From The Eyes of a Child

This week I was working in a local daycare (working on a school project) and the director asked me to go through the Resurrection Eggs with the kids. I hesitated for a brief moment since it really had nothing to do with my project – but then I knew without a doubt more important than a grade or a project, was the opportunity to share Jesus with these kids. I was also really excited because growing up my family used these eggs to tell the story of Easter.

eggs

So, out on the playground mulched ground, we gathered in a circle. I had a couple books and the eggs in my lap and the kids piled in around me. Trying to read through the story, we were interrupted by the animals in the books, kids pushing other kids to “get closer”, or because “I can’t see”, one child tried biting another and then one little girl was crying for no reason whatsoever. I’m trying to put out one fire after the next and stay on track with the story, all the while I can feel my mind racing because this isn’t going how I planned. In my mind, I picture a group of children sitting like little angels, listening in rapt attention and answering any questions I ask. I see them behaving nicely and taking turns….needless to say, that’s just a dream and not gonna happen with 12+ two to four year old children. Anyway, we finally make it through the stories and I decide to let each child take turns opening the eggs. I was hoping that it would help hold their attention AND be a positive motivator for better behavior. Bribery is not above me when it comes to working with children who aren’t my own! As we begin going through the eggs, I feel like they’re more excited about the pieces inside the eggs than actually listening to what they represent…until….

We get to the egg that’s holding the whip. It falls to the ground and the squeal because they think it’s a worm. I quickly tell them it’s not a worm and pick it up from the mulch. They look at it curiously and begin guessing string, rope and so on. I tell them it’s called a whip and it’s used to hurt people. One of the little girls looks up at me and quietly says “That’s not very nice”. I agree and we talked briefly about how Jesus was beaten for us. The next egg held the crown of thorns, so I explain how sometimes we’ll touch a rose thorn or a prickle bush in the grass and how it hurts, but this crown of thorns was much worse and it was beaten into Jesus’ brow. They watched with rapt attention at this point. The little girl just frowns and says “owww, that would hurt”. Her eyes are watching my every move. We open the next egg which contained three nails that made a cross. They knew what this one was and I explained how Jesus died on that cross after being beaten and hurt – just for us. I look up and the little girl looks at me with the saddest eyes that are filling with tears and she goes “that’s sad”. I agree with how sad and then talk about how Jesus died for us, and for three days He was dead. We move to the next egg that was holding a stone. This was symbolizing the rock that covered the tomb. The precious little girl is blinking her eyes and looking at me, just waiting to find out what happens. We talked about how Jesus was dead for three days and was gone. Moving to the next egg, the little boy had been patiently waiting through the 11 other eggs and was about to jump out of his seat when I told him it was his turn to open it. He grabbed the last egg from my hand and pried it open. He looked up at me shocked. It was empty. tomb All the kids looked at me and I smiled. The little girl looked up at me and was like “where’s the stuff?” I grinned bigger and held the egg open for all to see and told them “it’s empty because Jesus didn’t stay in that tomb, He came back to life for you and me. He didn’t stay dead, He’s coming back for us one day too!” The tears from her eyes fled, and wonder and excitement jumped into her gaze. They all cheered. One of the little boys who had caused a LOT of problems was like “I didn’t get to open an egg!” I knew I’d have a riot on my hands if he didn’t open something so I let him pick. He grabbed the first egg he could get his hands on and pried it open. It was the pair of praying hands. I asked the kids what it meant. They replied by folding their hands and looking at me…they were ready to pray. My heart was warmed as I asked them if they wanted to pray and they all eagerly nodded and closed their eyes. I asked God for some quick guidance on what to say that they would understand and started with “Dear Jesus”. I was blessed by those children as they began repeating word-for-word everything I said. I fought back tears at their childlike faith and wonder at the Easter story. The tears that so quickly swam to their eyes at the news of Jesus’ death and the pure wonder of His resurrection. I was encouraged to look deeply again at the resurrection story!

