Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thoughts on I Samuel

I am going though a Bible study on the book of I Samuel using Desiring God's Own Heart by Kay Arthur and David Arthur, part of the New Inductive Study series.


After studying the first three chapters of the book, I was reminded of my own responsibility as a parent. Hannah longed for a child -- but it seemed her desire was not a selfish one. Her desire was for a child who would make a difference. When God answered her prayer, she gave her child to God -- not figuratively like many of us have done, but literally. She sent her to be raised at the tabernacle. Again, it's not like sending my kids to a Christian school. She sent her son to live in the tabernacle even though she had to know that the leadership was corrupt. She made a commitment to God and she followed through, even when it was not an easy and probably not a popular thing to do. I'm thinking her husband must have thought she was crazy!

Then there's Eli. He is an old man, a priest over Israel, and he has two grown sons. His sons are corrupt, selfish, greedy, womanizing men. At one point Eli reprimands his sons, but they ignore him and continue in their sinful way. From all indications, it's not like Eli didn't know what was going on. In fact it's strongly implied that he gained from his sons practices. Vs 29 of chapter 2 says "Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves . . ."

Hannah honored God more than she honored her son and more than she honored herself. The result was that she received more blessings than she could have imagined. Yes, she had more children, but I believe her greatest blessing was having a child who was used by God.

Eli on the other hand, the priest who really should have known better, honored himself and his sons. He wanted his sons to be happy and allowed them to break God's commandments. The result was a curse on his entire line: His sons both died, the Ark of the Lord was captured, and God's glory departed from Israel, a pretty hefty price to pay.

I want my kids to be happy, and I want my students to be happy. But more than that I want them to honor God. My greatest blessing is when I see my kids (my own flesh and blood AND my students) being used by God.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mentoring

So, yes, it has been a while since I've taken the time to blog -- more than 2 months.

Why, you ask? Normally in September I blame it (and every other flaw in my life) on the opening of school. My schedules goes from the slow and easy, relaxed pace of summer to the non stop flurry of activity!

In the midst of the school rush though, I've noticed that mentoring has become a recurring theme in my life. Last spring, one of the teens at my church asked me to be one of her "life coaches." Her parents encouraged her and her brother to select adults that they trusted to become life coaches / mentors as they moved from teens to young adults. She and I met once over the summer, and then recently all of her "coaches" joined together with her, her mom, and one friend (who happens to be my daughter) for a special over-night camp out. It was a special evening for Megan and for all of us who were able to share the memory with her.

As school started this year, I had the joy of working with a student teacher. The young lady is a senior at Philadelphia Biblical University who is finishing her program in English, Secondary Education. She spent the first week or so observing, and then gradually took over each of my classes. It was fun for me to feed her ideas, give her advise, encourage, and even when necessary give suggestions for improvement. In one sense, it made my own work load a little easier, but in another sense, it changed how I planned everything. My focus was not only on where my students needed to be, but how the student teacher would fit into the plan. Katie's last day was Friday, and I am really going to miss her. I am praying for her as she moves into a new student teaching assignment in a public school.

Along with having a student teacher, my principal asked me to help out two of our new teachers. Both are brand new teachers -- one has about 6 months of experience and the other graduated in June and started with us in September. Both are in the music department are delightful to work with.

Somewhere in the middle of all this mentoring and coaching, a verse came into my mind:

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they
can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:3 - 5.


So I guess that means I have crossed into the assembly of "older women." Ironically, I still value my own mentors. I have a few women who are older than me whose opinions I value dearly. I look to them for advise, for guidance, and sometimes just for a shoulder to cry. But now it's time to take what God has given me and share it with those following behind.

I don't ever want to take the attitude of a know-it-all. Another verse that has shown up several times to me recently is 2 Corinthians 3:4-5:
Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes
from God.

I don't claim anything for myself -- I give all credit to God. And the funny thing, like most people, many of the lessons I've learned are lessons I "failed." It seems like when I mess up, I learn how NOT to do that again. So hopefully, I can share with others these lessons!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ensenada Report

How do I summarize an amazing week? So many things happened. I made sure to spend time each day journaling, and filled nearly 25 pages! I guess the best way to attack is in small chunks.

