My Reflections

WHERE WILL YOU STAND? (Part 1): Faith


The ground moved under our feet, all too quickly.

As a teacher, this summer break has been very different. Before the summer of 2020, summer has often included times of fun with others, a possible vacation away, and moments to relax, refresh and rejuvenate after a school year of teaching. It meant more carefree times. Instead, at least for my family, we have been largely isolated to do our best to stay safe from COVID-19.

Our schools were only three days into Spring Break, before the nation was essentially locked down. Life, as we had known it, had changed and it felt like someone had kicked our collective knees out from under us. We knew the virus had impacted the eastern part of the world, but too many of us believed or hoped that it would never land here.

Suddenly, we all began to feel unsteady.

Within two weeks, we shifted from traditional learning within school buildings to teaching and learning remotely online from the youngest of students in elementary school through colleges and universities. Educators, students and families all had to shift accordingly.

Businesses, of all types, began closing down. Those who were fortunate enough were able to shift into working from home. Food and supplies became scarce in stores, as hysteria appeared to take over and people began buying in large quantities with the intentions of hoarding. Medical workers and grocery store workers became heroes, but they also were getting put at great risk, even with governments setting up mandatory face mask wearing protocols when out in public.

Without knowing what the future held, as a worldwide pandemic made it to our hemisphere, fear set in among our citizens, right here in America.

The virus changed our world, and we didn’t know what would shift next.

Prior to the official start of summer, I lost my mother and my grandmother in a matter of two weeks due to COVID-19, each having died in two different states while I was in a completely other state. There would be no time to gather with others to console one another. There would be no memorials or funerals, with hopes for the ability to do this in the future. This would follow about a month later with the loss of my father-in-law and us joining the memorial virtually.

Losses like this are HUGE under normal circumstances. This time though, we couldn’t count on the typical traditions we would typically count on during times like this, ones that often help to bring us comfort and support.

One thing I learned during those times, and as I continue to learn as we move forward, is that the virus has most definitely changed the world and how we are living. However, there are still constants that exist, in spite of the virus, ones I knew I could depend on strongly for the comfort and support I needed.

In my own home, my immediate family (both human and animal) were able to listen and help us process. They were able to provide hugs when we broke down in grief. When needed, they stayed near when all we could do was just sit quietly and allow ourselves to feel, think, and remember without any interference.

The virus changed our world, BUT FAMILY rallied together.

The gift of technology proved to play a huge part in helping us through the healing. We were able to spend time talking or texting on our phones, and more importantly video chatting with the rest of our family no matter where we each live in the country. In a time of isolation from most, this was a HUGE comfort and helped us to process further with those who also knew these important members of our lives. We felt like we could stand more steadily, after that.

As our entire life largely shifted to staying at homes and outside on our properties, many great and unexpected changes began to happen. This wasn’t just in our home, but also in the homes of many families’ living all over the country. Life began to slow down for most of us. We were having more time together, to engage more with one another, to make have actual home cooked meals more regularly and together, and our pets loved having us around more.

The need for using apps, like Zoom, caused many to catch up and stay more in touch with family and friends whether they lived a few houses down or across the country or globe. It appeared the gift of time had helped us remember that who is in our lives matter more than what is in our lives.

Life wasn’t entirely what we knew, and like most of you, I needed to find a firmer place to stand with so many unknowns ahead.

You see, way before COVID-19 ever emerged, my biggest comfort and support was one I was already very familiar with and one that had never let me down, even in the toughest of times . . . GOD.

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord  himself watches over you!The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. PSALM 121:1-8

From the first time I ever knew troubled times existed in life, and every time since, God has been there. He was the One who has always held me close when I’ve cried out to Him. He was the One who has let me scream at Him when I have been frustrated or angry. He was the One who brought the perfect people to me, at just the right moments when I needed them. He was the One who reminded me of so many truths that not only have lasted the test of time through centuries, but have lasted the test of time in my own life from a very young age.

Getting my legs back didn’t change a lot of what was out of my control, but it helped me stand so much stronger.