It’s easy when you grow up around Christians, in church or believing in Jesus to just go “yes, I know He died and rose again”. But His story is so rich in His love for us. He came to earth JUST FOR YOU. JUST FOR ME. Knowing that He would grow up, to suffer and die for me…to bridge the gap between my sinful heart and His holiness. Jesus created a way for us to have a relationship with Him for eternity. He opened the path to a promise of security, everlasting love and Lord Who would guide the way for us.

I’ll write more to come on the story from the Bible tomorrow…please come back for the 2nd part. I have been TRULY blessed in the last week. Looking forward to sharing with everyone!

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Life Lessons from the Blizzard of 2016

We all have moments where it feels like our hearts are rent in two. Usually, it’s from broken relationships or crushed dreams that we are asked to give up. We look across our hearts after these events and they often look like a battlefield – broken, bruised, bloody and void of life. We are usually then found asking “WHY!? What can ever become of this mess now? Everything is ruined and lost.”

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Around five years have passed since my family was voted out of the church I grew up in. Angry, hurtful words were said – relationships were rocked and broken. I recall feeling as though I’d lost my Aunt and Uncle. Over the course of the last several years, we’ve mended the relationship as best we could. Family dinners, wonderful musical parties, and holiday celebrations were the bridge we used to start rebuilding and strengthening the relationship. Last night, we had them up to eat and as we’re going into supper, Dad goes “Will you pray?” and asks my Uncle. I almost cried when he started praying. This was the first time since we’d gotten voted out of the church that I heard my uncle pray. I hadn’t realized that was missing…until that very moment when he started and my heart was overwhelmed with thankfulness at being united in this way once more. Again, this morning, as we gathered with neighbors to worship Jesus (due to the snow, pretty much all services were cancelled). I heard him and my aunt praying. My heart was touched. We were singing, praying and praising Jesus together – something I thought would never happen again. Healing. It was like water to a dry, war-torn battlefield. Over the years, our relationship has gotten stronger again. But until I heard them pray – something had been missing.

I think back to a broken relationship and often wonder how anything good could come from that battlefield. How can anything grow after the destruction and hurt that happened?

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(photo taken from WWII Battle near Marne)

Then this morning, God gave me a beautiful physical example through what’s been labeled as the Blizzard of 2016. Snow was my answer. The earth “dies” every fall and we’re left with a barren and brown landscape…and then…then it snows.

White, clean, sparkly…fresh. New. Life.

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(photo taken from Aspen, CO)

            In just a few hours/days, our earth was blanketed with snow. I know this snow is the start to beautiful new life in the following months. Flowers, green grass, fruit trees, good hay crops and healthy gardens will come from this snow. From the bounty God bestows from the heavens. Our lives are just like this!

We’ve all been through horrible experiences and been standing at the edge of our battlefield, asking ourselves what is coming next and if there is anything good that can come from the barren and the broken. My friend…when we come to God and seek His face and forgiveness…God drapes a blanket of “snow”/purity on our lives and gives us the newness to blossom into a beautiful, bountiful harvest. There is beauty from the ashes. When we go to God, we find the Master Gardener that can take our broken, barren and bloody lives and turn it into something astoundingly beautiful.

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(Photo taken from NY Times, Antietam/Washington DC/Gettysburg)

            John 12:24 says “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”

I Samuel 16:7 says “But the Lord said to Samuel, “…For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Ezekiel 11:19 states “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,…”

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Lastly, Isaiah 43:19 (an all-time favorite of mine) says: “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

The relationships may not always be fixed (as ours THANKFULLY was!) and the dreams we lost may never come to pass, but God will heal the hurts, give new dreams and bless our lives tremendously IF we seek God first. In our own strength, we can’t fix relationships, heal hurts or make a dream a success – it all ends in the broken battlefield…so the choice is ours:

Bloody, barren, war-torn battlefields? Or lush, bountiful, beautiful field of His riches?

