Sunday, January 29, 2012

As Though The Curtain Parted

Last week, as I read my devotions (I have been fairly disciplined in that so far this year), I came across a couple of sentences that really spoke to me. They said:


Don't waste energy regretting the way things are or thinking about what might have been. Start at the present moment - accepting things exactly as they are - and search for My way in the midst of those circumstances.*
When I read those words, it was as though the curtain parted and I could now see what I couldn't before.

For several years now, I've often thought and wished that I still had those same feelings of wonder and excitement that often accompanies a Christian when s/he first accept Jesus as Saviour. It's the time when you feel invincible, that nothing and no one can deflate the swelling of your heart as it fills to overflowing with desire to be like Jesus, to make Him proud of who you are, and the fire burns bright and strong.

I wish I could say that I know the exact moment or time when the fire diminished,but I can't. Along the dimly lit path I walked, I was aware of becoming tired and worn out. I wondered if I was actually following the Lord's leading, or if I was setting off down the road and leading myself.

I grew weary. I held back. And instead of calling out for support from the One who leads, it seems as though I let Him go on ahead while I sat to catch my breath. Now, I know that He does not go off ahead and leave us behind; He stays with us and waits. He's there to help carry us, to guide us, to lead us. But my problem is, I don't think I ever accepted His help in that matter. I never asked. And it felt like He left me on my own.

I think what I did was to try and carry on my way on my own merits. I didn't stop to say, "Hey, I'm a little winded here. Can you help me along?" or "Carry me until I catch my breath again." Think of a little child walking beside her father. She's tired from the journey so he reaches down, picks her up, and carries her until she gets her strength back. That's how I felt...only I tried to keep up the pace without being carried. It didn't work very well. And, there are still times in my life when I feel that way - tired and weary on this path.

In the last couple of years I have often thought, ""If only I felt the way I did in the beginning; If only I had the fire I had back then." And that's really the crux of my situation.

I shouldn't be thinking about what it was like then. That's the past and there is nothing I can do about it. If I'm living in the past, I'm certainly not living in the here and now - and certainly not putting my focus on what I could/can be doing for the Kingdom.

As the devotion says, "things are they way they are now" and I need to seek the Lord in my current situation and take it from there. Start fresh and anew. I can't get the past back, and I certainly won't get the fire ignited again if I don't tend to it.

I need to discipline myself into not thinking/worrying about the past, and put my focus on today. God can do great things in and through me if I'd only let Him. And by focusing on the past, I'm not allowing Him to work in my life.


Do you focus on the past, present or future?

* Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, page 23

Saturday, January 21, 2012

His Selfless Act Touched My Heart

Yesterday was my birthday.

When my students found out a week and a half ago that my birthday was coming up, a couple of them asked if we could have a party for it. I said, "Sure, why not." Then the planning began.

"What kind of cake do you like?" One of my grade four girls asked.

"Chocolate, vanilla, or marble." I replied.

The following week I was asked if it was OK if cupcakes were made instead of a cake, because the cake wouldn't be big enough for everyone in the class to get a slice. So, I agreed that cupcakes would be the better choice.

Fast forward to yesterday. A few of my students walked in, wished me a happy birthday and gave me some gifts. Two of them said I'd get my gift from them at the end of the day. Things progressed normally, but during the last class of the day, I received my surprise.

I had taken the 4s up to the computer room (it was our scheduled computer class) to help them get a feel for what the computer portion of their upcoming test was going to be like. When we came back to the class (which would be normally the time for the 3s to go up, as all the students can't be in the class at the same time or the computers don't seem to work), the kids ran ahead of me and I warned them about not running in the halls...again.

As I rounded the corner to my class, I could hear one of them shout, "She's coming!" and someone else requested for others to hide. When I walked in the classroom, they all jumped out (though I could see one of them crouching behind a desk and another trying to hide in a floor level cupboard) and shouted, "Surprise! Happy Birthday!"

The girls "in charge" had been disciplined enough for a week and a half to organize and prepare to give me a little party. They got together to make cupcakes, had some people bring in treats/snacks, and they came up with a very sweet present for me.

These girls (the ones in charge of making the cupcakes) disappeared to the school kitchen to get them, where they had been hid from my view all day, and delivered a specially decorated one for me...and everyone else got one as well. There were a few left over so they took them up to the principal and a couple of others. They also handed me a heart-shaped box in which they had placed birthday messages they had written for me.

