Posted by: Andrea | July 5, 2016

Wonderfully Made

I have such a thing for sunsets. It doesn’t matter how many of them I see, I am still absolutely in awe of the beauty of this nightly spectacle. They somehow always make me feel small, fill me with peace, and seem to be a visual representation of just a bit of the Lord’s enormous beauty.

This morning I was reading in Psalm 139, diving into verse 14, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” The word “wonderfully” can be translated as distinct, marked out, separated, distinguished, wonderful. The next “wonderful” can be translated as extraordinary, difficult to understand, or marvelous.

Those are definitely words I would use to describe sunsets…but ME? Not so much. But what the verse is saying is ‘wonderful’ are His works, which are things He has made. That means that yes, those descriptions apply to US just as much as to something as extraordinary as a breathtaking sunset.

Today remind yourself of all that you’ve seen that is beautiful and stunning and awe-inspiring in His creation, things that have completely taken your breath away and caused you to feel His presence in a tangible way. Then let the truth sink in, that YOU have that same kind of breath-taking beauty. You, a part of His glorious creation, are also a stunning reflection of His presence. You have been marked out, separated, distinguished, and called distinct and wonderful, extraordinary and marvelous. You.IMG_1684

Posted by: Andrea | December 22, 2011

Beautiful Creation

God has richly blessed me.  Since moving back from Botswana, I’ve been patiently waiting on Him to lead me to a place that I could call home, whether that be an apartment, duplex, townhouse, house…whatever.  I have tried at different times to pursue something, but the timing wasn’t right, the home wasn’t right, and my heart wasn’t quite ready.

The past few weeks, God has been stirring my heart for Him in a beautiful way.  He has once again become my priority, the Love of my heart.  I have taken my time with Him, time in prayer and in His Word, off of the back burner and put it once again at the center of my life…where it belongs.  My heart and spirit have been filled up each day as I sit in His presence and just enjoy being with Him.

In the midst of this time of falling in love with Jesus again, He has graciously and perfectly opened the door for a beautiful home for me.  It came out of nowhere and could not be any more clear that it is completely from Him.  It has been an absolute joy to spend the last week unpacking boxes (some that have been packed for four years!) and shopping for fun things to make this house into a home.  I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of God’s blessings poured over me the past couple of weeks.  I just stand in awe.

This morning as I was reading in Isaiah, God ministered to my heart in a special way:

“Does the clay say to Him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?” Isaiah 45:9

How often have I questioned God’s plans, His work in my life?  How often have I wondered why He did things in a certain way?  And how very often have I questioned things about myself, felt insecure, wished I could change things about myself?  I haven’t met any one person in my life who has not also struggled with insecurity and questioning God’s plans at times.  But even as this verse has spoken to me before about the absurdity of the created questioning the Creator, it meant something new to me today.

Putting together this home has been a lot of work.  My body is worn-out and bruised, my muscles are sore, my bank account is dwindling…but I can’t put into words the amount of love and pride I feel sitting in this new home, taking in every detail, loving how beautifully it’s all coming together.  I could spend hours just going from room to room, enjoying the details, loving what it’s becoming, feeling overwhelming gratitude for God’s goodness and blessings.

How much would it hurt my heart if this home that is being created in such a labor of love, were to speak to me about how much it hated the way it looks?  How much would it sting if it questioned the plans and visions I have for this home?  I love this place, imperfections and all, and know that the plans I have for it are good.

How much more so does God feel this toward us?  How much love, time, thought, and vision went into creating each one of us, each one of our individual lives?  And how much does it hurt His heart when we question how He’s chosen to create us and question the plans and visions He has for those lives?

