He Cares for You

February 26, 2015

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Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you.... casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for You..... 1 Peter 5:6-9

We are all easy targets for the devil. We have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and be determined to win this battle. Tell him to get away from you and quote the word of God just as Jesus did. The devil will have no choice but to flee.

December 15, 2014: Thank You for caring about me. What an amazing feeling to know that the God of EVERYTHING cares about everyone, even when we feel insignificant and alone. We are not worthy for You to care about us so deeply. Your plan for my life, though I may not understand it yet, is perfect. I will continue to do everything I can to sanctify myself for You.

I know that my Soul is drawn to pride. I see that I am always making everything about me, and not others, especially not You, Lord. I understand now why Pastor Matt was firm with me and asked me why I cared so much about my students talking about me. I understand that my anger, depressions, even my sensitivity, stems from not focusing on what is truly important in this life- You. I asked for You to open my eyes and change my perspective and I can begin to see where You are doing that in my life.

You are helping me mature. You are giving me the tools to begin (and eventually) complete the internal transformation I must go through. I am so thankful. I fully believe the the Holy Spirit is present in me and as I continue to grow in You, He will grow in me. Pastor Matt said be faithful for a year and you won't believe the changes you will see in your life, but I am proof that change can be immediate. I really feel like a newer, better version of myself after only a few days-- I cannot wait to see how you shape and mold me over the next year. I am so excited.

I am so thankful You never gave up on me- even though it's been nearly 17 years. I know it won't always be easy. I know the process is lifelong and ongoing, but I also know I have the direction, power and purpose of the Holy Spirit to help me along the way. In Jesus' name I ask the Holy Spirit to DAILY  show me, change me, and fill me so I will stay on your righteous path.

We Cry, "Abba Father"

February 25, 2015

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The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15

December 11, 2014: How You deal with the pain and suffering of all creation is amazing to me. Sean wakes me (on my morning where I pledged to sleep in of course) telling me he feels sick and I immediately go into "SuperMom" mode to comfort him and try to make him feel better. Blanket and pillow on the couch. Juice in a cup. Favorite show on the TV. "Barf Bowl" in his lap. But sometimes all I can do is rub his back and promise him that this feeling of sickness will eventually pass. It's a small comparison to Your power because You can heal and comfort at levels I will never attain, but the comfort is there. You are available to comfort us all if we will accept it. I want your comfort, your protection, your guidance. I want to feel Your presences at all times, but I don't always know how to do that. 

It is hard to let go and let You have control of everything. I read things online and I get mad or paranoid. I know that's not the behavior I should exhibit. I stress too much about things that don't matter and won't matter. I continue to ask You to change my perspective, to keep me ever aware of what is most important- the unseen and the everlasting, the kingdom of the Lord. I know you are changing me, if others are seeing it too, I know it must be true. This makes me happy and grateful because I know it's not just me- it's You and only You. 

I am so excited that my family is coming to church again Sunday. I know that the sermons can sometimes get a little confusing, so I pray You will help them see Your truth. I would love for them to accept Jesus as their Savior and not not to their own understanding of life. But I also know how incredibly hard it is to truly do that- I mean, I was saved for almost 16 years and I'm just now there! We are stubborn, hurting women. It's hard for us to trust because of so many past hurts, so I just pray you will fill them with love, something they can really sense. I pray I can be a good witness to them- that God's light will shine though me for them to see. 

Do Not Fear those Who Kill the Body

February 21, 2015

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Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

A common theme in my earliest journaling entries was fear, particularly fear of other people. When I had an opportunity to talk to my pastor about my work issues and the stress it was causing, he was very blunt with me. He steepled his fingers at his chin and leveled his stare at me. I was crying and upset, and he said, simply, "So what? Why do you care what they are saying?" 

Why did I care? I had teenagers spreading rumors that I had posted naked photos of myself on a social media account. They were spreading rumors that were not only embarrassing and cruel and wholly untrue, but also rumors that could potentially get back to my principal and community. Through my tears and frustration, I relayed this information. I was married. This was my good name and reputation at stake because some kids were mad over grades or tardies or detentions. 

Again, he asked me, "But if it's not true, why do you care? Kids are going to talk about their teachers. Do you think people don't talk about me? This is just a part of being in a leadership position."