So let's start by where I was: Ensenada is located in the Baja California "state" of Mexico. It's on the Baja peninsula about 2 hours south of San Diego. The landscape between San Diego and Ensenada is filled with dry, dusty, rugged mountains and hills on the one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The road we drove followed the coast and provided some amazing views of Mountain and ocean. The contrasts struck me almost immediately: Steep mountains and flat beaches butting up to one another; the cool blue of the ocean and the hot, dry, brown rocks. Homes were either large colorful stucco haciendas and vacation homes, or they were small shacks made of scraps of wood, bricks or whatever else was available.

Ensenada itself is a large tourist port, and so there were things like Walmart and Costco and Burger King's. We stayed in the southern part of the city though where it was much poorer and more barren.
Our hosts, Rick and Tammy Romano, have it as their goal to provide short term mission opportunities for Americans and to make a long term impact in the lives of the Mexican people. They work with 7 pastors of small churches in the Ensenada area. During their busy season Rick and Tammy have groups come in to do construction projects (building churches and homes) and to work with children at Vacation Bible Schools at the different churches.


We stayed in small dorm style apartments right off the main road that runs through Ensenada. The dorms I was in had 3 or 4 rooms that held 8 people each (4 sets of bunk beds). The men from our team stayed in apartments across the street -- apparently ours were quite luxurious compared to theirs! :)




Our meeting room, lunch room, and "hang out" spot was about a block away in the 2nd story of a building. The space included a rather large open air porch area, a large main room / kitchen / dining room, and three smaller rooms used for offices, housing for the interns and storage.

The weather all week was perfect. Every morning we woke to clouds, but by 11 AM each day the sky was bright blue. During the day temps may have topped out in the 80's, but because it was so dry it was pleasant. Working in the sun was hot, but breezes usually cooled things down. At night the temps went down to the 60's -- again, very pleasant.

I'll add more later about what our team actually DID while we were there.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Impact 09


In less than two days I will be on my way to Mexico as a part of the "Impact Team" from my church.

Our pastors shared a vision earlier this year that our church would make an impact on the world around us by following the Acts 1:8 plan:

...you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to
the ends of the earth.
The idea was that members of our church would participate in a a series of local service projects and an international trip. People prayed about their involvement whether it would be by helping with one or more of the local projects, or by committing to serve at all (or most) of the local projects as well as the international trip. I spent time praying and really believed God was calling me to go.

The local projects started back in the spring: We started in our Jerusalem, in our own home town, by picking up trash on the sides of the road. We then moved into "Judea", the city of Camden with a service project aimed at helping the homeless by providing for their physical needs and by spending time listening to their stories and showing them some love. "Samaria" for us is the city of Philadelphia where we spent two different days working with a church plant. One day we cleaned up the old church building, filling a huge dumpster with flood damaged debris, tearing out carpet, knocking down walls, etc. On the second trip, we helped them throw a huge free carnival for the neighborhood. More than 800 people were treated to lunch, games, a moon bounce, face painting, a dunk tank, and more.

On Saturday, the 25 member team will head to Ensenada, Mexico. While there we will be partnering with "The Ensenada Project" (http://theensenadaproject.blogspot.com/), lead by missionaries Rick and Tammie Romano. They are working with a group of local pastors who are reaching the people in the Ensenada area. Our team will have three major "projects" while we are there. The construction team we will be building a home or a church for one of the pastors; the children's ministry team will be leading a vacation Bible School at the local churches; and the prayer team will be going with a local pastor / missionary into homes of local believers to pray and build relationships with them.

I didn't sign up for one particular part of the project. Instead, I am going to "floater" who will fill in wherever I am needed. I am going with an open heart to serve in whatever capacity God wants to put me in.

One of the aspects of this trip that I like the most is that so many are involved. Yes there are 25 people who are GOING. In addition, there are another 50 people (maybe more) who have participated in one or more of the local projects -- and so they are part of the team. And of course there are many who could not physically participate, but have financially supported us. But most important of all are our prayer supporters, for none of this can happen without prayer support.

