Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wonderful Merciful Savior

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Galatians 5:22-26

I've always heard it said that the teacher learns the most, and I know this to be true from personal experience. I started teaching a girls' Sunday School class last August, and in September we began a study called Becoming a Young Woman of God. I have learned things along the way, but God used this week's lesson to speak to me in a way that I haven't heard Him speak in some time.

We have been learning about our feelings and how emotions can be positive or negative. The past two weeks we learned that our feelings can actually be radar systems to warn us or cause us to take positive action. The study has taken us through a series of steps to help us evaluate our actions and reactions to situations. Then today, we looked at the fruits of the spirit and what our lives are saying to others.

God spoke to me very strongly through Galatians 5:22-26. He very clearly showed me that some of my actions during the past week were not pleasing to Him. He showed me that I let my feelings and emotions control me rather than them helping me to take positive action. This morning as I read these verses with my girls in Sunday School, I very clearly felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me, telling me that I had acted foolishly and had not portrayed the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that He wants from me.

The working of the Holy Spirit doesn't stop there though. During church this morning, we heard a beautiful song that I have loved for quite some time. "Wonderful Merciful Savior" was sung, and I really heard the words today. At one point the lyrics say:

You are the One that we praise;
You are the One we adore.
You give the healing and grace
Our hearts always hunger for.

As I listened to these words I thought about the last week and the turmoil that I have felt inside. My heart had been hungering for something, but what was it? It was healing and grace--the kind that only comes from Jesus. I'm so thankful for His grace, yet I am so undeserving of it.

And many times, I'm unwilling to give it. That's what hit me in the face this morning.

I. Am. Unwilling. To. Give. Grace.

I--who have been shown grace time and time and time again--am so very, very often unwilling to give it. And if I'm unwilling to give it, then why should I expect to get it in return?

But what an awesome God I serve! He loves me in spite of my faults. He shows me grace daily when I fail miserably, but most of all He showed me grace by allowing His sinless son to die a sinners death on the cross for me. A man who knew no sin, was tortured and killed because I become unwilling to show grace. So that I do not ever have to face eternity without Jesus, He died in my place. That is grace. And it was shown for you and me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Welcome to Two

We celebrated our precious little Lily Ana's second birthday on the 23rd of July. She has grown so much in the last year. I look at her each day in utter amazement. Her smile warms me and sends chills through me at the same time. I could eat her up, she's so cuddly and lovable. Her cheeks are so round and full that sometimes I think I could just take a bite out of them!

Lily's birthday week was a very busy one. Bryan was at Pre-Teen camp, our 15th anniversary came and went, and I was in a technology academy for school. It wasn't until after the birthday party--and then maybe a day or two after that--when I finally realized our baby girl had turned TWO!

Two years. Two very quick years since we'd brought her home as a very tiny but oh, so beautiful baby. She was THE MOST beautiful newborn that I have ever laid eyes on. Her birthmom tells me that all the nurses at the hospital said that, and one of the ladies who works at New Life said that too. One of her grandmothers even agrees, but I won't say which one. (Shhh...)

Two. Two years have passed since we brought home a stranger; since we opened our hearts to this child. We loved her from the beginning, but it wasn't easy. I can honestly say that the first four months were some of the most difficult I've ever faced. She grieved for her birthmom. We grieved when we lost my Grandpa. Thankfully, and by no coincidence, I eventually felt bonded with her during the Thanksgiving holidays when she was four months old.

Two. Two years have seen so much change in her. She's talking so much now, and last night everything was, "Naaaw..." That's Lily for, "No." She's just started verbalizing it. She's had the head shake down for a while, but it's just been in the last few weeks that the, "Naaaw..." has come to be. Everything we asked her last night got the response of, "Naaaw..."

ME: Lily are you finished eating?
LILY: Naaaw...
ME: Lily do you want more to eat?
LILY: Naaaw...
ME: Lily do you want to go see Wheeze (her birthmom) tomorrow?
LILY: Naaaw...
ME: Lily do you want to go to the circus tomorrow? (I was trying to find something that would sound exciting to her!)
LILY: Naaaw...
ME: Lily do you want to eat cotton candy and ride a pony tomorrow? (Surely that would excite her!)
LILY: Naaaw...
ME: Do you want to do anything fun?
LILY: Naaaw... (with a huge, toothy smile)

Bryan very innocently commented, "Welcome to two!" As I took Lily to change her diaper and get her ready for bed, I got to thinking about what he'd said. Welcome to two. Lily was just being a two year old. She was being silly, but there are times when her, "Naaaw..." is defiant or disobedient. But mostly, she's just being TWO.

