challenging experience for that reason alone!

While I’d like to say that after I write this blog I can close this chapter and move on, I know in my heart that is not true. There is a lot to work through, but there is no greater person than God that I’d rather walk through all of this with! I am thankful that he offers me grace, that He leads me, and that in Him I can find true rest, peace, and healing.

I will press on with my teaching career, going to this new place God has called me to. I am excited for a new beginning and a promised fulfilled that God is doing a NEW thing in my life. I will bring all the lessons, the good, bad, easy, hard, and ugly that I learned while at Woodford Elementary.

I find comfort and wisdom in these words, which will be the first verse on my wall at West Clermont as I embark on this next journey…My prayer for you is that you would lean into whatever God is doing your life too. He IS doing something!

While You’re Waiting, Trust

God has been singing to me…Throughout the last week I’ve had songs that pop up in my mind, of which I now believe to have been God sending me little lifelines to hold onto and find peace from.

I’ve been facing an uncertain and unending situation since September and have often felt so tired and stressed because of it. I wanted it to be fixed right away (of course!) and while I did turn to God to ask for His help and wisdom, I admit to sometimes taking matters into my own hands, which has led to frustration when things didn’t go the way that I thought they should.

Last Friday, I thought I had finally gotten the beginning of a resolution, only to find out I’d have to wait until Monday for the next step. I tried to not think about it over the weekend, knowing it was completely useless to even think about it since nothing could be done until Monday!

While I waited on Monday for this resolution I again thought would come, I had a song playing through my mind all day…Fear is Not My Future.

I had played this song in my classroom several days this year when I felt anxious in order to remind myself that God offers me peace, love, and joy…not fear, shame, or guilt. The words that kept playing in my mind on Monday were these…

Let Him turn it in your favor
Watch Him work it for your good
‘Cause He’s not done with what He started
He’s not done until it’s good

If you’re ready for a breakthrough, yeah
Just open up and just receive, hey
‘Cause what He’s pouring out is nothing
You’ve ever seen

It was easy and exciting to believe those things at 8am Monday morning. I prayed God would turn this is my favor but as the day went on and again MY plan started to fall apart, I was confused. I told myself there was still progress and that I was going to choose to be grateful for that, rather than being disappointed…In the meantime, this meant more waiting. Of course my next appointment wouldn’t be until 2:30 Tuesday! At that point I started to wonder if God was intentionally making me wait. I felt Him nudging me and saying He couldn’t yet turn this in my favor because I had yet to turn this over to Him.

On Tuesday, I woke up and felt very at peace, despite knowing I had to wait until 2:30. The song that rang in my mind that day was a classic…I Surrender All.

I prayed that God would help me to surrender and fully trust His plan and timing, rather than continue to trust in myself and my failing plan. I prayed for a breakthrough again, but this time I situated my heart to accept God’s “no” if that was what He chose, knowing He has a reason for everything He does and a plan bigger than what I may be able to understand.

That morning while I waited I read Job 39 & 40: 1-5 and was so humbled. Passage 39 is God responding to Job, who has experienced an unbelievable amount of loss and grief. Job has come to God with questions, seeking understanding for His hurt, loss and pain…and this is God’s response…

“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
Do you count the months till they bear?
    Do you know the time they give birth?
They crouch down and bring forth their young;
    their labor pains are ended.
Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
    they leave and do not return.

“Who let the wild donkey go free?
    Who untied its ropes?
I gave it the wasteland as its home,
    the salt flats as its habitat.
It laughs at the commotion in the town;
    it does not hear a driver’s shout.
It ranges the hills for its pasture
    and searches for any green thing.

“Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
    Will it stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
    Will it till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
    Will you leave your heavy work to it?
12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
    and bring it to your threshing floor?

13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
    though they cannot compare
    with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
    and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
    that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
    she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
    or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
    she laughs at horse and rider.

19 “Do you give the horse its strength
    or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
    striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
    and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
    it does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against its side,
    along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
    it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
    It catches the scent of battle from afar,
    the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
    and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
    and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
    a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food;
    its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood,
    and where the slain are, there it is.”

In Chapter 40 we see God and Job banter back and forth a little more…

 The Lord said to Job:

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the Lord:

“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
    I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
    twice, but I will say no more.”

I read that and I felt like Job. Here I was asking God all these questions like I was the one in charge! I thought to myself, who am I to question God and His plans for my life? I was reminded how big God is. It surprisingly made me feel safe and helped me to surrender a little more as I recognized I’m not in control, God is!

Here is what my Bible study book said about the passage: “Just like Job, we often forget God’s supremacy and are deluded into thinking that we are the authors of our own stories…The clear takeaway of the last few chapters of Job is that we need to reimagine ourselves as character’s in God’s story, utterly dependent on and submissive to His plotline, which will definitely conclude in a way that is absolutely for our good and His glory-even if the antagonist seems to be hijacking our happy ending in the middle of the story!”

A little bit later I headed to my 2:30 appointment. For those who know me, I am typically late…but you’d be proud to know, I was an entire HOUR early!! As I waited, a friend sent me this Scripture from Isaiah 40:29-31:

29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Another song immediately came to my mind…Wait On You.

