Out of the Box

IMG_0129

Smiling Faces

This past week students came back to school.  Seeing their smiling faces and the attitude of a new year gets me excited about not just what the year holds but their future.  I have been in education long enough to know that many are coming to school seeking a safe haven.  I have always felt blessed that God called me to love all children, and there is nothing like building relationships with young people that last a life time.  I pray that God gives me the wisdom each year to plant seeds that will grow and flourish in the young students that he has brought across my path.   As I meet and greet all these smiling faces I am reminded of the verse in Mark 10:16, “And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”

Out of the Box

This week also gives me pause when I think of all the teachers who have opened their classroom doors across this country to love all of  God’s children.  I am always amazed when I meet teachers across this country at the passion they have for their students.  It is contagious. Teaching is truly a calling for so many who want to love, inspire, and challenge our children to find the best inside of each of them.  These are the innovators thinking outside of the box to challenge our students to reach deep inside themselves and dream big.  Educators across the country are opening their arms and hearts to these children.  Watching educators love children is an example of Christ calling the children to him in Mark 10:14, “But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

God’s Blessings

Beginning a new year is exciting and like a rebirth.  The innocence of children and the exciting of a change to start over is a perk to educating children.  2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  The old has passed and the new school year has come and may God bring blessings to those passionately educating our future and the children who walk through their doors each and every day.  Jesus spoke in Matthew 18: 1-5, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,” to remind us that we should also be like children as we search for the kingdom of heaven.  Watch a child learn, Have you Forgotten?

Closing Verse:  Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

Challenge:  Thank an Educator that has blessed your life or your child’s life.

There is a God…

Without Excuse

Having the opportunity to see different places in this great country, I know there is a God (The World Around Me).  How can anyone see majestic mountains and crashing waves and not know there is a creator.  Romans 1:20 reminds me, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”  I am without excuse to know his name!  God has left his Word for us in all that he has created here on Earth so that all would know His Name and His Glory.

Traveling North

My husband and I are once again moving our daughter.  As we traveled North to Syracuse, New York,  we spend the entire day with a view of majestic mountains and beautiful valleys.  Moving through CNY (Central New York), I was amazed at the continuous beauty and large farms across the countryside.  This is one of those moments when I think I know what to expect and it becomes apparent that I had no idea what to expect. Psalms 95:4-5 reads, “In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.”  The rolling mountains are just breathtaking and were formed in his hands. Be sure to stop and linger in the awe of rising mountains each time the opportunity is given.

New Home

After moving her into her new home, the real adventure began when we explored the area.  The rolling hills of Syracuse, NY allow for beautiful views especially on campus.  Finding the unique little restaurants and shops in her neighborhood that are just a short walk from her house was for North Carolinians a real treat.  Meeting people with smiles on their faces who were more than happy to share about this city they love.  This college town is both large and small all wrapped into one.  Yes, the magnificence of the Carrier Dome is real!  You can’t miss it when you view the horizon of the city.  Exploring a new and beautiful area once again brings God’s creation to my thoughts.  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”, Revelation 4:11.

IMG_3626

Water

Our final adventure was to one of the most beautiful waterfalls.  Although the tourism around it was more than I expected.  The beauty and power of Niagara Falls was stunning and breathtaking.  I stopped to try and view each detail.  The rocks below the American Falls, the openings in the mist around Niagara Falls.  The rock cliffs that linger over the falls on the American side.  I can not find the words to describe the breathtaking experience of watching the water fall. Even in the midst of the tourist and chaos, Niagara Falls radiates a peace as the water falls over the cliffs.  It is a creation of beauty from my Father. “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.” Psalm 42:7.

Closing Verse: Psalm 27:4, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

IMG_2887

Challenge:  Seek Gods’ Beauty all around us and know that this is a gift to know his name.  My prayer for everyone who reads this is to stand in the beauty of our Lord one day.  How majestic that will be!  I know because I see the world around me he has created.  Stop and look at God’s beauty today.

 

Water

IMG_1240-2

Searching the Ripples…

As I walk along the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas among people hurrying through life, I find flickers of peace as I watch the water move through the city.  As the light flickers off the ripples, I find some inner peace among all this busyness of life.  I want to shout to those who are missing the peace from the water because of this fast pace of life they are distracted by as  they move through life.  How many are just missing the calm waters each day of their lives? 

IMG_2323-2

Proverbs 18:4, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.”

