Triumphing through Tunnel Trials 

For the past couple of months, I have been swamped and overwhelmed with life. I have asked and even came to the point of begging God to bring my drive and spark back to my life. I HATE when I feel myself slipping into the apathetic, go-through-the-motions mindset. I haven’t blogged for these past couple of months because I’ve felt dry, used up, worn down, and in a spiritual rut. I’ve seen people that I love deeply go through difficult trials while I stand helpless to watch the sorrow from the sidelines. 

Today, I traveled home to PA to spend Easter with my family. Every time I start the long trek home, I get mildly depressed as I think about all the traffic that awaits me. 95 north is literally brutal, especially during rush hours and Easter weekend. I wasn’t expecting this ride home to be any different from the previous trips, but it was. 

The trip started as usual, tons of traffic, so I did exactly what I always do: turned on the music and started eating. ☺️ Suddenly, my sister, who was driving In the car ahead of me was pulling over. Of course, as the rational person I am, I thought she had a flat tire or her car was stalling. As I was planning to pass her and pull over, something in my review mirror caught my eye- the flashing lights of a police car. Suddenly, I realize that my sister is not the only person who pulled over. Oops. I instantly feel stupid and get out of his way. 

I was too distracted to even notice what was going on around me. For the past couple of months, I have felt myself become numb to everything around me. I just continue on my way, doing everything that I know to do, listening to my tunes, and just going with the flow  of traffic. Every once in a while on this little sliver of my road of life, God sends something small to get my attention- little warning signs that keep me desiring Him and fighting sin that so easily besets me. All to often, I keep right on driving through my life, oblivious to God’s early warning signs. Yes, sometimes I will pull over, but even after I pull over and refocus, it’s only a matter of time before I’m back to my tunes and MY road of life.

Then suddenly, a tunnel. On my drive today, I came up on the famous Baltimore Tunnel. To be honest, I’m never too thrilled. Tunnels are small, dark, scary, and there are so many cars that pack into tunnels. The worst part is: you even have to pay for the painful experience!! The tunnel immediately has all my attention. This is not just open roads with traffic this is an enclosed space with traffic. Making it that much more dangerous to simply go-with-the-flow through it. 

  
Trials are a lot like tunnels. We go our merry way and then sooner or later, we have a big scary tunnel staring us down. We think, “Okay, time to focus. Time to turn down the tunes and watch all sides making sure a collision in a tight area won’t hinder the rest of the population.” For me, the police car trial sent my way gets my attention for a little while, but a tunnel trial shocks me back into keeping my guard up and not slipping into complacency and sin. 

During my tunnel trial, I think about turning back. This tunnel trial is too long and too dark for me. I will never make it to the other side. I want to turn around, give up, get out. If you turn around in a tunnel, all the cars following will most likely either crash or follow your leading. I realize that if I give up and turn around when I hit a tunnel trial, that those closest to me and those in my circle of influence will either crash or turn around and give up with me. The simple fact that there will always be someone following you, forces you to keep going, to keep fighting, to realize that the tunnel trial is not just about you or me. 

  
As I started my plunge into the Baltimore Tunnel, my tunes started to fade! So there I am, in the middle of a dark tunnel, cramped with others and no music! I was even on my favorite song! As I experience trials, it is so easy to not hear anything, feel anything, see anything,or notice anything. You are consumed with the tunnel trial and nothing else. . Sometimes, I can’t even figure out where God is during this time. Tunnel trials feel lonely, empty and even more so when there are tons of people around. Sometimes you hear the static, but words of life and echoes of mercy are dampened by your spirit of self-focus and getting out of this dreaded tunnel! Now, I understand why people have a competition on who can hold their breath the longest through the tunnel. Holding your breath is an easy escape from the reality around us. Just like in a trial, many people hold their breath and get “tunnel vision” when riding through a trial. All resources are utilized for the sole purpose of getting out of the trial and our breath is held so tight that if even one person says something remotely close to offending us, we might blow up. We seem to forget that there are others that are going through the tunnel trial just as we are because we are too focused on ourselves getting out of the trial. 

Finally, I see a glimmer of hope. Up ahead is the light of day! The Baltimore tunnel and my trial tunnel are coming to an end! I emerged from the Baltimore tunnel to see a breathtaking scene of the sun setting on Baltimore. I love watching sunsets, especially when they are over a city skyline. I could feel myself breathe easily as the dark, dampness from the tunnel dissipated behind me. The release and peace makes my tunnel experience all worth it. Even missing my favorite song wasn’t too devastating. It’s crazy how the intensity of the tunnel trial dwindles as we become farther removed from the situation. 

I keep traveling down the road, now with renewed purpose and a greater appreciation for the beautiful scenery around me. However, for the remainder of the trip,I did think about that tunnel a handful of times. Trials can haunt us long after we traveled through that tunnel. As we think about those tunnel trials, the memory of the sunset and peace afterward dominates our memory of the trial. Sometimes it may take years, decades, or it may even take a lifetime to fully heal from each tunnel trial, but the road we travel today is made up of many tunnel trials that have brought us where we are. As we look back, we realize that we could have never gotten through on our own. I realize that the dark, scary tunnel is no surprise to God and even if I felt that God was silent, He was right there, seeing me through each step of the way. 