In the song (@7 minutes in-it’s very long but worth the listen lol) they sing that exact scripture my friend sent.

I looked up the rest of Isaiah 40 while waiting for my appointment and I was surprised to see that this passage had some of the same questions God asked Job…

21 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
    and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
    no sooner are they sown,
    no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
    and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

The passage is meant to be a comfort and a reminder of the sovereignty of God.

Here are some of the lyrics from the song Wait on the Lord…

I’m gonna wait on You
I’m gonna wait on You
I’ve tasted Your goodness
I’ll trust in Your promise

I’m gonna wait on You

I know You ordered every step
Yeah, You are the Author
And there’s no predicting what is next
But You hold the future
And all the questions they come second
To the one I know is true, yeah
Oh, you’ve always been true

So I’m gonna wait on You, yes
I’m gonna wait on You
I’ve tasted Your goodness
I’ll trust in Your promise

They that wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength
They shall mount up, up on wings
Like an eagle, and they soar
They shall walk, and not get weary
They shall run, and not faint
That’s what happens when you wait
Happens when you wait

So I continued to wait…in the literal waiting room, which is funny to think of now! I was finally called back to a room and I could NOT believe my eyes when I sat down and saw this on a shelf in the room…

It’s the EXACT same verse my friend shared! I couldn’t help but just be in awe of God. I remember thanking God but telling myself that this served as a reminder to trust God, no matter the outcome. Either way, God was making it abundantly clear to me that He had a plan. I remember thinking, all these events I’ve viewed as delays and “plot twists” have been here for a reason beyond my understanding.

After the appointment, I did get some resolution in the positive direction. This situation is still going on, but I have faith that God is working while I am waiting.

On my way home, I ran out of gas on the highway!!

My Mom (God bless her!) came to save me and I remember singing and humming while I was talking on the phone awaiting her arrival. She said she was so glad that while in the middle of a crisis I was still singing…I laughed then and told her that God’s been teaching me that He uses all situations and delays, even the ones we usually complain about or are frustrated by.

I realize now how spiritually relevant that experience was…How pleasing would it be to God to see His children singing, praising, and confidently trusting in Him even in the midst of a problem.

So I woke Wednesday feeling like going straight to my laptop to continue working on this situation I have been wanting resolved and I was convicted. I was again going to take matters into my own hands. Instead of sitting down and spending time with God, I was going to head to my laptop and spend time trying to work things out on my own again!

I knew I needed to go to my Bible instead, so I headed for my table to read and sat there again having to re-surrender to God.

Surrender is not a one-time choice. It’s a minute by minute and even sometimes a second-by-second choice we have to make.

I got this new sweatshirt a few weeks ago, it says “God is Good” with happy faces in all the O’s. I’ve been wearing it as a reminder to myself that God truly is good no matter what! No matter how this situation ends, God is still good and He is still in control.

I’m going to proclaim Isaiah 40:29-31 over my life…

I’m trusting in God to give me strength to press on. I will wait on the Lord!

I’m happy to report that on Friday (a whole week later!!) my situation is RESOLVED! I am relieved and praising God to the moon and back! Not only is my situation resolved, but my faith is stronger. I think of Psalm 27 and how it perfectly encapsulates this experience I’ve gone through from start to finish, September to April…

I’m partially writing this to myself for when other trials and hard situations come so that I can look back and remember that with God by my side, I have no one and nothing to fear. I love verse 3:

Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

Circumstances don’t dictate our confidence in the Lord.

While we wait, we seek God’s presence, the one thing that can truly bring us peace and comfort. He keeps us safe and in the mean time, we will sing and make music to the Lord!

Circumstances don’t dictate our joy in the Lord!

While we wait, we ask God for guidance and help. We don’t try to rashly solve matters on our own.

Circumstances don’t dictate our responses!

My favorite part is the end (verses 13 & 14) and THIS is what I will declare over my future challenges…

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

Circumstances don’t change the goodness of our God!

Take a Rest

When I got home from work today and finally sat down to eat dinner, I knew I was down for the count for the rest of the night. I was thinking darn…I really wanted to get _________ done and I really needed to _____________. Then I thought to myself, why?? I am tired! All I want to do is rest, and that is okay!

This verse immediately came to my mind. It’s been bringing me a lot of peace lately, reminding me to not only rest, but to rest with God and to bring Him my burdens and worries. The song below has the scripture in it and is a reminder I need often.

When my troubles are a little too heavy
Who I can turn to, to share the weight?
When my mind is cluttered and cloudy
Who can I turn to, to clear the way?
Who can I turn to, I turn to You

You said Your yoke is easy
You said Your burden’s light
So I’ll let You
Lead me
For all my life

Some days are long, some work is tough
Whatever I lack You make it up
Your yoke is easy, Your burden is light
You gave me life, You give me love
Whenever I’m dry You fill my cup
Your yoke is easy, Your burden is light

I feel a little lighter just listening to that! I love the line…I will let go and follow empty handed! That’s what rest helps us to do. To remember that even if we take a break, things won’t fall apart…and even if they do, we can pick up the pieces tomorrow 🙂

So I took to google images to find a quote on rest and calling it quits for the day…I found this one that I liked…

Then I found this one that was a little too relatable!! Same quote, whole different kind of mood! Haha

I just wanted to quickly write this for anyone else who like me, needs to hear that it is not only okay, but it is necessary to rest!

