A Thankful Tumbleweed

On December 6, 2017, I published my first blog post, The Rock Tumbler. In it I discussed how my plans and purposes had disappeared and dissipated. My children were leaving the nest, teaching hadn’t worked, and I was at a loss of what I was supposed to do.

The following month, I began the journey to get a master’s in school counseling through Liberty University’s online program. I was scared to say the least. The obstacles loomed over me. My age, debt, moves still in the works, I hadn’t had to take any courses in over 20 years! Fearfully and prayerfully, I made the commitment to take on this mountain. My husband pushing and encouraging me that I could do this.

Last weekend, the journey came to completion, and I want to take a few moments to express my gratitude. God put the idea and desire in my heart to work as a school counselor long ago as I taught students that needed help that I couldn’t give as a teacher. He confirmed this drive through scripture, through prayers, through circumstances, and through people.

I would never have taken the first steps without the support, encouragement, and proactive measures taken by my husband. I am so grateful for his patience and understanding as I disappeared into the studying zone of reading, research, and writing. He kept me from dissolving into fearful and tearful inaction more times than I can count.

I am grateful for the many people, friends, teachers, and colleagues who encouraged me all along the way. Many heard my hesitant, far-away dreams, and told me they thought counseling would be a good fit. I tucked those words into my heart, each one like a layer of sheer colored ribbon placed one over another until there was a bold hue I couldn’t ignore. Other students, the ones who were going through the classes while working full-time, parenting young children, and had other responsibilities earned my respect for the hard work they demonstrated. I used their examples to press on, and I am so grateful for those friendships, even if they were limited to a week long intensive course.

And then there are my professors. When I started the program, I entered into a late registration class. I had to take what I called a “remedial writing class” for master’s students, and I felt so behind and ill-equipped. I fought panic as I struggled with the format of online courses, of fitting all the coursework, practicum, and internships into a tight schedule. I looked at the amount of work, and I almost choked, thinking how will I ever be able to get all of this done, and done well. My professors were sensitive, attentive to my many emails, and offered wise counsel. Many of them shared their own personal stories and struggles with me, a sort of personal disclosure designed for relevant encouragement. And the professors at Liberty, they pray for you. I learned to trust what they had to say.

Last weekend was graduation weekend. Instead of attending the ceremony at Liberty University, I joined my family in attending my daughter’s graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University. That, on Mother’s Day weekend, was an incredible bookend for the last few years. I am grateful for my children, for the ways they supported and encouraged me to pursue this degree. My son stayed with me and watched me push through as he finished high school and started community college. My daughter and I were able to appreciate each other’s struggles as we faced the college version of “senior-itus”, final deadlines, and looked for jobs.

We are about to move again, the third time in four years, hence the tumbleweed. I have a job lined up, and I am still under tight deadlines with many things out of my control. Almost three years later, I know I don’t need to panic. I can go back to the verses in that first post, and remember the ways God has been faithful. When I started this blog, I felt lost and directionless, without a purpose. Is this the end of the blog? I don’t know. It has been in many ways a public journal of this empty nesting process. But this change feels bigger and more than a life stage transition.

God knows what He has planned next. May we continue to trust Him with all our unknowns.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (NIV).

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (NIV).

Moving Summer

This summer’s move was not supposed to be this hard.

When it’s the third time moving back into your house, you kind of expect to be able to put things away fairly quickly, get things in order without too much trouble. After all, I should know where everything goes. I mean, my husband and I are pretty experienced at doing this move-in thing, and we expected it to be a breeze. I expected to have everything finished by the end of July leaving August to actually get to enjoy having my husband home, go camping/hiking, and be fully refreshed and relaxed for the school year.

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Long story short, we experienced delays and obstacles even before the packing began, lived for a month in a hotel with 3 dogs, and had to make major renovations/repairs that continued weeks after we moved into the house.  All these circumstances caused unpacking to be put on hold well after we typically would have had all the boxes already discarded.

Just when I thought we were making significant progress, there was another water event that caused me to have to repack and redo the items we had already put in storage. It’s amazing how much water one load of laundry can spill onto the floor.

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This summer, I put into practice Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Actually, knowing the full context, “ . . . for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or need. I am able to do all things through Him who gives me strengthens me.” (HCSB)

Today is the first day of school in our neighborhood. School has unofficially started for me as well. The house isn’t finished, and now I no longer have the luxury of time devoted just to getting things settled. And it would be easy to feel overwhelmed with all that still needs to be done.

However, all along this school journey, I have seen how God has given me the strength and perseverance to do the work required. As I look forward to this school year, and another planned moving summer right after graduation, I will continue to trust that He will continue to provide just what I need.

I refuse to allow the anxiety I feel over all the work still unfinished to consume my time and thoughts. Instead, I will take out time each day, in some small significant way, to remember His faithfulness and give thanks for each new day. I can expect God to hear my prayers, to show His love, patience, and faithfulness.

I recognize that this summer’s move has been full of delays, and at worst, inconveniences. Many others may be dealing with much more serious issues. Scripture is full of encouragement, and it can apply to all kinds of personal trials and adversities. We are often disappointed and disheartened by circumstances and relationships that don’t work out as we expect. But we don’t have to stay stuck there.

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Here are a few of the verses I try to remember to stay positive:

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (HCSB)  Philippians 4: 6 – 7

“Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.  23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  24 I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.   25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  26 It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the Lord.”    Lamentations 3: 22 – 26

What is love?