And so, if you would like to be a part of this great endeavor: Please hold us up in prayer this week! Pray for our safety and health, for team unity and healthy conflict resolution, for our partnership with the Ensenada missionaries and pastors, for unbelievers to come to know God because of our efforts, and for believers to be encouraged in their commitment. In addition, please pray specifically for me that I would rely on God and not myself, that I would be an encouragement to others on the team, and that I would be used to make an impact on the people in Ensenada.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Friends

It's been a hard week for me. My "best bud" packed up and left yesterday to move across the country

Our friendship started 18 years ago: Her husband taught at the Christian School where I was hired when my husband and I first moved to NJ. At an early teacher's convention, he and I were relaxing and playing cards with other teachers; simple thing -- but that lead to us getting together as couples for card nights. As we were young and childless, these were pretty frequent if I remember!

When my first child was born, Terri was my first visitor in the hospital. When my little one was about 6 months old, we shared a beach house in NC with them and another couple. She was in the early stages of her first pregnancy (and oh so miserable!) Her first and my second child were born only 3 months apart. It was during those "Mommy Years" that Terri and I really grew in our friendship. We spent hours together: We shared Bible studies at church, play dates in my backyard with my 36 inch collapsible pool, trips to the mall, free days at a local lake (neither of us had much money), beach days.

People frequently thought the kids were brother and sisters. One of our funniest stories was the day we all went to the boardwalk together. Terri and I took my 3 year old to the ladies room, leaving my husband with the two little ones in a double stroller. A lady walked up and cooed over the kids and said to my husband, "Oh they are so cute! Are they twins?" My husband replied,"No, they are three months apart." When the lady looked at him quizzically, he said "They have different mothers." She looked a bit shocked and walked away in a bit of a huff, and only then did my husband realize what she had thought of him!

When my third child was born and I had 3 children under the age of 5, Terri was my extra set of hands. She was praying for a 2nd child, but it just wasn't happening.

Over the next few years, our children played, grew and went to school together. We laughed, solved all the world's problems, and most importantly, we prayed together. We made a regular habit of praying -- sometimes with others in a group, but often just the two of us. I often picked all the kids up from school and went over to her house -- while the kids played, we prayed.

When my "baby" was 4, she found out she was pregnant. "Shashi" was born and we shifted back into the baby stage. When Shashi started talking, I was "Mommy Sue" to her. And when "Shashi" was 15 months old, baby brother "Pappy" was born. Now Terri was the one with two small children so close in age.
Not long after her 3rd was born, my son went into first grade and I went back to teaching full time. A new chapter started for me, one that did not allow much time for play dates and Mommy time. The good thing though, was that although I didn't spend as much time with her, our families stayed connected: I started working again with her husband, and spending lots of time with her oldest son -- as his teacher! Sometimes it was hard to find the line between the "friend" relationship and "teacher / parent" relationship, but I feel like we weathered that one well. I could be her eyes in the hall watching out for her son. She became a confidant for my daughters as dealt with Middle School turbulence. I love that my daughters can go to her for advice because I know she shares my values. While our personalities are like night and day (maybe that's why we had such fun together), our values for our families and passion for Jesus have been much the same.

When I learned at the end of May that her husband was resigning and taking a new position in Utah, my heart broke. I know this is a good change for them as they will be living with her parents for a time and then getting a house of their own very close to her parents and sister. It will be so good for the kids to be near their grandparents; so good for Terri to be near her family; so good for Jim to start fresh in a new school.

But they are leaving behind big, big holes here. Their family was a part of my family -- we share church memories, school memories, and our kids share so many childhood memories.
I know we will stay connected (thanks to technology); We are already planning a vacation out west some day. And because they have so many friends and family in this area, I know they will be back to visit. But it won't be the same. I am going to miss them.








Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Purpose

I’m reading “Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dilbow. The chapter I just read, “A Faulty Focus,” encourages us to write out our life purpose statement. I spent several hours one morning while on vacation praying, searching God's word and journalling, and I was able to put into words what I believe my purpose in life is:

Loving God

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Dt. 6:4 -5)

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt 22: 36 – 41)


The first commandment, and according to Jesus, the greatest commandment, was to Love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength -- wholeheartedly. I don’t want to be legalistic and follow rules just to please God, but I want my love for God to be my motivation for everything I do. I want my life to worship God and to show my love for him..