  

 Tunnel trials are all around us and we even ride through the tunnels of our close friends and relatives with them. Tunnel trials grab your attention and remind you to focus on keeping your guard up against the world. As you go through your tunnel trial today, know that God is on the other side and nothing surprises Him and He planned the beautiful road map of your life perfectly. Not only does He know your trial tunnels, but He experienced the worst trail tunnel of all that we remember on Good Friday. He bore the deepest pain anyone could ever feel as He carried the sins of all mankind on His shoulders. Christ triumphed our greatest trial of spiritual death through His death and three days later came through the tunnel to triumph our daily trials on our road of life. This Easter weekend, I am thankful for my tunnels and for the precious truths they teach me about the One who lives for me. I am thankful that God blesses me with tunnels on my path and winding roads to keep my focus on Him and to change me to be more like Him than when I started… 

  

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Miracles and Broken Vessels

treasure

Miracles and Broken Vessels

     For the year of 2016, I decided to focus on one word a month. In December of 2015, I wrote down multiple words that I want to study from the Bible and I chose 12: one for each month of the year. As a teacher, I glanced through the Bible curriculum that I will be teaching up until May, just to see if there were any words that could coincide with what I will be teaching. I found that at the end of January, I will be teaching about miracles and I immediately knew what word I was going to study in January. Miracles.

      As someone who sees the world through rose-colored glasses, I think that not only is my entire life a miracle, but also little events that happen throughout the days, I categorize as “Miracles.” For instance, I woke up and I wasn’t freezing: It’s a miracle! I didn’t hit that curb on the way to work: It’s a miracle! I didn’t burn the macaroni: It’s a miracle! I actually made it through all I had planned to teach in school on a particular day: okay…. this one actually IS a miracle! 

       However, as I began January and started to find miracles in the Bible and meditate on specific miracles, I decided to look up the definition. Everyone knows what a miracle is and can probably give their own definition, but I was curious to see what the authorities would say on the matter and here is what I found:

Miracle: a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.  Derived from the Latin word meaning Wonderful.

Synonyms: wonder, marvel, sensation, phenomenon, mystery (according to the internet 🙂 )

       After reading the definition, I started to think about surprising and welcome events in my life that could not be explained by natural laws. As I thought about this, I began to feel discouraged. Not because God hasn’t made wonderful and marvelous things happen in my life-He in fact has done glorious things! However, things that cannot be explained by scientific laws are an entirely different matter. Yes, there have been a handful of times where I experienced a miracle of God that could not be explained by natural laws, but I wanted EVERYTHING to be a miracle, not just a handful of times. Then, it hit me like a lightning bolt:

 You are an earthen vessel. The very fact that God has even chosen to shower you with a handful of miracles and divine guidance through your life is unfathomable. 

       Earthen vessels. Couldn’t God have chosen another word to describe us? Maybe a cracked iPhone 5? Even that would be better than a cracked earthen vessel. I mean, who uses earthen vessels anymore anyway? It seems like even food can be electronic these days. I am reminded of my very broken state and the very insignificant person I am, especially in view of how big my God is, and I realize that I am incredibly helpless and suddenly feel as though I can be of no use to the One who made me. How can a broken earthen vessel make any difference in this world? (a cracked iPhone 5 can still work…..can’t I be a cracked iPhone 5??)  In the back of mind, I recall a quote by a loved American Evangelist, D.L. Moody:

“The only way to keep a broken vessel full is to keep the faucet running.”

     So profound and so true. I am taken back to the place where I am SO small and He is SO big. I am so weak and He is so strong. I am so fragile and He is my Rock. I am so dependent and He is so dependable. I am spending life fighting sin and He gives the strength to overcome. I know that broken vessels are of no use to anyone, but for reasons that I could never understand God chose to use broken vessels to describe His servants. The fact that He thinks about and loves a broken vessel like me pushes me to “keep the faucet running” and stay ever-nearer His side because without Jesus pouring out, I am just a broken vessel to go out in the next load of trash.

I’ve never ended a blog like this, but I wanted to share a song that has been so near to my heart. It is sung by the Gaither vocal band and called, “Go Ask.” The most important miracle of all, God choosing to live in our hearts and provide us with a way to spend forever with Him cannot be explained. People have tried to explain it and people have tried to understand it, but the one phrase that probably comes closest to explaining God’s miracle of living within a person is: “I only know, He changed my life.” I am still going to study and live the miracle of God changing my life everyday and I am still going to desperately pray for miracles all around me in this hurting world.

“Go ask the man who’s found the way through tangled roads back home to stay. When all communications were destroyed,
Go ask the child who’s walking now who once was crippled and then somehow her useless legs were made to jump for joy.”

Last Day of 2015 and 1 John 3-4.

The last day of 2015. A year of change.