It was all very touching, and they certainly spoiled me!

One of my grade 4 boys handed me a homemade card he had been working on during the week. When I opened it, it said to me, "Do you know what I wanted to put in the card? I asked my mom, but she said no because I am saving for a dirt bike." So, I asked him what he wanted to put in it. "I wanted to put $5 in your card because you are saving for a car."

How touching is that! The day before, he had stayed after school to get some extra help with math and we had talked some. He told me he was saving to buy a dirt bike, and I told him I wanted to start saving so I could get a car (since I don't have one here and it's very annoying to not have one).

What a generous boy! He wanted to take some money from his dirt bike savings to help me save for a car. "You don't have to give me your money." I said.

"But I wanted to." He grin was a mile long.

This nine year old boy's selfless act really touched my heart. In a world that seems to be filled with kids always wanting for themselves (not all are like that, but there are many...and adults too), this boy wanted to take $5 from his dirt bike savings and help me. As I said, it was a very touching thought.

Have you ever been surprised for your birthday?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Doing It All At Once

I've been thinking, lately, about my One Word 365 word - discipline.

You see, I tend to be a perfectionist in many aspects of my life and since deciding to take part in One Word 365, I had this overwhelming urge to apply it to every single part of my life...all at once.

Talk about setting myself up for failure!

There is no way that I can be disciplined in every single thing in my life all at once. If I do that, then I won't fully apply the discipline I need. Basically, it would only be done in a half-hearted manner, or I would only do it for a short time before moving on to something else. In the end, I wouldn't really be disciplined at all.

So, right now I am trying to focus on becoming disciplined in a few areas at a time. The first area is in my Bible reading and devotions. As I've mentioned, that hadn't been going too well for me for some time. However, since January 1st when I started OW365, I've read my Bible and a devotion each day. That's 15 days. It's not much, I know, but it's a start.

And that's the important thing - to start. You have to start somewhere, and you're not going to become an "expert" at anything if you don't take those first steps and start whatever it is you are trying to discipline yourself with/at.

Once you start, you need to keep going. Don't give up. Keep doing it until it becomes second nature. If you mess up and miss a day or two, don't give up - start over.

As I mentioned above, I'm not going to work on everything I want to discipline myself at all at once. If I do that, I know I will give up after a short while. Why? Because If I'm not "perfect" at everything from the get-go, then I'll end up feeling like a failure and just stopping everything. I'm only human, and I can only do so much at once.

Now, with some of the areas in my life at which I want to be better disciplined, I can do more than one thing at a time (such as with the Bible readings and devotions...I can work on other things while doing that as well since it doesn't consume every waking moment of my life -gasp!). So, I am also working at becoming more disciplined in my classroom - staying later and doing my work there rather than bringing it home and maybe not getting everything done that I should for the next day (or waiting to finish it up the next day). I can tell you that by doing this (staying later), I feel much more confident in my next day's lessons and I don't feel as stressed out because I can relax once I get home - even if I am now staying until 5:30 each day (school gets out at 3:00). There are some things that I will still have to do at home even after staying for 2 1/2 hours after work, but at least those things don't stress me out.

I can also work at disciplining myself to eat healthier and get some exercise while working on other things. So, I've been taking little steps with this area. I'm trying to consciously eat more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods (so far this hasn't been working as well as I had hoped, but I'm not totally disciplined in this area yet - it's something to continually work on), and walk more - which is a lot easier since I don't have a car now (not my choice, since where I now live it is not very easy to get around without a vehicle...something to save/work for).

Like I said, I'm taking little steps and not trying to do everything all at once. I'm making a list of things that I want to accomplish, things at/in which I want to be more disciplined and not trying to tackle it all at once - after all, there are still 350 days left in the year (or is this a leap year?)!

How are things going with your One Word 365 so far this year?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

And They Thought I Was Cool

Today in Bible class (I teach grade 3/4 in a Christian school), we began a series of lessons on Jesus' miracles. Following the suggestion in the teacher's guide for the curriculum, I conducted an object lesson to talk about this subject.

What I did was take a glass jar with a smallish opening and place some shredded paper (not a lot) inside. Next, I lit a match and placed it inside the jar and placed a hard boiled egg on top of the opening (the jar opening is smaller than the egg). Within moments, the egg was sucked inside the jar! The kids were totally amazed and in awe of what happened. I told them that I had performed a miracle. And they thought I was cool.

