Expectant

If you want to see the definition of expectant, head to a baseball game. It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting, take a look around, and you will see the tiniest of fans with gloves on, ready to capture a foul ball. That glove says “I am going to catch a baseball today”. I’ve seen some foul balls end up in some surprising sections, but most of those gloves leave without a catch. Does it stop them from bringing their gloves back next time? Absolutely not. Attending a game without a glove is like forgetting to wear your team colors! It goes with the game.

When Jesus talks about child-like faith, I think this is the kind of behavior He’s looking for. In Matthew 18:3-4, He says, “Truly I tell you…unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 

Child-like faith isn’t just about belief. It’s about the actions that follow. Just like the child at a baseball game, believing against all odds that he will catch a ball from his favorite player, we should expect the unexpected from our all powerful God.

Our prayers should mimic that hope, that faith, that God can do anything. Our hands should be open, ready to be filled with the Word He has for us. I want my heart to be a baseball glove every time I open my Bible.

Ephesians 3:20 tells us, that God is “able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think”. He’s not the sip of Gatorade in between innings, He’s the overturned cooler at the end of the World Series.

This last weekend, our Astros were down, and the prospect of runs was getting slimmer by the inning. But there was this one little boy who rallied with all his might. “Let’s go Astros, let’s go!” and the crowd followed through with a good, robust “CLAP CLAP”. It went on and on…and on. And we kept up the claps. His voice wasn’t going out, his smile wasn’t fading- in fact it stretched wider and wider as he commanded the crowd. His cheer didn’t pull our boys through, but I think his heart was filled by the camaraderie. He cheered with expectancy, with the belief that if he kept cheering, we would keep clapping. It stopped being about the score, and it became about the fellowship of fans.

Isn’t that like our prayers? We go all in asking for something, knowing God gives us the desires of our hearts, asking in faith and belief that God can do anything we ask, sometimes forgetting that His ways are not our own (see Isaiah 55:8-9). As we continue to ask, our focus shifts a bit, not because we’ve given up, but because we see more clearly. Because we open our eyes to what God has laid before us. It might not look like the original path we were on, but it is something sweet, nonetheless.

It’s no secret that I love baseball, but the game took on a different tone this weekend. It’s challenged me to put my glove on, metaphorically speaking, of course- just a fan, not a player! It’s made me think about the joy of leaning on Him to bring us to understanding and contentment. Praying in faith, believing and hoping in Him, can be a rocky ride, but gosh, it’s fun to stand on the other side of impossible.

Gloves up, dear readers.

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Grace Upon Grace

Yesterday, Daniel and I had some errands to run. A few were quick, a couple took a while, and one involved food. Overall, not too bad—for an adult. Our boys were wearing thin. Thankfully, one stop involved Lifeway. Here, everyone is shopping for one of two reasons: Either they want to grow in their faith, or they have someone in mind who they want to do the same. The music overhead is familiar songs from Christian radio, and everyone is casually humming along as they peruse the devotionals. All this to say, I feel comfortable letting my boys check out the kids section while I shop across the store. Until yesterday. Daniel and I had picked up everything we needed for our youth group, and we headed to meet the boys and check out. We were met by a sea of empty packages on the floor. “Did you do this?”, we almost asked in unison. Our boys’ wide eyes and slack jaws said it all. We maintained our composure–public place and all—and calmly asked the boys to find all the toys they had opened. Package after package after package. Some were opened before we got there, but Harrison kept admitting to opening each toy we picked up. In all, there were about eight. We explained to the boys why that wasn’t okay. These were not our toys. They did not belong to us. Someone else could have bought these.

We decided to bring them to the register and the boys would pay for them out of their piggy banks. They also had to explain what they did. The sweet lady at the register told us it happens all the time, and not to worry about it. We reiterated. They will pay for them. She thanked us and handed us our $16 worth of trinkets. We told the boys we would donate the toys to church, rather than keep them. We didn’t yell, we didn’t continue on. Debt paid. Grace extended. We did explain that now that they understand why opening toys in the store is not a good idea, they would have a harsher consequence next time.

