The simple gift of listening…

older hands

I so enjoy life’s moments that just “happen” upon my day.  This moment took place in the waiting room of a dentist office.  In the other room, my son was receiving his first row of braces.  I was making use of my time by checking email, sending text messages, checking in on Facebook, and viewing recent Instagram pictures.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the ability to make use of time to take care of details so that when I return home, I don’t have extra “details” on my plate when real family await time together, but I often wonder if I’m missing out while “looking down”.

This moment happened as I was engrossed in my device.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a couple walk in.  They were small in stature, they moved very gingerly and intently, they had stooped shoulders, and their clothes hung from frail shoulders.  And they were holding hands.  And he helped her with her sweater.  And he kissed her goodbye as the dentist offered his elbow to lead her to the thrown where he would fix her broken tooth.  And they had a story, I just knew it.  And before I could open my mouth, he began to speak.  And I had a front row seat.

I learned that he was 90 1/2 years old, 5 years older than his young bride, and that they just celebrated their 65 wedding anniversary a bit early because they were married on THANKSgiving day (he emphasized the “thank” part), and on their 60th an ice storm hit and many invitees were unable to attend.  He didn’t want to chance that again.  “I have a wonderful wife”, he told me at least 3 times.  “Many people don’t seem to make it as long as we have now-a-days.  We’re lucky.”

I learned that  he served in 39 battles during World War II (along with his 3 brothers), “which about killed his mother who died at an early age of 58.”  His father was a carpenter by trade, and scrapped together what he could to feed 4 teenage boys.  His good grades earned him a position in attend a “free” college in New York City where he graduated and taught high school for a year and a half.  Then he was offered a job as a college professor in a small town in West Virginia (600 people in the entire town), and they decided to try it out.  61 years later, 2 grown daughters, and a career he was extremely proud of have been a part of, they finally agreed to move closer to their daughter here in Columbus (It was a better option that the daughter in Michigan because of the weather 🙂

I learned that his first teaching job paid $2,460 per year.  He was a CPA.  He could have made lots of money, he was offered jobs at UCLA and WVU.  He turned them down.  He loved his community, his small town (where people waved to you before they saw you because they knew your car), and he loved his students.  He told me that barely 50% of students that take the exam ever pass, with his students, a little over 85% of them passed (I bet he knew the exact percentage.)  He cared about them, he knew them well, he was passionate about his career, and he was humble.  He’s received one award that is worth talking about, his students (former and current) voted, from all over the state of WV, and he won for the top CPA professor in the state. “I was given $1000, and that was a lot.” And his eyes teared.  And so did mine.

He would pause every so often.  And I would ask another question.  And he would go on.  He stopped teaching at age 58.  He thought about his wife.  He wanted to provide “more than a shoebox for her to live in”.  He finally took a job as a CPA before retiring 6 years later.  He earned enough.  He’s thankful.  He doesn’t need glasses, nor hearing aides.  He takes zero pills for his health.  He had no answer for that other than, his milk man took very good care of him.

“I’ve experienced a lot in my life.  Next to my wife, my daughters, and my students, I don’t need much.”

And he leaned forward ever so slightly, and he grabbed a magazine as I said my goodbyes.  And I forgot to ask him his name.

He looked like a John to me.  If I ever have the opportunity to give this man some words, this is what I would say:

Dear John,

Your life is an example to me.  I only met you for 30 minutes today, and I know you love well, you love deeply, and you carry joy.  Thank you.  Thank you for loving your wife.  Thanking you for showing me that beyond the number of years, all the little things matter.  Thank you for using honoring words in talking about those in your life.  Thank you for being an example that relationship matter over monetary.  Providing for your family means that “just enough” is more than enough.  Thank  you for sharing your life with me, just a strange lady in a dentist waiting room.  Thank you for giving me hope through your example of enduring love.  I can see Aaron caring for me in this way, but I don’t often picture this in my independent ways.  I thank you for helping me to see the value that comes from listening.  For time time for people, not always being rushed by the activities of life.  Thank you for sharing.  It was the greatest gift I received today.  God Bless!

Psalm 119:90

Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.

Running mirrors life

medalWhat a day!  After this, my 20th half marathon over 7 years of running, I’ve learned one thing – you never know what a particular day may bring.  Running mirrors life. You do the best you can with choices you’re given, and the rest is a battle for that ever illusive idea of control.