I admit there was truth to his statement, but it didn't help the hurt and anger I was feeling over the situation. Even though I knew it wasn't true, and could prove it wasn't true, just the fact that people I knew and spoke to every day would purposely try to hurt me, well, it hurt. It hurt badly. I wanted validation for my feelings, but I wasn't expecting this.

He continued, "You are focus too much on what's going on down here." He motioned around him before pointing up at the ceiling, "You've got to take your focus off of them and put it back on Him. Kids are always going to talk about their teachers. Is this always how you are going to react? Don't people know you well enough to know that you didn't do it?"

I admitted that yes it was true. The people who mattered in my life would obviously know that the rumor was ridiculous and totally unfounded. They would know that teenagers are often foolish and don't realize the real world ramifications of their actions. It was also very true that I spent most of my time worrying about the things of earth, the temporal and temporary, and very little time focusing on the unseen, the eternity stretched out before me. 

He let me finish blubbering before saying something that I never in a million years would have expected a pastor to say to me. I came into his office looking for sympathy and a kind word or two or a quick prayer, but instead he looked me straight in the eyes and said, "I'm not trying to say that God's telling you to suck it up... But I'm pretty sure God's telling you to suck it up." 

Ouch, right? But really this was the reality check, the kick in the pants I needed, not only to reprioritize my life, but also to turn my eyes to what really matters- GOD. For so long I had been focusing on the negatives in life- the people who hurt or frustrated me and situations that made me impatient or frustrated. I got so weighed down with the weight of the world, that I never truly realized what was ultimately important and essential. When I came back to work, my pride had been hurt, but my eyes had been opened. When co-workers tenderly asked me how I was doing, if I was going to be okay, I had an inner strength that had never been there. "Oh, I'm good," I assured them. "Because I'm not focusing on them anymore," and like my preacher I waved my hand around the empty desks in the room, desks that would soon be filled with those who want to hurt and embarrass and "kill" the body. Then I pointed heavenward, "I'm focusing on him."

December 12, 2014: Go straight to the Lord! Thank You for Your Grace. Thank you for showing me the things within myself that I must change. Thank you for showing me how to change. Thank you for being there always, giving me strength, helping me find peace. Please keep me from getting discouraged. 

Today I feel like I definitely, for real, heard the Holy Spirit talking to me! I recognized that Satan was trying to drag me down today- to make me angry and stressed. My back was hurting, my curling iron broke half way through curling my hair, being "too busy" to do my Bible study and journaling, but I REFUSED, Lord, and here I am with a million "more important" things to do, but I'm with you. I am continiuing to focus on You, the unseen, the most important, and not all there other interferences- they can wait. You and starting my day with You is way more important, and I ma thrilled to finally recognize that. 

My day could have continued to be crappy because my focus would be on that, but I know I can't allow these things to drag me down because ultimately THEY DON'T MATTER, and You do! I feel like this is a huge step! I want perfect this morning- I swore and I got angry. Thank you for having Sean speak up to remind me not to be that way. Thank you for showing him how to pray for is sinning, but trying momma! That was so wonderful! Today's devotional was seriously written just for me, so I know that's the Holy Spirit telling me what I need to hear today. Thank you, thank you for giving me this wonderful gift. The glory is all Yours and I bask in the knowledge that You have trusted me and believe in me and You are giving me the Holy Spirit to guide and encourage just when I need it most. What a wonderful feeling. 

Be Still and Know That I am God

February 11, 2015

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He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

Right, be still. Sit and listen to God. Meditate on His Word. Wait for the Holy Spirit to talk to you... I am an expert multi-tasker (well, at least I think I am ). I always have at least ten tabs open on my laptop. I watch TV while I text while I surf Facebook. I cannot do just one thing at a time. In the mornings I try to fix my hair and put on my eye make-up at the same time. Sometimes, I try to throw in a little devotional reading or a quick glance at Timehop while I'm at it. Doing just one thing at a time seems like, well, a waste of time.  I always feel like I am running late and rushing to get where I need to be, so I've got to do as much as I can at one time.  Carving out time for just me and God was one of the hardest obstacles for me to overcome.