Here’s my question though: When do we extend grace and when do we use a consequence to deter a repeat offense? Our actions have consequences. Some natural (you don’t do your study, you make a bad grade; you tell a lie, you end up in a tangled mess; you do drugs, you hurt your body, etc.) Some are based on the person you offended or a person of authority (you speed, the police officer can decide to give a warning or a ticket; you are late for work, your boss can decide if you receive a write up or a reprimand; you bump a car in the parking lot, and the other driver can decide if or not to press charges, etc.)

Grace defined: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

I tend to go back to the woman at the well. Jesus extended grace. There was no punishment, there was no scolding, there was no big scene. They engaged in the first Full House style sit-down on record, she understood her sin, and I believe her life was changed. That model is so beautiful, yet as a parent, I don’t believe my children would do well in life if there were never any consequences. Where do I draw the line?

Old Testament consequences were no joke. You looked the wrong way? Boom! Pilar of salt. You touch the Ark of the Covenant? RIP. Jesus’ death on the cross changed that. Jesus didn’t contribute to the stoning of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn’t excommunicate Peter when He returned. And I don’t think He would have rejected Judas either.

So again, I’m faced with the question, when are there consequences, and when is grace enough?

The Bible is very clear about discipline versus punishment. A lot of the verses about correcting your children include the word discipline. Discipline is leading, guiding, forming. Sometimes that includes a little conditioning to steer them in the right way. What I tend to get away from is making sure that the consequence has a direct line to the offense. Say a child gets caught in a lie. One direct effect of a lie is a loss of trust. An appropriate consequence would be to remove a privilege that requires trust, say a cell phone or an opportunity to go to a friend’s house. Grace says time served, let’s try again, and don’t bring up past mistakes. You are forgiven.

Hebrews 12:5-11 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him, for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives. Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but he does it for our benefit, so that we can share his holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Proverbs 3:11-12 Do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Romans 6:14-15  For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?Absolutely not!

Bob Goff says “Grace means we can put the chalk away and stop keeping score.” Also, “Our failures can leave behind pavement or potholes. Our ability to receive grace determines which it will be.”

As parents, friends, coworkers, teammates, we can fill those potholes with grace. We can acknowledge the problem, show kindness, love, and forgiveness, and pave the way for a smoother ride tomorrow. That’s our goal in all of this, right?

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns, Great is Thy Faithfulness. I love the beauty of strength and hope that come with God’s peace and forgiveness. May my children see the hope and blessings that come from a life of grace.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

I still may not have all the answers, but I have a map, and I’m ready to pave the way there.

3:37

Ever wake up with ALL THE THINGS on your mind? That was me this morning. I intentionally sleep without a clock in my bedroom so I can avoid stressing about how much longer I have to sleep, but after what felt like half an hour of tossing and turning, I checked my phone. 3:37. My mind was racing, jumping back and forth between news stories and tweets from this week. School shootings, unkindness, worry, heaviness.

I laid there and prayed for families in Colorado. I prayed for students who have entered into lifelong trauma. Families who spent the night in the hospital on a journey of injuries. A family whose heroic son lost his life for others. I prayed for my boys- that they would never know that heartache and fear.

I prayed for my dear Beth Moore who (wrongly) came under attack for preaching the Word as a woman. For those who can’t look past her gender and see the truth that she speaks and the lives that have been changed because of it.

I prayed for the mamas without babies. The sons and daughters without moms. The waiting, the hopeless, the hurting, the scared. All magnified on this Mother’s Day.

For nearly three hours, the cycle of prayer came. I wrote blog entries in my head. I scrolled through Facebook. I wrestled with my usually comfortable bed. I couldn’t make myself get up, so I stewed. When my alarm finally went off, it was almost a relief. I thanked God it was Sunday-a nap was in my afternoon schedule. I was grateful for my Mother’s Day breakfast- chocolate chip waffles, extra crispy bacon, and orange juice with a hint of pulp, topped off with hugs, flowers and a subscription to Magnolia Journal. And I didn’t have to lift a finger- just my glass!