I found myself using the time that was now freed up to talk with God a lot more. The ability to pray to the One who knows far more than any human ever could know, provided me with immense peace.

This peace was with me when my mother was in the hospital for over a week, without knowing what the outcome would be. It was with me on the morning of Mother’s Day when I learned of my grandmother’s death and soon followed by my father-in-law. It stayed with me as I did all I could to teach from my home, in a way that was not how any of us expected to finish the final quarter of the year that I was still reaching and supporting my students. That peace reminded me to trust my Lord and those He put in my life.

This peace was with me, anytime fear rose up over the unknowns of living life with the coronavirus now in it. Remembering Bible verses were a source of strength and peace. Having the luxury to read the Bible for longer periods of time provided me with peace like even my favorite novel cannot do. Talking and listening to God, in prayer, however and whenever I needed has kept me standing strong.

The virus changed our world, BUT GOD has never changed.

Little would any of us know that life would still have curveballs to throw at us. While my faith is usually strong, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel afraid. Every human does. With 24/7 news and social media providing continuous information and misinformation, along with photos and/or videos, faith has been the key to my mind, heart and soul remaining tethered through it all.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,”he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”he said, “why did you doubt?”MATTHEW 14:28-31

There’s a part in the Bible, in Matthew 14, when Jesus sends His disciples to get into a boat while He dispersed the crowd of people they just finished miraculously providing for with food none of them had. Imagine the fear of hundreds of people not knowing when their next meal would be. Yet, Jesus provided for their needs and probably saved so many lives that day. He also increased the people’s faith that God saw them, God knew what they needed and God could provide.

Then, those disciples got into the boat knowing Jesus would catch up with them. After just seeing the miracle of food simply appearing in their baskets to give out until every mouth was fed, it was clear that had God seen them, God knew what they needed and God provided. Then, rather than waiting to catch up with the disciples on the other side or by following in another boat, Jesus was standing on the lake water itself and asking Peter to trust Him and walk to Him, on that lake.

What does this have to do with the coronavirus?

That moment has everything to do with the pandemic that we are still living with, in our nation and across the globe. Peter took initial steps of faith in Jesus Christ as he began to walk towards Him, but then suddenly, the human he was saw the wind blowing and his eyes went off Jesus and most likely looked at the water as he freaked out and cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Even then, the Lord saw what happened, saw the need and provided. Jesus reached out His hand and caught Peter. He knew Peter had faith, but like us, Peter also struggled during times of “rough waters”.

We have moments when we feel more at peace, as though God or even humans, have life more in control. We feel completely comforted and in full faith that life will work out and there’s no need to worry.

Then, we see the numbers rising again of those testing positive for the virus. We see that the new school year is right around the corner and worry as an educator, as a parent or loved one of a school age person or as all of the above. Masks are required to be worn again and some businesses have to close temporarily again, while others do so for good, not being able to handle the lack of money anymore. Events that were looked forward to get cancelled and sports are making major changes, as well.

We read, hear, or see all of that. Then, we have moments when even though we are still alive and may even have what we need, we feel our faith dropping. Like Peter, as changes continue to occur through these times, and we feel the wind moving and the water beneath our feet, we realize that while we may have faith, we also feel better feeling and touching the realities we are used to around us.

The virus is not greater than God.

This is why talking and listening to God, reading His Word for instruction, for guidance, for assurance, for wisdom, for how to handle whatever comes in life is so vastly important.

God is always with us, whether we acknowledge His existence or not. He sees us. He knows what we need. He provides.

His provision may not always make sense to us, like when Thomas the disciple saw Jesus alive again, after His resurrection, and needed further physical proof it was Him. Then after some time of rejoicing over His return, those who had seen Him after rising from the dead, soon came to realize that Jesus had to return to the Father. Imagine the immense confusion and hurt that brought on, not knowing when they would see Him again. Yet, their stories continue on with greater moments of faith that changed the lives of so many people in the world for His glory.

