Purging the Plate of People Pleasing

I felt a nervous low-grade panic mingle in the pit of my stomach. “Would you like to go out to dinner with us tonight?” It was a simple question posed by my compassionate sister-in-law. Oh no! What does she want me to say? Do they really want me to go or is she just trying to be nice? Will I hurt her feelings if I say “no”? Is she hoping I will say “no”? What is the best thing for me to do? The indecision must have been written all over my face because she said (in her direct, perceptive, but loving way) “Please don’t think about what I want you to say. What would you like to do?” I had no idea. I had spent such a long time- many years in fact-trying to make sure I said and did the “right” thing, I had forgotten how to look within and see what I wanted, needed, or truly felt? That “me” was buried under heavy piles of “unhealthy” on a plate of “doing what it takes to make other people happy”.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

I got it mixed up and for a long time- this pleasing God vs. pleasing people thing. I got it mixed up. I became confused about what it looks like to be a “good person” or a “good Christian” or a “good wife” or a “good friend”. I brought my soggy brown bag of other people’s expectations to the party, served it on a plate of flimsy acceptance paper and labeled it “good works”. And…while I know that, because I am a Jesus follower saved by grace, I am called to do good works, I lost sight of the fact that the Bible states, “For we are HIS workmanship.” His! I am not other people’s workmanship. I am not called to do good works to earn favor from others.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 KJV

I got it mixed up- trying to figure out what others wanted from me and forgetting God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. I let any bite of criticism eat at me. I got confused about giving my best for the sake of others (sometimes to my own detriment) and loving others because God loved me. I dedicated myself to being all for everyone while missing the healthy portion that God wanted me to set aside for taking care of “me” and more importantly, that nourishing serving that was to meant to grow me closer to Him.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

What does people pleasing look like? It is in those tiny decision moments when you can do it for God or do it for you, or do it for them, or do it so that they will still like you or think you are great. When it becomes obsessive, you stop expressing your opinion, you stuff your needs, forget your wants, you “shut up and smile.” You lose all sense of boundaries. You lose your God-given sense of self. You can’t afford to lose their approval- to risk them abandoning you.

You forget where your ultimate approval comes from: you lose sight of the truth that humans do not decide your worth. You become resentful. You become sad. You become like a heaping platter which can hold no more and one day you become so heavy with trying to please those around you that you eventually tip and slip and spill in a heap all over the ground- the nourishment so muddled with the empty and the poison that you can’t pick out what is “right” anymore.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25 (NIV)

However, I am so grateful the Lord does not leave you there- on the floor- in a pile of mess. He keeps molding and making- healing and helping- changing from the inside so that your mixed up mess will some day slowly become the unique flavorful feast He intended you to be. Your identity is not what those around you think or those hidden voices that creep up from inside that say you are not “good enough” unless you are being “good enough” and when is that “good enough”? No, your identity and worth is tied to who you are according to God.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

Though every now and then, I still can’t resist placing a few well-chosen acts of people-pleasing on my plate, I am quick to recognize it’s potential to be harmful to my health. After many years and many lessons, I am learning much about the difference of serving others with God’s love versus people pleasing. I know that to please God my job is to love Him… and to love others. This is not the same as losing myself to them. I can still busy myself with helping others (highly satisfying and fun) but it is not the same as doing for others in a way that is not healthy for them or me. It is giving in a God-honoring way or for the pleasure of it, not to gain the approval of the recipients. It is knowing not everyone has to like me. It is being okay with who God chose me to be- knowing my uniqueness is created by God. It is setting boundaries and being direct about wants and needs. It is comforting and encouraging because God has comforted and encouraged me. It is forgiving as I have been forgiven and loving others with grace and truth. It is about freedom and trusting.

And… now when someone asks me to dinner, I answer truthfully and without panic- grateful from a peaceful plate of me being me. Thank you, Lord.

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.1 Thessalonians 2:4

Dear Readers: Thank you so much for joining me again this week. I am committed to posting every Thursday and remain excited to write my weekly blog. However, due to my strong desire to tell the second half of my story with authenticity and introspection, I need more time. I have written titles with empty pages including: “The Fruitless Attempt to be the World’s Greatest Christian Wife”, “Rich for a Minute”, “Betrayal- What to do When Angry at God”, “The Power of Stay” “The Healing Seasons” and more. I just can’t do them justice within a week or a short blog. Therefore, I am going to take spend the time I need to write the second half of my story with the care and prayer without self-pressure or the “just get it done” syndrome. Perhaps a few weeks in the mountains would help. Still…I hope to see you next week as I continue posting blogs. I will also keep you posted on my progress and you will be the first to know when I have finished. My sincere thanks to each of you who take your valuable time to be part of this blog with me. Next Thursday’s post is called, “And Yet”.