The thoughts of dawn slowly slipped away and were replaced by shower schedules, little boys’ suspenders, Veggie Tales, and coffee. It’s funny how something can occupy so much of your mind yet so quickly make room.

Still, none of the problems went away. I gave them away to God. He brought light to my darkness, in both a tangible and metaphorical sense. Do they still exist? Yes. Nothing magically or miraculously disappeared. There was no time travel, no Groundhog Day repetition of a brand new day, no deleted tweets. But they were no longer my burdens. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us. He carries the weight. In my weakness– and let’s face it, 3AM Maddie is weak–He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9).

He can deal with the heart of a heretic, the speech of a slanderer, and the mind of a murderer. He can bring clarity and justice and forgiveness and peace. He can heal the brokenhearted, the lost, the lonely, and the confused. I can let go of it and remember it’s not my battle to fight. He will do it, and I am to be still (Exodus 14:14).

I will proclaim boldly His goodness and His mercy. I will encourage my sisters in the faith. I will ask for protection and bravery. I will ask for the peace that only He knows how to give.

I’m praying for a more restful night. I’m praising God for an easy day. I’m still saddened over our broken world, but my heart no longer feels so heavy.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify him. -Isaiah 61:1-3

Whatever is on your heart and mind tonight, know you don’t have to struggle alone. Try giving it to God and let Him bear the weight of your burden. Rejoice in His good promises.

My Favorite Sunday

I have a lot of “favorite Sundays” at church. I have been known to say our Thanksgiving service is my favorite Sunday. I’ve also said that our chili cook-off is my favorite Sunday. And then again, I’ve also said that Easter and Mother’s Day are my favorite Sundays. I guess it would be safer to say I enjoy the special things our church does as a community of believers. But today, today takes the cake.

It was Youth Sunday. Our students took over the service from greeting to preaching to baptizing. I honestly don’t know what anyone looked like today because my eyes were filled to the brim with happy tears. Our precious pastor’s wife just sat in a heap of tissues. We were all elated and wrecked in the best kind of way.

This is something we have prepared for a while now. Daniel laid out what needed to be done, what roles needed to be filled, and we sat back and watched God fill in the gaps. Our worship leaders came pretty quickly and easily. Several youth already play with us each week, and a few girls sing in choir or theater at school. They were eager to use their talents in church. A few students started asking questions like “What would I need to do for prayer requests?” or “What all needs to be done for children’s church?” It was fun to see the Holy Spirit stirring in their hearts. Slowly but surely, the pieces fell into place. They truly surprised me; I didn’t expect them to take on the roles they did, but God used them in magnificent ways.

One of the boys I’ve had since children’s ministry volunteered to do children’s church. This is a boy who had to be bribed with icees to sing in children’s choir, LEADING a group of kids in front of the church, with a lesson he prepared. Another young girl, one of our youngest members, volunteered to accept prayer requests and pray in front of everyone. Another student had the opportunity to baptize his mom- how cool is that?? And she just happens to be one of my dearest friends, so that was just icing on the cake!

But here is where I saw the Lord do his most amazing work: one of our girls preached. And I mean PREACHED! This high school student has shown incredible faith over the last year. She is so in tune with God’s calling on her life, and she steps out in faith on a daily basis. Whether it’s sharing Scripture with a friend or praying for someone in class, if she feels God tugging on her heart, she’s moving.

She spoke on Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (CSB) She boldly proclaimed that God asked her to speak, and while she didn’t know why He would have chosen her, she agreed anyway. She talked about fear and how it can be so easy to let it stop you, but when you say “yes” immediately instead of questioning or letting doubt creep in, you are more likely to go through with being obedient. 

She explained that she felt confident because God’s strength was now her strength. She acknowledged the fact that it wasn’t her ability, but God’s. Without God she wasn’t enough, but through Him she was, and that made her feel like she could do anything. So she preached an entire sermon in front of her church! Y’all, I know she’s not my own, but I was one proud mama bear today, and I know her own mother was too. (After her daughter finished and she could finally breathe again, am I right?)