Striving for Excellence

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col 3:23 – 24)

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. (Eph 6:7-8)

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48)

His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:21)

God has called me to put my whole heart into everything I do; I cannot do something half way or half-heartedly. I also know that God has blessed me with gifts and that I must use these for him. So what I do, I want it to be the best that it can be. I long to hear my master say “well done” some day because I used the gifts he gave me well.


Serving Others

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal 5:13)

I want to meet other people’s needs, to put them before me and so to reflect God.

Reflecting my Master

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I
Pet 2:12)

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. . . . so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive (Titus 2:7 – 10)

I want to live my life so that it is a reflection of God. I want my words, my actions, my appearance to be above reproach so that others will see God in me. Sometimes this come across as legalism (again) and rule following, but I never want it to be about me, but about my Lord. I long for people to see my life and to glorify God (not me).

Leaving a Legacy

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Dt. 6:6-9)

O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things
from of old- what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next
generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power,
and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. (Psalm 78: 1 – 7)


Not only do I want to LIVE my life to glorify God, I want to tell others – I want to tell my children who will tell their children. I want to teach young people that it is possible to love God with your whole life and to serve him. I want others to inherit my passion for God and to pass it on to others. What “charges” me the most is this concept --- that I may teach those who teach and that my legacy of Loving God with my whole life, to the best of my abilities will be passed on to future generations.

This then is my purpose -- why I am here: to love God, to strive for excellence, to serve others, to reflect the Master, and to leave a legacy. My prayer is that these aren't just words, but something I will live by.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Reports from abroad

I have found myself checking google reader and my facebook frequently the last few days . . . and I am SO grateful for technology.

My girls are in Guatamala, and thanks to technology they have had opportunity to blog and to post to their facebooks. Hanna's blog is "changing hearts" and Joy's is "Giving into your Gravity." Links to both of their blogs are below.

In addition, Hanna's team leader has been posting pictures & videos of what they are doing!


Monday, June 29, 2009

Surrender


Today is the day I will proverbially “put my money where my mouth is.”

When I committed my life to serve Christ as a young teen, I promised him I’d go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wanted – I gave him all that I was, all that I had, and all that I ever would be. God blessed my willingness then, and throughout my life. I cant say it’s always been easy, but it has always been GOOD. There have been times of intense passion and thirst for God and there have been times of acute dryness and dullness. But through the years, regardless of how I “felt,” God has held me to my commitment: all that I am, all that I have, all that I ever will be is all HIS.

When my children were born my husband committed them to God as well: They are His, on loan to us. When I’d listen to other parents complaining about their kids, I’d cringe a little – I love my kids! They are not perfect, by ANY sense of the imagination, but they are God’s gift to me – so how could I complain. Then I’d hear other parents clinging to their kids – afraid to let the kids out of their sight for fear they’d lose them. Again, I’d cringe: They are God’s kids: he will protect them wherever they are, and nothing can happen to them that is out of his plan. Someone once said to me, just wait, your kids are going to end up living on the other side of the country or even the other side of the world. And my answer was “cool, if that’s where God wants them, that’s where I want them.” It was easy to say when they were little, and that possibility was such a long way off.

So last winter when my daughters (ages 15 & 13 at the time) asked my husband and me if they could go on the “Never the Same Mission trip” to Guatemala City, Guatemala, sponsored by Brio Magazine and Big World Ventures (http://www.bigworld.org/briomissions/pages/about.html), a part of my wanted to say no way, you are too young, it’s too much money, it can’t happen. But gently, God reminded me of my commitment – they are his. So I agreed and told them we’d pray about it, if God wanted them to go, He’d make it happen. And secretly I hoped “not yet.” They were accepted, they raised their money in record time, and all of the doors opened.