Which will you choose? To trust God in the middle of the barren times and seek Him or to waste away in our broken messes? I know my choice…I’m going to trust Him and serve Him even while I’m waiting on the bountiful harvest.

Because I know it’s coming…

 

Do You Trust Me?

This is the million dollar question. It’s the basis for a solid relationship. The key to decision making. The ability to follow someone’s leadership. Do you trust them? Speaking from personal experience…it’s very hard to trust. If asked, I would tell people I am a trustworthy individual. In the last year, I had someone look at me and say some of the most hateful things I’ve ever been told…their words haunted me and made me start asking myself “can people trust me?” More importantly, I began questioning who I trusted. And scarier still…even though I would quickly tell you that I trust God…did I really mean it?

I’m not about to say I have all the answers…good gracious, I’ve been learning this trust lesson for a while now and I’m pretty sure I’ll be learning it for the rest of my life. Anyway…here’s some thoughts from what I’ve been learning on the subject of trust.

The Bible speaks clearly on trust, one verse that has often arrested my attention is Psalm 33:20 and it says: “Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield, for our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.” My life often felt, and sometimes feels, like a big waiting game. In life – we wait a lot. Wait in line, wait at a red light, wait for movie tickets, wait for the “perfect” man or woman, wait for a new album, wait for vacation time to come around, wait for 5 o’clock to get here, wait for summer, etc. etc. etc. I’m learning it’s not so much about the waiting…it’s what we’re doing in the “wait” time. As we are doing our daily activities, going through the normalcy of life are we more focused on the wait or on what God is calling us to in the moment?

Several messages I’ve heard lately have spoken deeply to my heart. Pastor Norman made a comment the other night in service that went like this: “The heart of the problem…is a problem of the heart.” Oh how true. Every problem we can come up with, boils down to an issue in our heart. We need to be chasing after the hearts of people. It is with our hearts that we make decisions. With our hearts we communicate. With our hearts we share, hide or remain aloof. It’s a protection thing. It’s a way to make others warm to us.

Our words are very important and must be protected. There are standards…God’s. When we compare our words, to the Scriptures, are our words going to stand or be found lacking and crumble? Our words show the place of our hearts. Naturally, our desire is to hide our defects. We simply want to be loved and accepted as we are, and Satan has us buying into the lie that if people see us as we truly are – we will be unlovable. And even I, must say, this is something I struggle with. I don’t open up easily and if you’ve heard my heart…count yourself among the very few. As we cover, with words, the true value of our hearts…this is a issue of pride, which makes it an issue of sin. Herein lies the problem.

The scariest part is it’s not just person to person. If others cannot trust our words…what about God? The communications we share with others, with ourselves and with God are somewhat interconnected. Being able to be honest with ourselves, God and others is important. So as we go into this new week…challenge yourself. Speak honestly. Be honest with yourself. Yep…the truth is not always pretty but it saves a lot of heartache in the long run. Jesus is asking us to TRUST Him. Trust is a delicate wire on which we walk. We must make the decision to either trust God, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense to us, even when we wonder “why”…God knows. He understands everything and in time, His will shall be seen and it will make sense. Take it a day at a time…or take a big leap of faith and ask yourself: “If I can trust God for my salvation, why don’t I trust Him in the little everyday matters of my heart?”

Looking Forward

Today started early for me, as usual, but I was still thinking of the pale moonlight last night, spilling over the field in front of my house. Bathing the barn in a soft glow. Would have been the perfect night (maybe a little chilly) to take a walk under the moon. Anyway, I mixed up my devotions this morning a little and just googled the chapter of the day and proceeded to read it. It was 2 Peter 3. Now, first, let me just say this isn’t the passage I would normally choose to read because part of it talks about the destruction of the world. I’m a passionate person about Jesus not coming back just yet. 🙂 But as I was reading, I found these parts of the chapter stuck out to me: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise…Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace…Praise God that He isn’t slack when it comes to promises! We can trust what He says. If we have Him in our hearts, we can look forward to what is coming. 