As it indicated in this Bible verse, we are truly blessed when we have faith, belief in God, when we cannot physically see His presence before us.

Why? Because, God knew that this pandemic would occur. He knew that we would be afraid at times, whether we have faith in Him or varying degrees of faith in Him, at times.

YET . . . GOD is far greater than anything life throws our way, even the coronavirus.

The virus doesn’t take away our faith.

For those of you who struggle to have any faith in God at all, the amazing fact is that we all have faith in something or someone at different points in life. While each of us continue to live our lives as best we can, He still sees us, knows what we need and provides for us.

When the dark news related to the coronavirus interferes with our lives, we continue to keep looking for the light. Most humans can’t seem to help it.

No matter what unknowns will come our way, pandemic or not, don’t give up. Have faith. It helps us to stand firmer, to keep going and to remember that better times will come.

The light exists and will always outshine the darkness.

Stay tune for the next part of this blog series. Keep the faith.

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My Reflections

FEAR HAS ARRIVED ON A GLOBAL SCALE . . . BUT


Feeling lead to type this to whoever is meant to read it. I feel like the Lord is testing His people with the fact that coronavirus has caused across the globe. How? He wants us to remain vigilant in the hope we must always hold onto, remember that our hope is in the Lord. He loves. He sees. He is working.

He wants His people to pray on behalf of humanity and believe that He knows what He’s doing. While yes, there is sickness and death, the true harm is the fear. He says to us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ” – John 14:37

The enemy wants fear to spread like wildfire. Sound familiar? It has indeed been doing so, worldwide. Humans fear the unknown. That’s normal. We are finite, but God is infinite.

We need to trust Him. We need to trust the medical community. We need to get more comfortable with the unknown, because unknowns are not going to go away.

They’re all around us. But, look around. We still love. We still live. We still connect with people, with life and we keep going. It’s who we are.

Hope lives. Yes, fear is real, but hope and love is what has always made situations better and made us finite beings better.

When we don’t have the wisdom we want so badly, like when we were children, we must trust those who know more, who have the wisdom we don’t have.

As 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

When fear seems to overtake us, these are some words from the Bible that have often helped me:

• Psalm 91

• Ephesians 6: 11-17

• 1 Corinthians 13

For those who doubt God’s existence or anything about Him, we’ve all at least experienced unknowns in our life that have scared us immensely. Many of us have also come out on the other side of those experiences.

Stay hopeful. Trust those who know more than we know. Then, breathe and remember you’re alive. Alive for a reason and live.

As often as the clouds come and can seem to overcome the beautiful blue sky we want to see, we tend to try and focus on the blue breaks in the clouds. That’s hope. That’s what keeps us hanging on, when the clouds cause us to only see dark skies. Hanging on to the truth that the clouds (or the fear) will disperse and that the sky (hope) will appear fully again is belief, belief that life will be good again. It’s not that we don’t see the clouds. It’s that we refuse to give in to them. Hope. Photo By Rachel Basden

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My Reflections

WE WON’T FALL: Psalm 71:14, Psalm 55:22, Psalm 26:12, Matthew 6:25-34


Psalm 7114

This morning, as I sat reading the Word and praying, something came to the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t a new revelation. God truly knows that I’ve heard this truth many times before.

We, as believers, can easily get consumed with so many worries. Am I a good enough mother, wife, teacher, photographer, and so on and so on? What do I do when I seem to have done everything, and yet, (fill in the blank) still isn’t fixed, changed, different? Did I use my time and resources wisely? These thoughts, in and of themselves, are good ones to think about. We need to self-reflect, keep ourselves in check, have others help to keep us accountable. However, did you notice something in each of those questions? They are very “I” focused, rather than God focused.

We have a tendency to not just think long enough to self-reflect. Rather, I can easily find myself dwelling way too long on areas to the point that self-reflection can become worries. How? By not allowing God and His truths to be part of the equation. The truth is that burdens are not meant for us to hold.

