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Something about…

The song that goes “There’s something about Christmas time. Makes me wish it were Christmas everyday” is going through my head this morning. I know it’s January. A full eleven months until Christmas comes again. Maybe it’s because my youngest has been singing some sort of Christmas song almost daily since November, and just because the day came and went, he is still singing the songs. Just a few minutes ago, he treated me to a personal showing, complete with puppet-hands, of his preschool Christmas play.

As he was performing, I began to think about what he was doing. We become so involved in looking at a calendar that we cross off days sometimes without thinking. We look forward constantly, working up to an important day like a birthday, and instead of taking the time to truly celebrate and revel in the day and the person, we often are looking ahead to the next one before the sun even sets.

This particular child’s birthday is in two days. And while he has mentioned it, and been praying and thanking God for it for months (which, by the way, hardly anyone thanks God for birthdays…), he is still celebrating the most recent birthday, which happens to be the most important one ever. He is celebrating the birth of his Savior every day.

Shouldn’t we all be doing this? Instead of looking ahead to the next big event, we should revel in the present one, and remember that without His birthday, we wouldn’t have anything to celebrate.

Immanuel, God With Us

Anticipation. I can’t sleep. Even now, at 31 years of age, I still look forward to Christmas morning as if I’m 7 years old. It’s not about the gifts I’m getting. It’s not even about the gifts I’m giving. It’s so much more than that. To be able to capture the looks on the faces of my children when they “get it” for the first time, what Christmas is all about, would be the best gift this side of heaven.

As I anticipate my children’s reactions to Christmas morning, I’m reminded of how simple and peaceful the birth of Christ was. He is a King, born as a baby, to a teenage mother. I find myself thinking about Mary and how she responded, the anticipation she must have felt.

Small town Nazareth
Small town Bethlehem
Tiny animal trough in the corner of a barn
Born without fanfare, born out of town, away from the familiar, away from family
Fully God but painfully human. To the unknowing ear, another baby was born. Another person to count. Another mouth to feed.
Nothing in the world’s standards would make Him noticeable to an outsider.
Yet Mary, unwed teenage mother, understood that her job was incredibly important.
Either it was true or she was crazy. She didn’t question. She didn’t worry about what others would think. She didn’t try to get her beloved Son noticed. She didn’t ask for any of it, but she did it anyway.
She wrapped Him in a cloth. She made a bed out of hay. She shushed Him when he fussed. She rocked Him to sleep. She sang lullabies to Him.
Did it break her heart to know He would die for her? Did it break her heart when He ignored her or treated her the same as everyone else? She accepted the call, knowing that He was not hers. She mothered Him and let God do the rest.

I am reminded daily of the incredible gift that Jesus is, and I’m reminded daily of all He came to Earth for. Without Christmas, there would be no Easter. And without Easter, there would be no point to life, there would be no life. Jesus could have shown up already grown. He could have declared His kingship over all mankind. He could have demanded people to follow Him. But He didn’t. He came as the most vulnerable and dependent creature in the world, grew up among the very people who would one day reject Him, and lived every day knowing the end of the Story. He loves people where they are, and lets God do the rest.

“How many kings stepped down from their thrones? How many lords have abandoned their homes? How many greats became the least for me? How many Gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that’s been torn all apart? How many fathers gave up their sons for me? Only One did that for me.”

I need you to do it

My three-year-old is going through a “phase” (that’s what people say it is) where he wants to be completely independent, except on his terms. When he needs or wants help, he whines or begs for help. If I tell him no, that he needs to do something himself, he screams at me. These are things that he knows how to do, so he shouldn’t need help to do them. It’s frustrating and annoying because he becomes angry with me if I help him do something he wanted to do himself, and he becomes angry when I don’t help him do something, whether he asked for help or not. I am often to the point where I don’t know what to do, because it’s always the wrong decision.

As often happens after interactions with especially this particular child, I started to realize that often I act much the same way toward God as my son acts toward me. I want to do everything on my own, and only ask for help when I’m too tired or just don’t feel like doing something. I get angry or frustrated when things don’t go the way I want them to, I get annoyed or angry when God tells me no, or that I need to learn to work through something.

I’m so glad that God doesn’t throw His giant hands in the air, shake His head, and tell Jesus “You deal with her because I’ve had enough for one day.” I’m thankful for His never-ending grace, and how He is constantly making me new.
And I’m thankful that He gave me my beautiful, sweet, endearing, and (mostly) good-natured son. I’m even thankful for my son’s stubborn streak, because God uses it to teach me, while I’m teaching him, how to be better.

where You are

This week, and last week, have been incredible for me. God has really been showing up in huge ways, ways that I couldn’t have thought up or expected Him to. Throughout my experiences over the last couple weeks, I have to keep reminding myself that these things are happening because of God and not of me. I’ve somehow finally stepped out of the way so God can do what He does and loves to do.