The thing I've discovered is that once you make your Quiet Time a priority in your life, it becomes a necessity. I already get up really early to get ready for work, and I just don't think that it is humanly possible for me to get up an hour earlier (and be able to think coherently). Luckily, my prep period at school is the first period of the day, so while all the other teachers batten down the hatches and start teaching, I pull out my prayer journal and start talking to God. This time is sacred to me, and I guard it fiercely. I am usually able to get at least thirty minutes of prayer time in during this period, and I can only think of two or three times since December that something happened and kept me from getting in my time- a meeting or covering a class or preparing for my day- and boy were those days awful! It's amazing how different my attitude is when I start my day in God's Word and being thankful and prayerful.

Usually once I get home in the afternoon, I like to decompress and do a Bible study or prep for one of my small group classes-- I am a nerd, so I enjoying doing my "homework" for these classes. I also have a Bible-in-a-Year app that I read daily, usually before bed. Add to that a handful of devotionals that I am subscribed to via email, and I am pretty much immersed in the Word throughout the day. This is a drastic difference from where I was November 30th- the only time I had my Bible out was on Sunday morning to take notes during the sermon. I definitely wasn't spending between one and two hours every day studying, reading, and writing. But the thing is- I LOVE IT. It isn't a burden or a chore for me. I truly think I could do Bible studies and write in my prayer journal all day long. I jokingly asked Curtis if there was such a thing as a Methodist nun and was it too late for me to be one! But I wasn't really joking. Like I said, Quiet Time is no longer just a priority, it is the high point of my day. I crave it and look forward to it. I am frustrated when something interrupts it. I can't get enough of it.  It really does make all the difference in the world and I encourage you to find ways to fit it into your schedule. I know you are busy, but this is something that will change your life. 

December 10, 2014: I woke today and thought I was stressing about running late and where my black pants are, I didn't feel that stress that tends to overtake me. That sick feeling in my stomach wasn't present. I can only give You, God Almighty, the credit for that. I feel myself growing closer to You every day, every night. Each time I open myself to you in prayer, I feel my faith getting stronger. I am so blessed to know a living, all-powerful, all-loving God. You give me a peace and strength that is unsurpassed. I am able to withstand more than I thought possible. In spite of the sadness, stress, turmoil, etc. I believe and know You are here for me. 

I still have much to work on. I lashed out at one of my classes yesterday, so I know my temper got the best of me. I am still very lazy at home and I know I need to be eating healthier and taking care of this body you have given me. So I know self-control is another issue I need to work on. I want to be the type of person mentioned in 1 Peter, "Though they accuse [me] of doing wrong, they may see [my] good deeds and glorify God." I know that's a lifelong journey, but I don't want to die and my family and friends and co-workers think, "Well, she wasn't that nice anyway." Thanks for giving me the tools to change that. 

I wait patiently for Your will to be revealed in my life in Your timing, not mine. I thank you for sending Jesus to die for my sins, so I may have eternal life, and now I want my earthly life to be one to make You proud of me. Continue to give me strength and peace and comfort when you know I need it most. When I am at my lowest, I will take strength from Christ's words- "Take courage! I am here!" I know I am not alone. I've got the greatest protector, Jesus Christ. Thank you for that gift!

Add a Single Hour to Your Life

February 9, 2015

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:25

I'm a lifelong worrier. I know lots of people say that, but I literally cannot remember a time when I didn't have stress and fear in my life. I remember being a young child, probably no older than four, and sneaking into my parents' room in the middle of the night because I had a nightmare and couldn't go back to sleep. I remember clearly creeping through the house and climbing into the middle of their bed and snuggling between them. I remember being eleven or so and begging my mother to give me a dose of Benadryl in the hopes that it would make me drowsy enough to fall asleep. Many nights she wouldn't, and I would stay up for hours, watching the lights in my neighbors' houses, slowly click off as they went to sleep. It was the loneliest feeling- like I was the only person in the world awake, and if I were to fall asleep, I had no doubt that something terrible would happen. They say that stress and worry doesn't cause gray hair, but my mother warned me at thirteen that if I didn't stop stressing out about everything that I would have a head full of gray hairs by the time I could drive. She wasn't too far off. Speaking of driving, I didn't get my license until my senior year because I was too afraid to take the driving test- I couldn't handle the pressure. 