Jesus’s words also mirror lessons I’ve learned in running – to gain life, you have to lose it. To “lose it”, I view this concept as releasing my need for predictability. For example, if I chose to train a certain way, chose to eat certain foods, and rest like the “experts” tell me, I am guaranteed this particular outcome. So not true. So not life. And catch me in the right mood, I would believe that predictability would be boring.

I’ve LEARNED to say, “thank The Lord above for the adventure of life!” I’ve learned to roll with the bad, KNOWING He has my best in mind. I may not like His plan at the time, but I choose to stand on what He tells me in truth.

All that to say, this race was an adventure. Somehow I knew it would be, just didn’t know how. I prayed that He would show me, and indeed He did.

I awoke early, let out the dog, was greeting by a delightful cool blast of fresh air, grabbed my usual water, and began to stretch.  Thanks in part to my friend Erin, this has been a usual routine for me this summer.  Despite a few hour of sleep due to a wonderful family outing at an Indians game the night before, my body was awake and appeared to be in gear.  We arrived on time, waited a bit longer in the corral than expected, but at 7:12 am, off we went!

girlsAnd… yikes.  Soreness, yep!  But, you’ll have that, perhaps my body will be kind and release the tension before to long.  Mile 4, nope still there.  And… cue my sciatica.  For those of you saying, “What?”  Here’s the definition – Sciatica is a symptom of a condition, where one experiences pain, tingling, and numbness down the bag of the leg.  I call it butt pain.  It comes and goes, today it came.  “Well, hello pain!  And how long do you plan on staying?”  The answer – the entire race, yep.  One of those.  And honesty, around that mile 4 mark, I was changin up my game plan.  New plan – be happy to finish today Heather, just finish.  Why?  Because at the moment, my body is screaming to stop and I still have 9.1 miles to go!  And around mile 6, I actually started to believe that it would be possible to finish, about half way there.

The miles slowly ticked away, I appreciated the park scenery, I re-lived past races along the same course, I watched people as I passed or they passed, certain songs came through my earbuds, and even a friend jumped in and ran with me for a short time.  And I reflected again on the similarities of life and running…

1.  We all have different stories, and yet in this particular leg of life, we started our journey at the same time.

2.  In this season, some of us are able to run, and looking up, some are laying in a hospital bed just a few floors above our vantage point at the starting line.  Their journey also includes pain.  Is it possible that there is purpose in this pain we experience?  Do they know they are not alone?

3.  What motivates us to endure hardship?  What is our default mode as doubt creeps in?  What is it about the “hard” that makes it so “good?”  Today, I was able to trust my training.  I could fall back on the truth of my milage, hill workout, and speed workouts alike.  My body was prepared, strengthened and stretched in a way that recognized the strain happening and even yet to come.  It was almost on “auto-pilot” mode.  The battle for me took place in my mind.  It could land and settle in confidence on this truth.

4.  Perspective.  A song came through my ears at just the right time.  It spoke of Christ and the time in which he endured hardship.  To be honest, in light of my momentary troubles, it doesn’t even some close to the pain that Christ suffered for me.  Enough said.

5.  Take the race one mile at a time.  By breaking a long term goal into sizable chucks, I can celebrate the victory of each step, therefore relegating all negative chatter to the back seat.  A positive mindset will carry me to the finish every time.

6.  I knew I would finish, one way or another, I didn’t want to regret a moment that I couldn’t return to, a moment that I knew wasn’t my best.  And within this desire, I was rewarded a great gift.  This gift I didn’t expect and had let go off way back at mile 4.  I knew a good time was not in the works for today, and I had made peace with that, and then I heard my split time at mile 12, and I knew I had a chance.  I was gifted with a time 1 minute faster than in May, and 2 minutes faster than a year ago.  In all that pain, in all that release, I finished well.  Simply, a gift.

familyAnd I waved to my family on the last corner before crossing the finish line, and I looked up to receive my medal, and there before me was my friend, and my hero.  Another member of the sisterhood of sweat, and she greeted me with a huge smile, and a hug, and a medal.  And I don’t remember feeling the pain, I now just remember the picture, captured by a race photographer, one that will symbolize for me the greatest gift of all – relationships that mirror the love of Christ.  Though this life is short, eternity will be forever.