This morning, on my way into work…I was driving towards Mountain City and looked up. Maybe that sounds crazy when driving, but my focus is usually on the road and the nearby fields. You have to watch the deer…and bunnies…haha! They like to visit the roads frequently! 🙂 But the blueness of the sky pulled my gaze upwards and I was awed. The clouds were a gorgeous display of white fluff, pink hues and slate gray shadows. Absolutely stunning. The fog was drifting between the mountains that loomed in the close distance, further back, some mountains lay buried under the morning fog. But the most breathtaking sight was the sun…peeking through those clouds. You know the rays that shoot upwards? Yep…it was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen this year. I wished I had my camera with me…but no worries, a dear woman in Jonesborough did capture the sunrise! I’ll share it at the end, so a special thank you to M. Shaw!

As I looked at the sunrise, those brilliant rays I thought “Lord, here’s the hope for our new earth and it will be more beautiful than this!” Talk about amazing. As scary as the “what ifs” of our future may be, we can rest assured that God will keep His promises. He will raise up a new World, a better one, in which only godliness exists. I just wanted to share these thoughts this morning. His mercies are new every morning. He forgives all sins. All we need to do is trust Him, bring Him into our hearts and make our relationship with Him the most important thing in our life. So I may not have gotten that moonlight walk last night, haha…but my Savior and I had a beautiful country drive this morning and He decided to show off some of His handiwork. 

No matter what you’re doing today, look up…and look forward! You never know what you may be missing! 

Photo taken August 26th by M. Shaw

Photo taken August 26th by M. Shaw

Journey Off The Map – VBS Fun

This past week I got the privilege of serving at a local church (which is becoming dear to my heart) for VBS. The theme for their program was “Journey Off The Map” and I got the challenge…and joy…of working with the 5th and 6th graders in my county. Let’s just say…I LOVE working with youth! They have such passion and yet they’re starting to get to the vital decision making time in their life. Anyway, I was a back-up assistant in the classroom. As we went through the week, I found myself focusing more on making sure the children were paying attention, not talking, not playing on technology, not pestering a friend, “stand-up”, “sing”, “listen”, and “shhhhh” were things I also spent a LOT of time saying. We’d be in Bible study (and let me note, Ms. Michelle did a GREAT job) and then we’d go to singing, on to missions, crafts and then snack. I was going through the motions and listening some, but more so making sure I did everything I could to make sure the kids got the message.Journey Off The Map Logo

Well…let’s just say…you can take a camel to water but you can’t make him drink! Kids are the same way. You can bring the message to them, but you can’t make them listen. 😦  As we were singing, I would be singing and doing the motions to the song but not really singing. The words were coming out of my mouth but I wasn’t connecting my heart. I was trying to encourage the kids to sing along…but it seemed the more I pushed, the less some of the participated. Finally…I just gave up. Not that I stopped making them participate, but I stopped thinking I was failing if they weren’t joining in.

My amazing group of kids and our fearless leaders

My amazing group of kids and our fearless leaders

I realized I needed to be the one taking the message of the songs to heart. About the time this “dawns” on me, it’s time to vote on the song our group wants to sing at the celebration night. I wanted to sing one of my favorites, but the kids didn’t vote for that one. They voted for the song called “Follow”.

To be honest, I was disappointed. I liked that song, but it wasn’t my favorite. Then God got a hold of my heart and “spoke” to me. (Also note…God didn’t verbally speak to me, but it’s the inner heart whispers that flood my mind and I know they came from Him) It was like He was saying “Sarah, is the song for you? Are you singing to make yourself happy? The goal is to worship Me, to honor Me…sing this song for Me.”

I had a QUICK heart adjustment and then I began to listen….and to sing. Truly sing and listen to the words I was saying.

We’re on a crazy road, we never really know, where it’s gonna lead

It’s unpredictable, it’s like a wind that blows, oh, on a stormy sea

Whatever happens now, we know you’ll be around

Every corner, every trail we are going down.