Since March, we have known it was happening – my daughters were going to Guatemala, but it remained sort of “unreal” to me. It was far enough in the distance, and I had enough other things (like school) to occupy my mind, so it still seemed a long way off.

But last Sunday I realized it was not a long way off any more! As I sat in the Worship service at my church, we sang “The Stand”



So I’ll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I’ll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I have is yours.
I have said it for years, all I have is Yours. As I sang on Sunday a voice in my head said even your daughters? Are they Mine too? What if something horrible happens, are they still Mine? It literally took my breath away – but I had to say, YES, they are yours, and I am going to let go.

I cannot explain the feelings all stirring around in me then (and now) as it hit me: There is a sorrow as I realize I AM letting go of something – my daughters’ childhood and utter dependence on me. They are stepping towards adulthood. Sending them to camp has never been an issue – it was 5 days and they were 20 minutes away!!! But this is two weeks and another country. Joy just finished her freshman year, and the reality is in three short years, she will finish high school and go, and Hanna is only a year behind her. This trip is a huge step towards their independence.

At the same time is a joy unspeakable: My girls are young women now and they are going out into the world to make a difference. They WANT to serve the same God I serve. They are praying and growing and doing things that I have prayed for years that they would do. I am so blessed that God would use me – and now my children. THIS is my passion: that my love for God would grow in the people following me. And I’m seeing it happen. And I’m humbled, and amazed and awed by God.

So today we will drive from a lovely condo in Naples, Florida (provided as a gift from one of the families sponsoring the girls on their trip), to Ft. Lauderdale. We will do our best to meet some of their leaders, and then we will leave them, come back here for a couple more days with Brent, and then we will drive home. The girls will fly back to NJ in 2 weeks.

I have said I surrender all to God, but now I get to put it into practice:

  • I surrender my maternal “control” – making sure everything is just right and everyone is taken care of
  • I surrender my worries – several “loving” friends and family members have made it a point to let me know all the possible things that could go wrong.
  • I surrender two of my most valuable possessions – my daughters, and I acknowledge that it won’t be long before I surrender my son as well.
  • I surrender my heart: I’m going to miss them.

The end of the song “The Stand” says:

But what can I say?
What can I do?
But offer this heart, oh God,
Completely to you.

I am doing just that, offering my heart, in the form of my daughters, completely to him.


Link to the song "The Stand" by Hillsong: http://iLike.com/s/3D5S
More Hillsong United music on iLike



Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer

It's almost here: Summer break. I haven't posted for well over two months simply because I've been swamped.

Today I go in, post my grades, clean out my room, and then "vacation" officially begins. Every year I find myself counting down to this day when summer vacation comes. I look forward to being able to take my time, relax, and not rush to do ANYTHING. Last summer my kids noticed that I was even driving slower. I want to make the most of every moment. Of course, being the task-oriented person that I am, I already have a list forming in my head of the chores to do around the house and to prepare for next September. But in the summer I am able to "attack" my task list at a much more manageable pace. No 5 AM - 11 PM non-stop work days during the summer. If something doesn't get done today -- I can work on it again tomorrow. Yes, I love summers.

And yet, as much as I've looked forward to the end of the school year, there's a melancholy that comes with "the end." I don't like to waste too much time with regrets -- frankly there's too much to do to waste time worrying about what I could have done! But as a teacher, I do try to evaluate my teaching for the year, and my personal report card tells me I didn't get as far or cover as much as I had planned last September. I wish I could have done more -- covered more materials, better preapred my students, etc. So among my chores for this summer will be to figure out HOW I can improve that.

Along with that is the reality that I have said good-bye to many people. Quite a few students and teachers are moving on next year. As a private school, we rely on enrollment to keep us going, but many of our families are not able /willing to pay increased tuition. Therefore our enrollment is decreasing and as a result, our teaching staff has been reduced. So I'm seeing families that I have known for years leave the school, and I'm seeing teachers teachers leave.
Among those who are leaving is a friend I've known in and out of school for 18 years --our families have spent enough time together that our children are like brothers and sisters. He and his family are moving out of state. I'm mourning the loss of a great teacher and of dear friends.