Once the actual lesson began, we talked about Jesus and his miracle of turning the water into wine (His first miracle). We talked about how the egg experiment is not actually a miracle because it can be explained with science. You see, fire needs oxygen to burn, and with the egg on top of the bottle opening, it soon prevents oxygen from entering the bottle, and the flame goes out. And, due to the vacuum effect produced in the process, the egg is sucked into the bottle.

The thing with Jesus' miracles, however, is that they can NOT be explained with science. A miracle is a supernatural occurrence, and there is nothing that can explain how they occur. How can you explain water turning into wine? How can you explain spitting in dirt, applying that to a blind man's eyes, which causes him to be able to see?

You can't. That's why it's a miracle.

After my explanation at the end of class, I highly doubt the kids thought I was cool since I hadn't actually performed a miracle for them. I'm sure if I could perform miracles, the kids would probably ask for no school and no homework forever (or something similar). Poor kids, they'll just have to suffer with having to go to school - and having homework.

Have you ever witnessed a miracle? Have you performed a miracle? If so, what was it?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

True Dependence

 I read something interesting this morning in my new devotional that I wanted to share. It said, "True dependence is not simply asking me to bless what you have decided to do. It is coming to me with an open mind and heart, inviting me to plant my desires within you." (page 6 of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

So often we (and I include myself in this) decide to do something or work at/on something. We begin working away and then pray and ask God to bless it. Quite often we don't pray and seek what God wants us to do, what He desires for us; instead, we take the plunge first and ask for blessing after. That is totally backwards for us Christians.

We need to seek the Lord first, find out what what He wants us to do, where He wants us to go, etc. After all, it's not about us, about what we want. It's about what He wants. God wants us to do His work, obey His will for our lives. When we set out to do our own fill and fulfill our own desires and then seek God in the matter, we are not depending on Him.

I'm not saying that God won't necessarily bless the things we do, even if we don't seek His will at first, but know that when we are in His will, when we are fulfilling the dreams and desires God has planted in us, He will definitely bless that. If you seek God's will, follow the dreams/desires He has given you, it shows that you are depending on Him and not yourself.

I know I am guilty of putting the cart before the horse, running off ahead and then asking Jesus to catch up, or asking for God to bless my desires rather than what He desires for me. I want to be more disciplined in seeking God's will first, following His desires for me over my own. I'm not even always sure if what I desire is what He desires for me, but that is something I need pray about, something I need to work at.

Do you truly depend on God, or are you like me and tend to run off ahead and then ask for His blessings?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Is It A Habit?

They (whoever they are) say it takes 30 days to make something a habit. I wonder if making yourself disciplined in one or more areas in your life is the same...or maybe discipline is just really another habit?

If creating discipline is like creating a habit, then I've only got 27 more days to go!  It's day 3 and I am feeling drained tonight. But that might just be because I only got about five hours of sleep, started back to work today (after the Christmas break) and left at 5:30.

I've got a couple more lesson plans to do up tonight, for tomorrow, but I'm feeling like I might need to go to bed early. I want to be prepared for tomorrow, so I think the best thing to do is just work at the lesson plans and come up with something - and pray for the energy, clarity of mind and the perseverance and discipline to finish it up before going to bed.

Monday, January 02, 2012

I Looked Up The Meaning

I decided that I would start off my One Word 365 by looking up the meaning of my chosen word, discipline

According to dictionary.com, one of the meanings of this word is: to bring a state of order and obedience by training and control.  This meaning is more suited to what I was thinking of accomplishing this year through One Word 365, though there are 11 other meanings that could apply as well.

Shortly before Christmas, I purchased a new devotional. It's called "Jesus Calling" and it's written by Sarah Young. My first act of discipline is in creating quiet time with the Lord - something I had gotten away from.

My life verse, since back in 2002 when I obeyed the Lord's calling to become a teacher, has been Jeremiah 29:11-13 (though I added verses 12 and 13 a few years later). Since graduating with my B.Ed. in 2009 and throughout my struggles in trying to find a full time teaching job, I have tried to cling to these verses, to the hope and plans God has for my life. It hasn't always been easy, and I'll admit that there were times I doubted. So, I had to smile as I read the devotion for January 1st. Yup, you guessed it. It was based on Jeremiah 29:11 (the other verse used is Romans 12:2, which is also fitting for my One Word 365).  The devotion speaks of not clinging to old ways and renewing your mind. As I said, this is very fitting for me right now (and always).