No matter where we tread, we know you’re up ahead

Every step and every mile, we’ve decided now…

(Chorus)

Where you will go, yeah, we will go

We’re gonna follow. (repeat)

We’ve gotta keep the faith, that anything we face, hey, it’s in your hands

Your word is guiding us, and we’re gonna trust, trust, in your perfect plan

Whatever happens now, we know you’ll be around

Every corner, every trail we are going down.

No matter where we tread, we know you’re up ahead

Every step and every mile, we’ve decided now…

(Chorus)

We have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no, no turning back, no (repeat)

The cross before us, the world behind us, no turning back no, no turning back, no (repeat)

(Chorus 2x)

And I knew….this song was JUST AS MUCH FOR ME as it was for the kids. I can’t say I’ll go so far as to say it was in the program just to speak to my heart…but with everything I’ve been learning lately, this song says it all!!

God wasn’t finished with touching my heart this last week with just the song, though! The night of the final celebration came and “my students” got up on stage to sing their song. I was praying they’d sing and do the motions…because several hadn’t throughout the week. Well, they didn’t disappoint…the kids that sang during the week would sing, and the kids that didn’t…didn’t. The song still went well, and the parents loved it. I was questioning myself on if the kids got anything during the week, did any of the message sink home to them, did any of the words from the song stick in their minds, did God touch any of their hearts? I didn’t have to wait long to find out…

Time came to show the pictures from the week. They had put the pictures to music from the week. One of the songs was “Follow” and to my absolute amazement, when we got the chorus of the song it was like a chorus of angels was sitting around me in the 5th and 6th graders. They started singing. And not just singing, but loud, from the heart with great abandon, singing! I admit…I almost cried. They got it. My kids then continued to sing every word to every song that followed. I didn’t have to tell them to sing. They just all sang. That’s when I knew…we may be on a crazy road (almost nothing beats the crazy of working with kids), we may be facing the unpredictable/unknown, but we’re going to trust in God, in HIS PERFECT PLAN. Which by the way, we may not know. Usually, we don’t know, if we’re being honest. But we can walk in that plan because we know God is guiding us and is ahead of us, preparing the way and in that knowledge…WE ARE GOING TO FOLLOW!

The Things That Matter

First thought this morning, as I opened my puffy, swollen, tear-stained eyes…I can’t believe I have to get up and go to Knoxville today. In the car on the way there, the driver and passengers all complained about the bad driving of others, the absurdity of the lights the government is putting up. In training, heard co-workers fuss about the work of gathering needs assessments in our counties. Tonight, I heard raised voices complain about having to suffer through a cold shower…when another family member had been throwing up and took the same cold shower. The difference…the sick individual didn’t complain, just answered “I’m okay, just taking a cold shower” – the healthy one…was very upset about the injustice of having to take a cold shower. Now, let me just say…I don’t like taking a cold shower and as of late we’ve had more cold showers than not at my house. But with 8 people on one hot-water tank, you either space showers out…or shower cold.

But as I listened to the rant about having to shower in cold water, God hit me. I am so ungrateful. On a large scale, we…all of us…are so ungrateful. I got the news yesterday that a beautiful, vibrant, young woman breathed her last breath. Alongside her husband and little girl. In one moment, their lives were gone.

Molly, Nick and Harper...went to be with Jesus on May 16, 2015.

Molly, Nick and Harper…went to be with Jesus on May 16, 2015.

The family is left to pick up the pieces and move on with an ache in their heart. I cannot even begin to comprehend the agony they must be going through. I worked with Molly…never realized she was only a couple months older than I was…and in a moment, she is no longer with us on earth. It’s sad, but my heart can rejoice because the neat part – she and the loves of her life, all got to meet Jesus…hand in hand.

Tonight, it hit me. Why am I complaining?