My life has been one worry and anxiety after another. My husband calls me an "awfulizer", meaning my mind automatically jumps to the worst case scenario with every situation. He's late coming home and not answering his phone? It can't be that he's just busy on taking another phone call; he must have been in a car accident. I have a headache and my vision is blurred? It can't be allergies because I forgot my A.M. Claritin; I definitely have a brain tumor. My psychiatrist in college called in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was twenty years old before someone finally gave a name and an explanation to what was wrong with me. For the first time, I felt relief. Well, first I read every internet article on GAD I could find, but then I felt relief. Something really was wrong with me. I wasn't just crazy. OK, maybe I was just crazy, but it was something I could deal with now that I knew what the problem was. 

Years of therapy and medication helped some, but never completely eliminated my fears. Having a son in 2007 made my stress and irrational worrying worse than ever. Now I had a baby to endlessly worry over. There were days when I didn't dress my newborn at all because I was certain I would break his neck pulling a onesie over his big head. I refused to change diapers until after his umbilical stump fell off for fear that I would bump it and hurt him. I, not even exaggerating here, took a poop-filled diaper to his pediatrician because the poop wasn't the same color and consistency as described in my baby manual What to Expect the First Year. Eventually fear, stress, and worry just became my default. This was just how I was going to always feel, and there was nothing I could do about it. 

By the beginning of December, I had reached a breaking point in my career as a high school teacher. I was literally sick to my stomach every day as I prepared to go to school. I will spare you the details, but I was physically sick every morning like clockwork. Dread and fear threatened to consume me, and I felt hopeless most of the time. These were dark days, friends. And this is what led me to my Bible and Jesus. I had tried everything else with no relief, so I felt like Jesus was my last chance. I knew reading my Bible and praying wouldn't hurt, but I couldn't believe how much it helped. Why did I turn to Jesus as a last resort? I try to imagine how much more peaceful my life could have been if I had talked to God fifteen or twenty years ago. I try not to beat myself up about my delay too much; I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and that every part of my journey was preordained by my Heavenly Father. His timing is perfect. 

I still have a long way to go in my journey. I have not been magically fixed overnight. I still worry about things, but worry no longer consumes me. I am able to put the right perspective on the issue instead of "awfulizing". I know that worry will not add a single hour to my life. I know that God doesn't want me to worry. 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your cares on Him; He cares for you." I work very hard at "giving it to God" now. I try to ask myself, "Will this matter tomorrow? Will this matter next week? Will this matter in a year?" Nine times out of ten, the answer is a resounding no.  And if my answer is honestly no, then I just don't worry about it. 

December 9, 2014: Thank you for taking away all of  my fears and replacing them with peace. Thank you for letting me know I'm normal, even when the spirit of fear is trying to tell me I'm not. Thank you for giving me control of my thoughts and for helping me turn negative thinking into positive thinking. Thank you for keeping me safe and loving me. 

One of the things I love most about You is You hold the answers not me. I don't have to worry about "what-if" or "why" or "how"- I give it to you because it is beyond my ability to understand.

Stand Against the Wiles of the Devil

February 5, 2015

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...Finally be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil... Ephesians 6:10-13

So, I'll admit, I've never much believed in the devil. Maybe it was my completely secular upbringing, but the devil has never been one of my big fears. I'm scared of closing my eyes when I wash my hair in the shower. I'm scared of small boats that go really fast. I'm scared of accidentally poking my eye out while putting on mascara. But the devil? Come on, no way.

In the middle of my breakdown/revelation in early December, I spoke briefly with my pastor. He confirmed what other friends in the faith had determined-- that the devil was behind the personal attacks on my character and reputation. And here I was, naively thinking that it was just a bunch of teenaged kids being turds, but it was the devil after me! I'll admit I didn't put too much credence into his words. I just didn't believe it. I'll believe in God, okay? But I've got to draw the line at the devil. That's just a fairy tale.