How will you join Him in this race today?

Make it go away!

broken-heartPsalm 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

My husband and I have found ourselves discussing this topic lately – hurts.  We all know they’re a part of life, yet sadly, we’re not always sure what to do with them.  He recently wrote a blog post, and it’s resonated with many.  It touches us all, and yet we don’t often realize the importance of properly cleansing our wounds before a worst-case infection invades and we become walking wounded. I appreciate the gift my husband has been given in looking at everyday life events and using them as a parallel to hard lessons that are often difficult to explain.

It also triggered a moment for me that took place several years ago.  In fact, it’s the moment that I knew I was to start sharing His stories in my life.  The moment I knew, out of obedience, I would start a blog, not for my gain, but for His glory.  In fact, the title of my original blog was Heal the Wound, Leave the Scar.  Today I wanted to share that moment with you.  May you know today that you are not alone.  Ever.

Do you have a scar? I mean, a physical one. A mark that serves as a reminder of a time in your life where you experienced a hurt. A mark that has a story to go along with it. I do. But this scar I have is different, I asked for this one.

It happened one cool, late summer evening. For a year prior to this evening, about 4 evenings a week, I run. I typically run the same path, give or take a few turns here or there. This evening, I rounded a corner close to home, one that I had rounded many times before. Listening to some tunes, enjoying the last few moments until my return, I found myself in a different position. In a split second, I heard a loud smack, realized that my body had rolled over onto soft grass, and felt an intense burning in my knee. I sat there stunned, wondering what in the world happened. I slowly stood up and attempted to assess my injuries. Everything seemed to be functioning alright as I glanced down at the source of the burning near my knee. Sure enough, blood could be seen and felt running down my leg. Next thought… “Did anyone see me ?” (glance right, glance left)…whew. Next thought… “How dare you! You stupid sidewalk! I know you just decided, hey, let’s get her!” Oh well, no real harm, let’s just get home.

As I began to walk, I heard that clear, gentle voice that I’ve come to recognize as the voice of my Jesus whisper to me, “Heather, how did you just react to that fall?”

“That one? Aww, just a scrape. The burning will go away.”

“If that was one of your children, what would they have done?”

“Oh, that’s easy…wait for it…3,2,1….AAAAAAAAAAAAA (a.k.a. blood curling scream).”

“Why didn’t you react like that?”

“Because I’ve experienced all sorts of different pains in my life, I know this is no big deal. I’ll be alright.”

“And what else would your children have done?”

“Frantically look for me, run to me with all there might, desperately seeking reassurance, a hug and a kiss.”

“When was the last time you ran like this to me?”

(Gulp.)

Pause.

“Heather, what will you do when you get home?”

“Take a shower, clean the wound.”

“Will it hurt?”

“Yes, a little.”

“Then, why will you do it?”

“If I don’t clean it, it will fester, get infected, heal incorrectly.”

“Heather, what other wounds do you have? Ones you have ignored, ones you tried to clean yourself, ones left to fester. Will you let me open your wound again, I need to clean it the right way. Will you let me come in and cleanse? Come in and heal?”

“But Lord, it’s going to hurt.”

“I know.” He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. Isaiah 53:5

“But Lord, I don’t want to.”

“I know.” If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. Matthew 26:39

“Lord, I’m scared.”

“I know.” He was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. Luke 22:44

“Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief.” (Mark 9:14-29)
“Oh, one more thing Lord. Could you do me a favor? When you heal my wound, could you leave the scar?”

One year later, he has continued to answer my prayer. I even have a mirror-image scar, same knee, one inch to the left.

Where is your scar? Do you see it as God sees it, beautiful? If you are interested in further investigation, may I highly recommend 2 books. Check out the links section on the sidebar to your right. Visit Sharon Jaynes and her book Your Scars are Beautiful to God, as well as singer and author Gwen Smith’s newly released title Broken Into Beautiful. These ladies have allowed the Lord to come in and heal their wounds in a way only He can. Because of their obedience to His call on their life, they speak of hope and of God’s grace. Also, at your leisure, visit About Me, and check out a fabulous song by Point of Grace, released just two weeks after my fall, entitled, none other than…Heal the Wound. God Bless!