It usually takes me a week or so to shift my brain from the school year crush to the summer relax. We always try to plan our summer vacation so that we leave a week after school's out so that I do have the time to adjust. This year we don't get that luxury -- we leave TOMORROW. So today I will go to school and finish my "check-out" procedures, come home and pack. And the next two days as we sit in the car, I will try to "hurry up" my shift to my "slow down" mode.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

True Worship

Playing with worlde again . . . helps to visualize scripture. This comes from John 4: 21 - 24

True Worship


Wordle: true worship

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Teaching with Technology in mind

Technology

I've spent a good portion of my time in the past several months working on a techonology project for school. 2 administrators and I, a mere teacher, have been learning everything we can about "Web 2.0" technologies and trying to figure out how we could help teachers learn to incorporate these amazing tools into their existing curriculum. After many hours of work we have come up with our "plan" and next week will present it to other private schools in our region. Then comes the fun -- implementing the plan!

In the process of all of this, I've learned so much. I've always loved "playing" on the computer, but now I'm seeing amazing ways I can integrate this "play" into the work I do. It's not so much about teaching "new" things. Instead it's about using new tools to accomplish the same goals.

For example -- a fun toy I found is at http://www.wordle.net/. It can take any text and create a graphic from the words. Below is a sample wordle from my teams project page.

Wordle: Breakfast Bunch

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Faith

Just over a month ago, my daughters received news that they were accepted to a missions team travelling to Guatemala this summer. Even when they were applying to go, I looked at the cost of the trip and expressed doubt --- It's an expensive trip for one child, let alone two! Both of them quickly reminded me if God wants them to go, he would provide.


They sent their letters out exactly a month ago. Outwardly, I applauded their faith and encouraged them. But inside, I doubted. They had three deadlines to send their money in: 25% on March 1, 50% on March 15 & the final 25% by April 1. I looked at it and thought, there are kids who have been working to raise their support since last fall. How could we seriously expect to raise over so much money in only 6 weeks? I even thought through how I would encourage them if the money didn't come in and they had to wait until next summer. But my girls continued to hold on to their faith.


By the March 1 deadline, they had exactly what they needed. By March 15, that had more than the 50% deposit they needed; and as of today, March 19, exactly one month from the day they sent their initial support letters, they have everything they need --- with 2 weeks to spare.


I am amazed --- not that God could provide, not that my kids had faith --- no, I am amazed at myself and how much I doubted. WHY am I surprised that the money came in? I knew in my heart that God could provide. I never doubted that he could. I just really didn't know if he would.


Long story short --- I'm amazed to realize just how weak my faith can be, and I'm thrilled to know that God is in the business of stretching the faith!


I guess that means instead of being overwhelmed by the amount of work that I have to do, I can trust that God will enable me to get it done. Instead of worrying about our families' finances and fretting over how to save money, I can trust that God will always meet our needs. Instead of wondering how my school will survive in this tight economy, I will trust that God has a plan. Instead of worrying about how to raise money for me to go to Ensenada, Mexico with my church, I will trust that once again, God will provide.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Change

Change is good -- soometimes.

There are many changes I like. I love the changing seasons. Personally it would be very hard for me to live in a place without four distinct seasons. I love each season for different reasons – and I love the change that comes with each new season.

I like to change the looks of things, to rearrange a room, to add new pictures, to change colors, to reorganize things so they are more efficient. Change can break up monotony.

Watching children grow and change is so exciting: New words, new accomplishments, new discoveries. Even with teens, the change is sometimes subtle, but little changes reflect growing maturity.

Yes, change is good.
But change is sometimes uncomfortable.

My husband recently changed jobs. It was an awesome change – but stressful nonetheless. There’s still so much for him to learn, and there are still so many “unknowns” as he steps into each new day.

Change is happening in my church as a new pastor will be officially installed this weekend. It’s not a total change because the “new” pastor has been on staff for several years and has been gradually assuming the cloak of leadership as our “old” pastor has been moving into new areas of ministry. It’s a good change, a sign of growth. But it is still a change. There’s the excitement of the new things coming and the sadness of the old things ending.

