Sufficiency

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5)

This verse sums up my week perfectly. I found myself deeply challenged and encouraged.

The fact is that I generally wish I was sufficient. It would be fabulous to be an amazing teacher, leader, sister, auntie, friend, etc. due to talent and skill. I’m sure that I would also be naturally humble and others-centered, perfectly implementing Philippians 2, if my fantasy were to be real.

And…it’s not!

I felt anxious about a meeting, spent an hour and a half (from 3:00-4:30am) trying to not give in to thoughts about all that I haven’t accomplished at work this school year, worried about others’ perceptions of me, and somewhat rudely interrupted a meeting with a non-urgent message. Clearly, sufficiency is not inborn here!

And yet…

I ended the meeting with peace, woke up the next night without anxiety and went back to sleep, learned (again!) to believe God for help at work, and watched as He worked internally and externally to bring fresh hope and joy.

How sufficient He is!

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Random Redemption

“Identify three positive and three negative experiences in your life and describe how they have formed who you are now.”

The funny thing is that when I thought about this, the three positives were long-term situations involving great communities, and the negatives contributed to greater growth than I previously thought possible.  One example is my recent voice loss issues- I was forced to learn and make changes internally and externally to maintain my ability to talk.  By God’s grace, the last 10 months have been the healthiest of the previous 5 years, both emotionally and physically!  

That is to say that I can’t think of a negative experience in my life that was not somehow redeemed.  They were not fun, and I would not have chosen any of them initially, but between the learning and the grace, redemption has come.  

That is NOT to say or imply that I have been responsible for an abundance of lemons-turned-raspberry lemonade situations.  Joseph said that God intended evil perpetrated by his brothers for good.  While I don’t see a lot of evil intention on the part of my family or friends, I do see a lot of good and kind intention on God’s part to transform pain and confusion into joy and peace.

For that, and for a brief chance to remember and rehearse, I am grateful.

Hallelujah and a-choo!

I have a cold, and I can talk!  That’s reason for gratitude right there!

If you’re a longtime reader, you may remember that for most of my adult life (which isn’t actually THAT long but long enough in this case), I have lost my voice with each and every cold.  For the past few years, it was the first thing that happened, and the whispering could last up to a couple weeks.  This is a challenge, to say the least, when one is a teacher.

In May, I found out that the cause for this challenge is muscle tension aphonia- a fancy way  to say that I get too stressed to talk.  The physical stress of a cold is generally the precipitating factor, but my personality, I was told, contributes to the problem.  Phrases like, “the harder you try, the worse it gets” haunted me from the day of diagnosis.  I felt powerless to improve my situation and guilty for being the way I was.

In the desperation of wondering if I could stay in this career, why God would make me this way if it was so problematic, and other such panics, I told God that He would have to take care of this because, quite simply, I couldn’t.  My best wasn’t good enough.

And He is.  He is enough, and His grace has brought me to the present with the healthiest 9 months in recent memory, wisdom to change my habits of body and mind, and healing of my heart that allowed healing of my body.  Where my own hard work to reduce stress only made my tension and voice worse, His gentle work has brought me deeper, sweeter peace than I could have imagined.

That’s why I’m singing hallelujah between the sneezes- I can, because He is good.  It’s great to have a voice, but it’s better to know He’s the reason I do.

What do you have that you haven’t received?

This question echoes in my heart today. I read it last night with the rest of the chapter in that way I really shouldn’t read the Bible– without anticipation or expectation.

Paul is in the middle of making an argument to his readers, and this verse fits nicely there. For me, however, it was like a punch in the stomach (or at least, what I imagine a punch in the stomach would be like).

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7 NASB)

What do you have that you did not receive? The rhetorical question became personal and the answer is clear: nothing. There is nothing in my life that I have not received…so why do I lay claim to things mentally and feel justified in my indignation when “my” time goes differently than planned?

So I pray through this verse again and again, asking that the Word Who became flesh will change me and my heart. For all I have received, may I be truly grateful…and less territorial!