Teaching: A Trove of Treasures

He looked up at me with big round eyes, not with a look of defiance, but of defeat. He could not pick up that pencil and begin working on his math assignment. He just did not have the energy to overcome the resistance. For several weeks now, I had tried praise and bribery- contracts, prizes, reduced homework, Tootsie rolls…nothing worked. I sat next to him- feeling a bit defeated myself. “Did you know my grandpa got a purple heart when he was in the war?” He said in that way kids do when they hope the comment will distract from the goal at hand. “Really! That’s cool.” I said. Then a teacher “ding! ding!” went off in my head. “Hey, if I gave you a purple heart every time you did your math, would you like that?” He perked up. Smiled. Picked up his pencil and started the arduous process of solving the long division problems. He kept at it until the page was complete. I thought he might be disappointed when I cut out a purple heart from construction paper, but he was delighted. For the next few months, he was happy to complete his math for one simple paper heart to add to his collection. Divine inspiration? I like to think it was. I gave him purple hearts. He gave me the gift of joy and a lesson in listening and being willing to do what it takes to help reach a struggling student. This is teaching- a trove of treasures.

If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Romans 12:8 NIV

I dreamt of being a teacher from a very young age. Nevertheless, nothing (not all the instruction on classroom management, lesson planning, and a host of other education related topics) had prepared me for the feeling of walking in that fifth grade classroom on the first day of my student teaching experience-surrounded by young minds depending on me to help them glean knowledge. It was intimidating and exciting. As soon as I stood in front of those students to teach, I was at home. A home built around a long sustained aspiration- walls of warmth and doors of possibilities staring at me with eager eyes. Wow!

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3

Finally, after ten weeks of learning from a wonderful mentor teacher, trying new things and reflecting on successes and failures, and falling in love with those 27 young people, I graduated and received my Bachelor’s degree. I was proud of myself and excited for my future. One day soon I was actually going to walk into my own classroom surrounded by my own students. I was finally, amazingly, going to be a teacher. What an incredible treasure.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23

I was hired that first year to teach at a highly-impacted high-risk school. I was advised to work in this setting for a couple of years and then I would be able to move to an easier school. I stayed for eight years. Many of the adults and teens in the surrounding areas were local gang members. On our first back-to-school night, we had to employ uniformed police officers to be on hand in case there was trouble among rival gangs. Some of our students went home daily to unimaginable horrors. Some were in foster homes and some had no home at all. I taught one bright young man who had to study during his lunch hour and hide his homework because he would be ridiculed (or worse) at home for taking school seriously. Many of our students were just learning to speak English. Though it was hard and heartbreaking and sometimes scary, everything about that school was where I was supposed to be. It was a powerful place to begin my teaching career. I had no doubt that as teachers we impacted our students every single day. I knew that for many coming to school was their only safe place. These kids stole my heart and taught me so much about compassion and strength and surpassing difficulties. Teaching and learning at this school was another amazing gift. Thank you, Lord

I also taught in a school where many of our students came from affluent homes. The back-to-school night here was very different. There were no police officers patrolling the grounds; no prizes or free food to entice reluctant parents to attend the event. We had 100% parental attendance and one of the first parents I noticed come through the door was a well-known 70’s pop star. A famous author’s children attended the school as well as other celebrities’ kids. The patrons at this educational institution also taught me fabulous life lessons. I learned that despite differing economic status, we all share a common desire to want what is best for our children. I learned that no-one escapes trials and challenges. They are sometimes just different ones. I learned a committed kind of love from a super cute boy with down syndrome who could not leave my classroom each day without expressing his love for me. I learned how to be part of helping heal grief from a sweet little girl who kept her brother’s framed picture on her desk and wrote letters to him when she was feeling sad. Kids from all walks of life share joys, fears, hurts, and concerns and just want to belong, feel accepted, and be seen and acknowledged. My fourth grade students from this school remain cherished parts of my heart as well. I am so thankful for the gift of teaching them.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm90:17

I believe that I was meant to be a teacher and yet I have made plenty of mistakes- probably at least one a day. To this day, I am learning truths to help me become a better educator. It is a challenging high-stress job where I heard once that most teachers have to make approximately 600 decisions a day. It involves long hours and children with as many different personalities and problems as ribbon designs in a party shop. I am not and will never be even close to perfect at it. But, for me, teaching was a colorful box filled with passion and purpose. Once opened, it gave me a sense of success I had never felt before. I did not always dance with joy over the challenges of day-to-day teaching, but I never doubted that it was what I was supposed to do. Having that assurance for all these years has been an powerful energizing prize for me and kept me from giving up.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

I was blessed to teach my last 14 years in an elementary school that could be described as economically middle-of-the-road, but to me there was nothing average about this incredible school. Not only did I partner with wonderfully supportive parents, I worked with amazing teachers and administrators, a fabulous school secretary and secretarial staff, compassionate custodians, dedicated lunch staff and aides, and more. If I had time, I could easily describe many instances where miracles occurred because of these people who showed up every day to hand out their unique gifts in order to ensure that our students received a quality education. It was an invigorating experience.