1 Timothy 4:12 tells us, “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” And they set one heck of an example today. Our “guest preacher” today reminded us that it doesn’t matter how young, old, inexperienced, or weak you feel, God can and will use you. If you pray and ask for guidance, He will guide you. And if you follow His call, He will bless you. He blessed me, that’s for sure!

So, this Sunday may not have included food, but it still makes the list of my favorite Sundays. Our youth asked me on Wednesday if they could do a youth Sunday again. Mind you, this is before they even did it the first time! They trusted God enough to know that it was going to go well and be something they wanted to try again. I just love their faith, and I’m so encouraged by them. May we be more like the youth. Unafraid, unashamed, and unhindered. Amen.

If you would like to see their hard work and faith in action, check out the recording of the service at:

Feel the Burn

I’m just gonna throw this out there. I’m pale. Like, I could be an extra in Twilight kind of pale. I’m a dermatologist’s dream, kind of pale. So my decision to not wear sunscreen for “just a little bit” yesterday at the ball park was probably not my smartest move, as evidenced by the fantastic shade of red on my arms. And the sad thing is, it won’t even fade to tan. I’ll hurt for a few days, my skin will peel, and I’ll be right back to where I started. Fun right? And still, I chose to ditch the sunscreen, despite Baz Luhrman’s pleas.

I’m not trying to be hyper-spiritual or anything, but I feel like I shouldn’t waste this opportunity for a lesson. 1. Wear the dang sunscreen. 2. Don’t let even just a little bit of sin in when you have the means to avoid it altogether. I wasn’t unprepared. Dumases travel with a minimum of two cans of SPF 50 at all times. My husband offered me the can and I turned it down. He shook his head, predicting my fate. He offered me the lifeboat and I let it sail away.

When we follow Jesus, we are called to leave our sinful ways behind. To let sin in, knowing its consequences, is never a smart choice. In the end, we end up getting burned. James 4:17 says, “So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it”. I knew the good- put on sunscreen- and I did not do it, and now I’m suffering the consequences.

If you struggle with drinking, going to a bar is not the outing for you. If you struggle with overeating, a buffet may not be your restaurant of choice. If you look like Snow White, lather up.

The often misquoted 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “ No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” God will provide a way out of sin. We have the opportunity to say no or to avoid sin altogether. Choosing to sin is not due to a lack of other options. I tell our youth group all the time not to get in a situation that will lead to bad decisions. If your parents aren’t home, that isn’t an ideal time for your girlfriend to come over. If your friends are drinking, go home.  You can always say no, but it’s harder in certain scenarios than others. It’s also harder if you’ve sinned and gotten away with it before.

Just last weekend, I did the same thing, and it worked in my favor. I didn’t get burned–no harm, no foul. So I tempted fate again and lost. Just because you don’t get caught the first time doesn’t mean God approves of your behavior. It just means you didn’t get caught–this time. It all catches up with you in the end, and God knows it all anyway.

So I’m hoping my somewhat lighthearted lesson sinks in a little bit. If nothing else, maybe I saved your skin from a few coats of aloe. Following Jesus doesn’t mean you have less fun or live a boring life. It means you find fulfillment in Him, rather than in earthly items or pastimes. I will not find joy in my skin tone, no matter how golden I do or do not get. I will find joy in taking care of the body He’s given me and the continued good reports from my dermatologist. I won’t find joy in being jealous of my friends’ paychecks, but I will find joy in the work that I do and the abundance He’s provided to me. And the awesome thing is, He’s provided everything I need to find contentment and to ditch sinful behaviors.

Side note: It’s a miserably rainy 48 degrees today with no sun in sight. Because, Louisiana.

 

Be Careful, Little Ears, What You Hear

Here’s the problem with the internet. Okay, one problem with the internet. People say a lot of stupid stuff. People find authority in a keyboard, anonymity behind a screen, invincibility in the land of WiFi. And they don’t stop there. There’s TV, radio, music, and books, all waiting for people to speak their minds on their platforms. It’s hard to filter out what’s true and what’s not, especially when you respect the person talking.