Christ’s Living Water 

Recently, my husband shared an article from earthables, Science Reveals How a Visit to the Beach Actually Changes Your Brain, As I was reading this article, my mind began wondering what God’s purpose for water in our lives might have been.  What symbol or meaning should water provide in our lives when we are surrounded by its peace?  As I searched scripture, I was not surprised by the common thread of living water.  Jesus is our living water and he provides peace, grace, and salvation in our lives.  Each time I am near water, I am reminded of God’s love through his  provision of living water for us by his son, Jesus Christ.  Water is a symbol of peace in our lives just as Christ’s sacrifice provides for our eternal lives.  The Samaritan woman at the well found peace in her life from the living water of Jesus in John 4: 13-15, ‘Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”’. Like the woman at the well, we must turn to Christ’s living water to find peace and quench our thirst.  Summer is a great time to find some water, recharge and refocus on Christ in our lives and the full meaning of his sacrifice for our weary souls.  

Summer Rejuvenation

Yes, Summer is finally here, so why is it that I am missing the peacefulness of the water.  I am longing for some relaxation by the ocean.  I feel like I have not stopped to enjoy the summer days yet, and I need the peace that I find near the water.  Walking along the Riverwalk in San Antonio reminded me of this deep need to reflect and reconnect with my inner being and my relationship with Christ.  The verse in 1 John 5:8 is a great summer motto, “The Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.”  I need to reconnect all three again to find his peaceful agreement in my life. 

Summer is my time to renew myself from the dry and coldness that Winter brought into my life.  I was David in Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water,” but I seek the water that Christ gave to the Samaritan woman at the well.  I seek his water to replenish my relationship with him.  Each time this summer that I find myself near the water by relaxing on the boat, walking along a river, or sticking my toes in the sand on the beach, I will remember the sacrifice that Christ made to provide that living water that nourishes my soul.

                            Untitled drawing-3

Loving An Introvert Part 2: Extrovert’s Perspective

Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 8.58.11 AM

This post is written by Derwin Long, my husband and friend for 28 years.

How Extroverts Love Introverts?  

My wife asked me to write a follow up to her blog last week and immediately I said yes, but then I had second thoughts. Primarily because I got to thinking how can I write this and not come off as being condescending or sounding like introverts are somehow lacking in some important traits. However in the end I obviously decided to write this as I do feel it is important. So with that disclaimer I will attempt to share my experiences and thoughts.

Have you ever been in a social setting (my definition is more than 4 individuals) with mostly couples and notice someone who seems to be totally out of place? They aren’t talking, maybe not even smiling and possibly even separating themselves from everyone. Or maybe they are there and laugh with all the conversations but never say a word (this was my wife). What used to come to my mind at first was that this person was upset, unhappy or just doesn’t like being there or maybe doesn’t like someone that is there? Some of us are the one who is at ease in social settings and in fact enjoy them, but have to answer difficult questions about our introvert spouse? It can be very frustrating getting asked all the questions from your friends, like mentioned above, but ultimately the question is “What’s wrong with him/her?” Personally, I would just play it off with friends and say she is just quiet. At home the conversation was different and at times turned into an argument. Ultimately I had good intentions and just wanted everyone to love the person I knew, but I wasn’t very good at conveying that or understanding what it was like for her.

Coming Together as One

Here is where you might expect to get some great words of wisdom or a recipe for fixing what seems to be broke, but what we found out is that it is pretty simple. We never quit or gave up on each other. We are one, so what one feels the other feels or tries to understand. We are better together because we are different and bring a balance to each other’s life.

Mark 10:8, And the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.

Proverbs 27:17, As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

What does this look like in practice for us? Well there are two sides to this, one is how do I help my wife in social settings? There are many examples that show us Jesus was very social and enjoyed weddings (who wouldn’t like to taste his wine), feast and parties.