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and healing shall spring up quickly. Isaiah 58:8

Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace, and be healed in your disease. Mark 5:34

Yesterday, I cried…

little girlTo be honest, I’m not one that sheds tears often.  Yet, I know that there are a few things that tug at my heart strings than no other.  One such “thing” is evidence of God’s unrelenting, unmistakable, never-ending love for his children.  I “know” that my God is a big God, but it just doesn’t filter into my daily mindset as often as it realistically should… until it does.

A few months ago, I received a clear confirmation from the Lord that He would have a plan for me to join Him on another adventure in Honduras this October.  As with other clear directives I’ve received, they don’t always include a full road map, just the “next step” in the general direction, leaving lots of room for trust along the way.

This year in the life of our family is different than last year, in several ways.  We’ve experienced a roller coaster of unemployment, employment, unemployment, and employment.  As with any roller coaster, some parts are exhilarating, some part scary, but the ride has been tremendous.  I knew that the only way this trip would happen would be for God to provide, in whichever way He chose.  Well, yesterday, I faced a date on the calendar.  One week to go and half the funds for the trip were due.  And I was short.

I felt a nudge.  I knew it was a directive for the “next step”, but it was uncomfortable.  Talking about money ranks lower than my top 100 favorite things to do.  I wan’t sure what would come of it, I even had several doubts, and yet, my desire to obey thankfully took over.  I simply typed a statement on my facebook status.  I attempted to stay on point, I attempted to make it clear, I attempted to let the Spirit lead my words.

And the immediate response blew me away.

After I typed my post on the small screen of my iPhone and clicked send, I checked my mailbox.   A check from my neighbor.  Then, a text message was sent to my husband from my father-in-law, who spent a great summer with us last year.  A dear lady from a Bible Study Fellowship group LAST YEAR responded to my facebook post.  And then I received a message in my facebook inbox.  And I gasped. Loudly.

You see, years ago, we were blessed to know a family we met at our church.  Quite simply, they had a need.  We were in a season of harvest.  The Lord prompted us to give, and it was a tremendous joy to obey.  Years later, we now have a need.  They are in a season of harvest.  And they chose to give.  Generously.  And they didn’t have to, and yet they responded immediately.  And the girl who stood in our foyer that day, shedding some tears, was now mirrored in the image of this girl sitting by her laptop, shedding tears, because that’s JUST GOD.

The God who loves us, who leads us, who protects us and provides for us, is the God who KNOWS the big picture.  And I just sat completely overwhelmed because it really takes nothing on our part but a simple gut desire to decide to trust and obey.

And after having lunch with my parents (who were oblivious to this happening), I now have the ENTIRE trip covered!

Completely and totally unbelievable.  And yet, I’m not completely surprised.  When I wondered, when I doubted, I retraced my steps to the moment He confirmed His plan, and there was peace.  And this just fuels my faith like nothing else!  And now my mind is filled with faces.  Faces of those precious people who live in a country very different than mine, and yet a part of me is still connected there.  I have no idea what lies ahead, all I know is that today I am thankful.  Today I am grateful to the one who invites and includes all of His children to be a part of His divine plan, no matter what the part – a plan that leads them to His heart, His home, His forever place beyond anywhere we can visit here.

And today, my heart can only speak a simple, yet proud word… gracias.

Recognizing the importance of heritage…

GrandmaIt was shortly after returning from vacation early this month that I went for a run.  During this run, I believe the Lord pressed it upon my heart to attend some events this past weekend.  I wasn’t entirely sure why, but I knew the trip would be good.

Yesterday, the girls and I packed the car and headed to Cleveland.  My cousin had just graduated from high school and all the “extended” family planned to gather for a celebration.  It isn’t too often that we find ourselves available to attend, so I was thrilled to be able to say yes.

As the cousins and second-cousins frolicked in the backyard and swam in the pool, aunts, uncles, and cousins had an opportunity to sit and chat.  It. was. wonderful.  It was as if years hadn’t passed by at all.  Though time would argue with me, there was just something about being surrounded by those who have known you since birth, those who have celebrated your “markers”, those who still speak the same way with the same phrases with the same humor… family.  I felt right at home.  My girls had experienced a “taste” of my past and are creating their own markers.  They were welcomed into the loving arms of the Anderson clan.