Today I pray to have a grateful heart, loving who God has created me to be and trusting fully in His plans.  I pray to have a greater clarity in just how precious my life is to Him, how beautiful and valuable I am to Him, imperfections and all.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” -Psalm 139: 13-14

Posted by: Andrea | November 4, 2011

Sweet Opportunity

My heart has recently been blessed with a sweet opportunity.  Children’s Hope Chest is working to find sponsors for some precious little kiddos in India, who will be able to pray for them, write them letters, and sponsor their schooling each month.  My heart was so moved after watching the video (posted below), that I excitedly signed up to sponsor one of the kids right away.  I received the picture and information card on Rahul the next day and set it up next to my bathroom sink so that I would see his sweet face each morning and remember to pray for him.  Such a great way to start my day!

I’m really excited that my little guy is going to have access to a great education, be discipled and encouraged, and loved-on well at his school.  I also love that I’ll get to write letters to him, some that will be hand-delivered by friends traveling to the school in February.

I heard from Anna, who is looking for sponsors for a group of kids, that 22 kids still need to be sponsored.  Because I’ve already been so blessed, I thought I’d pass the opportunity on to anyone else who might be interested.  If you’d like to have your own little “Rahul” to pray for, encourage, and bless, just let me know and I’ll get you connected to Anna.  If you’re not able to sponsor right now, I definitely recommend still watching the video (which is so inspiring!) and lifting this school and the students up in prayer.  I’m excited to hear more amazing stories like the ones shared here in the years to come!

India Experience- Good Samaritan School from Children’s HopeChest on Vimeo.

Posted by: Andrea | October 6, 2011

Just Being Real

Insecurity. Anger. Guilt. Shame. Frustration. Anxiety. Depression. Jealousy. Worry.

Do any of these sound familiar?  I can sadly say that I have had some experience with each of these struggles, some more than others.

As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I even go through seasons of really suffering through one (or more) of these emotions…and wonder if I’m the only one feeling that way.  I wonder what other people would think if they knew about that struggle, knew about the flaws, knew that I wasn’t quite as ‘together’ as I hoped to portray.

Something the Lord has been showing me lately is that surprisingly, I’m not at all alone in these struggles.  A shocking number of people around me are also struggling through stuff.  They are also working hard to appear to have it all together and fear what people’s reactions would be to discover they don’t.

Isn’t this sad?  Doesn’t it seem like such a waste of energy?  I’m discovering that so much comfort and healing comes from being vulnerable with people, honestly sharing about what’s going on.  Amazingly, I’m finding that when I do share my heart and some of my issues with others, it’s usually met with a similar confession from the person I’m sharing with.

So here it goes:

I struggle.

Sometimes a little bit.  Sometimes a lot.

I’m not perfect.  I don’t have it all together.  I don’t have all the answers.

And you know what?  It’s ok.  I’m a work in progress.  God is nowhere near finished with me.  He is constantly working on me, growing me, stretching me, challenging me, strengthening me, and loving me.

My hope and prayer is that there is someone who needs to hear this truth:

You are not alone, not the only one struggling through something, and certainly not the only one who doesn’t have it all together.

It’s ok to be real, to be honest.

And you know what’s great?  Whatever you might be suffering through is only temporary.  It won’t last forever.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

Let’s keep pressing on.  Our trials are real, but they are temporary.  They are painful, but they will produce good things. They may seem overwhelming and sometimes insurmountable, but thankfully we have some sweet promises:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:2-4

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

Posted by: Andrea | July 29, 2011

The Gift and Ministry of Teaching

I love being a teacher.  I really, really do.  But it’s not the teaching of the subject matter that I love so much, although definitely one of a teacher’s greatest joys is that ‘a-ha’ moment that a student has, when things finally ‘click’ with something they’ve struggled to understand.  But that’s not the greatest part of teaching for me.

Since I first began my career in education, I’ve tried to enter into each school year with tons of prayer and expectancy that each child that was in my class was in there for a reason.  The Lord has some purpose for me being in their lives for these nine months, and my prayer is that I wouldn’t let opportunities pass by.