Just last week, our family watched American Idol, and one of the judges said “God can only do for you what He can do through you”, to which another judge replied, “PREACH!” Daniel and I looked at each other with confused faces. There is no “God can only”. God can do anything, whether we exist or not. But this smooth talking singer just spoke into the minds of millions of viewers. Those who don’t know the Truth may already have this tattooed on their forearms or hand printed in their houses. It’s a phrase that sounds good and may encourage you to do more, but you’ve just minimized God’s ability and elevated your importance through that statement.

Yesterday, a friend was really struggling. She was dealing with some powerful emotions after experiencing a difficult time. She was wrestling with the idea that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. She wasn’t feeling strong, she was feeling broken. Here’s the thing: that’s not in the Bible either! Sometimes what doesn’t kill us leaves us beaten to a pulp. It damages our hearts and minds and it takes a long time to restore. We aren’t stronger just because we make it though something terrible. We are alive, and that’s about it. What the Bible does say is “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 CSB) God is strong in our weakness, not us. Sorry Kelly Clarkson, but I can’t get behind you on this one. 

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. -2 Timothy 4:3-4

We want so badly to make sense of our problems. We want to hear that we can work our way to perfection or earn the ability to solve our many issues. The problem is that spiritual discipline is hard. What’s easy is getting distracted by the easy way out or words that twist the Bible into our own ideas. If we are caught in a sin trap, and someone finds a way to make our sin sound okay, we cling to that. If we don’t know what the Bible truly says in the first place, we can find ourselves in a dangerous place of trusting humans over trusting God.

Study your Bibles. Know what applies to you and what doesn’t. Be students of the Scriptures and doers of the word and not hearers only. No one can know Jesus for you. -Beth Moore

If you hear something that doesn’t quite sound right, compare it to Scripture. Does your interpretation of one verse gel with the rest of the Bible as a whole? Is the person you’re listening to taking one verse out of context or changing it just enough to justify something? If you’re not confident, ask your pastor, your Sunday School teacher, or Bible study leader. Search the Bible using the index or an online Bible website. Take some time to study instead of just accepting everything you hear. Be on guard. Your heart depends on it.

And one more thing: “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is not about going through a trial. It’s about temptation, and it says He will provide a way out. He will most definitely give you more than you can handle. When He does, cling to Him and watch Him move (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).

“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. -Proverbs 4:23 CSB

The Lovely

“There’s a correlation, I’m finding, between beauty and perseverance, between looking for lovely and not giving up. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? It’s not just in the things that everyone sees, but it’s what you see, what sticks out to you, the unique moments that God gives you to collect and hold and draw strength from during the difficult times” -Annie F. Downs in Looking for Lovely

Every night at dinner, we each say two things we are thankful for. We’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. Maybe even before Harrison could talk. Lately, one of the boys has had trouble coming up with something. He says similar things most days, but as he gets older, we try to teach him to search for deeper things. Daniel is so good about modeling how we can find the lovely in seemingly mundane things. He’s thankful for cars that get us where we need to go. He’s thankful for air conditioning. He’s thankful for audio books. He shows the boys that we don’t have to find some enormous situation to be enormously grateful.

Last week we had two upset boys when their plans for ice cream got cancelled. They had a weekend full of sweet treats, parades, cousin play time, surprise lunches, and pizza, but when we opted to eat cookie cake instead of ice cream, their world fell apart, and so did they. We knew they were tired and out of sorts, but we tried desperately to teach them about being grateful for the things we have instead of upset about the things we don’t. We had a similar experience again this week over gum.

As parents, it’s disheartening to see your kids act ungrateful when you provide so much. We may not have as much as some, but we have way more than most. I want them to realize that.

When our son said he couldn’t think of anything he was thankful for, I knew we had to have a Full House moment. Daniel and I named about ten things he could be thankful for- serious things, silly things, everyday things. He didn’t bite. We left him to think about it, and he eventually wrote down that he was thankful for his brother. After he finally came up with something, I noticed he was lighter. I saw his goofiness return, he was more playful, and more loving toward Daniel and me.

In the Bible study I’m doing right now at church, Annie F. Downs talks about looking for the lovely. She anchored the study around Romans 5:3-4 which tells us that suffering produces patience, which produces character, which produces hope. Daniel and I were by no means suffering at our child’s ungratefulness, but we were frustrated. Still, we kept reiterating the importance, because we knew it would pay off. Perseverance in our efforts to discipline our kids not only shapes our characters, but our kids’ as well.