Change is a constant at my school. In the 4 years since I returned to work, I’ve served under 3 different principals. My classes have changed every year. Even the bell schedule has been different each year. The only thing that doesn’t change at the school is the fact that things always change. This week we saw yet another change: a teacher of many, many years resigned. She was (is) a beloved teacher and her leaving is painful. She is someone that I have grown to love and respect over the years, and I am so sad that she has left. BUT I’m also happy because one of my dearest teaching friends has returned to the school as the long-term sub. She is an amazing teacher, and I know she will do a phenomenal job. I’m thrilled because I get to visit with her more often again. I am sad for one friend and happy for another – I’m torn.

I’m not sure why, but I sense that other changes are on the horizon. My instincts are saying the changes are big; I can’t say why or what or even who the change involves. But I feel something coming. There’s a part of me that wants to put my head under the covers to hide and avoid the change. But there’s another part that wants to peak out and see what’s around the corner.

The good news in the midst of change is that God is in complete control, and he NEVER changes. Whatever change may come, I trust God. I know that he has a plan and he will use changes for good. Someday, I’ll look back at this season and be grateful for the variety, the beauty and the growth that comes from change. But for now, I’m just going to hold on tight.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Guatemala -- here they come!

From the time my children were tiny, we've talked about ministry and serving God. As our kids have grown, we've encouraged them to think about summer ministries and opportunities. Last summer, one daughter and I went with a church team to the D.R. for a week and had a phenomenal time. She couldn't wait to do another trip, and her younger sister was ready to go with her.

We just assumed that they would go with our church again this summer. But they surprised my husband and I a month ago, and told us they wanted to go to Guatemala with a missions trip sponsored by Brio Magazine. We told them to pray, get us more information, and pray some more. We looked over the information (http://www.bigworld.org/neverthesame.html) and talked about it. We prayed with them and encouraged them to go ahead and send in the application -- knowing that if God wants them to be there, he would work out the details.

Well, yesterday both girls received word that they have been accepted! They will have 3 days of training in Miami, and then 10 days in Guatemala City. We are all so excited. . . I know they are going to have an awesome time.

But in the midst of the excitement is the reality: they each need to raise approximately $2,500 to cover the cost of the trip. I know in my heart that if God wants them there, he will work out the details --- including the finances. But my logical head is fighting a little --- for us, right now, that is a lot of money. A LOT! We have no way to provide the money for the girls, and that 's a hard thing for me to accept -- but it's a good thing. Because they have to know that the provisions come from God, not us! In reality, I know that it's not too much for God.

I'm excited by the prospect of the trip itself, but I'm also excited and nervous and a little scared all at once to see exactly HOW God will provide. I'm eager to have MY faith strengthened and even more excited to help my girls grow in their faith as THEY see what God can do.


And so a new adventure begins!



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Facing Trials

At the Christian school where I teach, we start each day with a silent devotional time. Teachers and students alike have a simple devotional journal with a short passage to read each day. Recently our passage included James 1:2-4:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
BibleGateway.com - Passage Lookup: James 1
I’ve known these verses for years. In fact, as a teenager in the midst of my own “teen angst” I claimed them to help me weather the storms of life.

But as I read the other day, and looked out AT my 8th grade students and thought of my own teen-age children, a new perspective dawned on me. This passage suggests that the reason we can take joy in trials is the knowledge that trials bring perseverance, and perseverance brings maturity.

Logically then – weathering trials results in maturity. As adults, we look at teens and want them to “grow up”, to mature. But for them to really mature, as human beings and as Christians, they need to face trials.

Yet how many parents do you know who protect their children. How many well-meaning parents step in so that they child won’t face failure or suffer negative consequences? How many of us intervene to make life easier for our kids? How many of us pray that our kids WON’T face trials, that they will have a good day, that they will be loved, accepted, happy, zit-free, etc. I do it – I pray for good things to happen to my kids, because I love them and I don’t want to see them hurt.

But the question is if they don’t hurt, if they don’t suffer some, if they don’t face trials, will they ever really grow up? When I solve all my kids’ problems, do I make it so they don’t have to depend on God? Do I hinder their growth?