A quick recap of my year:

  • January: Began my last semester of undergrad starting with “The Block” of classes from 7 am to 4 pm with mounds of homework.
  • January 28: Started my first day of clinical practice with 24 students in third grade.
  • February: Recruitment conference where I met and spoke with many principals, beginning a long process of prayer and seeking God.
  • April 30: Accepted job as a 5th grade teacher at Fairfax Baptist Academy
  • May 8: Graduated from Bob Jones University.
  • May 23: My youngest brother graduated from high school
  • June-August: Worked at a summer Day Camp
  • August 1: moved to Virginia
  • August 24: First day as a 5th grade teacher
  • August to December: Learning to be a teacher and to live on my own.

 

I have learned so much this year. When God made me, I think He gave me an extra dose of emotions and a heart that feels so deeply that can sometimes make it difficult to cope. Anxiety has been much a part of my life, though most people aren’t aware because I “fake it til I make it” (or at least try to).

However, I truly believe that God wrote 1 John 3-4 with this anxious, tightly-wound girl in mind. 1 John 3:20 is one of my all-time favorite verses in the whole Bible:

“For if our hearts condemn us, He is greater than our hearts and knows all things.”

As a person who feels deeper than she can often imagine at times-this verse has been my lifeline and prayer. Many times, my heart feels what I can’t understand. It is a battle of my heart to be at peace because my natural inclination is to be anxious over the next thing. Sometimes, I feel as though my heart is betraying me because the depths of my heart produces feelings that run so deep, that it can be exhausting to try to explain and understand. My one consolation when I can’t understand and no one else understands?

God is greater than my heart. 

I find it interesting that the Bible even says this because of course, the God who created us is bigger than us which would include our hearts! I think that God knew that in 2015 a struggling, anxious child of His would need the reminder that God is indeed greater than my heart.

  • Greater than my heart that beats too fast when I’m scared or nervous.
  • Greater than my heart that drops to the floor when I see anyone or anything being mistreated.
  • Greater than my heart that wants everyone to be okay, no one to be hurting, no one to be mean, and no one to be upset in any way.
  • Greater than my heart that rips to shreds of guilt when Satan brings up my past.
  • Greater than my heart that sinks to despair when my mind cannot forget my past.
  • Greater than my heart that wishes intensely not to make the same mistakes and…
  • Greater than my heart that pumps with every fiber of my being to please the One who made me.

God continues with something amazing: right after He tells me that He is greater than my heart and after He tells me that He knows ALL things including the status of my heart, He says in verse 22:

“Whatever I ask, I receive of Him, because I keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” 

All of those feelings of my heart of pleasing Him and fighting the good fight forgetting what is behind, and pressing to do all that I can in the life He has graciously given me: I can ASK HIM!

I can ask the One who made me because who knows me better? God put this all in one chapter so that I am reminded when I start to feel those deep emotions, that God is greater than my heart and wants me to ask Him!

However, in 1 John 4, God tells us in verse 4 that, “Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world.” God is greater than my heart and yet, He chooses to live there! Those external feelings that put pressure on me from the outside world? God is greater than them too!

I John 4:7-8 reminds me to love others as God does, but how does God love? Verse 10 says that, “Here is LOVE…. not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His son for our sins.”

God sent His only Son, and here I am as an insignificant person on the earth for a few short years and I crave for everyone to be at peace even at my expense, but NOTHING that I feel can ever measure to what God must have felt as He sent His son away for a little anxious, tight-wound, deep-feeling, 21st century, Christian girl. How could God cope with feeling of that magnitude?

Verse 18 of chapter 4 says, “There is NO fear in Love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

As God sent His son and as Jesus came, they thought of me, fearful and anxious, but they were not fearful or anxious, because they loved me perfectly and knew that Jesus coming to earth would make a way for the little girl that they loved more than anything to be with God and Jesus for all eternity.

I am afraid to love and at times, I am afraid to be loved, but as 1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us. God’s perfect love dispels fear.

Though, I will never be able to give or receive perfect love til Heaven, I am so thankful to God for loving me perfectly which includes making me perfectly, even my deep feeling heart and placing me perfectly at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century as a light of love to all I meet. This year has been scary and filled with monumental change, but….. God is greater than my heart in 2015 and my heart in 2016.

 

 

Loving Everything……

I have just wrapped up my very first quarter of teaching. Nine weeks have flown by, leaving me feeling a little rattled. On Monday, to celebrate and commemorate the end of the first quarter, I brought in some hot chocolate and marsh mellows and had a little “Award Ceremony” for first quarter awards in fifth grade. I was excited and I had silly awards for each student based on their effort for the first nine weeks. The students enjoyed our little ten-minute award ceremony and they loved stirring in their own hot chocolate and adding the overly generous amount of marsh mellows that I gave them (But who can just eat 3 marsh mellows? Yes, I paid for this throughout the day 🙂 ). Anyway, during this fun visual time of a quarter ending and new beginning, one of my students said a simple phrase that caught me off-guard. If you know me, you know that I am ridiculously easily excited. Well, this day was no exception. Hot chocolate at school? My day could not be better-I LOVE hot chocolate and a generous handful of marsh mellows. Then, from the back of the room, one of my wonderful students said, “Miss K, you love EVERYTHING!”