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.” Mr. Fred Rogers

The best gifts, of course, come from the students. I could write a separate book on the many treasures they have been to me. Each time I run into a former student and am greeted with a hug and a smile, I am so blessed. I have been amazingly fortunate to have seen them graduate, get married, go on to have children of their own. They have been my teachers, as well as my students, for all of these years and I am grateful to each one of them for the lessons and joy they have given to me. Thanks to all of you- “A” you are adorable- just sayin!

I dedicate this Thursday’s blog to all of the wonderful students, parents, administrators, and school staff that help keep the education treasures flowing. In particular during this back-to-school month, I honor the teachers who bring their gifts through those glass doors every day in order to share their talents, purpose, and passion with the students placed in their care. You are amazing!

As always, thank you so much for joining me this week. I pray that each and every one of you would be encouraged and strengthened in the gifts and natural talents you have been given. I am so grateful for your support and encouragement to me.

Teaching: A Trove of Treasures-Study

If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. Romans 12:7 NIV

Writing about teaching caused me to think about working in general, whether in the home or outside of the home and what God’s Word says about work.

Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. (NIV) Deuteronomy 15:10

Reflection/ Application Questions:

  1. Are there certain aspects of my job which I do with a grudging heart?
  2. What one place could I change today to have a more giving attitude at work?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, (NIV) Colossians 3:23

Reflection/ Application Questions:

  1. What does it mean to “work as if unto the Lord”?
  2. What is a realistic way you could work “with all your heart” today?

There are many other scriptures about work you can check out. These are just a few examples. Thank you to all the hardworking teachers out there starting back to school at this time of the year.

Thank you, dear readers for checking out the mini-companion study to my blog “Teaching-A Trove of Treasures”. I am changing the format of the studies a bit due to time constraints. From now on I will be adding Reflection and Application questions at the bottom of my blog post instead of a study. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support. Writing to you is such a blessed part of my day.

Wondrous Works: From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher

I dropped out of school in the ninth grade. I never attended one day of high school so sitting in a college class with a bunch of much younger students was daunting. To be able to register, I had to take a general education test and pass it. Then I had to overcome a myriad of other obstacles to forge a way to start my college education. I lived at an elevation of 8,500 feet- 20 miles away from the college in a log cabin with no electricity or running water and had little financial resources to even think of going to college. It seemed an impossible dream. Yet, the dream was slowly becoming a reality. I had begun taking two classes in the summer and had completed my course work for the first week.

On Friday, my English professor passed back my first paper. I had written a story comparing my son’s mountain lifestyle with his cousin’s-who lived in the city. I was apprehensive to look at the teacher’s comments. In lovely hand-written scrip at the top of the page I read, “Good first try. You have potential.” I felt portions of insecurity slough off me like the dead scorched skin of a too-aggressive sunburn. The confidence I needed to believe I could succeed in any classroom was just one of the many challenges I had to overcome. I had not been in school for 15 years. Her words were like soothing aloe. encouraging me to keep going. That summer, I passed both classes and signed up for two more: English 102 (with the same professor) and Art Appreciation.

I was in love with the learning, loved breathing in new ideas, loved expanding my world through art and music, loved learning more and more about writing, loved having the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with written words. I grew resolute about my desire to teach. Watching the passion of professors who cared strongly not only about their subject matter, but also about the students they were teaching took hold in my heart. Their ability to impact lives was powerful.

One of the most influential touchstones of my college years was that first English professor. Her name was Marilyn Larson- the teacher who did not appreciate me laughing at my first homework assignment. She not only encouraged my writing and taught me a great deal in that few short weeks, she developed a connection with me and an interest in my progress. She took time to teach me how to apply for scholarships. I was awarded an academic scholarship the following quarter and for the rest of my college experience, I received scholarship money. She helped me to navigate the ins and outs of college life. She was an amazing role model- the kind of teacher I wanted to be.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 KJV

Over the next few years, I registered for class after class and the Lord provided. I took history, psychology, drama, speech, children’s literature, Shakespeare, and more. I remained enamored throughout- absorbing the thrill of learning what I had never been taught. The only blight spot on the horizon concerning classes was the looming- the dreaded- math. How would I ever be able to pass the required math classes?