And then we went to visit Grandma.  In the hospital.  And I watched my girls reach over the bed rail to hug her neck.  And I listened to them share stories.  And they watched her as she shared her stories.  And I was able to share a few words with her as well, just my Dad and I in the room.  And I could have sat there for hours.  And I saw the same glint in his eye as I had for my girls.  And I let my heritage seep into the recesses of my heart, the parts that fill and spill over in tears, for here is the soft spot – the remembrance of all that I have been given, and the wisdom of years gone by, alert and awake in a body that would otherwise tell her differently.  This moment will be tucked away in a very special place…

And then we visit my brother and his lovely family.  While the girls giggle away in all things imaginary… I catch up with my sister-in-law, and after the kiddos are sleeping, we talk about life into the late hours of the night.  And in the morning, I get to catch up with both of my brothers over pancakes and a beautiful fruit plate.  This is a rare treasure, and it’s as if this takes place everyday – the ease of conversation that trails from the past to the present and back again, random bouts of laughter, no sense of urgency to rush – family.  The blessing of a heritage of love.

BarryAnd then the girls and I leave Cleveland and head to Tallmadge, Ohio.  It’s a very special day for a very special family.  A family that left a lasting impression on my heart, one that impacted the course of my life.  Today Pastor Barry French retired.  Pastor Barry was my middle school youth pastor.  It’s not often that I think about my past, it’s not often that I have an opportunity to thank the man who not only changed my heart and led me into a relationship with Christ, but one who has changed the course of generations to come – my children, and God-willing, their children as well.  Today was a day of remembering.  Today was a day to feebly attempt two small words that can’t even begin to convey the depth of their meaning… Thank you.

I sat through a service, sharing so much more with my girls than an introduction to a Methodist service, I shared an experience of walking them through a slice of my heritage.  We heard praise music, sang from a hymnal together, listened to scripture while following along on my Bible app, hear d a small group of men sing a medley of songs of the past in beautiful harmony, and even experienced a delightful musical piece performed by the hand bell choir.  I used to be a part of a hand bell choir when my family attended Bedford Methodist Church.  In fact, my BFF’s mother, our director, was sitting in a pew just to the right of me.  Heritage.

And I listened to a congregation thrilled to have a “packed house” (numbers being irrelevant), and there was time set aside for members to celebrate anniversaries, and updates on health improvements, and pleas for more prayers requests, and thank-yous for those long-standing requests as well.  Community.  Powerful.  And I listened to a tender shepherd, one who led this timid little sheep to her Heavenly Father’s lap, gently and wisely lead his sheep with honor, grace, and humor into the arms of the next shepherd to come.  And he talked about a God Of Love and Faithfulness (GOLF, something his plans on filling his days doing), and I thought about the impact of those words.  He mentioned Christians gathering around the world and celebrated the diversity of church heritage represented today.  And I thought about my Lutheran baptism, and my Methodist confirmation, and my Nazarene high school youth group, and my Catholic high school years, and I praised my loving, faithful God for all of it.

Barry & Sharon

And I listened to Pastor Barry honor his heritage in gratitude to his Mother and father, and he honored his beautiful wife with a kiss and with gratitude for a lifetime of teamwork, and he honored his church family that has supported and encouraged them along the way, and we sang four verses of “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus”, and my heart could barely contain the waterworks.  Tis so sweet…

And with that, we sang the doxology and I lifted my head to my audience of One…

Praise God from whom all blessing flow.  Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above ye Heavenly Hosts.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

And in the hall, I met some some new faces.  The sweet servant who serves in children church was so delighted to meet my girls, and in the course of a short exchange, she shared how her adult son has wandered from the Lord and that her husband is not a believer.   I made a commitment to join with this precious lady in prayer and I silently thanked Him for the blessing of His unwavering promises.

And I met some familiar faces – my childhood friend’s brother and his family, my former middle school English teacher, a former youth retreat buddy, and a family deeply rooted in the Methodist church to this day.  We keep in touch over facebook (which is how I knew about this event), and we celebrated in a few moments of our shared heritage together.

methodist churchTimes spent within the four walls of this, the Lord’s house.