Well….  the truth of the matter is that I do LOVE many, many, things. My students see me LOVE every lesson I teach. I get very excited to diagram, build factor trees, discuss historical events, create comic strips, newspapers, or wanted posters for any content under the sun. Most lessons start with, “Oh, I just love this- you are going to LOVE this, this is such a fun topic…bla, bla, bla”  🙂 . My students also know that I LOVE food and candy. Naturally, hot chocolate day was not exempt from my love.

I got to thinking if I really LOVED EVERYTHING……..For goodness sake, I can barely make it through a HomeGoods without wanting EVERY rug, lamp, bowl, pot, pan, curtain, kitchen utensil, wall art. I just honestly LOVE all of it!!

Then, I started to think of a list of everything I hated….. trash, dirt, camping, being alone, mulch, spiders, traffic, etc. (Keep thinking along those lines and you will probably have a list of everything I hate).

As I was categorizing my likes and dislikes in my head, I began to think of what they had in common. Both lists were characterized by having my extremely passionate heart, whether positively or negatively. I was reminded of a quote from William Shakespeare about loving and hating:

“Love me or hate me, both are in my favor.

If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart.

If you hate me, I’ll always be in your head.”

        Love and hate are very similar. Both feelings invoke deep passions. As I thought about this, I realized to a more full extent the “lukewarm” Christians of the Laodicean church mentioned in the book of Revelation. It takes no effort, no deep passions, no hard work to be indifferent. 

         Indifference is one of the saddest roads to travel. Indifference can also be the depths of despair for the ones that  are experiencing the indifference from a “loved” one. Apathy, uncaring, unconcerned, uninterested, lack of enthusiasm, all characterize an indifferent mindset. I never want to become indifferent towards anything or anyone. I have also been on the receiving end of this indifference where my life was of absolutely no thought. Plain and simple, indifference is devastating to all involved.

      While “hating” is not really my thing, I would say that indifference is a quality that I hate. As a teacher, indifference towards students and children absolutely breaks my heart. So, I am going to keep on LOVING candy, LOVING hot chocolate, LOVING factor trees, LOVING diagramming, LOVING my students and fighting the easy road of indifference that subtly pries its way into our lives each and everyday as a result of familiar, common, experiences.

Love,

Tricia

love

The Power of a Promise

Promise: The word that invokes such feelings of security in us all. For some reason, when a friend or acquaintance “promises” in your favor, the situation becomes seemingly bearable and a certain level of relief washes over you as you become at ease with the circumstances at hand. Young children love to make “Pinky Promises” which somehow overrides just a regular, old promise. As we grow older we still crave a myriad of promises that come in different forms each day. We want to know for certain that we will get good grades, that we will be financially stable, that we have the nicest clothes, that we can cook the best. We yearn for people to promise us that we will indeed get good grades and that we will be financially stable and that we are all that we dream to be.

Promises are special. Promises are beautiful. There are few things sweeter than a promise fulfilled. As a little girl, I always had an obsession with promises. If someone would tell me one thing, I would usually follow up with, “Do you promise?” It seems silly now, but promises became my security blanket, my net of hope in hopeless situations. I have always been captivated by the absolute wonder of promises made and thrilled to my heart’s content when promises were fulfilled, as well as discouraged to the depth of my heart when promises were destroyed.

Today marked week 5 in 5th grade and I have to say, I LOVE it! I would not trade it for the world and I am continually praising God for my students and their wonderful families that have made my first year a wonderful testament to God’s grace. This morning, God reminded me of my promise obsession as I drove to work. I woke up not feeling the greatest and feeling insecure about the day simply because I didn’t feel at the top of my game. I know that we all have those days, but I desperately try to give my students the absolute best that I can. For this reason, I wake up earlier to spend time with God before I spend time with my students because I know that in order to take care of others you have to take care of yourself, especially in the spiritual realm. I then eat breakfast and get ready for the day. I did all those things as usual this morning, but I still felt inadequate and a little shaky to begin week 5.

On the way to school, the sky was absolutely breathtaking! I LOVE the beautiful scenery that God gives us and especially the sky. I think the sky is one of the most beautiful entities to behold. This morning it was pink and red and beautiful. I was thankful for this, but it still did not tip my “shaky” attitude into “ready for school mode” attitude. Then, God showed his love as I parked at school and got out of my car. There shining over the soccer field as if it were just for me was a beautiful rainbow. I LOVE rainbows and it was overwhelming this morning with the waking world and the glisten of morning all around me. (I even spilled my orange juice on my shirt while trying to balance my bags and take in the beauty of the rainbow). Normally, if I spilled orange juice before school even started I would probably be freaking out and upset and thinking to myself that this was definitely going to be “one of those days,” but today was different.

Today I wasn’t upset about the orange juice on my white shirt all day, I was content, confident, ready to start school, and even happy. The rainbow that promised Noah that the earth would never be destroyed by a flood again spanned 2,000 years and promises a 22 year old, first year teacher that God will still take care of me. The incredible power of a promise is that the promises that are not only kept, but kept for all eternity. My God makes promises that will have no end. What Noah felt those many years ago, I can also enjoy in 2015 as a child of this same King of Kings who reaches to earth to let His children know that they are loved, cherished, treasured and secure in His unfailing promises.