But he pressed on, and his words stuck with me. He told me, "The devil only attacks people he's afraid of. You must be doing big things." Me? Doing big things? I could barely work up the nerve to get out of bed in the morning. Surely the devil has better, more important people to mess with than me? My believing has shifted since then, and now I am much more aware of the devil's wiles and schemes.

We have a common enemy--- Satan--- and he will attack us every way he knows how. Just as God knows us inside and out, so does the devil, and he will use our greatest weaknesses to his greatest advantage. Ephesians 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm."  He is waging a war against all of us, whether we realize it or not. He wants to strike us and then kick us while we are down. He knows where we are most vulnerable, and he will poke at it like you will poke at a sore tooth in the back of your mouth. Constantly and continuously until he wears you down.  He attacks with anger, pride, sin, lust, hurt feelings, criticism-- the things in this world that hurt. He will also attack with promises he can't fulfill and enticing lies you can't resist. Luckily, I don't face the devil of temptation often. My devil comes in the form of pride and anger, and I struggle with him every single day.

This passage in Ephesians is well known for its "Armor of God" metaphor, a spiritual "how-to defeat the devil" guide. Many people are familiar with the verses: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with readiness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit (the Word). The scripture warns us to be prepared to fight WHEN the day of evil comes, not IF the day of evil comes, so we know that we are expected to face evil and fight. An interesting side note that my husband always points out- in all this armor of God, there is nothing to cover your backside. The Lord expects you to face evil and fight, not run away and hide.

Our strongest weapon in this battle is the sword of the Spirit. The Bible. Most wars are fought with guns and tanks and bombs, but Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, "...we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have the divine power to demolish strongholds..." Now fighting with words is something I am quite skilled in (just ask my poor husband), but using Scripture to glorify God and beat back the devil hasn't been in my "word war repertoire" until recently.

December 8, 2014: Heavenly Father, thank you for protection during the battle I wage every day. Please give me the weapons and armor I need to keep Satan at bay. Keep my mind on heavenly thins above, and don't allow Satan to pound me with his lies. Please give me the strength and courage to avoid the devil's temptations and hold fast to Your truth and love. I am amazed at your promise to provide for all of us, exactly what we need when we need it in our lives. You are all-powerful and all-loving. You are everything as as I continue to submit my life to you, I begin to clearly see that.

 I know that without you in my life, there will always be a hole that cannot be filled. I know that as I grow deeper in my relationship with You, You will continue to show me the depths of Your love. Like a child, I may not understand why You do things, but I endeavor to trust You fully and go wherever and do whatever You tell me to do. I put away my years of disobedience and reveal in a new trust, like a child just learning to walk or learning to ride a bike. I understand now that You don't guarantee that I won't ever fall or be hurt, but You do promise to be there to pick me up, dust me off, and give me the courage and confidence to try again. I know in my life I will deal with disappointments, hardships, anger and sadness, but you soften the blow. You protect me. You don't allow these things to consume me anymore because I've given it all to You.

Selfishly, I pray that You will continue to be with me as I face my own personal demons of depression and anxiety. Please give me the strength and courage to continue teaching this year. Let me be so filled with Your light and love that everyone can see the difference- my mom has already mentioned the change she has seen in me, so I know You are working in me. Please help me to continue this.

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What Can Man Do To Me?

February 3, 2015

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These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. 2 Corinthians 4:17

With God by my side, I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6

I've been plagued with fear my entire life. I swear I started getting gray hairs when I was 12, and my mom used to tell me it was from worrying all the time. I've had a creased forehead since my teens, from frowning and furrowing my brow. I remember being scared to sleep by myself, so I made my sister share a bed with me, for many years longer than she would have liked to. Even in high school, I was convinced I wouldn't be able to go off to college unless she went with me; there was no way I would be able to sleep at night by myself. Fear and anxiety have ruled my life for the majority of it, and in December, I was paralyzed with irrational fear. This wasn't the first time I had experienced this feeling of drowning while on dry land, but it was definitely the hardest to get past.

In my prayer journal I carefully transcribed every Bible verse dealing with fear, worry, and anxiety. I meditated on these daily. I recited them over and over. I wrote them on my desk calendar, taped them to my computer, copied one onto an index card and tucked it into my ID badge, so I could flip to it as often as I needed through the day. Psalm 118 spoke to me over and over again. It is full of some of the most beautiful poetry I've ever read and truths that bring tears to my eyes.