God spoke to me through Bryan's comment and Lily and showed me that I am NOT two. How often do I tell Him, "Naaaw..." when He asks me to do something? I have no excuse because I'm not two. My only excuse is defiance or disobedience. Wow! All that from a two year old.

I am so thankful that God is using my daughter already to teach me things. What a gift she is!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Spiritual Lessons

I'm not feeling well today. It's after 2:30, and I'm still in my pajamas and haven't even brushed my teeth. I went to bed last night with the feeling that a migraine was coming, and when I woke up this morning I had the worst headache I've had in a very long time. I've been on the couch or in the bed most of the day today. At about 1:30, I decided I should get up and try to eat something. I found myself here at the computer and wandered over to this seemingly forgotten blog.

I avoid looking at it because it reminds me that I've neglected it. I speak of "IT" as if it's a living, breathing thing. In some ways it is. I started this blog to remind myself of the things that God has done in my life, and to help me not to forget what it is He has called me to be. So avoiding "IT" has, in some ways, been my way of not dealing with things in my life that need to be addressed spiritually.

As I live my life--day after day--I often find myself thinking, "Oh, I could blog about that!" Something will happen, and I'll try to find the spiritual truth in it. It's been nearly seven months since I've written anything here, and I can't begin to count the topics that have come up that I've begun writing in my head. The problem is that they are all ME trying to put a spiritual spin on something that's not. I'm trying to find the God-factor in something that He's not showing me.

Today as I laid in bed, praying for my headache to go away, I realized that I've been moving so quickly through life that I'm not taking the time for the most important thing. I'm not being still. We are so busy each and every day. Since school was out, we've been on the go nearly every single day for over a month. We enjoyed a fabulous vacation in Panama City Beach, Florida, but as soon as we got home, we hit the ground running again.

In the book of Psalms the writer speaks of the Lord Almighty, "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.' "(46:10) Oh, I like to be still. I am loving my afternoon summer naps! Last week Emma Leigh went to WOW Science Camp, and nearly every afternoon when Lily napped, I napped too. I was exhausted from getting up and taking her to camp each morning, and then running errands I didn't know I had.

But I don't think the Psalmist is talking about that kind of stillness, and he's for sure not talking about laziness or slothfulness. This stillness is a quiet listening. This stillness is a restful awareness. It's knowing He is God--knowing He is there, even when we don't feel it.

The next three weeks are CRAZY busy for us. We have plans nearly every day this coming week, VBS the following week, Bryan goes to Pre-Teen camp the next week, and I'm in WOW! Academy training the same week. But my prayer is that despite the day-to-day, something-is-on-the-calendar, we've-got-to-get-up-and-go, I will find time each day to be STILL.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Where is the Joy?

I've tried. I really have. I've begun writing in my head. I've sat and stared at a blank screen. I've laid awake at night thinking. The words just haven't come. Other times, thoughts have come to me while I've been driving or bathing the girls, and then when I've had time to organize them into writing, I've lost them. I feel like I've been in some sort of desert.

My goal when I started this blog wasn't to keep anyone updated on my family or to share pictures of my girls. I started my blog to help me stay in touch with what really matters. I wanted to remind myself that I must delight daily in God's goodness; that I must seek His face continually for Him to speak to me. I wanted to share what God was doing in my life; to journal in such a way that I could look back on it and remind myself of what He'd done.

I've experienced so much since August, that I can't begin to describe it all. I am working in a new job, doing something far outside my comfort zone. Yet, God has shown me that this is exactly where He wants me, and He's equipped me for it. I've known for a long time that my gifts lie in teaching and helping, and in this job, I get to do both! What a blessing!

This time of year though, many of us teachers start to feel the pressure of the season. The kids are bouncing off the walls most days, but some days they're in tears because someone hurt their feelings. We have kids in our classes that don't celebrate Christmas, so we often can't listen to holiday music or read our favorite books. One of our teachers even remarked, "I feel like I've lost my Christmas spirit!"

That got me to thinking. The spirit of Christmas isn't really in us, is it? It's not about us or a feeling at all. I don't have a typical classroom this year. I teach in a computer lab, and I don't have a class to call my own. I teach almost 1,000 students in a month's time. I'm not making Christmas crafts, and I'm not reading a Christmas book everyday.

And because I'm teaching in a public school again, I'm certainly not sharing the story of Jesus with my students like I was able to do the past four years at the private school where I taught. This morning on the way to work, as I listened to the radio, the announcer spoke about what it must have been like to be Mary or Joseph.

