Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You Can't Sink This Sub!

It has been six months since I have been back in the United States. I've submitted employment applications to many different places. I had a decent amount of work at Hobby Lobby during the Christmas season. Of course, once the Christmas season was over, my work hours dropped off sharply because...well...not as many people shop at Hobby Lobby when Christmas decorating is not a major activity.

New Work 
After several weeks with very little income, God opened up the opportunity for employment as a substitute teacher in several school systems in the area. 

This looks like a fun book. You can find it here
My first day of subbing fell on Valentine's Day. I subbed for a tenth grade social studies teacher, and I have to admit that greeted the students with a bit of nervousness. After all, it has been something like twenty-seven years since I have been in a high school classroom in the United States. Numerous people talk about "kids these days". You know what I mean. The saying "sink the sub" has been around for quite some time, and I wondered how hard the students would try to "sink" me.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the tenth graders to be generally very respectful and a pleasure to work with. Of course, the teacher had left lesson plans that were very easy to follow. The classes practically ran themselves, so I had it easy, but it was a very good re-entry experience into the classroom.

Since that first day, I have had work almost every day. I thought it might take awhile before I started getting jobs, but it seems that I will not have trouble getting as much work as I can handle. In fact, my schedule is full through the first two weeks of March.

As for tomorrow and Friday, I will be back at the high school teaching Social Studies again, but for a different teacher this time. I am looking forward to it this time. God is providing the work, and I am trusting Him that this class, like the other one, will not be out to "sink the sub". If they are into "sub-sinking", though, I trust that Gd will make me "unsinkable".

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Big Melt-Off

image found here
Today is February 20th. Snow is piled high outside after weeks of some of the coldest, snowiest weather this area of Ohio has seen in decades. Actually, the snow is not as high now as it was just last week. We have had somewhat warmer temperatures the last few days, and some of the while stuff has melted. The fact that a temperature of thirty-something degrees can be thought of as "warmer" says something about how bitterly cold we have been here.

We have had so many snow days this winter that the President's Day holiday was cancelled in order to make up at least one of them. Unfortunately, that very night, we got another snow storm. What happened? You guessed it. School was cancelled on Tuesday.

I am not writing merely to seek people to commiserate with me about the weather, though. As I drove to work this morning, I got to thinking about what many areas that have been hit by record-breaking snowfalls and freezing temperatures are going to face as things start to warm up. Then, I started comparing this whole situation to life. May I share a few thoughts with you? Yes? OK, let's go.

Image found here
Frozen Ground
After weeks of frigid temperatures, the ground under the piles of snow is frozen hard. It will thaw far more slowly than the snow piled on top of it. Consequently, the ground won't be able to adequately absorb the water from the melting snow. The result? Flooding, of course. We all look forward to warmer weather, but face it. That warmer weather will bring with it certain challenges that we don't have to face as long as the snow stays piled high and deep in sub-zero temperatures. 

Frozen Hearts
In the same way, some of us walk around with frozen hearts. Things have happened to us us that have really hurt. Defensively, we allow our hearts to become hardened so we can't be hurt again. More and more "stuff" piles up on top of the frozen ground of our hearts. We don't like it. We wish for spring. We long for new life. We grasp at a glimmer of hope that God can bring His warmth into our frozen hearts. Yet there is something risky about allowing that warmth to touch us. Let's suppose that we go ahead and take that risk.

Image found here
Melt-Off Mess
As the warmth of God's love touches the "stuff" that has piled up over the years on our frozen hearts, we start to get some run-off. Thoughts and feelings that we have piled away start to pour out. Often, this gets a bit messy. Even as the residents of the flood plain of Findlay, Ohio, will inevitably have to do some clean-up after the coming flood, we also have some clean-up to do in our hearts. This is most definitely not a fun process.
Image found here
"Post-Flood" Clean-up
As daunting as the task of "post-flood" clean-up of our hearts can be, we have one advantage that homeowners living in the flood plain do not have. Our Heavenly Father is not like insurance companies that try to pay out as little at they can manage to get away with on each claim. We don't need to worry about whether or not He will provide the needed resources to restore our hearts and lives. 