As I was decompressing and praying through all the things that have happened and come together, a thought came to mind. “I want to be where You want me. I want to be where You are.” Being where God is and where He wants us to be is an incredible feeling. It never gets old or boring, and we never have to worry about His provision or will. But how do we know where He wants us to be, or where He is?

Early this summer, I began to feel as though there had to be more than what I was doing every day. I wasn’t just in a rut. I was feeling incredibly bored and increasingly frustrated, feelings that come with being outside the will of God. As I began praying about it, and throughout our vacation, I began sensing God telling me that what I was doing (career, mostly), wasn’t what He wanted from me. But of course, that left the question of “what DO You want me to be doing?” I knew I couldn’t just quit my job because we need my paycheck. So began the painful, frustrating process of praying and waiting.

Throughout this process of praying and waiting, God has shown me more of who He is and who He wants to be in my life and through me, if I will just step out of the way. He has shown me things I wouldn’t have seen or realized if I hadn’t been praying and waiting.

So I am left with the thought: “You want me to be where You are.” If I daily seek after and follow God, I will inevitably be right where He wants me, because I am seeking to be where He is.

I don’t know what the next few months, weeks, or even days hold. But I know that if I want to know where it is God wants me to be, I just need to seek Him and find Him.

Tug of war

Here I am again, after months of nothing. For some reason, I haven’t been able to write like I used to, and life was seeming pretty mundane, or at least uneventful. Things have happened that have been frustrating and joyous and sad and fun. I just felt like I had nothing to write about.
Over the past few months, God has been showing me more and more things about Himself, who I am and what I’m called to be, and He has convicted me about seeking justice and reaching outside of myself and my little circle of influence to touch someone else. I’m still working through what all of this means, and what it involves, but I can sense His presence and desire to show me what He has in store for me.

I’m having trouble sleeping. Again. This has happened probably three or four times in the last three months. At least this time I have a pretty good idea as to what the issue is. And this time, I think God is breaking my heart for things that break His.

I can’t even really describe it. I feel completely unprepared, inadequate, and sometimes ineffective. I feel unqualified and insecure. And yet God still uses me somehow. This particular time, my heart is feeling ripped to shreds. I am struggling with where I’ve come from, and how far, but also with how fresh these decade-old feelings really still are. Reliving them through the eyes of someone else breaks my heart because I remember the struggle. I remember the heartache and heartbreak. Trying to balance that with how I know God has used that pain and seeing what couldn’t have happened without it, creates an intense inner struggle within me. I so desperately want to take the pain away from someone because, let’s face it, no one likes pain. But I also know that God will turn it into good. I wish there was a way to convince people that it really will work out, that God really will turn it into something that will grow us and bring Him glory. But I didn’t believe it when I was going through the pain myself.

I guess I wish I could spare those dear to me the intense struggle to grow by teaching them the lesson needed and then sending them on their way, automatically wiser and stronger.

How do I deal with that inner struggle?

#always

I have a friend who is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. She is pretty on the outside, and she has the most beautiful spirit, making her gorgeous through and through. She is unassuming and would give the shirt off her back and the shoes off her feet, if you needed them.

My friend has had a really hard year. An injury at the beginning of the school year has caused her continual physical pain, and she has had to drastically cut back the things she does because her injury has not healed. As if that isn’t enough, her change in activity has left her often feeling lonely and frustrated because she just wants to get better and move on with her life.

The thing is, my friend has every right to feel angry and frustrated, and even, possibly mad at God. She has prayed continually for healing, for relief from loneliness, and some sense of normalcy. And yet, while she has had some improvement on these fronts, she still isn’t where she wants to be. But, instead of wallowing in her misery, she’s digging deeper and clinging to God and His promises with everything she has. She is reaching out to people for encouragement, and she is helping other people through their difficult stuff. Though she still wrestles with frustration, she is falling even deeper in love with her Father, because she knows He is the only One capable of getting her through. She is standing on the promise that He will restore her physically and emotionally, when it is time.

My friend’s faith has really started to challenge my own. She knows, and acknowledges, that God will come through, because He always does. It has been almost a year of constant struggle, day in and day out, yet she still hasn’t given up on God. Often, I start to doubt after just a few days or weeks of unanswered prayer. Her unwavering trust and unashamed love has gotten her through when the ground underneath her has been shaken. I have seen myself scramble to hold on when it feels like the world is crashing down on me.