I have started a promise journal where I not only record specific promises from God’s word, but where I keep a record of how those promises are played out in my life. Everyone always talks about God’s promises but I like to keep record of exactly how those promises apply to my life. For example the simple promise in Proverbs 3:6, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path,” is one of my favorite promises for this stage of my life and I have a beautiful silver bracelet with this verse inscribed on it to serve as a constant reminder that I have to seek the Lord to guide me and He will direct my paths. Under this promise in my journal, I have written: led me to Bob Jones University, led me to Fairfax Baptist Academy. I sought God in both of these decisions and He came through just like He promised me He would.

Promises still excite me. When someone asks, “Promise?” I feel all giddy and excited inside to be the keeper of a promise. I am so thankful for God’s love to me in an age where true love is rarely experienced and for God’s kept promises in a day where promises are made to be broken. This morning’s rainbow sent from heaven to ease an insecure heart proved a much-needed reminder of a faithful God who promises to never leave me or forsake me……. and keeps that beautiful, powerful promise that will reach through the ages and continue on into the endless chasm of FOREVER…..

rainbow

The Rainbow I saw this morning.

August

My heart is content this morning. I slowly awake and crack the blinds to watch the sunrise. I have a beautiful 3rd story bedroom with a calming view. This morning is surprisingly fresh. I begin to fumble out of bed and into a hot shower when I become restrained by the pull of soothing reality that will soon vanish as my day starts flying. The Saturday morning first rays of sunshine pour through my open window.  I meditate on God’s word and then gaze out the window taking in the slowness of this weekend morning after the first very busy week of school. I take it all in because I know that this surreal morning will surely not last long.

Today’s tranquility may be the result of many different factors but as I speak to God, my heart and mind are completely at peace and overwhelmingly fulfilled with the path God has chosen for me today. As I near the end of the month of August, I am more shocked than anyone that I made it through this straining month. All praise goes to the One who never left my side during this scary month of change.

I began the month saying goodbye to the precious souls that I had the privilege of working with this summer. I could never put into words what they mean to me and I miss them already. After more goodbyes to friends and family, I moved to Virginia. Driving to my new townhouse, I felt numb to the reality of it all and apprehensive to start all over again. I found myself desperately praying for friends and for help as I was to try to meet new people and hope they would like me (my first impressions can be terrible 🙂 ). Then my family took a vacation smack dab in the middle of this crazy month of change. Once again, I found myself re-adjusting. This was a little difficult, but our time together as a family was a wonderful respite despite all the changes our family would go through in just a few days. After vacation it was back to Virginia for me, trade school for my younger brother, Bob Jones University for my youngest brother, building a house for my older brother and his family, and starting a new year of teaching for my older sister while her daughter started school for the first time. All the while, my parents are enjoying a honeymoon that they have been anticipating for 32 years.

I began in-service and the whole week I was petrified and worried. Fearing everyone and everything. I could not snap myself into the reality that I was actually a teacher, working with other teachers and adjusting back to family units after living and interacting with only peers for four years. Though my personal life felt shaken and tossed, God gave grace to even just make it through those in-service days. He used His children to provide encouragement to me even though I hardly knew them. The bond believers can have in Christ is unfathomable and I am so grateful for Christ’s love that unites His children.

And now? Now, I am reflecting on completing my first week of teaching as a real, certified teacher. Now, I not only survived through five whole days, I thoroughly enjoyed those five days. And the craziest part? I cannot imagine life without the 8 students that God has entrusted me with and  I love them already. I am so thankful for each of their unique personalities and their God-given talents and abilities that I am privileged to help channel and refine to be used for God’s glory. Going through all the trials of August and the riveting change in my 22 year old life, I remember this and have hope:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases

AND

His mercies never come to an end.” 

          There were many times this month where I felt confused, scared, like God had forgotten about me, but finally after all the monumental change in my life, the exhaustion, the wondering if I just made the biggest mistake of my life, I bask in the renewing sunlight of this Saturday morning and in the unfailing love of Him who will never leave me or forsake me…..

       idea31

P.S. More posts to come on so many answered prayers and God lovingly growing my faith!

Let Her Alone

Three words have recently changed my entire perspective on loving and serving Jesus. I have heard the stories of Mary and Martha many times before and I have probably heard at least a dozen sermons on these famous sisters in the Bible. However, I was reading the account in John 12 and was struck by three simple words that I have read many times.

Usually, I have connected with Martha, the sister who was busy and serving because that is definitely my mentality of moving from project to project and getting a to-do list done. What is even worse is that I have a sister who connects perfectly with Mary- the sister who chose the one needful thing of sitting at Jesus’ feet. However, to all you Martha’s out there-I have a glimmer of hope for you. After reading John 12, I resonated more with Mary than I EVER thought imaginable.

Jesus came to Bethany to have dinner with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. In verse 2, the Bible says that Martha prepared the meal and Lazarus sat at the table. Enter Mary in verse 3 performing an act which shocked the crowd: she poured out all her very costly ointment onto Jesus’ feet and used her hair to wipe his feet. Right away, I can relate. There are many times I think I have a brilliant idea and I start planning, preparing, and carrying out my idea and right in the middle of it, someone will come along and say, “Why are you doing that,” or “That will never work,” or “You know, there’s an easier way to do this,” or “You should be putting those materials to better use than that,” or “You are sooo crazy.” Mary experienced these similar reactions to her shocking display of love.