Will our kids have things to say thank you about today? Maybe not. Will we have another meltdown over desserts? Probably so. But I truly believe they will become fewer and farther between; that is my hope. We will continue in pursuit of Proverbs 22:6, which says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV)

Someone wise on Facebook once said “Mommin’ ain’t easy”. It’s hard, holy work. Today, my other son has said thank you a little more, yes ma’am and yes sir a few more times, and given unsolicited hugs and kisses. We’re getting there, little by little. Our goal today was no complaining, and so far, we’re on track.

I say all this, not to say I have it all figured out or even to commiserate, but to say that whatever you’re doing today to prepare your kids for adulthood is important. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. They’ll get there, and the world will thank you for it.

Keep on, dear friends!

Transition

Transition. The word has gotten a bad rap lately, thanks to John Crist’s video about it being a sugar coated word in churches for “you’re fired”. But, it’s one I’ve used a hundred times in the last two weeks. My role has transitioned. I am transitioning to a new job. My schedule has transitioned. All of the above.

My students are sweet and rambunctious. They give me hugs and headaches. They are loving but temperamental. They always want to know when it’s lunch time. Even after lunch. And the tattling. Oh, the tattling.

I felt an exhaustion I didn’t recognize this week. At 2pm on Wednesday afternoon, I thought to myself, “I don’t know how I will make it another 90 minutes, much less through church tonight.” But I did. Life went on, and Thursday was easier.

I don’t think it’s hit me that this is permanent. Like, I changed careers. This isn’t a vacation or a trial run. This is it. I know I’ve made the right choice. I know this is the path that God led me on over the last two years. It’s just a little crazy to think about it being the culmination of putting one step in front of the other.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105 KJV

After all the tears, stuck feelings, frustration, uncertainty, and prayer, He’s brought me to where I’m supposed to be. He’s answered my prayers.

I was listening to Lysa Terkeurst’s new book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, this morning, and she said something that really stuck out to me: God loves me too much to answer my prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way than the right way (page 45).

When I started my teaching curriculum last fall, I knew it would prepare me for a job the following fall, but I held onto the hope that a position would open up in January. At Christmas break, I began searching the school board website for openings, to no avail. I figured certainly, if someone was going to leave midyear, they would turn in their resignation before Christmas. When nothing opened, I felt my heart sink a little. I had January in my head. If I could just make it to January, things would get better. Halfway through the month, I continued to feel discouraged, but I trusted God’s timing. Then I got a call. I was asked to come in for an interview on a day I was already scheduled to be off. Talk about God lining everything up! Here’s the thing though: I didn’t start in January, but February.

If you’ve been following my story or my posts for any length of time, you may remember that February is kind of a hard month for me. A few years ago, we lost our baby, Hartley, when I was pregnant in September, but his due date was in February. The due date tends to be harder because I see what I “should” have had. Because I was pregnant at the same time as several friends, February is the month they celebrate birthdays, and I don’t. February is the time when I look at what could have been and compare it to what is. Comparison truly is the thief of joy-even when you’re comparing against your own story.

Daniel and I have been intentional with our Februarys. The first year, we went to Nashville and saw some of our favorite artists, ate amazing food, and volunteered with Show Hope. Now God, in His kindness, allows us to attend the Linger conference every February around the time Hartley would have been born. (I say “would have” from a human perspective- his story was never meant to go any farther than September.) This year, God gave me the gift of an answered prayer. An answer that could have seemed late came right on time. He answered it in the right time and in the right way.

This gift comes with work. Like a parent who gives their child a puppy after they promise to feed, walk, and groom said puppy, I have to keep learning how to be a teacher. I have to figure out how to enter grades, how to control the volume of six year olds, how to navigate unkind comments, how to work with parents, and how to balance work and home life. I feel like my new job came with a big, fancy bow tied around it, but I know I worked for this too. God gave me the endurance and just enough information and encouragement to take one step at a time, leading me to my classroom.

