Freedom Granted Through Following God’s Rules

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For those of you who may not know, I teach a group of kids each Sunday morning.  Their ages range from around 10 to around 14.  Occasionally we have a guest whose age is beyond those boundaries, but for the most part, they are middle schoolers.

My curriculum for yesterday required me to teach the story of Moses leading the Israelite nation out of Egypt.  The kids knew the basic story.  They understood the plagues, the celebration of Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, and the power of God transferred into Moses and Aaron.

Upon the suggestion of a fellow teacher, I approached this well known story as a way to teach how God grants us freedoms, but only when we follow the rules.  They began by listing their freedoms and rules in their own lives.  Of course, they had way more rules!  At the end of class, we added rules and freedoms created by God for us.  Again, they had more rules.  However, after a few minutes of discussion, one girl said that the greatest freedom is the promise of Heaven.  She continued to explain that Heaven’s freedom far outweighs any rule we follow on Earth.

I continued thinking about her statement throughout the day.  It is the end of the month.  My husband works terribly long hours when trying to finish out the month at work.  When he is gone this much, I grow weary from my own job and taking full responsibility for all things relating to our kids and our home.    It is easy to let exhaustion overtake my willpower.  God has set forth a clear set of rules for my life.  It is so easy to let those requirements slide when life gets hectic.  My student reminded me that this life and this exhaustive state are temporary.  Time for prayer, Bible study, and following God’s commandments over my life will carry me through eternity.

It isn’t easy following God’s rules all day, every day.   However, with the promise of His love for all time, we can’t afford to not follow God!


Called to Action or Sit Back and Wait

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Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. Psalms 27:14

I will be the first to admit I do not know what God wants me to do with my life!  From day to day, I think it is changing. Some days I feel like He is calling me to get up off my couch and DO something.  Other days, I feel like He is saying to me, “Just wait.  The timing isn’t right yet.”

Last night I saw the VERY FIRST EVER printed copy of the book I co-wrote in the spring.  We met to put together a marketing plan.  Since all proceeds go directly to my church, a committee will help move along this marketing phase.

As I sat and listened to the options, it was clear to me that I have very little control over this process.  I wanted to jump up and DO something, but I have to wait.  I could clearly discern from God that He did not need my actions yet.  I felt like He was whispering to me, “Get ready.  You will need to act soon!”

The day will come when I need to travel around to local churches and try to market the book.  We have high hopes that this book will make enough money to help us build a church building.  However, I don’t have the power to make that happen!  God does, but not me.

We usually think that God is calling us to act, to do something, to make a change, to help someone. My calling from God, for now, seems to be to wait.  Brace yourselves! When the wait is over, God’s plan will be amazing!


Facing Life’s Disappointments with Batman

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My children are awesome.  They are mine, so I get to brag.  Everyday they present the world to me in a way that differs from my stuffy, adult-like way of viewing our life.  They also give me great writing material!

Last week, we had another house showing.  This time it required us to stay out of our house until after 6pm.  I picked up the kids and headed to the library.  Once we got there, we realized that it was closing early and were shooed away.  I was bummed!  I had all these great ideas for my class and for my kids.  I had a list of fall books I wanted!  The library majorly messed up my plans! I got back in the car disappointed and not sure what to do with the kids for another hour.

Superhero Son is named for his love of all things superhero.  He is only complete when he is holding a superhero toy.  His finest moments are in costume, surrounded by toys, and creating “movies” with his action figures.  With time to kill, he, of course, wanted to head to McDonalds.  They recently had Power Ranger toys in their happy meals.  If you got all of the different rangers, they connected together to create a giant megazord.  He had all but one!  Suddenly, we had a new mission.

Occasionally, I take my kids threw drive-thrus.  We don’t do it often, but every other week or so, we get happy meals.  He was able to collect all the pieces to the megazord with the help of my fifth graders who didn’t care so much about Power Rangers.  Today, however, we were going inside to eat.  I wanted to speak to the cashier face-to-face.  I needed a certain toy to complete the set.

We pulled up and Superhero Son yelled, “Mommy! The Power Ranger sign is gone!!!!” His heart sank.  He was so upset that it appeared as if our time had run out.  Power Rangers were no longer at McDonalds.

I told him we would go ask if they still had a few lying around.  I knew deep inside my disappointment about library books would be nothing compared to his disappointment of not getting the complete set of Power Rangers.  As we approached the front door, Superhero Son caught a glimpse of a new poster.  This poster advertised the replacement toys.  He gripped my hand as tightly as he could.  Could it be???