Lord, I am THANKFUL to be able to open my eyes.  Thankful to have a job to go to. I am thankful to have to travel so far and see new places and experience new people. I am thankful to know the pain of life…it means I’m alive. I am thankful for the tears…it means I can feel. I am thankful for sickness – because it makes me depend on you. I am thankful for cold showers…I can be clean. I can feel the cold sting of the water as you gasp from the cold. I am alive. Thank you for life, Lord. I can talk to my Dad, I can hug my Mom, tell my siblings “I love you”. I can laugh with friends. I can drive with the windows down and feel the wind across my face. I can feel the rumble of the thunder, get soaked from the side-driving downpour. I can revel in the beauty of a double rainbow…God’s promises. All too often, Lord, I focus on the negative. Forgive me. I need to learn how to be thankful. Grateful. For there are some that may never experience that again. I need to be thankful. I have so much to be thankful for.

Life is truly but a moment…one minute here, the next we’re gone. So, be with the ones you’ve got and be thankful for them. Remember you may not be able to tell them you love them. Do we want our last interactions with someone to be angry, hollered words or words of affirmation and love? It doesn’t matter if we realize they love us…do they hear it? We never know when we’ll get our last words. Our last hug. Don’t wait for that one chance to say it someday. Hug them today. Be thankful for them today. Be thankful for life…today. Right now. You may not have it later. Don’t waste our precious time being unthankful for what we “don’t have”. Rejoice for what we do have. The life. The love. The friends. Be in the present and live each day, each moment as if it was truly your last.

Where Healing is Found

Sometimes I have lots to say, and sometimes I just sit quietly when I go to spend time with Jesus. Over the last few weeks, these verses and quotes have been sinking into my heart and mind. I’ve done a lot of meditating on these truths. There’s a part of me that really enjoys blogging and opening up some of my thoughts, but I’m typically a very private person so I don’t like sharing everything I’m thinking and learning…too personal. 🙂 At least for the internet…so, some verses and then I’ll get to the quotes.

I was in Hosea (chapter 5 & 6) a while back and years ago, I was probably around 16 or 17 when I wrote this. So this is right before I graduated high school and went off to college, lived and learned, had successes and made mistakes, but I wish I would have known how true this verse would be. “I will go and return unto my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up….Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord

In the margins of my Bible, I wrote in pencil that God heals ALL hurt and damage. Even after doing wrong, with forgiveness we can live Holy with Him. Do we seek a relationship with Him? Do we desire God more than ANYTHING? Is God#1? Do you truly love Him? Oh the heartbreak and trials I could skip if I remembered this truth! Keeping God first…is so vital to everything else going a WHOLE lot smoother and easier. I’m getting a little better about this…but there are still days when it’s easy to slip into old habits that are destructive. When we allow the distance to grow between us and God, He remains in His place and we are left denying, or trying to justify our actions to Him. We can often cover our faults to others, but God knows. We can’t lie to Him, and by not being honest with God – we are placing distance between us. Sadly, God realizes it often takes affliction for us to return to Him. Over and over in history we see Israel being miraculously saved by God, turning their backs on Him, being enslaved, crying out to God…and then it repeats. I used to be amazed at how they would continue this pattern. My mind cried “Don’t you ever learn!?” But then God strikes my heart and goes “Will you ever learn, my daughter?” *shame* I got the message…I do the same thing. Maybe it’s different. Maybe I’m not a physical slave to harsh rulers…but I’m a slave to fears or a slave to bad attitudes, or a slave to others’ opinions, etc.

But then GOD swoops in, as I (finally) turn to Him for answers and goes “I was here all along. Here I am. I will save you.” This is usually followed by me spending time with God a lot more consistently. I do find that the wounds we are afflicted with…either in God’s pulling us back to Him or in our own sin that damages us – God doesn’t care where the wounds come from. He heals them. Cares for us. Binds up our broken pieces. Creates beauty in a broken vessel. The forgiveness and grace found in Jesus is incredible. Does it take away the pain? Some…over time. Other pains will linger forever in the recesses of our mind because of mistakes we made, the scars will always be there. But the healing does come WHEN WE SEEK GOD! 🙂