Ephesians 3:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Every closed door leads to another open door…

closed doorMy husband and I are both traveling through a time in our lives that is transitional in regards to our employment careers.  As in many “markers” of life, when one door closes, there will be a time in which open eyes and ears lead to the next open door.

As I worshiped in song this morning, and thought about the meaning of the words I was singing, I found myself in a moment completely consumed with thankfulness.  I look a moment to glance back at all those moments that led me up to this past week, and I was humbled.

Right out of college my heart was so excited to begin my teaching career.  At the time, Cleveland held closed doors, and then one opened.  And so, my young husband and I decided to walk through that door, one that led us to a move to Columbus and future employment at the Ohio School for the Deaf.

I enjoyed my time teaching with great passion.  And then, a bouncing baby boy entered our lives, and then a beautiful baby girl.  And in a moment of heart change, I knew that door was closing and a door to full-time Mommyhood was open.  I openly struggled (as with any life change), but in glancing back, I only remember snapshots of love and laughter.  And then, one by one, my long-ago infants entered school, and my days looked a bit different.

My intent was to enter back into education through substitute teaching.  Naturally I had a desire to place myself in the school system my children attended.  I followed all the necessary procedures for this to happen, but due to the nature of my specific degree, the door was closed.  I remember inquiring about my application at the local central office, hearing the news, and walking to my car only to feel tears streaming down my cheeks.

A bit caught by surprise, I sought the root of my emotions by talking with my heavenly Father.  Though I didn’t understand it at the time, I knew He was shaping me, preparing me for my future, whatever His will may be.  And so, over the next year, I decided to simply step into the “next”, the day by day obedience that comes through hard seeking and blind trust.  And throughout the year, my heart learned how to be content through learning and serving in a variety of capacities.  I grew in wisdom provided through our local BSF studies, I served other precious families at the Ronald McDonald House, I sat across from our local Panera with a variety of special women that He would bring to mind, I was able to be involved with the classrooms of each kiddo as well as their teachers and fellow staff, I had time for exercise, and grabbed moments with my husband as they were available.

Most days were so joyful, and yet I had a few moments of wonder.  What would this next season of life bring?  My heart still contained a yearning to become involved in my field of education, in some capacity, and yet, all the options my mind could thing of were either unavailable or not conducive to our family’s schedule.  And then He provided two special families who each have been given a special young lady in their family.  He provided an opportunity for me to care for their needs in their homes, and taught me how to love, give, and receive in ways that my heart had not experienced to this point.  And I learned contentment through obedience, contentment in serving so simply, humbly, with no human accolades necessary.

And then summer arrived, and I once again grew in passion, and confusion, as to my future options in education.  I expressed this sense of being baffled with my husband, then left for a short-term mission trip to Honduras.  After returning, God closed a door to my husband’s current place of employment. With the school year quickly approaching, I prayed feverishly, mostly while running.  It was on a run that for some reason, my past employer, the School for the Deaf, came to mind.  So I called and I inquired about an opening for a substitute teacher.  They had an opening, in fact, they had a long-term, high-school math teacher position that needed to be filled.  Immediately.  A teacher with twins just started a time of doctor-ordered bed rest.  And a door opened.

I enjoyed my time of jumping in feet first.  A smart board quickly became my new best friend, I met so many delightful young people, I shared delightful conversations with fellow staff members during lunch, and the papers to grade were a consistent companion.  It was during this time that I learned of classes I could take to renew my teaching license that would fit with the needs of my family.  It was a whirlwind few months, and at the end of December, I was embarking on a decision.  A door was open in front of me, I needed to decide whether God would have me walk through the door or shut it.

I’m learning.  I’m learning that no two situations are the same.  In my husband’s case, a door was closed for him.  In this case, I was waiting in the hall, not watching for an open door, but wondering if in fact I should walk through or watch it shut, trusting that a different one would open at a different time.  And through my prayers, God was silent.  I believe, in this case, he was truly giving me a choice.  I don’t think either choice would have necessarily been wrong, I just think He was giving me the opportunity to make a decision without a direct command.  You see, I knew, in my gut, that  this had been a “glimpse”.  I had this strong desire to “get back to teaching” and yet, ALL that comes with a full-time job requires a sacrifice of time and balance between work and home.  I’ve met many people who are wired well for this.  After taking an honest assessment of myself, I just am not one who was feeling called to continue to make that sacrifice at this time.  And even though it didn’t compute in my logic, and I knew of the probability of the consequences that would result from the decision.  I chose to close the door.  And my heart was at peace.

