gratitude

No room for failure

Each morning, I spend time reading, praying, and meditating. This morning I started reading the book of Joshua in the Bible. I came across a line in verse five that resonated with me.

“I will not fail you or forsake you.”

I underlined that portion of the verse and meditated on it briefly before gathering cookies for Maggie’s classmates, my cup of coffee, car keys, and cell phone. I whisked Maggie out the door and cranked up the heat. It’s that time of year when I feel false hope about autumn coming until about 10 a.m. By noon, I’m sweating and shedding my sweater.

63910_552312649722_1189983164_nAfter dropping Maggie off at school, I returned home to a peaceful, quiet house. We live in the woods, and the sunlight strives to shine through the grove of trees on the eastern hill. The verse I selected came back to me as I stood staring at the sun.

“I will not fail you or forsake you.”

God isn’t failing or forsaking the leaves on those trees and has provided them with exactly the right amount of moisture since spring. God doesn’t fail the trees either; the only trees that fall are those ready to die, decaying at the core. I looked at the light reflecting off the dew on our grass and spider webs in the forest. He maintains the smallest bits of creation we overlook.

Of course he is not forsaking me either.

He provides me with just the right clients at the right time. Last week, one of my favorite clients notified me that this year, funding wasn’t available to hire me. My heart sank. A few hours later, a potential client called me and said he was ready to start working together. Maybe that timing was coincidental; I prefer to view it as providential. God always knows what I need when I need it, even if it’s just to confirm that He’s going before me and planning in love.

God is not failing or forsaking me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI worried off and on for a year about how my daughter would adjust to starting kindergarten. Each time these fears came to mind, I attempted to let go and trust God. Sometimes I felt relief. Other times I wasn’t sure God would come through for me, even though His track record is stellar. But of course He came through. She was placed in a classroom with the most caring, committed, and well-trained teacher I know. She’s thriving. I’ve seen huge leaps in her ability to write and communicate in just three weeks’ time. And almost every day when I pick her up from school, she yells with glee, “This was the best day EVER!”

God is not forsaking or failing my child. 

There is no space for fear when I focus on the ways God has come through for me in the past.

There is no room for fear when I focus on how God is providing for me today either.

 

gratitude

Not so plain Jane

Jane, Jane, Jane,

You’ll probably kill me for this (or at least you’ll want to).

11952017_597555627432_4960712350773105577_nI can’t stop thinking about writing this letter to you, and when I can’t get something off my mind, I take action. I think you know this about me, so I’m pretty sure you’ll forgive me even though you don’t like being in the spotlight and would prefer to be the one snapping photographs instead.

In fact, this is one thing I love most about you and have come to admire about you–you are incredibly perceptive and have me pegged very well, even better than friends of mine who’ve known me for decades.

You recently interviewed a few students of mine during a mock interview session for Oral Communication class, and the feedback you provided me with about each of them was spot on. You described their personalities, assets, and liabilities almost exactly the way I’d describe them myself, and I’ve been teaching them twice weekly since August. This ability to cut through the bull and see people and situations realistically is one reason I often call on you for second opinions and came looking for “Jane’s brain” while trying to sort out my thoughts about my recent presentation proposal.

I also know I can trust you 100% with information, secrets, rambling thoughts, and feelings. Your trustworthiness is an attribute that every person aspires to possess, but let’s be honest–not all our friends are trustworthy, or this wouldn’t be worth mentioning. 11836790_595919815612_3466892458279554535_n

When our friends Chris and Tara moved to the big city of Little Rock, I felt lonely and wondered how God would fill the hole in my life. I relied on those two for companionship, entertainment, laughter, and confidential conversation time. Even though you and I were friends long ago, I think we have grown closer because of the space created by Chris and Tara moving away; God filled the empty space in my life with something new and just as meaningful. 1977343_584011455062_4121734977188759612_n

You’re a deceptive one, Jane. . . you might appear simple on the outside with that cream-colored cardigan, jeans, and bangs, but I’ve got you figured out! You’re the life of my party for two every time we hang out.

I love you more than chocolate with almonds, Seinfeld, freshly brewed coffee, and Big’s Restaurant.

Top that.

And happy Thanksgiving, my friend.