“Mommy! I don’t even like Power Rangers.  Look!  They have BATMAN!!!!”

An hour later, we pulled into our drive with two new Batman toys, full bellies, a clean house, no library books, and new perspective on disappointment.  First of all, Batman trumps all other superheros.  Secondly, my son showed me that I need to stop worrying about what might have been, deal with my present situation at hand, and focus on my future.  He now plans to visit McDonalds until he has every single Batman toy.


Reactions and Choosing Your Actions

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Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

You know those moments when someone asks you a question, you react, and then you try to cover up your reaction?  Let me give you an example.  Yesterday a student asked me a question about a change to my schedule.  I don’t like the change, but I didn’t really want to kids to know that.  My reaction, however, made it all too clear.  I quickly tried to cover for myself by explaining that I will try to reserve judgement until I see the effects of the change.  I didn’t do such a great job hiding my true feelings.

This verse from Proverbs came to mind.  I realized that I have to really guard my heart from negativity.  There are moments when I wear my heart on my sleeve.  I cannot hide my true feelings about a situation.  I need for my true feelings to always be full of love toward others, peace regardless of the circumstances, and hopefulness for the future.  I don’t want to walk around as an example of negativity for my students or my personal children.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that I need to spend more time filling my heart with prayer, Bible study, friendly conversations, and positive self-talk.  If not, my actions and reactions may be full of gossip, hurtful words, and uncertainty about the future.  I know that I can trust my future to God, so my reactions need to be filled with a peacefulness to demonstrate that.

Anyone else have a bad reaction story to share?


Survivor, Big Brother, and Facing Reality!


I have this secret obsession with reality tv.  I have been a Survivor fan since I was really young.  I have signed t-shirts from contestants, can tell you life stories of castaways, and recap entire seasons.  My big brother got me interested in Big Brother a few years ago. My husband thinks I am ridiculous!

I watch these shows because I am fascinated by how people treat each other when put into stressful situations.  Both shows cut contestants off from their normal lives, throw them in with a bunch of strangers, and ask them to live together in harmony.  Of course that harmony part usually doesn’t happen.

This sounds crazy, but I think I use these shows to escape my own reality.  There are days when I just need a break from thinking about work, kids, cleaning, grading, and worrying.  I use books the same way.  I can get caught up in a story, focus on the lives of the characters, and forget, momentarily, about my own worries.  Eventually, however, I have to come back into my own reality and face my struggles.  That’s where God comes in!

I know it sounds silly, and I don’t let my children watch these shows.  I guess I enjoy having an escape, even if it is for only  one hour a week!    I even feel guilty about it because I know I should be folding clothes or grading papers instead.  While it isn’t a sin to simply watch tv, I know God probably wishes I would use my time better. I am fully aware that I use this for stress release.  I suppose it is better than stress-eating!

How do you escape reality?


Supporting the Children in Our Lives

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I started working with children when I was 15 years old.  A local daycare hired me to come work after school until closing.  Within a few years, I was totally committed to the school age group of kids, planned their summer program, and had a blast spending time with those kids.  Since then, I have spent a decade teaching fifth graders.

Through those years I watched kids fall victim to abuse and neglect.  I placed calls to the police or Child Protective Services on several occasions.  I attended funerals for children who lost parents to drug overdoses.  I gathered clothing for a couple after their homes burned.  I even had one child who slit his own wrists at home, and then he tried to stab himself while at school.

Many of these kids are adults now.  I don’t have any contact with them.  I often wonder if they are doing well, or if the vicious cycles of poverty and violence swallowed their lives.

As teachers, we help when we can.  We report circumstances in hopes that government agencies can assist the families when they struggle.  Most of all, though, we pray!

At night, when praying for my own two kids, I often find myself praying for my students just as hard.  We have two students in our school right now who just lost their father to cancer.  We have some who are barely hanging onto their homes due to financial hardships.  For others, school is the safest place they go.

When you say your prayers tonight, remember the children around you.  I don’t just mean your own kids.  Look at their friends and those in their schools who need your prayers.


Inspiring Women: Runners from Around the World

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Yesterday morning, I pulled myself out of bed at 4am, began a dark drive to Blacksburg, VA, with my mother, pinned my bib by the light of my cell phone, and lined up to begin the Hokie 5k.  I found myself among a group of about 500 men and women preparing to race around Virginia Tech’s campus. My finish time wasn’t spectacular, but I beat my time from my last finish!