What I’ve found in entering each school year with this mindset and prayer is that my eyes are more easily opened to those kids who really need an extra measure of love, encouragement, support, and just someone else who will come alongside them and say, “I believe in you.”  When I start the year with expectancy for God to do great things, He does.  Now I’m definitely not perfect and I still let too many opportunities pass by, but I love how at just the right time, when I’m feeling especially tired or overwhelmed, God will cross my path with a former student who will say something like, “Thank you for caring. Thank you for believing in me.  It really made a difference.”  Then I am quickly brought back to the reason why I became a teacher in the first place.

Since returning from Botswana, where I was blessed with many opportunities to love on and disciple so many teenagers around me, I’ve felt a renewed purpose in connecting with my former students and maintaing the relationships built with them.  If they’re in high school, that has meant supporting them at games, concerts, and plays. If they are still in middle school, that meant having them in for lunch or chatting with them in the hallway; just little seeds planted in their lives to let them know that just because they’re not in my class anymore, doesn’t mean that I’m not still invested in their lives, that I care any less about their success and making sure they are walking on a good path.  It sometimes means giving advice, sometimes lovingly correcting them, and sometimes just listening.

This summer through many conversations and catch-ups with several former students, the Lord has deeply encouraged my heart.  He has shown me how little it really takes to make a small difference in a child or teenager’s life.  Heartbreakingly, some of these kids don’t have anyone in their lives who are supporting them and believing in them.  It doesn’t take much to be that person, and who knows what kind of impact it might have in their life.  Maybe a tiny one…or maybe a huge one.  Regardless, the time and effort invested is well worth it; sometimes immeasurably valuable.

As another school year is about to begin, I’ve tried to ready my heart in prayer and be expectant about what’s in store.  This year I will have around 135 kids.  Such a big number!  A little overwhelming.  But what an incredible opportunity!  That is 135 lives I have the opportunity to touch in some way.  135 kids I get to believe in, coach, mentor, and love on.  And maybe, just maybe, one of those 135 lives will be changed for the better.  This is my prayer and this is my encouragement to all of my teacher friends.  We’ve been blessed with such a gift.  I pray for each of us to grab ahold of the opportunity set before us, the opportunity to not only be educators, but to possibly be real life-impactors.

“Teaching is leaving a vestige of one self in the development of another.  And surely the student is a bank where you can deposit your most precious treasures.”  ~Eugene P. Bertin

Posted by: Andrea | July 19, 2011

“I Will Carry You”

I came across this today and something about it encouraged me so much:

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob…who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you…” Isaiah 46:3-4

I know that the Lord is here for me now, walking with me through my daily life, but there’s something so profound about thinking of Him being there, in my life, even before I was born, carrying me through all years of my life…even those where I didn’t know Him or recognize Him as a part of my life.  And even more encouraging than that to me is the thought that even to my old age, when my hair is completely gray, He will still be carrying me.  There is something so comforting and reassuring about that promise.

He’s there…He always has been there…He always will be there.  Not walking behind, beside, or in front of us, but carrying us through all of life’s seasons.

Posted by: Andrea | July 12, 2011

As Long As It Takes

Today I went for a walk with my ipod on shuffle, not paying much attention to the songs that came on…until this one.  Something about the lyrics to this song captured my attention and pulled me in.  Maybe you can relate.

Have you ever experienced a time where you wanted something so badly, but no matter how often you pray for it or how many different ways you try to make it happen for yourself, what you’re hoping for just seems elusive, leaving you feeling discouraged and a little hopeless?  Do you question whether God is really hearing your prayers and if so, what in the world His reasoning would be for holding it back?

Of course at other times, with other things in life, what you’re hoping and praying for just seems to drop in your lap so easily.  It’s hard to grasp why God answers our prayers and gifts us with the desire of our hearts so quickly with some things, and other times He seems to be withholding something that we desire so greatly.  The one thing it certainly reminds me of is that the Lord is sovereign.  He can make things happen where it seems absolutely impossible…and He can block things from happening in ways that you know it could only be His doing.  I don’t pretend to understand why that is, but I do know that He is faithful and His sovereignty can be trusted.  We often think our hearts know what is best for us, but we actually only see a small part of the big picture, whereas He sees it all.