Bethany

 

gratitude

Here’s your sign

*Today’s post is written by my friend and regular contributor, Debra Dickey. Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Debra!*

I agree with Moses.  “God, if You are not coming with me, don’t make me go!”  …but if have to, then please, please, please give me a sign!!   [Moses actually says, “If Your Presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.”  Exodus 33:15]

With each edict near or far, or for every crises, small or large, my dread-o-meter amps to warp-speed – what emotional expense, how much psychological toll, what mental, physical, or financial price am I looking at?    All the panic and fear of the unknown and my own very appreciable inabilities come crashing over me, landing with a thud in the pit of my stomach.  How will I ever be able to . . . . ?

Bowing #2In similar fashion to the conversation that God had with Moses regarding the arduous journey in front him, God has been having a long talk with me and the responsibilities He tasks me with also.  I truly believe in God with my whole being.  My continuing challenge is the part that gets me past the human need or desire to validate His power with my physical eyes!  But ‘might and power’ express human strength of every description – physical, mental, moral. (Biblestudytools.com)   What God tells us is:  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.’  (Zach. 4:6)  Oh!  Wow.   ‘Let Your Presence go with us.’

Yet we are always looking for a sign, aren’t we?  Actually, God does provide signs for us. Granted, they aren’t like road signs, directional signs, billboards, or a writing in the sky, but when we walk with Him, they are all around us.  Interestingly, God never wrote Moses a message in the sky. He never laid a blueprint down.  Neither did He send a tweet or a text.   He did something better.  This was the better thing that God offered Moses –God promised Moses His presence.  [lifeway.com]

The certainty, the solid that I am being encouraged to learn from this very personal interaction is the deep-seated root of discipleship I so distinctly and unmistakably need to grasp, and that is:  He’s got this!

Each time I pray about a situation, a resolution, for a loved one, or for guidance, strength, and Providence, His Presence is all that is necessary to perform these miracles.  I know fully when I offer that prayer, that the Perfect outcome is in His Hands and already in motion!  (Do not be deceived, I’m frailly human.  Days and nights in ceaseless prayer, I still tend to fret and worry without end anyway!  How does one embrace such unconditional power??)  He even further promises, “. . .I will give you rest.” (33:14b)  Did I hear that right?   ‘A benefit of living in God’s presence is that we can snuggle up close to our Heavenly Father, knowing that we can rest confident, secure, and victorious.’ (lifeway.com)   Moses plainly, yet meaningfully, presented his heartfelt appeal, and God assured Moses, “I will do the very thing that you ask….” (33:17a)

I am slowly, not always surely yet, but bit by bit, investing faithful confidence, and asking God to “show me (His) Ways, so that I might find Favor in His Sight” (33:13), to trust God’s omnipotent capacity, then be rewarded with the beautiful, exquisite, and touching evidence that has been there all along.  It is most assuredly not a sign that I can see with my eyes.  It is better.  Described by Elijah in I Kings 19:12, it is the sheer Presence of God.  Just His Presence.   Not the wind, not the earthquake, not the fire.  God.  A palpable, cognitive, manifest Presence!  His essence being Divinely and lovingly written into every fiber of my life, day after day, concern after concern, prayer after prayer, miracle after miracle after miracle.  His Presence revealed in all that is.  It seems that my mistaken effort to equate earthly affirmations with heavenly confirmations is the very shortcoming standing between me and God’s Promises!

And finally Moses did something even more extraordinary!  He said to God, “Show me Your Glory, I pray.” (Exodus 33:18)  You know, I understand that part!  Probably not in the same parameters as offered there, but my take-away is almost the same.  After humbly approaching my Heavenly Father in prayer, presenting my appeal, seeking His Will, asking for Guidance and Help, then listening for His Assurance, there’s only one desire left: “Show me Your Glory, I pray!”  So with breathless expectance and a reverent flourish, I bow —–“You got this, God?” … “I’ve got this.” —–  then step back and watch His mighty Miracles to Perform!

For sure, I initially thought that my ‘word’ for this year should be strength (I SO need it!), but now I know that Presence encompasses that endangered sliver plus so much more:  strength, wisdom, ability, guidance, resources, help, protection, sustenance!  So I choose Presence as my word, because not only do I long for God’s Presence, His Presence shall be the path to all His mighty, mighty MIRACLES.