Two weeks into January, another door opened.  Our local school district joined a new system for implementing substitute teachers.  My father had just completed the training process, and after one short week, I received an email welcoming me to the program that allowed access to available jobs to several districts in the Columbus area.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time getting to know each one of the buildings, principals, staff, and students throughout the entire district.  I especially enjoyed the days I taught in the buildings of my own kiddos.  I had the opportunity to “see” into teaching styles, methods, and managements plans of several excellent teachers throughout a variety of subjects and grade levels.  I LOVED the flexibility this afforded and really enjoyed meeting a variety of personalities and classroom groupings.

In fact, one day in mid May, I found myself in a fifth grade classroom of one of my childhood friends.  In fact, she happened to be giving assessments in the hallway, a fellow colleague just happened to stop by her classroom, they happened to have a conversation, and this colleague then approached me about an employment opportunity.  Honestly, I couldn’t have written a better job description if you had given me all day.  I never knew this position, in our own district, even existed, and here was this former fellow pre-school Mom presenting it TO me in a manner of full excitement and support.  Open door.

After lots of prayer, I decided to keep taking steps towards this open door until it was shut for me.  I completed the necessary paperwork, I attended an interview, I attended a second interview just this past week, and a few hours later, I received a phone call from a dear lady offering me the position.  I am now a part-time Support Services employee in the Hilliard School District.  A new season of life begins August 15th for me, and soon to come, my husband will be entering a new employment season as well.

THAT’S MY GOD.  All of it.  Every single part.  My pastor said this today, “Faith isn’t about following a plan; it’s about following God.”  This is what I’m learning.  I like plans.  I like sticking to plans.  I like agendas and routine.  I like to use my logic.  When anything threatens to mess with these, my dear companions, my first inclination is to resist.  And yet, “As God becomes my focus, the focus of my heart becomes His.”  In wrestling with me, I’ve learned the goodness that comes from laying down my right to understand, only to pick up the best – to embrace the trust.  That includes trusting in the unknown, the essence of faith.  And it doesn’t take a truckload of faith, it just takes a decision to choose to believe.

And today, I felt Him nudge me to share His story being written in my life.  He asks me to reflect on His Almighty Goodness and faithful provision.  He asks me to ponder the mystery of His unconditional, never-ending love for me.  And he encourages me to keep taking steps towards trusting Him with my family and my future as more decisions are yet to me made for my husband.

I love this life He’s given me.  I want to use it, all of it, everyday in every way, for Him.  And until the day I see Him face to face, I want to choose to love Him and His people with all the strength, joy, and patience He gives.

What story is He writing in your life today?

Proverbs 16:9

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Letting him lead…

kissIt’s our anniversary today.  And I’ve noticed a few things about today.  First, the weather –  comfortable temperature, cool breeze, blue sky, and few puffy clouds.  Just like it was 16 years ago.  And we found ourselves with an extra gift this afternoon.  The gift of time.  As with summer spontaneity, our son ended up at a friend’s home and the girls joined my Dad for an afternoon bike ride on a local trail.  And so…

We folded laundry.  Not kidding.  And then I heard him say, “I guess we can go on a bike ride.” It’s not his most favorite thing, but he knew I’d enjoy the time together and the opportunity to bask in my favorite kind of weather.

And on this bike ride, I noticed a few things.  I have been on this route before, several times.  But this time, I was on my mountain bike, not my road bike.  As soon as we found ourselves on the local trail, I must have gotten into “mode”.  Before I knew it, I heard this voice say, “Hey, where’s the fire?”  Oops, I realized we must have had a different agenda in mind.

Now, don’t let me fool you, in years past, I would have responded in one of two ways.  I would have ignored the sarcasm and simply stuck to my agenda OR I would have fallen back and taken the passive-aggressive approach to let him know I wasn’t too pleased with him not getting on the same page.  This time, I simply recognized that there was no need for speed and that having different expectations were just that – different.  It was much more important to me to coast along beside each other than pushing my muscles.