With God by my side, I will not fear. What can man do to me? This doesn't mean I won't suffer or face hardships, that's impossible, but it does mean that during these turbulent times, I don't have to let fear rule me and control my life. I can be confident in God, no matter what is happening around me. And what can they possibly do to me anyway with God beside me? Matthew 10:28 says in part, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." Fearing man and man-made situations will only destroy my peace and take away the confidence and faith I have in God. People will hate me for no reason, talk about me, spread lies and rumors, but these are little troubles, speed bumps that I will barely remember when I reach my eternal kingdom. So I cannot waste time here being fearful, but instead glorifying God and showing others the power He can have in my life.

December 5, 2014:

Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings in my life- things I take for granted constantly: my health, my husband, my son, my home, my family, my church, my small group, my work friends, my preachers, Your never-ending mercy in spite of my constant short-comings and mistakes. You are daily showing me how to trust in You and Your promise to keep me safe. Thank you for taking my worries and fears away from me. Thank you for freeing me from my ever-present yoke of shale, guilt, remorse and fear. Thank you for giving me another day to prove to You and to myself the great things I can do when I do it in Your holy name.

Please, Lord, show me how to listen for you. I don't want this to be a one-sided conversation. I want to follow Your will for my life, but I still don't know how to hear it. Please show me, tell me, lead me to someone who can. I am keeping my eyes turned to You, and I can feel You are making me a better person because I am finally submitting to Your Will instead of fighting it at every turn. I am Yours and I want o do everything YOU want me to do. I want to go where you want me to go, or stay if that's Your ultimate plan. I know I have to trust you whatever the outcome. I am praying that if it is Your Will then You will allow me to find a new job. But I also know if I apply for fifty jobs and don't get any of them, them I will stay where I am and do Your will here.

My job is not my calling. My calling is to serve You, and I can do that anywhere.  Please continue to open my eyes to that. Please fill me today with a peace that transcends human understanding. Please protect me from the unimportant things of this world- these temporary things that I allow to cloud my vision to what is most important. You are my eternal life.

The Battle is not Yours, but God's

January 30, 2015

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For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

The battle is not yours, but God's. 2 Chronicles 20:15

Sitting at home that first day, immersed in God, was easy. It was wonderful. But the next morning, my alarm clock went off, and I started panicking. I felt literally sick to my stomach dreading going to work and facing my biggest stress and fear. My students. It seems so ridiculous now, almost two months after the fact, but I was terrified.

I had started reading Max Lucado's book Fearless on the suggestion of a friend in my small group. Previously I thought of Lucado of a super cheesy Christian writer, full of lame platitudes and pathetic feel-good advice that wouldn't apply to my life and my problems. Boy, was I wrong! It felt like he was writing directly to me, like he could read my mind and knew my deepest worries and anxieties.I got great comfort from his words, and I am truly a convert. I can't get enough Lucado in my life!

That morning in my prayer journal, I poured out my fears. It makes me sad to read these words now. The desperation and fear is so apparent, so thick you could cut it. It was a dark time. I remember my husband, trying to encourage me, saying, "The school year is almost half-over. It will be summertime before you know it." That wasn't encouraging at all, but DISCOURAGING! I couldn't see myself making it through a single day at school, much less another week, another month, another five months! I was angry and scared and desperate.

December 4, 2014: Please take away the fear and dread. Fill me with a peace that only comes from knowing Your are my god. Give me the courage to before them no matter what they say, think, or do. Please be with me today. Show me your presence. Fill me with a sense of well-being and calmness. Let me think only of you and not them. Let me keep my eyes on you, my Savior, and not on any storm in my life. The storm isn't important. I choose not to fear the storm ahead of me and fully trust You to get me through it and draw you close to me for protection and a renewal of my spirit. Please be with me today and every day. I give you my fears, my worries, my doubts, the things I fear that I know I can't control. I am tired of fighting this alone. This is not my battle to fight; it is Yours. You hold the power to make me a new being in Your image- one full of light and love, not fear and darkness. I want to be that new creation. Give me your strength for I am weak. I know I can't do it alone, and I don't want to anymore. Be with me today, Lord, please.