So…there it is.  That’s my sign!  The only one I ever have need of.  Stop looking . . . it’s already here.

gratitude

Star-spangled moments

*Today’s post is by my friend Debra Dickey, a frequent contributor to this blog. I’m thankful for Debra’s courage to share her own journey in writing because each time she does, I learn and grow.*

 

1)  A weighty concern regarding the possibility of an expensive vehicle repair — gratefully, did not need to happen.

2)  Frozen, burst water pipes — managed by the appropriate people with no liability to us.  Another Alleluia moment!

3)  A friend’s frozen water issues — easily thawed with an inexpensive heater at minimal inconvenience.  Yay!

4)  My brother, rushed to the hospital with potentially life-threatening symptoms.  Five frightening days of waiting, watching, and wondering.  Again, through the Grace and Power of the Almighty, he was safely carried through the danger, and recovery is imminent.  Praise God!

5)  A dog . . . . a skunk  —  a 10-second imagination-run-wild episode that turned out to be quite comical!

6)  Add to that a treacherous 25-mile drive home on ice-slick roads that can only be described as ‘harrowing’, yet, in its finality, by the Grace of God and one hour later, concluding safely.

7)  And to top off this mere three-week time span, exhausting illness x 2, plus a major health concern of another sort, and a family situation en crises, presently in the hands of God:  starbursts of amethyst and gold — moments in waiting!

FireworksStar-spangled moments.  Decipherable moments of Exquisite Presence.  Moments of gratefulness.  Joyous moments.  Praise-filled moments.  Laughable moments.  Challenging moments.  Gut-wrenching, heart-numbing, fear-gripped  moments.  Humble moments.  Moments of fireworks and awe.  He is in them all.  He answers my prayers, thankfully sometimes even before I know to pray them.

I experience all these kinds of moments and more, almost on a daily basis.  So not only am I grateful for the blessings of things that do happen, I am most often even more grateful for the blessings of things that don’t happen.  Those particularly worrisome events that somehow seem to juuusst barely sideswipe my wee crotchety life as they eek past on their little slippery skates of uncertainty.  Yes, I hear God in the still.  I see God in the small.  And I feel God in each moment.  There is no possible way that I could deflect nor withstand even a fraction of everything that comes at me without Help – I’m not the victor in those wrestling matches – but God is, so it doesn’t matter if I am or not!

My word for 2013 was ‘miracles’, and there have been so many!  What I have come to know is that often before you get to the miracles, that there are a colossal amount of challenges, stumbling blocks, and hurdles — virtual tidal waves of worry, heartache, fear and concern — which require an enormous amount of personal strength, effort, fortitude, and prayer to be able to walk through all the scary situations, the soul-searching days and nights, and the miry swamps of the unknown, before you get to those star-spangled moments, those miracles!!  Those precursors are fiercely and incredibly draining, at times leaving me broken, battered, bruised, and bleeding in the dust.

But because I know that God is the Author of the miracles that I seek, then I also recognize that I must possess strength, courage, and endurance to travel the road that is before me, and to navigate the sometimes perilous journey that will lead to those miracles.  So I shall ever seek His Promises of strength and protection, always by my side in Perfect Love, so that I can get back up and keep going.

His Word assures me:  “He will shelter you with his wings….He will order His angels to protect you…they will hold you up with their hands…  The Lord says I will protect those who trust in My Name.”  Psalm 91:4-12

*I continually pray for God to build a hedge of protection around me and my loved ones, a sphere of God’s glory that carries a vibration of Heaven that will hide us and keep us safe when principalities and powers may threaten our spiritual realm.  Let us commit our lives to God and strive to stay in the center of His Will, so that the enemy will not have access to what has been given to us according to that promise.  Thank You for Your Divine Protection in Jesus’ Name.   Amen.   [missionariesofprayer.org]

I eternally acknowledge the Divine Intervention that is evidenced within the subsistence of my life throughout each moment of my being.  Moments of forever.  Moments of now.  Moments of Grace and Strength and Love.  Small moments, enormous moments, amazing moments, unexpected and surprising moments.  Moments without end.  So many star-spangled moments!

gratitude

My leap of faith, part one

*Today’s post is part one in a two-part series by my friend LaTresha Woodruff-Johnson. I’m thankful God places inspiring, compassionate women like her in my life. Stay tuned this week for part two.*

I love the LORD; I am not afraid to say it.  In fact, I’ll take any opportunity to tell people that I love the LORD.  But when you say that to some, they ask, “why?”  I say things like, “because HE first loved me,” or “HE gave his only son that we might have life.”  But more importantly “because HIS grace and mercy is new every day, and HE has done so many things in my life; HE’s made a way out of no way.” 