In verse 4 says about Judas, “one of the disciples” reminds the small gathering that this very costly ointment could have been sold and the money be given to the poor. However, the Bible says that Judas was a thief and he was the one who carried the money bags. Clearly, his motive was not out of genuine concern for the poor, but rather his greedy lifestyle. The sad reality is, we all know people like Judas. People who are the first to criticize an act of love from the purest of hearts and manipulate the most precious action of love to seem as though a crime of the highest degree. People who take your action and guilt trip you to pour your extravagant love into a “better ministry” rather than that silly bus ministry they claim, “Makes no difference anyway.”

A weak woman that poured out her love the best way she knew how. I think almost any woman can relate, but especially those who God has graciously seen fit to walk through the heart-wrenching experience of abuse. The abuse comes in all shapes and sizes depending on your situation, but one thing is for sure-you are never the same person again. The battle of abuse is a hard one with many facets and layers and a heavy dose of re-training your mind. In my own experience of mild abuse, the lessons I learned were FAR greater than the hurt. God heals my heart on a daily basis and has shown me the good that He has brought from it. To record all the lessons learned would take volumes upon volumes but I am thankful for a God who reminds me of His unconditional love through a simple story from the Bible that I have read over and over. What would have happened if Mary listened to Judas’ awful accusations to push his own personal agenda? Many abusers accuse others of anything they can think of to get their own way. What happens when innocent, naïve people listen to those accusations?

  • “Maybe I shouldn’t start this new ministry for God-they are right, it’s too unrealistic.”
  • “Maybe I will stop helping in bus ministry because there are many other ways I could be spending my time.”
  • “Maybe I won’t start this book that I feel God calling me to write because what if people make fun of me?”
  • “I can’t go to church again because my husband will be furious.”
  • “I have to give him sex or he’ll leave me.”
  • “I can’t tell anyone about him hurting me because no one would believe or understand me.”
  • “I’m trying the best I can to have meals ready for my family, kids ready for school, work a full-time job, keep the house clean and keep my husband happy but I can’t do it anymore. One more cutting remark from my husband and I’m leaving.”

The story has a GLORIOUS end and we can have the same ending to our story of being overwhelmed, abused, criticized one too many times, or pouring out extravagant love only to be ridiculed for our “unrealistic” approach to life. Jesus intervenes for Mary and says three incredible words to help heal her heart and that can help heal ours as well no matter how long ago the pain:

Let. Her. Alone.

            The same three words Jesus is saying to your accuser, criticizer, abuser, or even a friend who lacks tack in her words. Jesus tells Judas to let Mary alone. I have chills thinking about the God of the universe saying to my Judas, Let her alone. Mary showed unrealistic, extravagant love to the perfect lover of her heart. What do you have in your hand that God has given you a desire to accomplish for Him, but you fear the unrealistic aspect, cost of such a treasure, and the ridicule of others? Write that book! Start that Bible Study! Take that struggling, young teen out to lunch. Dump that boyfriend who sees your value only in your body and your performance.  Go to church faithfully.  Continue with the bus ministry! Serve God with the extravagant love that He’s placed in your heart because God values you no matter what you have been through and He will tell all your Judas’s: Let Her Alone.

“Searching for Eden” Guest Post by Florence Phillips

My sister is a gifted writer and today I am featuring her in my blog. I love this fresh perspective and encouraging truth and hope that can help you just make it through the day. I’m so thankful for my older sister and all the insights she has helped me to see and appreciate. Enjoy!

She was perfect. She had the perfect man. The perfect place to live. Perfect relationships. Hers was a life surrounded by beauty and in constant fellowship with her creator, the One True God.

When she first opened her eyes and came into being, the man she was created to love and the God who planned it all welcomed her with love and acceptance. The man claimed her as bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and gave her the beautiful name “woman.” They lived in glorious harmony with not a trace of shame.

She was the first fairytale. The first love story, the first dream come true, the first soul-mate for the perfect man.

And she became the first to be betrayed, deceived, and torn out of her naiveté.

Like every fairytale, she was told lies, and she believed them. She ate the fruit, and shared it with her husband. Her world shattered. Her God was seeking her husband out, asking the questions she wished would go away. And then the worst moment of all—her perfect man, who named her and was proud of her and loved her as his own body, shoved her in front of himself before the Almighty God’s wrath. Pouring the blame on her, almost complaining that God had given her to him. “The woman YOU gave to me made me eat it!”

And she stood there with heart tearing apart piece by piece—if only she had not listened to the serpent. If only she had been wiser! If only Adam had been with her when the serpent talked to her. If only he had protected her instead of blaming her. If only….

She was the first to fall from an idyllic world into the harsh reality of sin. Adam no longer called her woman—he renamed her “Eve”, the mother of all living things. She was the mother of our sin-streaked human race.