PEACEFUL- Worry Stoppers (Adapted from Max Lucado)

PRAY, first- Ask for God's help. Prepare yourself inwardly to face your fears outwardly.
EASY, now- Slow down. Take your fears to Jesus and state them clearly.
ACT on it- Become a worry-slapper. Treat fear like a mosquito. Once it starts bothering you, slap it
                   hard! Don't dwell on it. Be a DOER, not a STEWER.
COMPILE a worry list- Write down all your anxious thoughts. Now think- how many of your                               worries and fears have ever actually turned into realities? Not many, I bet.
EVALUATE your worry- Look at your lists and highlight the themes of your worry. Pray for those                        things.
FOCUS on today- God promises to meet our daily needs DAILY. He will give you what you need
                   when you need it.
UNLEASH a "worry army"- Share your fears and worries with a few loved ones. Ask them to pray
                    with you and for you.
LET God be enough- Your heavenly Father already knows your needs. Seek the kingdom of God
         above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Take Courage! I am Here!

January 27, 2015

Part One: In the beginning....

So she did something she had never done. She sat down with a notebook and her Bible and she started writing to God. She wrote down verses to spoke to her about suffering and persevering. She poured her heart out to God. She listened to a few of her favorite worship songs from church service. She was drawn to Matthew 14 and the recounting of Jesus walking on water:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,”they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”he said, “why did you doubt?”
And she wrote: 
I want to trust in you fully, but I feel like everything is a one-side
conversation. Where are you? Why am I not being comforted by You? 
Why can't I feel You? Why can't I hear You? What am I doing wrong?
If I can just find the courage to trust in You fully, I will be happier. And I know 
I can only do that if I trust you. But I don't know how to do that! 
Show me how. Tell me something. Help me please. I am begging. I am 
open and willing, I just don't know how. Jesus told Peter, "Take courage!
I am here!" and Peter had the courage to take those first steps onto the water. 
Give me that courage.

For almost four hours she wrote and read and talked to God and cried. She was broken, completely humbled, fully at God's mercy for the first time ever. Physically exhausted, emotionally drained and puffy-eyes, she decided to take a shower. (Just stay with me for a second here, I promise I'm going somewhere with this) She turned her worship music on, climbed in, and under the scalding stream of the shower head, she fell apart. She found herself  in the floor, crying and worshiping, hands raised to the heavens. She cried as she listened to the lyrics, and finally she felt Him. After all these years of empty faith, she felt reborn. She considers that shower to be her real rebirth, her baptism. The outward acknowledgement that her old self was dead and buried, and she was beginning a new life in Jesus. She felt washed clean. She came out of that shower with a peace that she didn't think was possible and a new hope for her life. 
That day was December 3, 2014. The day my life was changed forever. Every day I grow stronger in my faith and closer to God. This is my journey.

In the beginning...

January 27, 2015

Every good story has a clear beginning, middle and end. Some people believe that our stories are already written, that if we could literally flip to the back of "our book", then there we could discover who we married, how many children we had, how much money we made, where we spent our retirement, and what finally laid us down for our eternal dirt nap. Others believe each page of "our book" is blank, waiting to be filled in be the twists and turns we encounter as we travel through our life. Each day is a mystery; each page is still unwritten. I'm not sure where I stand yet. But I do know this--- I'm not quite ready to take a peek at the final chapter. I still have much to do before I sign with a flourish "The End". 

So, like most stories (good and bad), I will start at the beginning.

Once upon a time, a little girl was born. She was really, really cute. Like ridiculously cute. Until like first grade, and than she went through a twenty-year awkward phase. As this girl grew, she struggled with depression and anxiety and self-esteem issues. She struggled to fit in, to find a place where she belonged. When she was sixteen years old, she met a boy she really liked, and he really liked her, too. There was just one little problem. This boy was very religious, and, well, the girl? She have been inside a church once- for a wedding.