Could this be why there are so many 20 – 30 year old “teen-agers” out there? Their parents protected them from the trials of life SO well, that they never had a chance to persevere and to mature.

It’s one thing to consider it joy when I face trials. That I can handle. But to consider it joy when my children face trials? That’s harder. However, the outcome is the same: for we know that the testing of their faith brings perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so they can be mature and complete Christian adults.

So now when I pray for my kids, I still will pray for them to have a good day and to be loved and to be accepted. But I will also pray that as they face the many trials that come from normal teenage life, that they will develop perseverance and maturity.

Monday, January 12, 2009

All my children

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (III John 4)

Because I'm a Mom, I have three children; because I'm a teacher, I have had hundreds of children over the last 15 years. And John's words in his third epistle ring so true to me: Nothing brings me greater joy than to see and hear of my "children" who are walking in the Truth.

The "children" I taught back in the early years are now adults -- some have even hit the "30 something" milestone. Many are married and have children of their own. One of my students has become a teacher to my kids -- she's their drama coach. Another taught at the same Christian school with me up until last year. She was always one of my best students and went on to become an awesome teacher. Another attended my church for many years and now is in leadership in another church. She's going through a tough time with a sick little guy, but her faith is growing deeper. I've been finding others through Facebook and Blogs. Some of my "kids" are now pastors and teachers, businessmen and women, some are moms. One of my "kids" is getting ready to go on to the mission field to Thailand. Her blog (http://jacquelinelambert.blogspot.com/) has been a tremendous encouragement. Another is starting a ministry in the inner city. I get "pumped" hearing that "my children" are walking in truth.

I know I can't claim any of the credit for the successes of my "kids" -- except for this one thing: Throughout the years I have prayed that the students who came into my classroom would gain a foundation that would lead them to a passionate walk with the Lord.

Sometimes teaching can be discouraging. Sometimes it seems like the kids just aren't "getting it." And at times like that I wonder, is it really worth it? No surprises here, but teaching in a Christian school is NOT the most financially lucrative position! And the demands on teachers in a small school (that is really trying to be a big school) are sometimes pretty intense. Sometimes I wonder if I am making an impact that will last. But when I see the stories of "my children" who are walking in the truth, I know that it is worth it -- and I can't imagine doing anything else. It is a joy to see the answers to my prayers throughout the years as I see and hear that my kids are walking in the truth.

And it makes me even more excited to see where my new "children" will end up: my friend's son who just graduated from Bible college and is looking for ministry; my high school students who are making life long decisions now; my middle school students who are on the brink of greatness in so many ways; and all who will come up through the years. And the greatest joy of all is that my OWN kids are part of the mix now. I already see God at work in their lives and look forward to seeing them grow!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Power

I have often said jokingly that the best part about teaching is June, July and August. I've said it jokingly, but realistically, I am so grateful for the built in breaks from teaching.

I'm coming off of a wonderful two-week break. I was able to put aside the work (well, I DID get papers graded and lesson plans done) and enjoy the time with my family. I was able to relax and play on the computer for fun instead of for work. I was able to "fuss" over Christmas dinner and polish the good silverware and make the table look nice. I was able to sleep in (if you consider 7 AM sleeping in) and stay in my PJ's all day. I was able to take naps -- lots and lots of naps. When my brother showed up unannounced, I was able to shift my plans for the day without any worries. I was able to take a day trip with the kids to Hersey PA and not worry about "getting behind". It was a wonderful break.

But tomorrow school starts again, and I will hit the ground running and basically won't stop to breathe again until April. It seems I have two speeds: Run full speed and stop. I would love to learn to balance my time and pace myself, but when school is in session and I'm doing lesson plans, grading papers, working on various comitteees AND and taking care of my kids and my husband and my house, I'm not sure how to do it.

This morning, my pastor started the service by praying these words from Ephesians 3:

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

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


God has made available to me all the power I need through his Spirit who lives in me. And HE is able to do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine. That is where my energy comes from -- I really can not keep up this schedule on my own. But as I rely on the power that comes from the Spirit, I trust that he will enable me to do all that he has called me to do,