Hi Friends,

I missed posting last week due to an exciting development I want to share.  I’m pressing forward with going back to school for a master’s degree in school counseling.  I had to take the GRE with very short notice and took all the time I could to prepare for it.  The test has been taken with some measure of success.  It’s another part of moving forward while I’m waiting.  It won’t be an easy or quick undertaking, but at least now I’m putting the dream to action.  It’s kind of funny.  I was spurred to talk to my husband more seriously about it by a number of events; one of my former co-teachers encouraged me in that direction, a late night phone call, and  . . . the music and theme in my exercise class, Body and Soul.  The theme being, “What’s Next.”  Really.  My husband provided the final push to set it in motion.

One more thing, in my last post, I invited you to join me with doing the Entrusted Bible study by Beth Moore.  It’s a 6 week study on 2 Timothy.  Because I live where the big snowstorm came through, we didn’t get to start it.  Our first session will be this coming week.  I would love to know if you are participating with me by leaving a quick comment.  Even if you can’t do the Bible study with a group, you can still read the scripture, contribute to the discussions, and benefit from sharing in the experience.  Depending on your response, I may do a separate post for 2 Timothy on Wednesday’s or Thursday’s for the duration.

In the meantime, I want to continue with the purpose and theme of this blog:  inspiring others to grow in faith and love.  Or in other words, help each of us become healthier Christians.  I’ve been thinking about what makes a healthy church and  a strong Christian for a while.  One of the challenges we face is learning how to love properly.  We may say the words, we may love to a certain degree, but do we understand what it means to truly love?  I sincerely believe growing in faith, having healthy relationships, and getting closer to God, is learning how to love well.

The first commandment is, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV)  We are also instructed to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Then of course, there is 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8.  (ESV)

eLove is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  8 Love never ends. 

I know I can’t love like that with all my prejudices and self-centeredness.  I can’t love others, much less God, in my own strength.  More importantly, do we believe God really loves us like that?  If not, therein lies some of the trouble.  If I don’t trust that God really loves me in the way love is described in 1 Corinthians 13, how can I love Him with my whole heart, soul, and strength?  Not to mention loving other people.

We are told God is love, “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8 (HCSB)  Also, throughout Psalm 136, the constant refrain is, “His love endures forever.”  Of course, there is also John 3:16, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (HCSB)

English is sadly inept in describing all the different values and degrees of what we call love.  The kind of love here is agapaó; from Greek.  There is a book called, “The Four Loves,” written by C. S. Lewis, in which you can read more about the different kinds of love.  If you are someone inclined to want to know more, I recommend reading this book.  I think you will find it enlightening.

Spend some time this week thinking about who,what, and how you love.  My prayer for you is that not only will you be inspired to love better, but you will also be reminded, personally, of the extent of God’s love for you.  May each of us abide in the love of Christ!

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Next week, I plan on focusing more on what happens when we accept God’s love for us.

What’s the Good Word?

Today’s post is a little lighter, but just as important, as my previous ones.

Devotion books and Bible studies have made a significant impact in my spiritual growth over the years.  We need to know what God’s word says in order to recognize and know what is true.  The more we learn, the more we can sense God’s presence and activity in our lives.  Bible study and quiet times are so important!  Spending time reading the Bible can be done a little at a time, or in a more disciplined setting with a group of people.  Both are important.

First, please understand the Holy Bible is a collection of many different styles of writing with many different translations.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed with what to read, the reason for it being there, or what you’re supposed to get out of it.  Just because something is recorded in the Bible doesn’t mean it is approved by God.  For example, there is a lot of history written in narrative form, and there are some pretty horrible things recorded.  Therefore, you have to understand the context, culture, and purpose of what is written to really benefit from reading the Bible.

This is where Bible studies and devotions can really help.  There are many authors who study the scripture more deeply than you and I and know how to explain things more clearly.  I always compare what is written in the Bible with what is being taught.  It’s important to let the Holy Spirit and God’s word guide our understanding and compare what the author is teaching to what is written. There are a variety of books for different audiences, knowledge level, and length of time commitment.  Devotions are usually designed to be read independently, while Bible studies are most often designed for groups.

The most recent Bible study book I’ve done with a group is The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer.  Even though I was familiar with the particular scripture, I gained a lot of practical applications and encouragement from what Priscilla presented in the study as well as from the comments by other women in my group.  Sharing different ideas and perspectives enriches the whole experience for everyone.  This is one advantage to doing a group Bible study.

I’ve also finished reading Wait and See by Wendy Pope on my own.  I was able to go at my own pace, answer the questions in a very personal way without having to share them, and allow time to let certain things sink in.  I wrote the post, “The Rock Tumbler,” based on what I was reading at that time.

I am about to start a Beth Moore study, Entrusted, on January 11, 2017,  with a group at church.  I know it will influence what I’m thinking about for the next few weeks.  I invite anyone else doing the same study to comment and share when I post something related to it.  I’ll put “Entrusted” as a tag so you can find those posts easily.

Thank you for reading my posts.  I do hope this blog is something that encourages you to grow a closer relationship with God.  I am starting a small list of studies and devotions under the Books and Bible Studies tab.  As I add more resources, I’ll figure out the best way to organize them.  For right now, it’s just a list.  I am also happy to say that I’m finally adding my profile picture!  I think it’s really starting to come together.

Happy New Year, and may God’s peace be with you!