I have so many stories of what HE’s done for me, how HE’s changed my life, but there is one in particular that I find myself telling people over and over and over again.   You see, it’s a timely and timeless story about my “Leap of Faith.” 

I have always sought the LORD’s guidance before making decisions, so when I started feeling my soul moving in a new direction or yearning for new direction, I thought to myself, “It’s time to leave the news business, put down my microphone, step away from the camera, the people/fans I’ve met in my 14 years as a reporter.”

LaTresha's last day as a reporter for Fox 16.
LaTresha’s last day as a reporter for Fox 16.

So I did what I do? I got on my knees and prayed to my heavenly FATHER.  I asked for guidance, I wanted to hear a clear word from HIM on what I should do.  I felt he was leading me to find something, a job allowing me to be more available to my husband, my church and my community.  I waited and waited and waited but heard nothing!  To me that meant it just wasn’t the time to walk away.  With that, I threw myself back into work. I changed my attitude and tackled each day head on; I started it by telling myself to, “Expect Good things,” and not to allow others to determine how I am going to feel today.  I took back that power.  Soon that burning desire to leave news reporting went away.

But GOD wasn’t done with me on this issue.  Two years later I got that desire in my soul that I was not where I needed to be.  I wrestled with it for a few weeks saying to myself, “I’ve gone through this before–it’ll pass.”  Well it didn’t, and I found myself on my knees one night praying to my Heavenly FATHER again.  But this time when I got up, there was a strange feeling that came over me.  A feeling of peace–my soul seemed to be at ease.  So I talked to my husband, and he supported my decision to resign from my reporting job.  That was April of 2010, but I didn’t have a new job. All I knew is that I had heard from the LORD, and I was following his will.  I ended up staying four more months because the news department was so short-staffed. Yes, I prayed about that, too, and the LORD moved me to stay and help out.

August 27, 2010, was a bittersweet day, bitter because I was leaving what I considered in 7th grade as my dream job, what I was meant to be, thought I’d retire from a big reporting/anchoring gig from CNN.  But it was sweet because I had faith that my GOD would supply all of my needs.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  I did a great story, a child who was kidnapped but returned home safely.  What a happy ending to a great career; for me it was one of the happiest days of my life!

I gladly tackled this strange life of not constantly going and going from one end of the state to the next in one day, writing stories behind the eight ball and constantly being on alert.  Yes, my days were filled with sleep and thoughts of learning to cook, but they were just thoughts!  This all lasted about three weeks, and I was ready to get going.  See, as a reporter, I was always tackling numerous things at once, never an idle moment.   I started to get a little uneasy, and the LORD started dealing with me again.  I believed HE was saying, “LaTresha your idle time has come and gone; it’s time to get to work.”  By work I believed he meant, find a job, one that lets you help people, find time to volunteer, and honor Me through your works.

I ramped up my volunteering with one agency and became “a Friend” of two other non-profits.  While I started getting that feeling of fulfillment, my tank wasn’t quite on “F” so I started with Big Brothers Big Sisters and became a friend of Habitat for Humanity and Conway Cradle Care.  While I enjoyed being involved with these organizations, there was still something missing.  I could hear that sweet still voice of the Lord saying, “I want more for you. I want you to do more.”  So my job search kicked into HIGH gear.  I attacked the search ferociously!  I set my sights on what are called “Public Information Officer” positions.  I can’t tell you how many times as a reporter I interviewed Public Information Officers from various agencies and thought, “I could do that job with my eyes closed.” 

I applied for about 20 PIO positions; I had 5 interviews where I felt I had “knocked it out of the park!”  Slowly I started getting word that the positions had been filled.  Soon there was just one position left, and I thought, “This is the one.”  After all I had made it to the 3rd round of interviews. I didn’t even know there were 3rd rounds.  I just knew I had this one in the bag, so much so that I didn’t bother God with it anymore.  I remember the day that I got the call about the position, I had decided not to get up early and search the internet for jobs because I was so sure I was about to get this job.  The phone rang. I fumbled for it, cleared my throat, looked at the caller ID, and sure enough it was the hiring manager for the agency.  My heart leapt. I thought, “Here goes, about to enter the working world again,”  and I was excited.