We are learning to look for lovely in my Thursday night Bible study, and I can see this season is abounding in lovely if I keep looking. I can look at the past few months and see the lovely in the heartache and appreciate the lovely as I stand on the mountain top. He was with me every step of the way, and He continues to hold my hand on the other side of the finish line.

The Bible tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17), and I wholeheartedly believe that- now more than ever. He’s gifted me with friends who provide classroom supplies, stress-relieving bubble bath, words of encouragement, texts with school related jokes every morning, food, and flowers. He’s gifted me with an amazing team of teachers who are willing to answer all of my questions with smiles on their faces. He’s gifted me with this transition, and I’m so thankful.

-Mrs. Dumas (aka Mrs. Doo-MAS, Mrs. Doofus, Mrs. Dugas, Mommy, or Teacher.)

 

 

 

New Beginnings

Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will… -Hope Floats

Nine years ago, I stood up in front of my church, squeaky voiced and eyes filled with happy tears, thanking my church family for praying for me to get a job as a child life specialist at a hospital in Baton Rouge. I had gotten it! I was overwhelmed with joy. It was the job I’d wanted, in the city I’d wanted. I could continue going to my new church home forever and ever. I could see myself holding this job forever and ever.

It was a job I accepted without knowing the salary, without knowing how many intimate moments I would share, without knowing how many heartbreaking stories I’d become a part of, and without knowing just how much it would change my life.

I’ve grown up at this job. Between volunteering and working, I have spent the last eleven years in those hospital halls. I’ve seen people come and go. I’ve been a part of pivotal decisions and renovations. I’ve seen blueprints become buildings and dreams become realities. I’ve gotten married, had babies, lost babies, seen financial struggles, released a book, and experienced both happiness and frustration. I’ve done life alongside the most amazing coworkers, and I’ve learned from the strongest children and families. And the road, for me, is about to end.

Burn out is no joke. I did my best to fight against the statistics. I wrote articles about avoiding it, I practiced self care, I adjusted my attitude, and it happened anyway. There are a lot of factors and a lot of events that led to where I found myself, but long story short, I burned out. I felt stuck. What else could I do in my field? I prayed for answers, and answers came. It was time for a new career in teaching. I was able to enroll in classes and begin a road to certification. And as of last week, I have accepted a position as a kindergarten teacher.

It’s a whole new world. It’s exciting and terrifying. I’m ready, and I’m shaking in my boots.

One of the most inspiring stories in the Bible is in Mathew 14 when Jesus walks on water, and then invites Peter to join Him. Peter asks for the invitation. He’s ready to make a leap of faith, but he needs Jesus’ beckoning. He fixes his eyes on Jesus, and he gets out of the boat. Only when he loses his focus does he begin to sink, and even then, Jesus rescues him. I asked God to give me an opportunity to get out of the boat, and He did. I’m doing my best to stay afloat with my eyes set on Him.

I can’t lie and say this decision was clear cut. I love my team dearly. I have been beating myself up for burning out and not being stronger. But when I look to God, and I look at the bigger picture, I believe I am where I need to be. The fact that it’s hard to go says I’m leaving a wonderful group of people. In my weakness, He is strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (NIV)

I’m looking forward to helping kids in a new way. I’m ready to step up to the challenge of being in the classroom setting. I’m elated that I will have more time with my boys in the summers, weekends, and holidays. I’m doing a happy dance just thinking about saying goodbye to the interstate every day. There are so many good things ahead. I truly believe God allowed my flame to burn out in one area so it could be reignited in another.

I’m thankful, once again, for answered prayers. I’m thankful for new paths. I’m thankful for God’s timing. I’m thankful for the wait and the harvest that comes after. My story began with tears, and it’s ending with tears for now. I grieve the loss of such a sweet season in my life, but I rejoice for this new one as well.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” -Romans 5:3-5 NIV

Here we go!

I Can’t Solve a Rubik’s Cube, but I Can Scrub a Floor.

A wise man once said, “I pity the fool”. Well, bring on the pity, because I was pretty foolish the other day. If you search through the Bible for verses on anger, you’ll see a correlation between that and foolishness. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools.” I was angry for a really dumb reason, too.