The song below has been my absolute favorite for the last week. It is so beautiful and it is Scripture!

Isaiah 41:10 KJV “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

We fear not because God is with us. We can rest because we have God. He strengthens us and helps us…He alone holds us up and rest is an act of surrender!

Enjoy your rest…I’m off to rest too ❤

Not DEATH, but LIFE…Think About Such Things!

I’ve been thinking a lot about death and life lately. With me starting to volunteer with hospice, death is now a bigger part of my life than it has been in the past. The first lady I worked with passed away and I have now been given a new person to help…How quickly things change!

I’ve experienced some loss too at school, which I won’t go into great detail about as I’m still in the midst of it. Things just don’t seem to be the way they once were, so I am grieving that too.

In the midst of these thoughts and experiences with death and loss, I am being reminded lately of the sovereignty of God. Our sermon this weekend was on Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones…if you’re unfamiliar with the passage, here it is…

Ezekiel 37: The Valley of Dry Bones

1 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

This was a test of faith! God already knew the dry bones could come to life, but He still asked Ezekiel if HE thought they could come to life!

I know in my life personally there are several things that satan is trying to convince me are “dead”. God is asking me if I still believe that these things can have life and be fruitful, and I am choosing to say yes, just like Ezekiel did! With the faith of Ezekiel and his obedience, the valley of dry bones turned into a GREAT army! I find that so encouraging while facing my own valley of dry bones!

Our Pastor ended the sermon with this: God can bring the dead back to life, so live accordingly! He said something else that’s stuck with me during the sermon related to Easter…The resurrection and what we celebrate on Easter is less about the death and more about the LIFE!

I’ve thought about that a lot this week with Easter coming and how specifically in the Easter story, Jesus dying on the cross for us was less about Him dying, and more about Him living and US living too through His resurrection!

So I started thinking of Philippians 4 as I was challenged to ask myself these questions…

1) Do I believe God can bring the things I’ve perceived as “dead” in my own story back to life?

2) Am I so focused on things I perceive as “dead” that I may miss the things God is bringing to life in my story?

Here is part of Philippians 4…

Philippians 4: Closing Appeal for Steadfastness and Unity

1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I find this passage to be so comforting and such a great reminder. We are called to stand firm in the Lord, not in our circumstances. We are to rejoice in the Lord, ALWAYS! I am to remember that God is near…He is not far and He sees what I am going through. He calls me to not be anxious, but instead to PRAY! When I remember those things and shift my focus to HIM, He gives me His peace which helps to guard my heart and my mind. I’m reminded of how important it is to guard my heart…God’s word says…

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What things are you thinking on? Are you focused on complaining, wishing things went a certain way? Or are you focusing your thoughts on truth! On what is lovely and praiseworthy! God shows us the way to live and if we are reading His word and praying, putting into practice the things He teaches us, we will have peace, that is a promise of God! But if instead we are complaining, gossiping, ruminating on negative things or how we wish things were, then we can expect to feel anxious and miserable, consumed by our problems. Worse than that, we could MISS the very NEW thing that God is doing in our life!

Isaiah 43 says that very thing! God is doing something NEW! He has already begun…we may not see it yet. He is turning our dry, empty wilderness into a place of LIFE. He will create rivers in the wasteland!

I’ve been trying to be outside as much as possible lately with this amazingly warm weather we’ve been blessed with. While I’m outside, I can’t help but feel happy and content when I’m hugged by the warm rays of the sun. My Job Bible study encouraged me to write a poem similar to a psalm, taking notice of nature and seeing God in it. Here is the poem I wrote…

From the gray cloudy sky, to the clear blue…

both of whose creator is you.

From the blowing wind, to the swaying trees,

you orchestrate them and you created me.

You create every detail and delight us with each one…

IF we take time to notice & ponder.

Life & death…a delicate balance, that is yours alone to handle.

Leaves that once were green & blooming, now brown & on the ground.

But new buds are appearing now, do you not see them?

Trees that once stood tall, fallen.

But many trees stand strong & firm, do you not see them?

For everything there is a season…

It’s not the death, but the LIFE from death that mattered most.

This too, I will restore, for I am doing a new thing!

Wait and do not lost hope.

For though there is death, there is also life, growth, and change.

I control it all and I have you, too, in my hands.

Some things bloom now, others it is not yet time.

But at the sound of my voice it will be…

Will you be content while you wait on me?

It’s not the most grammatically correct poem, I am confident of that, but it’s from my heart and I believe it ties together the point well…Happy Easter everyone! Remember that God is sovereign over every detail of your life…beginnings and endings, both the pretty ones and the ugly ones too…He is doing something new! (I had to throw in one more rhyme :))

My God is able to save and deliver and heal and restore anything that He wants to!!

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. ..it 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 🙂

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