My friend, almost seventeen, still has a lot of life to live. But I know God is preparing her for something incredible, something that will require her to have a strong foundation and trust fully on Him. It is difficult right now, but He is using her now in the meantime to teach others how faithful He is and what it truly means to trust fully in God. She is reaching out to others for advice and hope, but along the way is showing us how to fall in love with God and cling to Him when all around us is falling apart. She has inspired and challenged me to grow stronger in Christ and look to Him no matter what.

Dear friend, thank you for reminding me to trust God with my entire being. Our God will not delay. He is your refuge and strength.

“Oh my God, He will not delay, my refuge and strength always. I will not fear. His promise is true. My God will come through always. Always.”

Focus

We are very close to being a diaper-free house, which is cause for a great deal of celebration. My youngest finally decided that he is ready to be a big boy, and it has taken only a little coercion on our part to get him to this point.

Something I’ve noticed is that Isaiah’s listening and following directions has greatly declined over the past week or so. He is so focused on mastering this incredibly huge milestone. Where we generally don’t have to resort to counting (at least not often) or raising our voices, we’ve had to do this more often lately. It’s frustrating and maddening, and I find myself often saying “Isaiah, focus!”. All I want him to do is pay attention and do the things I ask him to.

God wants the same from us, too. Sometimes, I have so much on my mind that I can’t focus on doing what God wants me to do. Sometimes, I get so intently focused on one aspect of my life that I forget about everything else. I wonder if God says “focus!”

But how do we focus on what God wants from us when there are thousands of things going on throughout the day? The only way to focus on what God wants is to focus on God. By starting each day consciously focusing on and aligning ourselves with God, everything else will fall in line. Our priorities will be clear and we will be better able to hear the voice of God.

Direction

Are you one of those people who only needs an address and a couple general directions and you get to your destination every time? Maybe you are one of those people who gets lost, no matter how clear the directions. You know who you are. When GPS first came out, those closest to you were the first in line to get one for you. Maybe you are like me, somewhere in the middle. I always try to stay a couple steps ahead during directions so I don’t have to find my spot last minute or end up lost.

One time quite a few years ago, I went to a mini retreat for upper elementary kids. It was at Lake Erie, and I had never been to that particular camp. I had to work late, so I couldn’t travel with the rest of the group. I got directions to the campground and followed them to the letter.

So how did I almost drive into Lake Erie? The last direction, the critical turn into the camp, was unclear and it was dark outside. I was so busy concentrating on finding the camp and navigating narrow, unpaved, unfamiliar roads at 10:00 at night, I didn’t realize I missed the turn until I was almost in the lake. I looked up as the road surface changed, to see I was headed down a gravel ramp. I saw waves coming toward me and I slammed on the brakes. It was kind of scary because I had trouble backing my car up the gravel, and the water seemed particularly ominous. I finally was able to back up and found the camp, but I had learned a lesson about directions: even following directions to the letter doesn’t guarantee an easy arrival at your destination.

Sometimes our life direction can seem unclear. We think we are following God’s direction to the letter and miss a critical turn. Often, God’s direction seems unclear, when really we aren’t seeing the big picture. God doesn’t want us to get the directions and go off on our own, never stopping until we get to our destination. Sometimes, what He wants and what we need is to follow Him every step of the way, calling out for every direction. Not knowing our destination is often difficult, because we don’t want to get lost. But, God’s leading never leaves us lost, having to back up and try again. He always leads us exactly where we need to go.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying ‘This is the way. Walk in it.'” Isaiah 30:21

Practicing patience

Yesterday’s post was about promise. The tricky thing about waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled is that whole waiting and patience thing. Waiting breeds patience. Ugh.

I, like many people, struggle with patience. I’ve never been wired as easy-going or wait-and-see. I tend to worry, which often is a trait of an impatient person.

Because I struggle with being patient, I don’t like seasons or moments when I have to be patient. However, the only way to learn patience is to be forced to practice it in every-day life. As difficult and frustrating as learning patience can be, it is necessary for our faith to be strengthened and our relationship with Christ to grow. Continue Reading…

Things kids teach me

My kids say some funny things, and sometimes I just have to smile or laugh at how literal they are. But they also have an uncanny ability to get their point across, even if they don’t know the right words.

My older son, who is almost six, had one of these moments this morning. Right before we started to get ready, he mentioned “I’m pretty sure I was almost done watching the rest of my dream.” I thought that was pretty clever, and I was also a little envious. Rarely are my dreams so exciting that I describe myself as watching them. This is the same child who, while watching a commercial involving a vampire, asked “is that a people shark?”. Well, yeah, it kinda is, buddy. Pretty insightful.

In addition to saying cute or funny things, they often say deep things without knowing it. I learn a lot about God, and who He is, from my kids. Continue Reading…

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