Just before the start of my race, a much larger group began theirs, a half marathon.  For those of you who are not runners, that is 13.1 miles.  That distance completely trumps my 3.1 mile race!  A little more than 1200 runners attempted this distance!

After I finished, I grabbed water and some food, and I headed back to the finish line to watch others cross.  After a little while, a few men from the half marathon finished.  The announcer read out their names and a short bio of each one.

Once the top few men crossed the finish line, a couple of women arrived.  The first and second were from Kenya and Ethiopia.  The second place woman was only 18 years old!  Just behind them, the third place finisher crossed, a woman from Great Britain who ran in the 2012 London Olympics!

The most amazing part?  They each finished 13.1 miles in just over 1 hour!

God created these amazing bodies for us!  When I watch someone use their bodies to accomplish great things, I am amazed by the strength, endurance, and power He has given so many of us!  Granted, I may never run a half marathon, but I was inspired by the women I ran with yesterday!

Of course, I would be in big trouble if I didn’t also mention that my mama, who is 61, smoked me with her 5k finish in under 30 minutes!

What inspires you?


Easily Distracted!

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Turn my heart toward your statutes
    and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
    preserve my life according to your word. Psalms 119:36-37 (NIV)

I have this kid who is so easily distracted.  When she struggles with a math concept or can’t decode a word, I don’t know if she truly can’t do it or if she just can’t concentrate.  I have seen few kids who have this much trouble focusing!

I wonder if God says that about any of us! I wonder if He is asking how many of us would not struggle nearly as much in our lives if we would just focus on Him.  Last night I found myself complaining to my mom and husband about work related issues.  After whining for a long time, wasting time on Facebook, and then whining some more, it occurred to me that I really hadn’t prayed about any of it.

Boy, did I feel dumb!  My focus was in the wrong place.  I was too easily distracted by the world around me.  What did I do? I humbly prayed. A LOT!

I didn’t wake up this morning with all the answers at my fingertips, but I do have more focus.  I have confidence that I can at least move in the right direction.


Apple Cider Doughnuts, a Cup of Coffee, and All Things Comfortable


I had a moment last night, while grading papers, when I realized just how much work lay ahead of me this year.  Our new group of fifth graders are very sweet, but they are a LONG WAY from where we need them to be by June.  As I sifted through test scores and fall assessments, I found that nearly half of our students are significantly behind in reading, math, or both.  Let me tell you, I went to bed praying for some miracles!

Times like this make me feel like I have an uphill battle facing me.  I was touring a Civil War museum in Richmond, VA, last spring when a tour guide explained what that meant.  He said that the army on top of the hill had the element of surprise, the momentum of fighting while running downhill, and the advantage of sight.

When I awoke this morning, I was still feeling defeated.  I prayed, again!  Then I got up, ran to the kitchen, fixed coffee, heated up an apple cider doughnut, and sat in my pjs for a few minutes.  The comfort found in my morning treat just made all things better!

Sometimes a little bit of comfort can help us strategize for the battles ahead.  I may still be facing an uphill battle, but my position is improving.  Often, I only need a little cheering up before I feel enough motivation to run up the next hill.

I am not a huge fan of seeking comfort foods, but these apple cider doughnuts did the trick!  God doesn’t always speak directly to us, boom directions down at us, or send an angel to guide us through.  Sometimes He just allows us to find comfort in our everyday lives!


Decisions…In Which Direction Should I Go?


Okay!  I have a major decision to make!  This decision is career altering, and it could mean big changes for my life and the life of my kids.  I have the opportunity to get a second masters degree that would allow me to move into a different position.  Pros:  More money. Cons: Working 12 months instead of summers off with my kids.

Actually there are many pros and cons to taking on this new degree.  The problem seems to be that I just don’t know what to do.

I am not making a decision between a sin-filled path or righteous path.  That would be easy.  I can see opportunities for God to work through my life with either choice.  I have prayed about it, but I haven’t heard or felt an answer for or against either choice.

So what do we, as Christians, do when we are faced with major decisions?  We wait, patiently.  I know, you are probably reacting the way I did by trying to dismiss that as a bad idea.

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. Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

We seem to have in our head that in order to do God’s work or follow God’s path, we have to act and act now!  That isn’t always the case.  Remember, God’s timing is perfect.

As for my decision, I will wait.  I won’t make a decision yet.  I will continue to pray and wait for the Lord to give me my answer.  It will come, eventually!