There is no need to fear what the warmth of God might reveal. Allow the piled up snow to melt away. Allow God's warmth to thaw our frozen hearts. Our Heavenly Father will work right alongside us in the "post-flood" clean-up of our lives. He won't leave us with warped doors and mildewed walls in the home of our heart. He will make all things new. 
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Be Humble, Be Teachable

Four words. Just four words. So simple. Yet at difficult.

Those four words sum up an important lesson that God had to teach me several years ago when some friends who had the best of intentions challenged me on the wisdom of adopting my daughter as a single mother. No need to go into detail on those challenges, but needless to say, it was not an easy time. Part of me wanted to get defensive...and I probably did get defensive from time to time. Let's be honest here. But the message God continued to give me was:

Be humble. Be teachable.

I am so thankful that I listened to Him. It was indeed God's plan for me to proceed with the adoption. But those challenges I faced in those initial months actually helped me to more effectively balance the time spent mothering my daughter with the time spent on work and ministry. Without those challenges, I might have floundered. That, I think, comes from the "Be teachable" part of the lesson.

Because I learned the "Be humble" part of the lesson, my friends and I were able to weather that difficult period of time with relationships intact. For that, I am so very grateful.

Image found here
Have you ever noticed that sometimes God repeats the same lessons from time to time. Sometimes, that is because we didn't learn it the first time around. Sometimes, He simply wants us to learn to apply it in new ways in new situations. He wants us to expand our grasp of the lesson.

I'm going through a bit of that right now as I adjust to life back in the United States after twenty years in Indonesia. Over there, I had help to do quite a lot of the normal household tasks that I need to do myself here. I'm not doing horribly at those things, but I must admit that even six months after returning to the United States, I still haven't gotten on top of some of them, (Let's not go into detail about exactly what those things are.) 

A dear person who has my best interests at heart is helping me get on top of these things. If I am perfectly honest, part of me sometimes gets defensive, and sometimes I might wish this person wouldn't point out the things that have been left undone.

Yesterday, as I was struggling with this, the Holy Spirit spoke those four words into my heart.

Be humble. Be teachable.

OK Lord. We've been through this before. 

I have already seen the positive outcome of putting this lesson into practice.
It may not always be fun. 
I may not always like what I hear.
But it is good. 
It is for the best.
I will grow through the experience.
I will find peace.
Relationships will remain intact, 
growing even deeper and stronger.

Lord, help me to always...always...
 Be humble.
Be teachable.
Be Yours.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In Everything Give Thanks

After so many days and weeks of cold weather and snow, it seems that only the die-hard snow-lovers aren't feeling the urge to whinge and complain a bit about the colder-than usual winter. Pretty much everyone has expressed a longing for spring.

Today, school was cancelled again. I wasn't scheduled to work. With a Level 3 snow emergency declared for our area, Rachel and I stayed home. We slept in, had a late breakfast of French toast. We basically had a lazy day, although I did get some work done toward putting together a press kit to promote my books.

After supper, we watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy...two of Rachel's favorite shows. After that, we watched a couple episodes of The Waltons. Rachel complained about her skin being dry and itchy, so I told her to go get some lotion. She did that and took care of herself. Then she knelt down by my feet and started giving me a really nice foot massage. Let me tell you, that little girl is good at it, too! I hadn't asked her to do that. I hadn't hinted at it. It was all her own idea.

When she finished, she curled up in my lap and we cuddled for a while. Over and over, I thought about how very blessed I am to have her in my life. Often, things are busy enough that I don't have...or take...the time to slow down and just enjoy her. 

As I prepare to sleep tonight, I find myself thankful for a snow day and a Level 3 snow emergency that kept us home. Even in the midst of a long winter, I am thankful for the warmth of my little family.  
In everything give thanks...
1 Thessalonians 5:18a
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