Be the Change

images There’s a certain drive-through I’ll arrange my schedule to use for one simple reason: the voice that comes through the “box” and the man behind the voice when I arrive at the window.

This man, although working a brutal morning shift for more-than-likely minimum wage, blesses me every time we meet.  Our meetings don’t last longer than a couple of minutes and we’ve never exchanged comments more than, “Thank you” and “You have a beautiful day.”  But that’s enough.  He impacts my day with such a positive start I can’t help but carry that energy with me through the day.

This was our routine … until yesterday morning.  His voice didn’t contain it’s usual chipperiness and I was worried for him.  This man who has blessed me so many mornings by how he treats me and my fellow customers needed to be blessed.  And so in the time it took me to travel from the “box” to the window,  I prayed.  I prayed for this man and I prayed for every person I would meet during the day.  I asked God to provide me with opportunities to be a blessing to them.

Which is right about the time this song began playing on my radio:  Be the Change

Wow, talk about a “God moment!”  I was getting giddy and couldn’t wait for my turn at the window to bless this man who, whether he realized it or not, has blessed me countless times.

Sitting in the parking lot munching on my breakfast (you didn’t think I ate while I drove, did you?) I thought about how I needed to not “just” be thankful for the blessings in my life but to look for opportunities to be a blessing to others.  I remembered the blessing bags sitting on my back seat.

My life group had decided to create “blessing bags” a few months back.  My sweet friend, Lorrie, put them together and I received mine the other day.  These are little care packages filled with things like socks, toiletries, and snacks we are giving to people we encounter that are in need of a little assistance.

I was headed downtown to a meeting and I knew I was going to be driving past a place under the highway where many people without homes sleep.  I knew … just KNEW … this was going to be an opportunity for me to be a blessing to someone!  Would you believe the area was clear when I drove by? I actually stopped and laughed because I was doing it again.  Instead of allowing God to orchestrate my day, I was assuming the role of creative director.

Humbled, I headed on to my meeting and determined to use my eyes and ears to find the opportunities instead of trying to create the opportunities that would be most convenient for me.

The day progressed and it was fairly uneventful.  The meeting was filled with lots of great information for me to take back to my campuses, and I came away with many kernels of ideas I plan to discuss with my adminstrators to possibly develop into full-blown action.

And then it happened.

A colleague and I were chatting as we were heading to our cars and I fell.  My foot slipped off the sidewalk and before I realized what was happening, I was on the ground, face-up, with all my bags on top of my face.  All I could think at that moment was, “How in the world did my bags end up on my head?”  My colleague helped me untangle myself and I just kind of laid there for another moment, mainly because I couldn’t figure out what had just happened.  I looked up and saw another colleague running toward me and everyone was asking me if I was okay.  I really was okay, hugely embarrassed, but okay.  My coordinator arrived as I was climbing up from the ground and said I needed to fill out an accident report.  (Great.) Then she said it could wait until Monday.  (Great!)

So … how was I blessing others, you ask?  As I’ve reflected on the incident, I really believe the blessing was allowing others to serve me.  If I had been alone when I’d fallen off the sidewalk (yes, it’s happened … ), my colleagues wouldn’t have had that opportunity for service.

It’s a crazy way to look at the incident but the reality is, God doesn’t typically work in ways that make sense.

And I’m learning sometimes the way to be a blessing … to be the change … is to provide others with opportunities to serve.

Lovin’ Summer

“So, what did you do on your summer vacation?”  There was a time I didn’t like thIMG_0353is question.  This year, I’m eager to answer!  What did I do?  Well …

My Word for 2014 is Focus; my summer was spent developing my focus.  My focus commitment is 4-fold:

  • God
  • my family
  • what’s important
  • my health

 

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Excerpts from Unglued, Believing God, The Carpenter, AHA, Gods at War, Love Does, & Not a Fan

My heart’s desire is to be Jesus’ hands & feet to those around me.  I’ve been devouring a lot of books this year which focus on being a strong follower (as opposed to a fan) of Jesus.