Today's devotion speaks of putting the focus back on Jesus, especially when your mind wanders when spending time with Him. I definitely struggle with this - trying to pray or spend time with the Lord and within moments, it seems, my mind is off wandering to the things I need to do, events of the day, etc. I know this is definitely an area in my walk where I need to be more disciplined. I want to hear Jesus when He talks to me; I need to get my mind off the distractions and focus on Him. It's hard though. But, I will pray that the Lord will help me in this area, and He will because He desires to have me spend time with Him.

In closing, I would like to add that I'm not just using the devotional. I'm also reading my Bible and praying the Lord will speak to me through it, His Living Word.

Question of the day: Do you have a life verse? Is there a devotional you enjoy using in your quiet time with the Lord?

Sunday, January 01, 2012

One Word 365

After seeing several blogs last year (and some the year before) dedicated to "One Word 365," I've decided to give it a go myself this year.

So, after pondering which word to choose, I've decided to use "discipline" as my One Word. There are many areas in my life, and in my walk with the Lord, where I need to learn or improve discipline, so I think it's quite fitting.

Maybe I'm biting off more than I can chew with this endeavour...you know, not being overly disciplined in sticking to this sort of thing...but, at any rate, I'm going to give it a shot and see what I learn about myself and what I can find out about discipline in different areas in my life.

If you want to find out about more about this project, or even join in, check out the One Word 365 blog. If this is something you are taking part in, or plan on doing so, leave me a comment and let me know what your word is.

Quick Catch-Up

As I awoke this morning, I thought it was still the middle of the night. It was still quite dark, not a sound could be heard. I looked at the clock and was 7:45am. In my neck of the woods at this time of year (as I am discovering), the sun doesn't rise until around 9:00...well, that's when it is visible above the horizon. You can watch as God paints the sky with beautiful shades of red, pink, and orange shortly after 8:00. At any rate, it still seemed like I had only been asleep for a short amount of time.

I'm still tired and will no doubt be napping throughout the day, and possibly going to bed early tonight. I am very thankful that I was able to get home for Christmas (up until a couple of days before I flew home, it was looking like I wouldn't be able to get back for the holiday), and I think I am still on the Atlantic Time Zone. I'm also quite tired from travelling - two flights (one for two hours, the other for four) and a car ride that lasted around twelve hours in total (we stopped for the night in one small town and headed back on our way yesterday morning) will definitely wear you out! But, as I said, I am very thankful that I was able to get back home to visit family and friends for just shy of two weeks (which, I might add, went by far too quickly!).

Since my last post, I found myself quite busy with work - and yes, I definitely felt worn down and out as well. I had to do up report cards (21 kids in my class), and two days of parent/teacher interviews. The first day we went from 2:30 until 8:00, and the next day my schedule started at 2:15 and went until 5:00. It was quite draining, but I survived.

Not long after that, we began the process of practicing for the Christmas concert. My class played two songs on the recorder, sang a song with the grade 2 class, and performed their own (rap) song with tumbling moves (cart wheels, front and back flips, some breakdancing, etc). Rehersals were typically disappointing as the kids didn't want to co-operate, wouldn't stop talking when they needed to listen, focused too much on what the "tumblers" were doing that they wouldn't do their own parts, etc.

I was working with the music teacher on this, and we both got frustrated a lot. But, we gave it to the Lord, prayed, and in the end the kids gave a FANTASTIC performance during the concert! They pulled it off without a hitch (and we had thought that our best tumbler would be out because two days before the concert he bruised his collar bone, which had been broken during the summer...thankfully he recovered and was able to take part)!  I am so proud of my class!

School starts again on January 3rd, and I'm actually looking forward to going back. I'm praying that things will go well this semester and that I've finally got my head above the water (the first semester of a first year of teaching is difficult - actually the first three years, or so I've been told by many, are the most difficult of the teaching profession. I am praying that I will be a little LOT more organized and that I am better able to manage the time and not get behind on lessons. There is so much that I hope and pray for this semester, and only with Jesus' help will I be able accomplish this.

So, now it's your turn to update me on yourself. How was your Christmas? What was the best thing that happened to you, the best gift you received or gave? Let me know in the comment section!