The boy was willing to make it work if the girl was willing to go to church. So she went. Every Sunday. Sometimes even Sunday night and youth group events on Wednesdays. Anything so she could hang out with the boy. But church was a drag- the songs were awful, the preaching was outdated and sometimes even scary for someone who had never been to church before. Eventually the girl got "saved", not really because she felt a calling, but because that was the natural order as far as she could tell. Go to church, get saved. Done and done. Plus it made her boyfriend  (and his parents) really happy.

So now the girl could rest assured that she wasn't going to hell, but nothing really changed. She moved away for college and stopped going to church. She never thought about God. She had done what she was supposed to do. Eventually the girl and boy got married, in his church, of course, and decided to search for a "home church" to call their own. They went to three different churches before settling on a small country church with one Sunday service. Again she went to church diligently. She took notes and attended Sunday School each Sunday morning. She even got baptized, so she could be an official member of the church family. This made her husband (and his family) very happy, but nothing changed.

The boy and girl decided to start a family. It happened quickly and easily. No thanks was given to God. What did He have to do with it? The girl started a teaching career, very unexpectedly. But God's hand wasn't in it, just a lucky break. With a baby and a new job, church attendance slipped, and before too long they weren't going at all. But that's okay, because she had been saved, which meant she wouldn't go to hell, and she had been baptized, which meant when people asked, "What church do you go to?" she had a quick answer, even if she hadn't been in years.

But she didn't feel any different. She didn't pray, and she never thought about God.

This worked for a long time. Yes, the girl struggled with depression and anxiety and self-esteem issues just like she always did. Yes, the girl struggled to juggle the demands of being a wife, mother and teacher, but that's normal. The girl and the boy found a new church that they really liked. The preacher was young and funny. The songs were upbeat and easy to sing along with. The sermons were interesting, and she actually looked forward to church every Sunday. They joined this church. They joined a small group. "This will be good for my son," she thought as she checked him into his classroom every Sunday morning. But she still never thought about God.

Then one day the girl just couldn't do it by herself anymore. That's when the story really begins. Because even though for 33 years, this girl hadn't been thinking about God at all, He had been thinking about her the WHOLE TIME. 

Everything had been going wrong at school. The girl was beginning to doubt herself as a teacher after seven years in the classroom. She began to get physically sick to her stomach every morning as she prepared to go to school. Her anxiety and depression hit a dangerous level. She thought daily for a couple of weeks about how miserable she was and how easy it would be to end it all. She didn't think about God at all. One day, some students started a terrible rumor about her, and even though it wasn't true, she just couldn't let it go. It was the last straw. Things had been building up for years, but this hurtful, completely baseless rumor, just broke her down. She couldn't handle it.

She wanted to walk out of the front door of her school and get in her car drive. Drive until the gas ran out and her problems were just a fading memory in her rear view mirror. She wanted to cry and break things. She wanted to climb in bed and eat ice cream by the gallons and watch sad movies. Instead, she felt inexplicably drawn to her computer. She felt compelled to email two women from her church, women who always seemed to have it together, who never seemed stressed or upset by the little curve balls life tends to throw. They stayed in close contact with her throughout the rest of that day, offering her prayers of encouragement and words of kindness.

That afternoon, she met with the pastor for a pre-baptism session for her son. He could tell she was upset and the events of the day gushed out of her. He looked at her and said, "Why do you care what a bunch of stupid teenagers are saying about you? It's not true. So what?" He didn't mince words and told her that if she would focus on God then the other things wouldn't bother her. He told her that the devil only attacked people who scared him. But this wasn't about God and the devil. This was about her.

Her head hurt. It was the worst pain of her life. She started throwing up. She couldn't stop crying. Her blood pressure was sky high and rising. Her mother feared she would have a stroke and drove her to the emergency room of a local hospital. Moms are great when you don't feel good, so comforting and reassuring, but her mom couldn't fix this. As she sat in the emergency room, surrounded by strangers, she resolved that something would have to change. She couldn't quit her job, so she would have to find a way to survive.

She called in sick the next day, prepared to mope and eat her feelings until she got another email from one of her church friends. It read in part, "My strongest recommendation for you in your time alone today is that you not spend it alone. You have a large chunk of time to pray... Just pour your heart out to God. Keep your Bible handy. And be sure to give Him time to respond to you as well." For 17 years, she had been keeping God at bay. This wasn't about God; this was about her. How could God help?
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