The A-B-Cs of Strep Throat

When I said that I needed more time to write here, I wasn’t exactly hoping for a few days in bed, 102.7 degrees, or strep throat.

And yet, here I am with approximately 22 hours of antibiotic treatment before my contagion ends…just enough time to write.

As I laid on the couch yesterday, I considered how to use my forced down-time.  Using the computer required too much energy; calling a friend to catch up required use of my throat.  My vocal cords only rebelled on occasion, but talking meant swallowing which meant pain.  I’m a wimp.

So I laid on the couch looking for a silent, still activity…and came upon an idea I used when I would swim laps in college: A-B-C prayer.

A- adored

B- beautiful

C- Christ, etc.

I started with attributes of God and finished up with things I’m grateful for.  I don’t think I made it past C on the second one before I was again asleep under the mountain of blankets.

You know what?  God showed up.  In my mushy-brain, shivering-with-fever state, He reminded me that I am His.  That was enough.

I wish

I could communicate just how dear, how precious, my friend Jesus is. .
Words could share the sweetness of sitting with Him.
I would remember mystery of His kindness everyday.

But as I feel the frailty of words and the limitations of explanations,
It seems the best thing to do is just
be.

One of those days

…that start poorly
…then get worse
…when you fight to have a good attitude
…when it’s a battle to send a text to say, “please pray”
…when you read your Bible to put your head on straight
…when you must worship to work because the news won’t cut it this morning

Today is one of those days when I fear polluting the whole day with discouragement

and instead, grace flows and He fights the battle in my place.

So I look back with a grateful heart and see mercy here, there, and everywhere. I am not alone in any sense of the word; I am surrounded by love, even when the battle rages.

Blessed with

Relief of tension headaches
A wonderful class
Co-workers I enjoy being around
Biking through Pt. Defiance park
Gorgeous sunsets
Parent volunteers (!!!)
Warm weather (even if it is over 80 in my classroom)
Peace that passes understanding

mismatch

Something says,

“It’s time to move on.”

Prepare the pumpkin spice lattes, scarves, and boots.

But life doesn’t always match the calendar.

School has started,

but the weather is just perfect   

for summer.

I’ll take a few more iced drinks and flip-flip days,

even if I do have to get up for work,

thank-you-very-much!

Overwhelmed

I need discipline, especially in my Bible reading. Some people may be able to read here, there, and everywhere willy nilly and stay focused. I cannot.

So I came to Titus 3 last week and got stuck, in the best way possible. That sense of “this seems brand new even though I know I’ve read it many times before” hit me clearly, and I keep going back to re-read it and meditate on it, finding it richer every time I return.

“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
(Titus 3:1-2).

I stopped, overwhelmed by the last phrase. It’s a great idea- every consideration for everyone- and a seemingly impossible one. I have a tendency, wrong though it is, to read things like this and think, “time to take a vow of poverty” (which may be God’s plan for some but which He has not revealed for me yet), and “kill myself trying to serve other people” (also not revealed to me).

But…neither my story nor the chapter was over. So I kept reading.

“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
(Titus 3:3).

Seven words in, I was done. As if I was a child, sitting on the neighbor’s grass at Five-Day Club hearing the gospel again in its simplicity, the truth of my sinful start was clear. The sword of the Spirit cut cleanly, and my own inability to be anything less than lost was deeply apparent. The compassion in “we also” put me in my place- the place of needing consideration!

And now I was propelled into the next verse, already knowing the truth of grace but needing to read it alive again.

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
(Titus 3:4-7).

Ahh! But when…kindness and love through the Father and Son and Spirit…I could breathe again, filling my heart and lungs with the breath of life. The weight of self-imposed expectations and overwhelming pressure had to flee, because the Spirit has been poured out richly in Christ, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. This story’s not about me, and it never has been. What sweet relief!

Jesus mercifully regenerated me when I prayed for salvation as a seven-year-old, but He continues to renew me, even on a random summer morning on a disciplined Bible reading plan. The truth of the good news should never be stale, but sometimes, I take the miracle for granted.

Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me again of how I desperately need You and how present you are.