On our way back, another thought popped into my mind.  It was as if I heard the words, “Let him lead”.  You see, Aaron was on the inside part of the path so that he could tuck in behind me when another biker approached, in a very gentelmanly-protective role that he naturally plays so well.  And yet, it was when we were beside each other that I noticed my tire was still a bit ahead of his.  And so, in a gesture I’m sure he never even noticed, I made it a point to make a conscientious decision to pedal at a pace that left me slightly behind his wheel.  I wanted to let him lead.

Oh my gracious, can I tell you what a change of heart this is for me.  Not in a shoulders-back, nose-up manner, but in a way that can only be explained by the fact that, in all humility, I have allowed (truth be told, begged-pleaded-prayed) for the Lord to change my heart, to help me see.  It has been a slow, step-by-step process of out-with-the-old and in-with-the new.  I have asked for some major pruning, and though painful at times, I carried quite a bit of dead weight with me, some pretty ugly selfishness.  One thing I now know, it has made all the difference.  I have “tasted and seen” the good that comes from following the ways in which God talks about.  His way for marriage is that the husband leads.

And this I now know… In allowing Him to lead, I don’t lose who I am, I gain a better us.

God’s ways are ALWAYS better than mine.

For his side of the story, click here.  He’s a much better writer than I 🙂

Lord, thank you for showing me this today.  With you as the center, our marriage is a unity.  It’s a beautiful gift.  It’s a gift that comes along with the realization that letting go of my agenda, my misconceptions, allows room to accept your perfect design that represents your lead over the church.  Thank you for the love we have for each other, no doubt forged over time, and imperfect in and of itself, yet grounded in a love that IS perfect.  We know this because you ARE love.  Thank you in advance for a wonderful evening we get to spend together.  May others know today that this love extends to them as well.  Amen.

At the root of it all – fear feeding faith…

tree rootsOur family is currently walking through a season of change… again.

As I recall, not too long ago, I wrote about how I’m just not a big fan.

I’ve found myself stumbling and bumbling through this process, unable to even express through words the jumbled mess of emotions entangled with random thoughts.  And just when I thought this process might just sit a spell longer… the fog is beginning to lift.

He provided a special lunch with a very special friend.  And she asked just one question, and then listened.  And then she gently asked another, and the dam of self-defense that I had built quite well, slowly began to leak, and out of nowhere, split wide open.  And because of this release (as ugly as it was), I can now begin to see.  Have my circumstances changed?  No.  But in my vulnerability, through the graciousness of my true friend, God tells me again that he’s molding and shaping my heart.  As I call it, in looking at my “ugly”, in bringing my fear and accusations to light, I can be in a place where I want to be – close to the heart of my Father.

And then I read a devotion in my email that expresses my inexpressible thoughts, giving me statements to hold onto as truth.  Lysa TerKeurst writes:

 And at the end of the day, I guess that’s why I don’t like to be surprised. I can’t stand to get caught off guard. It makes me feel exposed and afraid.

But slowly, I’m learning it’s not all bad to be a little exposed and afraid.

That vulnerable place reminds us we have needs beyond what we manage. It reminds us we need God. Desperately. Completely.

And into that gap between what we can manage on our own and what we can’t, that’s right where faith steps in and has the opportunity to find deep roots. Roots that dig down and break up previously unearthed places within us.

My faith doesn’t just need to grow big, it needs to grow deep. Yes, I need deep faith roots.

Deep roots anchor us when surprises blow like strong unruly winds.

Deep roots hold us steady during the next storm that didn’t show up on the radar.

Deep roots find nourishment when the surface gets awfully dry.

Deep roots allow for growth not previously possible.

Deep roots yield rich fruit.

So, I’m learning to not be so afraid of what might be around the next corner. Even if it does catch me off guard. I close my eyes and whisper… “deeper still.”

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit,” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8 ESV).

Lord, I long for deep roots.  I trust you.  I know growth, transformational growth, doesn’t always feel pleasant at the time, but I do know that it yields a great harvest.  Help me to be patient.  Help me to remember your truths and choose those to stay grounded upon.  I find myself revisiting a lesson time and time again.  I hear you.  I know you have growth in store for me.  Thank you in advance for your patience with my stubbornness.  Thank you for giving me just what I need, when I need it, most especially when I don’t even know I need it.  You teach me about love more and more every day, and I am eternally grateful.  Looking forward to what has yet to come!