Milestones

With the school year gearing up to begin on Friday, I can’t help but think back over the past two years I spent in the classroom.  Legally, I can’t go into details.  But I can say that those two years were filled with daily hardships.  Every morning I knew I was walking into a spiritual battle.  And every morning I had to be fully equipped in prayer and be rooted in Scripture as I walked into a tough situation.  I know without a doubt that the Lord had me there for a purpose.  Even while I was in it, I knew that the Lord picked me out for that job.  Most people would have walked away, but I knew I had to be a light before the students and hope that they would see how I reacted to situations and eventually glorify my Father in heaven.  Not a day went by that I didn’t cry out to the Lord for His help, His Spirit, His strength in my weaknesses.   I had a little wooden plaque on my desk with Nehemiah 8:10 on it, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”  And at certain moments I would sit down and read it over and over and over.  The simple prayer “Jesus, I need you” constantly rose from my heart.

When we found out we were pregnant, we decided it was best for me to not go back this year.  And as I drove home on my last day of inservice in May, I simply wept.  And I couldn’t stop.  The Lord’s faithfulness and constant goodness in getting me through those two years overwhelmed me.  My faith stood firm in the Lord and my confidence in Him was not shaken despite all the ways the enemy tried.  God is always good and always faithful.  As I drove home that day, another milestone was reached.  One that points to the great, loving faithfulness of God.  One that will be added to the list of reminders of evidences of God’s grace in my life.  One that reminds me that the Lord has a purpose and a plan.

The Lord is good and faithful. 

That has been the theme of my life.

I love thinking about past milestones and remembering God’s faithful workings.

Things like:

-Getting my “you graduated from the wound center” certificate in 2008- As strange as it sounds, that was a glorious day for me.  After a year of intense physical pain following two surgeries and excruciating healing processes, I finally could say, “I’m healed!”  Sometimes healing comes in ways we don’t expect.  In my case that year, the healing took a whole lot longer than was expected.  But it was still healing nonetheless.

-Climbing Half Dome in 2009 for the second time – After an awfully hard year emotionally, this hike proved to be more of a spiritual testimony of joy and peace, strength and forgiveness for me than physical strength.  The Lord used that arduous hike to show me how much He walked me through over that year and that He never left me.

-Getting Spencer’s first paycheck from teaching last August – Somehow we made it through last summer financially.  And when that first paycheck came, all we could do was praise God for His provisions.  He faithfully provided for us when we didn’t know how we would make it.  (And He continues to provide in astounding ways that can only be attributed to Him.)

Those just show examples of physical, emotional, and financial milestones.  I could go on and on naming more milestones in my journey with the Lord.  But instead, ask me for my story sometime.  I’d love to tell you what the Lord has allowed me to walk through that has enabled me to have the perseverance and strength I have today.

The song “Never Once” by Matt Redman echoes my heart as I dwell on God’s faithfulness.  Listen to it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1bXG4WIesA

Soak in the lyrics:

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

May our lives be evidences of God’s grace and point people to Him.  Let us not find things to complain about or boast in ourselves, but testify that God is good and faithful.  This life is hard, but He remains true to His promises.  We are never alone.  Take time to look back over your life and see the many ways He was faithful.  May what the Lord has brought you through so far in this life fill you with gratitude, joy, peace, and a holy confidence in Him.

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The Redeeming Power of Pain

Pain in real.

Suffering happens daily.

Trials unexpectedly pounce from behind bushes and come screaming down the road from miles away.

We learn in childhood that life isn’t fair.

Some people are merely acquaintances with troubles, while others have been plunged into fiery furnaces.

But amidst the harsh conditions of this life, hope is alive.  Peace is at hand.  Joy is attainable.  

Pain can be redeemed.

And the constant truth is that there is always something to be thankful for.  And gratitude fosters joyful perseverance in amazing ways.

We can never lose sight of the gospel.  The whole gospel.  Christ came to earth being fully God and fully man.  He fulfilled prophecies.  He died on the cross.  He rose from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and sits enthroned now and forever.

While we face struggles, we must hold tight to the gospel and rest assured in the fact that Jesus Christ conquered sin and death.  His resurrection and ascension give meaning to the crucifixion.

And there is a redeeming purpose behind our pain.

Pain can grow us and mature us.  Pain can foster a heart of gratitude, compassion, and mercy within us.  Pain can help us turn our eyes from ourselves and to our Heavenly Father.

When I was in middle school a friend led me to read Joel.  And I will never forget it.

The prophet Joel witnessed an awful locust plague.  There are different opinions as to what the locusts refer to.  But nevertheless, calamity struck Judah.  But hope arrives in chapter two as the people are called to repentance and to turn to the Lord once again.

Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.  The Lord answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.  I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rear guard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things.  Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!  Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield.  Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.  The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.  I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.  You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.  And my people shall never again be put to shame.  You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.  And my people shall never again be put to shame.  And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.  Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”

–Joel 2:18-29

God restores the years the locust had eaten!  He sends His Spirit!  What joyous news!

The theme of my life has been that God is good and faithful.

No matter what we face, we can always look back on our lives and through Scripture and be reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness.  God is Emmanuel.  He is always with us.

He is good.

He is faithful.

And He redeems our pain.