I’m so thankful for this time in the mornings and evenings to read and marinate in the Word … time without constraints to read and study passages of Scripture and glean truth.  Time to read … just read.

I’m not sure if it’s my desire or if it’s Holy Spirit inspired, but I believe I should be sharing this knowledge instead of hoarding it.

Time to move into the application phase!

How will I do this?  Lead a Bible study? Minister to my neighbors? Head out on a mission trip over Spring Break next year or next summer? All of these, none of these … I have no idea.  What I do know is I am committed to focusing on the important.

Digging into the Word is important.  So is my family.

Hub and I continue to believe we are called to be parents and are praying about plans to expand our family.  Will we be more than a family of two humans and three dogs next summer?  Again, no idea.  We’ve been waiting for almost 30 years to be parents, so our answer is: we both hope so!  In the meantime …

IMG_1261Hub and I were able to coordinate our schedules and head out of town for a couple trips this summer.  These were places we were able to head to and return from on a tank of gas.  We had a great time together, even when things didn’t go exactly as planned.  The important fact was we were spending time together which is something we’re not really able to do during our “normal” life.

I got to spend time with my family and even managed to squeak out a win over my intelligent & talented niece when we played this:

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To her credit, she did win one game

 

 

I couldn’t resist laughing when she commented, “I can’t believe I’m actually playing this against a TEACHER!”

 

 

Hub & I have lived in this house for over a decade and there are things we’ve dreamed of doing in the home-improvement department for quite a while now.  I decided to surprise him and begin working on one of those projects on the 4th of July.

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“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6 (NIV)

It’s not done but “in progress.”  I still have a few things I’d like to do before I can call the project complete.  And I like it that way for now because it’s a tangible illustration of how I am in His hands.  I was overgrown with lots of mess in my life before God began working on me.  He’s had to cut a lot of dead wood and overgrowth out of me and I can say with confidence He won’t be done pruning and shaping me until I cross that finish line at the end of my life.  My joy is anticipating the moment I’ll hear Him proclaim, “Well done!”

 

 

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Sunflowers in Gruene

Summer vacations for educators aren’t ever complete without the requisite doctor appointments we schedule so we don’t miss time from our students and staff.  I found a field of these outside my doctor’s office on a recent visit.  It was a nice opportunity to take the time and snap some pictures before heading home.

What did I do on my summer vacation?  A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

And a whole lot of focusing on what is important: God, family, faith

Planted by streams of water

Once upon a time, I had a student in my first period class.  Okay, I had several students in that particular first period class; thankfully, there was only one Bud (not his real name).  I had a habit of locking my classroom door in the mornings I didn’t tutor before school in order to grab a few last moments to “prep” for the day without any interruptions.  I forgot to unlock my door one day and began presenting that day’s lesson.  Bud, a high school senior, attempted to unobtrusively sneak into class but was stopped by the locked door.  What happened next not only disrupted every classroom on my hallway, but created a memory I don’t think I’ll ever forget:

He banged on the door with both fists shouting, “LET ME IN!  I WANT TO LEARN!”

I shared my heart with my Lifegroup sisters recently about my desire to not just exist, but to Live. I don’t believe I, or anyone, is called to live a lifeless routine of working and sleeping. And yet, this is exactly what I’ve been doing.

My heart’s desire is to move beyond existing to living.  We talked about what it means to live and then discussed Casting Crowns’ song, “Thrive” and what it means to thrive.  I don’t know why, but I didn’t have a clear grasp of what the word, thrive, meant.  After arriving home, I cracked open my digital dictionary and noted the definition: to prosper and flourish; to grow; to develop well.

While the dictionary definition shed some insight, I knew … just KNEW … there was more so I checked out the “story behind the song” to dig deeper to find it’s scriptural foundation.  I am thankful I did!