It’s not always easy for me to trust Him and wait on His timing.  Sometimes I try to rush ahead of Him and make things happen myself (which inevidibly leaves me feeling frustrated and discouraged).  It’s times like those when I’m so thankful for little reminders that He is in control, He knows the desires of my heart, and He has not forgotten me.  I just need to be still, be patient, trust Him, and wait.  This song was one of those special reminders for me today, and I pray that if you are like me, feeling impatient about waiting on something and maybe even trying to force it yourself, maybe this song will be a sweet blessing and prayer for you, too.

(The lyrics are written below.)

I’m tired, do I have to keep proving myself
I’m weary and drawing from an empty well
I need You more than I ever have
So Jesus come and shatter my darkness somehow

I won’t speak until You speak
I won’t move until You move me
I won’t sing, sing over me
I will wait as long as it takes

I’m restless for something significant
But I’m helpless cause I’ve done all I can
I want You more than I ever have
So Jesus come and hold me, I’m shaking right now

I won’t speak until You speak
I won’t move until You move me
I won’t sing, sing over me
I will wait as long as it takes

You are the Comforter so comfort me
You’re the Sustainer so be enough for me
You are my Father and Your love for me
Is where I find my rest

I won’t speak until You speak
I won’t move until You move me
I won’t sing, sing over me
I will wait as long as it takes

Posted by: Andrea | June 17, 2011

Loss and Friendship

This week held a first experience for me: attending a funeral of a former student. I wouldn’t say this was something I was ever looking forward to having to do, but knew it would happen eventually. It was definitely one of the most emotional experiences of my teaching career, but the experience has also held some surprising encouragement and blessings.

Net was not technically one of my students in 4th grade, but he was a part of a very close group of six students, three of whom I taught, who stuck close together and acted more like family than friends. I was close to all of them, claiming the other three as ‘mine’ even though I didn’t technically teach them.  When this group went on to fifth grade, they would wait for each other at the front of the school almost daily and come down the hallway as a group to say good morning to their old 4th grade teachers, even on the last day of school, right before their 5th grade graduation. Then they went on to middle school, continuing to stay close, and were so good about keeping in contact with their former teachers, coming back occasionally to say hello.

When they got to high school and opened Facebook accounts, I was able to stay in contact with these guys while living in Africa. I was so proud to see them growing into such amazing young men and women and still continuing to be such supportive friends to each other. This was especially put to the test when Net was diagnosed with cancer and endured what would turn out to be years of ups and downs, treatments and times of remission, pain and joy.

When I returned from Botswana, I spent a bit of time substitute teaching to earn some extra money and to see former students. During this time last spring, I was able to spend a couple of days at the high school, catching up with many former students and staring in awe at how grown-up they were! I saw Net looking healthy and happy and felt great relief.

Unfortunately Net’s battle with cancer was not over yet. It returned last fall and he began another long, painful battle. I watched from afar as this group of students, now juniors in high school, continued to stand together, loving and supporting Net in a way that only family could really do. Because of a scheduling conflict, I sadly missed the opportunity to see the gang together at their spring band concert, where Net was able to attend and hear the beautiful piece of music the band had commissioned to be composed for him, entitled “Net Soaring”. I smiled sadly at the pictures the kids posted of them all together after the concert, Net braving a smile through the physical pain he was enduring. Three weeks after this concert, one of the students sent me the heart-breaking news that Net had passed on from this life, leaving the pain of cancer and many, many loved ones behind.

I sat with three friends at Monday’s funeral, all teachers who had taught Net and were also impacted by his beautiful life. We listened to student after student talk about how much Net had meant to them, how selfless and caring he was, and how he had taught them to never take life for granted. I watched five 17 year olds stand up together and each talk about their best friend, sharing funny and sometimes poignant memories. Together, they so beautifully illustrate what true friendship should look like.