Do we wonder why we search for our beautiful fairy tale—the ever-elusive, alluring happily-ever-after—only to fall time and time again into disappointment and hurt? Our mother is Eve. In our deepest being, we long for the Garden…our own perfect relationship with God and others. Eve understood what it is like to be disappointed by those we love. She felt the sting of betrayal and confusion. She gave the one defense that we all love to give—“I was beguiled”—we didn’t know, we were tricked. Yet she will bear the mark forever of the greatest fall of mankind.

But out of disaster came beauty. Maybe her mistakes were in God’s plan after all. For what kind of love is it, if you do not choose it, if you do not seek after it with all of your heart? She was unknowledgeable in the garden. Was the tree of knowledge put there for a reason? She was perfect, yes—but is it possible her love was not deep the way God longs for us to deeply love Him? Was her love so small that she thought nothing of disappointing her God for a piece of fruit?

It was the taking away that made her love her God more. It was far bigger than her and Adam’s marriage problems and new-found shame. It was about having to die in order to find true life and love. By one man sin entered the world—and so by one perfect man’s sacrifice, redemption is found. Real love comes when Eve’s curse is reversed by seeking out the One True Love.

One woman’s sin was simply the means for the greatest love story in the history of the world to come to pass.

By Eve we experience the fall, the death, the horrors of anything other than God and His grace—by His Only Son, we experience the resurrection, the life, the awe of each new day spent with our Creator.

She was the first tragedy. She was the mother of all things. She was the reason we can have a deeper relationship with our Creator God.

The Closing of A Chapter

            “A good teacher is like a candle- it consumes itself to light the way for others.”

           Today I ended a long, wonderful journey of seeing God’s redemptive plan on a daily basis. The experience was phenomenal. In my opinion, clinical practice as an education major at Bob Jones University is worth the $65,000 dollar education. Walking across the stage in two days seems so minute compared to the life-to-life connections and relationship experiences that I have encountered over the past four years, but more specifically in the last four months. Teaching in a public school in Greer, South Carolina has taught me a plethora of lessons, which I will try to abbreviate. 🙂

      To get everything out on the table, I know that there is controversy of teaching in a Christian school or teaching in a public school. My peers and I have discussed this in depth and have come to the conclusion that teaching in a public school isn’t for everyone and teaching in a christian school isn’t for everyone. God has a perfect place for us and guides us to that end with unique gifts, talents and abilities to fill the place He has planned for us.  My peers and I have agreed that we are incredibly thankful for the opportunity that Bob Jones University provides for the education majors to acquire state certification through teaching in a public school. Though, no organization is perfect or flawless, I am so thankful for the privilege to attend a liberal arts university with a christian basis to not only be skilled in a profession but to be well-rounded to reach a broader scope of effectiveness in the world around me. As I get older, I am more thankful for a university that gives its’ students the chance to live out their faith practically in the profession they have chosen. I cannot even put into words how thankful I am for the chance to teach in a public school. Not only was I able to get fully state certified but I was also able to experience life with people I would have otherwise never come in contact with. This future-shaping mission field has many times been left to the way-side.

              To try to sum up clinical practice in one word would be near impossible. However, one of the greatest lessons i have learned is BALANCE. Balance is defined as: an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. I don’t know about you, but the words “upright” and “steady” don’t seem to be descriptions of the world we live in.  Even the word “remain” doesn’t seem to be understood by many in my generation. Remaining = boring to the Millennial generation or generation Y. Though sometimes it was very hard, I thank God for the opportunity to practice balanced living during my student teaching semester. God also allowed me to practice “remaining” even when things were harder than I imagined. Balance means  deciding to go to bed to be energetic and excited for your students the next day instead of reading just one more chapter of that AMAZING book. Balance means waking up early to spend time with God in prayer to dedicate your day to His glory instead of hitting the snooze button 14 times. Balance means NOT over-reacting when a trivial interruption sets your plans off for the day. Balance means recognizing each student is different and cannot be dealt with in the same way. Balance means understanding your student had a terrible night’s sleep and needs that 5 minute power nap to grasp anything during the day. Balance means realizing that most of your students come from broken homes and hurtful situations,  and that you as their teacher may be the only positive influence in their life. In the “Tricia Teacher” dictionary, balance means creating an upright and steady classroom environment so that my students will remain in school and work hard to achieve the even distribution of the weight of their life. 

         Many of you know that over the past few months God has lead and directed me and I have accepted a job in a Christian school and I could not be more excited and thrilled to see what God is going to do.Yes, I LOVE Christian school and I am excited to be able to speak of my Savior in every content that I teach and not just in the designated “chapel” or “Bible” hours. Yes, I LOVE public school and would definitely go back to coming up with creative ways to plant seeds of Christ in my students’ minds; but God’s plan is not my plan and I will wait for His leading to direct me wherever He would have me. I am captivated by my constant companion and guide and I honestly get so excited about God and I traveling life’s journey together.  I know that many of you know that moving away from home and living on my own could be potentially disastrous because I can’t even dish ice cream out of the container or open lids for the life of me, but I know that adventure awaits and that God will help me grow as we walk His path for my life together.