You cannot imagine the heartbreak and devastation I felt when I heard the words, “We have offered the position to a more qualified candidate.”  It was all I could do not to start sobbing right there on the phone.  He went on to say things like, “You possess all the qualifications and would have done an excellent job but…”  And that’s the point I stopped listening.  I can’t even recall saying goodbye and hanging up the phone.  My pity party went on for the rest of the day.  I didn’t even get out of bed. 

It was only the next morning when I forced myself into the shower that I started thinking clearly.  Sitting in the shower I realized that I got ahead of myself.  When things looked like they were going in my favor I didn’t ask God if getting this particular job was His will.  I left him out of the equation.  He’d been there leading and guiding me through it all, but I decided I could handle it from here. When I put my hands on it, God took his hands off.  It was as if He was saying, “If you think you can do better than your Heavenly Father, go ahead give it a try, you don’t need me.”  I asked my heavenly father’s forgiveness and gave in to what I already knew–that He would take care of me no matter what.  I knew He didn’t bring me this far to leave me! 

So my journey continued. 

gratitude

The gifts that make a difference

Today’s post is written by my student, Jordan Fryman, who wrote this essay in response to the question, “What are three gifts you’ve received in 2013, and why are they significant to you?”

gift-givingGrowing up I have received several gifts, both tangible and  intangible, but the older I get I have realized that the gifts I cannot physically hold are the ones that make the most difference in my life. This year has been full of many gifts that have changed my life in huge and very important ways, and I am extremely thankful for them. The gifts that I have been most thankful for this year are having more independence and freedom from my parents, the privilege of starting a college education, and my new Ford F-150 truck.

Since turning eighteen this year and having graduated from high school, my parents have started to give me a lot more freedom to make my own choices and do the things that I want. I have always been more of an independent kind of person and like to make my own decisions, so this is a gift that I really appreciate. I can now go out and spend time with my friends and do as I please because my parents trust that I will still be responsible. My parents have always been the more strict type of parents and like to know what I’m doing at all times, so to know that they believe I’ll do what’s right without them making me means a lot to me. They still continue to put more and more trust in me today, and that is something that I am very grateful for.

Graduating from high school was a great achievement that I was very proud of, but I knew I wanted to achieve more to reach my future goals and get a higher education at a four year school. I had plans of moving off to another town like Jonesboro or Conway as soon as the fall started, but the only thing that kept me from that was not having the financial requirements to go. I had received quite a bit of money from financial aid and scholarships that I had applied for, but it wasn’t half of the amount I needed to go to a four year school right away. My parents left me completely responsible for paying for college on my own, so after I realized I wasn’t able to afford moving off I decided to stay here in Batesville and go to UACCB. Here, my financial aid was enough to pay for all of my classes and books with money even left over for me to use each semester. I am extremely thankful for UACCB providing me with the financial aid I needed and the help of my classes and giving me the privilege of a college education.

The first type of truck I ever bought was a 1996 Dodge Dakota, and it was definitely not the best looking vehicle in the high school student parking lot. It cost me a little over a thousand dollars, but it was the only kind of vehicle I could afford at the time. My friends and my brother especially would always kindly pick on me about the truck and how it would always cause me problems. While driving, the headlights would sometimes go out and come back on again by themselves which was a problem no one could fix, and sometimes even got me pulled over. Also the truck was pretty old; it still had a tape player in it, but there was a tape that was jammed into it that we could never get out. Any time I got tired of the radio and switched it to the tape player, it would play the song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” which is still stuck in my head to this day.

After dealing with this truck for so long, I was ready for a new one and determined to get one by the time I started college. I worked as many hours as I could during the summer and saved up all the money I made until I had nearly five thousand dollars. I looked all through newspaper ads and went to several car lots until I finally found an extremely nice truck for a price that I could afford. It was a 2001 Ford F-150 that looked brand new, and it was for only four thousand dollars. I bought it and sold my old one that day. My new truck causes me no problems like my first one did, and I really enjoy driving it. I am still very thankful for it to this day because of all the hard work and saving I put in to be able to get it as a gift for myself

Whether the gifts are physical or not they still bring joy to my life and help to make me a happier person. These gifts have really changed my life in good ways, and I am extremely grateful to the people who have provided them for me and helped me to get them.