Psalm 55:22 reminds us, “Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” It can’t get any clearer than that, can it? The Word doesn’t qualify or quantify the essence of our burdens. It simply tells us to give our burdens to our Lord. Which ones? All of them.

The beauty of that is that our burdens aren’t simply gone and forgotten. There’s a promise to walking in this truth. He will take care of us. He won’t let us slip and fall. So then why do we always struggle with burdensome thoughts of slipping and falling?

I clearly remember a reoccurring dream that I used to have on a very consistent basis. I would stand at the top of this long, windy staircase, and knowing how long of a walk it was, I would lean over the top railing to see how far down it was. The problem was that I would always slip and fall, straight down the center, with the fall never ending, until I suddenly awoke in a cold sweat. Kind of like an Alice in Wonderland moment, only there was no bottom leading me to a beautiful land of wonder. It was rather like a choke hold that forced thoughts to race through my head, as the speed of falling increased and I watched each level of the staircase flash before my eyes.

That is so much like what we, or at least I, can too often do. I begin thinking about an area that may or may be one that I should concern myself with, and rather than look up, I look down. Down, into myself, rather than up into the eyes of the One who sees me, who knows me, whose hands are so large that He can scoop me out and draw me close to Him, as He says, “Dear one, let me take care of you. You were never meant to fall. You were meant to stand on solid ground, and I am here. Stand on my truths.”

When I choose to do just that, my heart cries out, “Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the Lord” (Psalm 26:12)! That doesn’t meant that the situation suddenly goes away. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to be done. But just as time and time again through the Old Testament God fought His children’s battles or allowed them to do so, in His power, might, and instruction, we are called to the same today.

What a magnificent feeling it is when we can stand on His solid ground. To breathe. To be held by Him, and to praise Him publicly for all He’s doing and has done for us!

Casting Crown’s song “Just Be Held” is such a wonderful reminder of what our loving Father tells us time and time again, if we would only listen:

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
Theres freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

Don’t get consumed by anything that isn’t of God. We are told to not worry. Matthew 6:25-34 tells us that He has us, He has the situation. We are valuable to Him and He won’t drop us. We won’t fall.

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My Reflections

THE POWER OF YOUR LIFE: Psalm 139


appreciation

I have taught for 17 years of my life, and I absolutely adore what I do for a living. While I very much enjoy the subject that I teach, I enjoy my students even more. They always brighten my day, remind me of how important it is to serve others and to use our gifts, and they teach me so much more than I ever imagined I would learn, before I embarked on this journey, called teaching.

Over the last two weeks, or so, God has been so kind in showing me some of the impact I have made on my students.  Some showed me their appreciation through gifts, like the one in the picture, given to me during Teacher Appreciation Week. However, this week, four of my classes got to write letters of appreciation to any staff member in the school. While organizing those letters to distribute to my co-workers, I was overwhelmed to discover that a quarter of them were addressed to me.

Very humbling, to say the least!

In one student’s letter, I learned of the impact I had unknowingly had on her, during a very trying time in her life.  Another letter shared a variety of personal traumas she has endured for two years, and she credited me to causing her to finally overcome these traumas. Each letter was such a gift, as these precious teens shared pieces of their hearts with me.

I know that none of this is because of me, but because of Christ within me.  I sat in marvel, over the working of the Holy Spirit, with tears in my eyes, as I read one letter after another.

Psalm 139:1-18 says, Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LordYou go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence. If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

Do you know what I see when I read that? God truly cares about us, has always cared about us, and doesn’t leave us. He sees us, even before anyone else ever did. That’s huge!  That’s amazing!

Honestly, I think that’s a big part of why “what” we do with our lives is so powerful. People want to know that they matter, no matter how old they are. They want, and more importantly need, to be seen, heard, understood.

As I read each of those precious letters, from my students, that’s what I heard speaking to me, over and over again.  You saw me.  You cared.  You went out of your way to go beyond teaching me the subject, and taught me about life.  You believed in me.