You ready for this?

I can’t solve the Rubik’s cube. That’s not symbolic for “I can’t make my life line up the way I want”, or “I need more organization”. I cannot make the six sides of that frustrating (child’s) toy line up. I watched tutorials, I read through step-by-step instructions about how to make it work, and it was just not clicking. 

It was getting pretty late, so I threw in the towel. I tend to think better in the mornings anyway. Daniel was still awake when I got in bed, and he innocently asked, “Well, did you solve it?”. I was less than kind. I can definitely see the connection between anger and foolishness, because I can only imagine how idiotic I sounded, huffing and puffing that I couldn’t fix a child’s plaything.

woody

About two hours later, I was startled from sleep and heard one of the boys stirring, followed by a knock on my door, which isn’t their usual entrance. I jumped up to find my youngest in primed puking position, followed by a trail of vomit, from his room, down the hall, and to the bathroom. Here we go. I got him cleaned up, got the bathroom cleaned up, and then moved on to the carpet. Guess what! I got angry that we had carpet and not hard floors. I scrubbed and I disinfected, all the while frustrated that it was so difficult and disgusting. And Daniel slept through it all. The thing is, this is not a surprise. Daniel could sleep through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade rolling through our bedroom. He would wake up and ask where all the confetti came from. I know that he is more than willing to help, I just have to wake him up. This is not a character flaw, this is just how he functions. Instead, I chose to be mad at his sleeping habits, which are out of his control, and it landed me nowhere.

I got Harrison back in bed, armed with Pepto, towels, open doors, and lifted toilet lids. My heart was racing, and I was still mad about the Rubik’s cube because, why shouldn’t that come to mind at midnight?

Over the course of the night, my son got sick again, and I ended up sleeping in his room to avoid anymore cleanups. My anger faded to concern and sleepiness. It’s hard to be angry when your kid is feeling so helpless and puny, even if an unsolved Rubik’s cube is just a room away.

Colossians 3:8 tells us to rid ourselves of anger. God understands how we are made. He isn’t asking us not to be angry because He wants us to be unaffected robots. He knows how awful it makes us feel. If I could have vomited out anger like my child vomited out…well…we will leave it there, I would have. My heart was racing, I wasn’t sleeping, I said words that were unkind, and I was foolish. Proverbs 22:24 even goes as far as to say we shouldn’t be friends with angry people. I mean who would want to be friends with someone like that? Not me!

Are things going to make us angry? Yes. Is it normal to get angry at life’s obstacles? Absolutely. It’s good that we get a stirring in our soul over injustice or terror or wrongdoings. But toys? Bedroom flooring? No ma’am.

God slowed me down that day. I sat with a recovering child in my lap for most of it. I diffused essential oils, in hopes that whatever germ caused his sickness would not affect any of us. I re-scrubbed carpets and tiles with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit. I thanked God that his nausea had subsided. The only thing he wanted to drink was sparkling grape juice that we were saving for New Year’s Eve, but we popped that open early and downed half the bottle and a Lunchable. So classy.

It’s hard to be mad when you’re in the Word or giving thanks. A dear woman at church taught me that. She also taught me to blow kisses at people who are ugly to you. That just makes me laugh, considering she’s nearing 80. But it’s true. My anger disappeared when I was praying to God and loving my son. My anger would have disappeared earlier if I was being a loving wife instead of a grump.

Why does anger make us foolish? Because we’re stewing instead of calling out to the One who can fix it. Will He solve my puzzle? Probably not, but He will give me patience and perspective. He will give me something better to do with my time and energy. He will remind me of the gifts I have that don’t include Rubik’s cube solving.

Remember that anger equates with foolishness. Don’t give yourself a reason to be pitied. Don’t throw a regrettable fit or say words that can’t come back. The phrase “word vomit” comes to mind, especially with our recent events. It’s hard to clean up, and the smell lingers.

On that note, happy Friday, and Happy New Year! It’s good to be starting another year with you, dear readers. Thanks for sticking by me and all my mess!