  • Initially, I would never leave her side at social setting, why would I leave her when I know she needs me to support her. Seems obvious but we have witnessed someone we know that is an introvert get left to fend for herself. This doesn’t work for several reasons: one is that as your spouse is possibly your only source of safety and comfort. Two is that it puts a huge amount of responsibility to entertain and include someone when their sensory system is on overload and looking for someone who really wants to take the time to have a deeper conversation, than the typical social banter is unrealistic in many social settings.
  • After getting more comfortable being in these settings, I would give openings for her to step in to the conversation, which can be difficult when in a group of extroverts. (We had discussed and talked about this before going). I might say “Oh my wife has a story to go along with that, why don’t you tell them” or when opportunity is right share a talent or personality trait that at that time she would never share about herself like. “Do you know she can crochet?” Or “Do you know she can speak whale?” (Finding Nemo). Doing this gives others insight into her and her personality and in a way that gives others a chance to ask questions.
  • Which is another important thing an introvert can do when at a loss for what to say. Have a thought out series of questions that you know and have memorized. After all what is one of the best ways to show sincere interest? Now you may say how is it sincere when you have preplanned these questions? Because you practice what you aren’t comfortable with doesn’t mean you aren’t sincere, it means you want to get better.

Two is how does she help me learn more about myself? There are many examples where Jesus withdrew from everyone and spent time alone with his thoughts and in prayer.

  • Being an Extrovert I can seem somewhat superficial, never taking anything serious, always joking especially in social setting. Some of it is an intentional desire to be liked and be the life of the party, some of it is just a way to disconnect and have fun. My wife has taught me even in social settings to be comfortable going deeper with friends and building stronger relationships. We used to have zero couples that we considered close friends but now we are blessed to have at least 4 or more that we share life with. Ecclesiastes 4:10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
  • She has also taught me that I need time to just do nothing, listen to music, maybe read a book, Bible or just be alone with my own thoughts. There was a time when I couldn’t be still always thinking about what needed to be done or what I wanted to do, but now our favorite place to enjoy downtime is on a beach with several umbrellas and no place to be other than there. These times have been some of my favorite.
  • She has also taught me that not every moment has to be filled with talking whether in social setting or just me and her. That just because no one it talking doesn’t mean anyone is upset and in a social setting just because I think it, doesn’t mean it should be said.

Closing

Ecclesiastes 3:1, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Final thoughts: Ultimately I think we all want close relationships with our spouses, children, friends, and in business. Being an introvert or extrovert can be helpful or it can get in the way. I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone whatever that is and experience life from a different perspective.

 

Did I Do The Right Thing?

IMG_6841

The past week in our house there has been a focus on the Dove House and their annual fundraiser.  My husband and I became involved 3 years ago with the Dove House and each year we feel our hearts pulled more and more to become involved with this organization.  This year I spent the week really looking over myself again and the decision I made or really didn’t make many years ago.  Many people know that my husband was a victim of a sexual predator.  When he was in the 4th grade, his teacher earned his trust and that of his parents and changed his life forever.  He wasn’t his only victim there were many others, little did we know how many till it all came out.  As he grappled with realizing the truth of what happened as he matured and believing that no one would believe him, as the teacher had earned so much trust from his parents and the community,  he hid this secret away.

One day while we were dating and soon to be married a door opened where he had the opportunity and chose to give me some insight into this part of his past.  Just a little piece of what had happened to him.  I chose to listen, question little, and to also never bring it up again.  Did I do the right thing?  Even with this decision I know God answers prayers, because I have spent our entire marriage not just praying for our marriage, or just for him, but praying for God to heal him.  Deep down I always knew that he was suffering and prayed for God to heal this pain.  Over those 22 years of pain, I was blessed to watch a slow healing process that prepared him for the time when he would really heal and get the opportunity to tell his story, face his abuser, and feel the relief of a conviction.  This alone does not end his healing or my prayers, but God has answered my prayers in helping him find healing.  As always I pray knowing that God answers prayers his way as Isaiah 55:8 reads, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”  This verse brings me comfort that God was working in my decision.

Now as I look back, I have to ask myself did I do the right thing?  Did I make the right choice?  Should I have prodded for more back when he first confided in me?  Although the answer is yes every time I ask myself, I am thankful that God is in control and in his timing was able to provide my husband with the healing even so many years later in his life.  His blessings in our lives reminds me that I am not in control and that he is as Romans 8:28 states, ” And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” and for this I am thankful.  I believe that the Lord has been fighting for him all these years even while he was silent.

His silence struck me again this past week while listening to the radio when I heard the song “Still“.  The singer, Hillary Scott, spoke about how she wrote this song about the verse Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” As I was driving to work, tears just welled up in my eyes, I immediately thought of how my husband had been silent, but then was reminded that the Lord had been fighting for him all these years.  He had prepared him for this time.  The Lord has been fighting for me as well in my silence.  God is Good!