All I want to say in return to all of them is this. . .Oh, honey, I don’t just see you, hear you, care about you, and believe in you. God does! If I hadn’t realized that as a child, I wouldn’t be fulfilling my purpose, as I am right now.  Touching you all with His love. You are so very precious to me, because you’re precious to Him.

I encourage you, no matter where God places you, to be His hands and feet to those around you.  It may be an encounter with a person that lasts for just a brief moment, or you may spend years with these individuals.  But, live your life with impactful purpose.

We matter. Others matter, and they matter, because we matter to our Creator.

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My Reflections

BE MINE – Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:13-18, Psalm 36:5-7, Isaiah 49:15-16, Jeremiah 29:11, Zephaniah 3:17, Luke 12:6-7, Romans 8:35-38


be mine heart alone sharpenedPeople enjoy messages of love from others.  For some, they prefer these messages verbally. Others enjoy receiving it in a written or a typed format. Still others enjoy messages of love through gifts, acts of service, and the like. We all want to be loved and know for sure that we are loved.

Whether or not we enjoy eating them, many of us even like those heart shaped candy hearts that come around Valentine’s Day. Why? Because with each heart, they tell us that someone cares for us, wants us in their life, possibly even loves us.

No matter how many messages of love we receive from anyone, in our lives, there is a love message that was written to us long before we even drew a breath. It is a message of love that has withstood the test of time. It is a message said in many ways, so that we would all understand that it is for real, and it is for us.

God has a message of love for us that surpasses any that anybody could give to us. It’s found in His Word. Continuously, He tells us that He loves us, from cover to cover. These are just some:

  • “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27
  • “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.   Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me,O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”               – Psalm 139:13-18
  • “Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.”    – Psalm 36:5-7
  • “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins.”  – Isaiah 49:15-16
  • “For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
  • “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” – Zephaniah 3:17
  • “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” – Luke 12:6-7
  • “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”     – Romans 8:35-38

The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to wait till February, our birthday or any special occasion, to receive these messages of love. He looks at us, and He says, “Be mine,” constantly.  Can you imagine being that adored? That loved?

Circumstances will fail us. People will fail us. We will fail ourselves. But, God’s love never fails us. That is sweeter than any candy I could ever eat.

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My Reflections

REMEMBER TO LEARN . . . DON’T REMEMBER TO DWELL – Isaiah 43:18-19, Philippians 4:8, Psalm 30:11, Philippians 4:13


 
If it is one thing we all have in common is that we are all vulnerable to pain. Some experience it more than others. Some experience it earlier than others. But we all know what it is like to hurt. As followers of Christ, if we allow Him to, He can use our past pains in marvelous ways, for His glory.
 
As a female, I know that it is very easy to dwell.  To dwell on our day, to dwell on our future, to dwell on our past. . .especially to dwell on our past! That is not always a bad thing, but too often, when we think about our past hurts, we stay in that place for too long. That’s when it can get dangerous.
 
The Bible tells us, in Isaiah 43:18 & 19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
 
When we think on past pain and ask God to heal us, that is beneficial. When we think on our past pain and ask God to show us how He can use it for His glory, that is called healing. When we think on the past pain and get stuck in a bad place mentally, and our emotions and thoughts can’t seem to move away from those moments in time, that is not where God wants us to be.
 
You see? While it is easy to dwell, when we do that, we begin believing we are living in defeat. We begin to feel like we haven’t moved forward, when we have already taken steps in that direction. There’s a reason why we’re reminded in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
 
When we think in those terms, then we begin asking God to turn our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11). We begin to praise Him for how far He’s taken us, since those moments, how much we’ve healed, as we’ve shared and given those pains and hurts to Him. We begin to realize that the truth is that God is doing a new thing in us, as we live for Him.  He’s doing things with us, that in those painful moments of our lives, we never thought possible!
 
Will there ever be a day when we stop getting hurt?  Not on this side of Heaven, but one thing is certain. With Christ, you can have the strength you need, to fully move forward  (Philippians 4:13). So, remember to learn from the past. Don’t remember to dwell.

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