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for it’s leaves remain green, and it is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. – Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. – Psalm 1 (NIV)

[emphasis mine]

I want to be like that!  To be like a tree planted by streams of water, my roots digging deep and drinking continually from the everlasting water of God’s Word!

The result of all this digging and drinking? Reaching out!  That’s the other desire of my heart: to share Christ with my community … my neighborhood, my colleagues.  To “be there,” to be an encourager. I believe the Lord is confirming some things for me and I’m excited!  For now, I’ll keep drinking deeply from the Word.  I can’t wait to see what He’s got in store for me!

Bud has long since graduated and moved on with his life.  His declaration, altered slightly, is now my fervent plea:

I WANT TO THRIVE!

Compassion isn’t always convenient

I was texting with a couple of my LifeGroup sisters a few weeks ago discussing the topic of compassion. The subject came up following an opportunity our church fellowship had that morning to pack food boxes for families with the Children’s Hunger Fund.

One of my sisters commented that it’s super-easy for us to whip out our check books and contribute financially to someone in need or to help each other out when a need arose, but when it comes to us being Jesus’ hands & feet in our community we fall short.

That conversation really struck a chord of conviction in my heart and I’ve been chewing on it and sincerely searching for opportunities to serve my neighbors and those in my community since then.

There have been a couple of opportunities I’ve seized/embraced over the past week and a few others I’m still working on for our LifeGroup to become involved in.

This is what continues to resonate in my heart:

Serving others isn’t always convenient.

I have been wrestling with this since our texting conversation and I had to be truly honest and admit to being very lazy in my service to others. If I can’t afford to give out of my excess … be it time or finances, I find excuses why I shouldn’t participate.

The Holy Spirit has been shaping my heart & filling me with strong conviction because He’s teaching me …

There are times when we can help others out of our excess and there are times when service is truly sacrificial.

The key, I’m finding, is to look for the opportunities and to be available when the Holy Spirit prompts me to help others.

Have I come to the point where my service is exclusively sacrificial? No, but I hope I’m getting closer. Much of my service is still out of the excess I’ve been blessed with.

The thought of true sacrifice scares me because when I’m truly honest with myself, I have to admit something: the only way I will be able to be truly sacrificial in my service, in my giving?

By being fully reliant on God.

Does that not blow your mind? I know it blows mine.

40 Days

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22 (NIV)

This is the time of year when several of my friends commit to giving up “things” for the next 40 days. Chocolate, coffee, Facebook … I’ve seen each of these noted as items (or in the case of Facebook, habits) deemed necessary to give up.

I am doing the opposite this year. Instead of giving up, I’m committing to giving:

Time
Resources
Me

My word for 2014 is “Focus.” My reasoning? Urgent issues happen but they aren’t always important. I dedicated 2014 to focus on the IMPORTANT. Specifically, God and family.

The Lord is faithful to help me stay focused. For instance, my home church, Northeast Bible Church, started compassion challenges last week.

The first challenge was to provide a meal to an “unsung public service worker.” Personally falling into that category, I had a difficult time figuring out how to do this until I began to think about all the staff that work with me behind the scenes of education. Which led to a joyful lunchtime surprise for one of my campus clerks.

Our current challenge is a lot more challenging for me. We are challenged to write a note each day telling the person we’re writing to what we like about them. Easy enough. But wait, there’s more: we’re also challenged to write at least one note to someone we struggle to be around. Whoa. I have one of those and that note will definitely be drafted by the Holy Spirit because if I try to write under my own power, it will come out all. wrong.

These challenges are providing opportunities to be grace & compassion in action!

Wonderful news! Our Lifegroup began a new study last week titled, Love Does.

The lessons? Be there for others, take risks, follow God’s leading. Okay, wow. I’m sensing a theme here. 🙂

My big-picture takeaway from these 40 days is to not stop finding compassion challenges on Resurrection Sunday but to dedicate the rest of my life to share God’s grace & compassion with those around me.