Although, God has blessed us through this healing process by putting great friends around us, new friends who have suffered and understand his pain, and the great people of the Dove House, my heart tells me that I should have done more.  I feel it every time I have to tell his story and then my role and feel the guilt for not helping him sooner.  I feel the guilt that I know my husband has carried all these years for not speaking up sooner to protect other future victims.  I feel it when I think about the demons that have tormented him for so many years.  I feel it when I look in his eyes and see a new man now that has been freed of this terrible secret.  God gave him a voice at the time appointed, and he would want me to tell you that as he went through this process of court, jury selection, and sharing his story with strangers; he has been struck and moved by how many victims of child sexual abuse have been silently hurting.  He shares his story now empowered by God to bring darkness to light and let others know they are not alone.

Our blessing now from God is that forgiveness is real.  The promise of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  is God’s provision through the sacrifice of his Son that causes us to realize that we not only have to forgive easily each other but those who hurt us.  It seems so hard, but it is so fulfilling to release the pain and hurt to God and let him be the final judge.

Moving forward we support the Dove House because they do the work that is so desperately needed in our community and so many communities.  They support children as they move through the court system and finally recovery.  They make it safe to tell the truth and stop the abuse.  They save children.  I read this verse this week and it reminded me of the Dove House, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13.  The Dove House watches over, stands firm and is strong for those who aren’t.  May God continue to bless their work as they help others heal.

My constant prayer now is that God continues to heal those affected by child sexual abuse and, as my husband reminds me, there are many layers of victims even those that don’t think they are victims.   Family and others in the community today still do not believe that his abuser was guilty and he continues to have their trust.  May God show us the best way to use the truth to help others now that this secret is finally free, and that we will learn to be still while God is fighting.

Closing Verse: Romans 8:38-39 – “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Challenge: Romans 12:12 – “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  Be constant in prayer for God is always fighting and working for your good.

Please Share….

 

Listening to God

IMG_3133

Funny how God works on you sometimes, preparing you for the future that is to come.  I can look back now and see God at work for months in my life of my family.  I am the person who thinks I have it all worked out for everyone and then God comes along and turns my world upside down.  I have worked on this post before only to be moved to write something else, but now I am here again writing as God has spoken and now I am finally listening.  I have been mentally making plans for the future for one of my daughters.  I really believed that I had it all worked out for her.  I mean the Lord showed me closed doors and everything. Although, I knew the passion in her heart and what she wanted, and I did pray for the right doors to open that would show her the way.  Yet, I never expected that her persistence and prayers would be answered as they have been and my world rocked.  I am listening now God.  I know that I have not been.  Now, I can see how I did not stop to listen to your answers Lord because I was sure of mine.  I turn my ears back to you and to scripture.  James 1:1 reminds me, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”.

These are powerful words that we forget in our daily lives especially – “quick to hear”.  As I strive to be a better listener to the students I work with, the adults who are my colleagues, and the world around me, I have to be reminded that it is most important to listen to God and hear him when he speaks even if those words are coming from the mouth of my own child.   Scripture is a keen reminder to me of how God’s people have chosen not to listen to him.  So many of these times his people failed to listen and suffered the consequences of failure to be “quick to hear”.  Did I fail his test?  Was he or is he testing me?  “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” are words from Deuteronomy 13:3.  These words are a solemn reminder to me that I have to trust the Lord with all my heart and soul.

About a month ago this quote from Kyle Chandler showed up on my daily calendar, I am not sure why at the time I took a picture of the quote, but as God rocked my world this last week my thoughts went back to this quote.  Not for me but for the persistence of my daughter to get what she wanted for her future.  Now that I have been forced to listen to God and allow my daughter to walk her own path and not the one path that I was choosing for her,  I turn to God in constant prayer that will cause me to listen more intently to his words as he prepares not just her future but also mine.  It is important to me now that I have had my world rocked to stop and see the plans that God is laying for my family and that includes me.  I pray that the Lord hears my prayers as Psalm 61:1 states, ” Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;”, and I constantly humble myself as Romans 12:12 reads, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  I humble myself and pray and listen so that my prayers might be heard as John 9:31 reminds me, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” I am listening now Lord in order to do your will.

Closing Verse: ‘But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,’  Acts 4:19

Challenge:  Are you listening to God or making your own way?  My challenge to you is to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” and find comfort in God’s plan.

Please share…