Although my heart was broken this week and I walked into Monday’s funeral with a very heavy heart, I somehow left feeling comforted, inspired, and so very proud of those precious students. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have known Net and to have been even a small part of his beautiful life. And I love that I’ve had the privilege of seeing a group of best friends grow up together and love and support each other in such a powerful way, demonstrating what true love and friendship really looks like. Net will be so greatly missed, but his legacy will live on, especially in the lives of the five best friends he left behind.

Most of the crew, then and now

Posted by: Andrea | April 20, 2011

Encouraging our Kids

Do you remember being in middle school/junior high? Do you remember the constant state of awkwardness, never thinking you were good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc? Remember all the friend and boy/girl drama? Gosh, I do! And I’ve been especially remembering it the past couple of days as I’ve had one conversation after another with multiple students (mostly girls) who are feeling overwhelmed with insecurity and school drama.

As I’ve been talking things out with these sweet kids, I’ve shared with them about my own middle school experiences and how normal and valid their feelings are. I’ve felt an incredible stirring in my heart to remember how much these kids (girls and boys both) need to regularly be reassured how special and valuable they are, just the way they are. I take it for granted some times, but through these recent conversations God has clearly reminded me that these kids have been placed in my life for a reason, and one of those reasons is to encourage them in any way possible, as often as I can.

When we take the time to encourage the children and teenagers in our lives, we have to remember that ours might be the only positive voice they’ve heard all day…maybe even all week. I just want to pass on the challenge and reminder I’ve been given today to please take a minute to speak life into the kids and teenagers in your life. They need to hear it much more than we can imagine, and we never know when our simple words might be said to them at just the right moment, at just the right time in their lives, to make a difference that will last forever.

Posted by: Andrea | April 7, 2011

Loving Our Teenagers

It’s been pretty emotional around here lately, as the high school just down the road has lost two of its young students over the last two weeks.  The death of a teenager is always a tragedy, but what a horrible blow for our community to lose two so close together, and even more heartbreaking that one of them was lost to suicide.  Although I did not know either of them personally, I do have several former students who were very close to one or both of them.  It’s broken my heart to watch them have to go through the terrible grieving process over a friend while so young.

I’ve been very thankful for my teacher Facebook page recently, which was set up so that I could keep in touch with students.  It has proven to be an invaluable tool the past few days as I’ve tried in some small way to offer encouragement and support to these kids while they are hurting.  I feel at a loss as to what I can really do to help, but even sending them a message to offer words of support or check in on how they are doing has seemed to be somewhat helpful.  I so wish I could do more, though.

This blog post is a plea from me, a teacher who absolutely loves her students and cares so much about them, to please, please, please offer an extra measure of love, encouragement, and support to any teenager in your life right now.  Just a simple ‘I’m proud of you’ or ‘You are special’ or ‘You are loved’ will mean more to them than you can imagine.  I know that you parents are already doing that, but if you’re not a parent, but do have contact with children or teenagers, please know how far your simple words of support and encouragement will go in a young person’s life.  These kids are dealing with so much more than we are aware of and need to know how special, unique, and loved they truly are.  Although they may not show it, they are aching for your loving concern and influence in their lives.

I saw this quote on a blog recently and love it:

“Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager?  I remember criticism for dress, facial expressions, music choices, friend selection, chores, just everything!  Babies and toddlers receive so much positive affirmation, affection, and encouragement, but if often dwindles away by the time the child is a teenager.  Remember when your toddler was learning to walk?  You probably encouraged them even when they fell down.  Try to do that when your teen makes a mistake.  Teach them to repair the mistake, encourage them for trying, and let them know you have confidence in them and that you’re there to guide them.”

Jesus, thank you for the young people you’ve placed in our lives.  Help us to love them well.  Help us to be a source of loving encouragement, support, and positive influence.  And as we pour into their precious lives, I thank you that we will be the ones who end up being so greatly blessed.

 

Older Posts »

Categories