                  But today, I am reflecting on God’s blessings at Chandler Creek Elementary and 24 precious souls that God allowed me to interact with even for a brief moment in time. Tonight, time is standing still as I read all their notes and letters for the millionth time and as I recall their faces as they said goodbye to me today. The majority of my sweet third grade students were crying which made me cry (I know, I’m a softy). However, my heart aches for their soul and as I have prayed all semester, I will continue to pray that someone along the span of their life reaches out to them and they receive God’s free gift of salvation and eternal life. Today, saying goodbye was incredibly hard because I am uncertain if I will see them again in Heaven. I hope and pray that I will. One thing is for certain, I will NEVER forget those 24 students who shaped my career and taught me more than I could ever teach them. Each student’s name is written on my heart and though I didn’t realize my heart had the capacity to feel so much love towards students, I know my life will never be the same and I will cherish each moment and memory for as long as I live.

“One Nation Under God”

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    Happy April Everyone! I know I haven’t posted in an entire  month, but Student Teaching has taken over my life and I am  LOVING every minute! However, I am currently on spring  break and I am not getting my 5 page “To Do” list finished, but  I wanted to take a moment to reflect on one of the many gifts  that I have been blessed to receive, the gift of America, a free  country.

It all started as a usual day at school. I walked in the  classroom at 7:15, started getting materials together and  setting out morning work for my students. I turned the  Promethean board on and opened my daily flip chart,  sharpened some pencils,  printed some notes, glanced at my  lesson plans for the day and then ran to the theater to get the  kids! I was ready for the day, I felt prepared and then during  morning news show I was awed by a simple phrase. At the  start of every day the morning news show comes on and to  start our day the whole school recites the Pledge of Allegiance.  We say it everyday and the pledge of allegiance is part of our  normal routine. However, for whatever reason, it meant more  to me on that particular day than it had before.

Every student stands and has their hand over their heart and recites the pledge. On this particular day, I looked around the classroom and watched my students say what they say everyday-wherever you are right now, stop and take a moment to say this beautifully written pledge out loud and think about these great words that you are solemnly promising:

I pledge allegiance, to the flag of the United States of America

And to the republic for which it stands, one nation,

Under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

         I wonder if my students understand the word “Pledge,” the whole-heart dedication and promise of all we have for something or someone we love, in this case the United States of America.I think of the word, “Allegiance,” meaning love and devotion to a certain cause. I think of all the other things that I have pledged my allegiance too, one being my students, another being my family, and most importantly my God, who loved me enough to sacrifice His own son to redeem my fallen soul.

         My mind starts to run with the famous words of our pledge and I contemplate the word “Republic” in our pledge. Many people wouldn’t even know how to explain this word or even give a simple definition of the word. I hope and pray that every student is taught that a republic is a state in which sovereign power is given to representatives chosen by the people to govern. Every American should know that POWER is in the PEOPLE. Everyday, we are pledging to stand by the republic for which our country stands on.

           Then, most beautiful of all, I hear my precious students’ voices say the words, “Under God,” and I moved with the tremendous meaning behind those words. There are many laws on what you can and can’t say in public school, especially as a teacher, but every morning the entire school says the words “Under God.” I am not sure if my students fully understand what they are saying, but I know that those words will not soon be forgotten by them as they repeat them every morning. The words “Under God” were actually the last words added to the pledge of allegiance. They were added in 1954 as the fourth and final revision of the pledge to date. Congress passed the bill to add those two words and President Eisenhower signed it into law. For six decades, the phrase has been debated and discussed throughout the country, but I thank the Lord that no one has succeeded in taking those words out of the pledge.

           Indivisible, Liberty, Justice, all three words hold rich meaning and significance to the pledge. Indivisible: the impossibility of being divided. Liberty: the freedom to life without fear and threats. Justice: the principle of fairness for everyone equally. These words hold such significance and power that they can hardly be explained in one sentence. Every word of this pledge is extremely important including the last two  words, “For All.” This means for my 23 students, for my family, for my friends, and for me.

           Over the past weekend, I was blessed to visit Washington D.C. and if only for a brief period of time, see the wonderful sights of our rich history and present freedom. The night was incredibly cold, but I loved seeing the historical sights and snapping a few pictures even though I am not exactly proficient in my matching buildings with names. During the whole time in D.C. I could not stop thinking of my students and how I wished so badly they were all with me and we could tour the city! We are in the midst of our Civil War unit, so I am at least planning on showing them some Lincoln Memorial pictures and other great sights from D.C. as they tie into the Civil War. As I viewed glimpses of our nation’s capital, the words “Under God” kept replaying in my head. And what’s even more crazy I heard those words in my student’s voices! (I hear their voices all day everyday and sometimes in my sleep 🙂 ) I was comforted by the fact that every building I saw and all the decisions those building represent for our country are under God. Though there are many that are worried and concerned about the future of our country and as an educator, I am equally concerned because of the potential limitations the future may hold on educating from a biblical worldview; I am at peace knowing that I am under God and He will never let me down. Today, I am thankful for the unbelievable blessing to be born in this great nation and for the rich, godly, heritage that our forefathers passed down. I am also thankful for my 23 students whose daily reciting of the pledge of allegiance has changed how I view this special privilege and responsibility of loving and serving this great nation.

God Bless America.

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