God placed this in my heart a long time ago. When Emma Leigh was a baby, He helped me see the humanity of Christmas. He helped me to understand what Emmanuel really means. God coming to Earth as a baby, a tiny helpless human being is what Emmanuel is. God coming to be with us. This speaks to me in a way that means so much. I relate to this as a parent because I know the longings that Mary must have felt as she held her baby for the first time. I know the dreams Joseph must have had for his son. No, I can't imagine holding the Creator in my arms as an infant or what it must have been like to gaze into the eyes that saw me before I saw Him.

But this morning as I listened to the radio, I became even more aware of the fact that the spirit of Christmas doesn't lie within us! Emmanuel--God in the flesh--is the miracle of Christmas! And it's the Holy Spirit living inside of us that gives us that joy!

If you're looking for the spirit of Christmas, don't look within. Instead, look to Emmanuel. Look to the tiny baby who came to Earth for one purpose only. He came that you may have life, and have it more abundantly. He came that you might have joy. The joy is in the baby!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Year of Celebration and Loss

Where has the last year gone? As I sat rocking Lily Ana yesterday, I wondered that. She turned one almost three weeks ago, and as I sat looking at her sweet little cheeks, I thought about all that has transpired in the last year. Our family has experienced more ups and downs in the past year than I think we did in the four years prior.

Lily's birthday is of course an obvious reminder of the heartache that my family felt when my grandpa passed away. You may remember that he fell and broke his hip when Lily was just one week old. For the next month, we watched and waited, celebrated small improvements, and gathered together for his last hours here on Earth. It was one of those times in my life that I didn't know how low I was until I had been lifted back up months later.

Then in December, we were told that I would be losing my job! The news that our school was closing came as no real shock, but it took some time to process the great impact our family would feel. We thought that maybe God was giving me the opportunity to do something different--perhaps even get to stay home full-time. We prayed continually that if He wanted me to do that, that He would provide a way financially.

As time went on, we realized that God was answering that prayer with a "no." But like God does, He provided something we weren't expecting. Three years ago a teaching opportunity came to me that seemed like it was everything I could ever ask for. It was a substantial pay increase, benefits, and so much more! The one draw-back was that Emma Leigh wouldn't have been able to attend preschool, and I wanted very much for her to have that experience. I turned the job down and just knew something like that would never come along again.

When school was out this past year, I had interviewed at a local Christian school that seemed the ideal place to be, but then someone else was hired for the position. All hope of me finding a job that would be good for my family seemed lost. Bryan gently reminded me that I needed to find something as it seemed that God was not making a way for me to stay home. One Tuesday evening I finally logged onto the Conroe ISD Job Line, and marveled at what I found. The same position I had turned down three years earlier was posted at a different school but by the same principal who happened to be a friend of mine.

After an e-mail and several missed and returned phone calls, I had an interview and was offered the job! God has provided for us immensely through this job. It's very different from anything I've ever done, but I know that God is going to give me the knowledge that I need to carry it out.

As I sat rocking Lily the other day, I was reminded of God's provision and that hand of providence that I wrote about in June. He has brought us joy in the midst of sadness; provision during a time of uncertainty; and He has given me two beautiful daughters to call my own. He has been with us during the celebrations and the losses. What a year it's been!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Hand of Providence

This is another one of those posts that I've been composing in my head for a very long time. The neat thing is that God just keeps confirming my thoughts over and over again! During the last four to six months, the words hands of providence keep coming to my mind. Through circumstances and trials, I have continually thought of those words. I finally looked up the word and found a definition that blew me away. It said, "a manifestation of God's foresightful care for his creatures." When I read that, I couldn't believe how that completely justified and confirmed all that I'd been relating to those words hands of providence.

This past Tuesday our church had our first Vacation Bible School workday of the summer. I usually co-direct VBS and teach a Missions class, but this year, God has provided lots of workers and I'm not teaching the Missions class. A precious lady named Ms. Linda is teaching it for us, and I had the great privilege of talking with her on Tuesday. We found out that we have many common interests--teaching, writing, and Texas history just to name a few. She commented that we were kindred spirits!

But then the conversation turned to things more spiritual. We talked about how God has worked in our lives in providential ways. Ms. Linda and I both made a decision to follow Jesus at the ripe old age of 9, but we agreed that we didn't fully understand the working of God in our lives until we were much older. Ms. Linda shared that it was after losing her father, her husband, and being diagnosed with cancer that she saw how God was preparing things ahead of time for her well-fare.

At the time she was diagnosed, she had no medical insurance and was six months away from being able to qualify for Medicare. When she was told she'd need surgery and possibly radiation or chemotherapy, she expressed her concern with a medical professional. This person explained to her that the state legislature had just passed a law granting aid to women diagnosed with her type of cancer who had no medical insurance. Of course, as we all know, the bill that was passed had not just happened. It had been in the works for many, many months, possibly even years. Every last penny of her medical treatment was covered through this program! She commented that of course it had not been done just for her, but I was quick to remind her that it was! We marveled at the providential care and concern of our Lord. I compared His working in our lives to a thread, weaving its way through our lives before we even know we are in need.

Over the past months, God has been showing me where that thread has been in my life. Our journeys through infertility and the adoption of our beautiful little girls are such testimonies to the workings of God. He knew before Bryan and I even desired to start a family that we would be faced with the heart-wrenching tour through the land of barrenness. He also knew which children would be ours. He knew that their birthmoms would face the difficult decisions of placing them with us. Those decisions were a part of the tapestry of our lives being woven by the hand of providence.

God has also shown me that because of His providential care, I don't have to worry about the future! I was told last December that the teaching position I have held for the past four years was being eliminated for the 2010-2011 school year. The elementary portion of First Baptist Academy was closing. Depending on who you asked and when you asked, the reasons were varied and often vague. It became impossible to know who to trust and whose motives to question. I went through a period of shock and confusion. I was angry that the decisions of seemingly one or two people could cause such drastic change for my family and the families of the academy. I was bitter, and I was deeply saddened by the loss I knew I would feel and the loss that those around me were feeling.

And then I was worried and anxious and filled with questions. Where would I work? How would our family make it financially? Did the Lord want me to stay at home? Did He want me to return to public school or did He want me to continue to work at a private Christian school? What about the education of our girls? On Memorial Day, with the help of my dad and husband, I moved all of my things home from my classroom and each time I have walked into the garage the boxes have glared at me, reminding me that I don't know what the future holds for them or me!

But that thread has never stopped moving. God continues to weave that tapestry of my life, and He has provided for my family and me. I have gotten a job starting in the Fall, and I'll share where and how it came to be when all of the details are confirmed. I'm excited about where the hand of providence will guide me.

Providence, providence
See it laying down the cornerstone
The hand of providence, it's evident
For we could never make it on our own

Apportioning the power
Weighing all that it entails
Giving us the fulcrum
And a balance to the scales

Providence, ever since
Any thesis ever entered man
The hand of providence
Has been our best defense
Tho' his ways are sometimes hard to understand

From the dying of a hearbeat
To another soul reborn
From in between and circling
Our thoughts of love and war

Oh, the hand of providence
Is guiding us through choices that we make
Oh, the hand of providence
Is reaching out to help us on our way

Written by Michael W. Smith

Monday, May 31, 2010


We received word on Saturday morning that a dear friend of ours had left this world and gone to be with her Heavenly Father. She had fallen and broken her hip nearly a month ago, and in very similar circumstances to my grandfather, had been in ICU on a ventilator.

For the past couple of days, I've been reading on Facebook what others have posted about her influence in their lives. One sweet friend talked about the ripple-effect that her prayers and life had. Another spoke of the five couples who are now serving in ministry positions because of her influence. I have tried to count them up, and I think I get six--Brian and Tiff; Josh and Erin; Eric and Donnell; Keith and Shawn; Alex and Nichole; Bryan and myself. I did not attend the church where Mrs. Pat attended, but I do remember her smiling face being at many, many youth camps that I attended. She had a heart for generations younger than her, and she faithfully served as a teacher and mentor to many girls my age.

The thought that continues to run through my mind though has to do with that ripple-effect. You see, Pat's youngest son and my husband were best friends. Bryan was raised in the Catholic church, but Pat's son John invited him to go to church with their family. I am certain that Mrs. Pat prayed for my husband's salvation, and as a result of her family's influence in his life, he became a Christian at the age of 14. He continued to attend church with this family and later on his own. Had it not been for the prayers of this godly woman, my husband may not have become the man he is today.

But the ripple goes farther than that. Because the churches we both attended years ago participated in events and activities together, we came to know each other, dated, and of course, ultimately married. And now we are raising our two girls to know and love the Lord. So Mrs. Pat's influence didn't stop with Bryan. It continues to move outward to our little family, and in time, it will move to the lives that our daughters touch. What a legacy!