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

When it looked like I might actually earn an Associate’s Degree, I knew I had to face the inevitable and register for the most basic math class I could earn credit for and then I prayed. I prayed my way through every required math class after that. I did my part. I studied and studied and studied. I faithfully completed my tortuous homework. I went for tutoring help. I drove the teachers crazy with questions from my front row seat. I even had a teacher give me a huge button to wear on the last day of class that said, “I LOVE MATH” in huge red letters as penance for all the whining I did while in her class. Still, most math concepts remained as elusive as that pesky fly-here for a minute and then gone again-just when you were about to “kill it”. Therefore, before each and every math test, I prayed, “Lord, I do not know (fill in the blank-algebra, geometry, etc.) but You do. Please help me to pass this test.” And I did- time after time-sometimes with a fair margin- many times just one or two problems away from mathematical massacre.

I began to take classes to become an elementary school teacher. It seemed like an exercise in futility because I was sure too many stumbling blocks stood in the way for me to actually earn a degree, but I kept plodding on, just loving the learning, not wanting to give up.

Who does great things, unfathomable, And wondrous works without number. Job 9:10

Two years after I started plunking out papers on my trusty Smith Corona and reading textbooks late into the night under a Coleman lantern, I graduated with my first degree. A few months before the quarter’s end, a reporter for the school paper ventured up the mountain to interview me and wrote an article about how I was surviving college while living in such an unconventional manner.

“Give me one moment in time, where I am more than I thought I could be- where all of my dreams are a heartbeat away.” Whitney Houston-

On graduation day wearing a black gown I never thought I would wear- standing among other graduates, I looked up into the vast audience to search out my family. There they were- my three children who had sacrificed so much to see this day happen. They had helped me study. They had encouraged me. They had given up time and attention with their mother and had hung in there with me throughout. Beside them was my husband- considering his feelings about my decision to attend college-far more proud of me and far more supportive that I would have ever expected. I smiled- so grateful for them in my life.

Suddenly, I heard my name spoken by the man at the podium. He was asking me and two other students to stand. What? The speaker was highlighting students who had overcome great obstacles to graduate. He told the audience about me never going to high school, about how I lived miles from the nearest town in a log cabin without modern conveniences, and that I achieved scholarships every quarter. He told them that despite the many challenges I had faced, I was graduating Summa Cum Laude- at the top 1% of my class. As the audience clapped, I glanced back at my family. They were all there-standing and cheering for me. Aside from the births of those three amazing people, this moment in time remains one of the most incredulous events of my life. All I could think of was, “Thank you, Lord!” To God be the Glory!

For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Psalm 86:10

Thank you wonderful readers for continuing with me as I relay to you my story. Next week I will conclude my education story- from dropout to degree. I want you to know what it means to me that you take time to join me. You can also check out my mini-study for this blog on the wondrous works of God. Again, thank you.

Wondrous Works: From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher-Study

Did you ever wonder what would happen if we stopped long enough to ponder the wondrous works of God at least once a day. This simple habit could add such an element of adventure to life. Just taking a moment to look at how nature speaks of God’s glorious work can bring peace and joy. For example, as I look out the window from my “Fufu” room where I read, write, and pray, I see a lovely overcast sky- one of those you feel rather than notice. After many consecutive scorching days, this day seems welcome- comforting somehow. Is it wondrous? Depends on your perspective. For me, today it is just what I needed.

Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. 15 Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Job 37:14

Last weekend, we attended a small church where my mother and brother live. The sermon was based on a scripture that kept popping up loudly on the white screen at the front of the small chapel. It said, “When I am overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I”. Ps. 61:2 KJV This scripture and the exuberant sermon were exactly what we needed to hear at exactly the time we needed to hear it. Is that wondrous? To us it was.

Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works! Psalm 105:2

Psalm 105 is a song about remembering and praising God for the wondrous events He has impacted in the past. Writing about going to college amidst a myriad of obstacles that the Lord helped me through, one-by-one, day-by-day caused me to think about a lifetime of events that have occurred since I met Him- to thank Him for the many wondrous things in my life.

I praise you, because you are fearful and wondrous! Your work is wonderful, and I am fully aware of it. Psalm 139:14 ISV

Remembering and praising God for all He has done for me is energizing. It gives peace when troubles seek to swallow me. Taking time to notice His hidden treasures daily in a word or a scripture or a song or the smile of a sweet soul comforts and strengthens. Commitment to noticing the sights, smells, and sounds around me that are splendid testimonies of what he can do stirs up joy.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds …” Psalm 111:2 NIV

Please take a moment today to document a few wondrous works in your own life. Think back on certain events in your life you know would not have happened without the helping hand of the Lord. Notice His encouraging touch in the kind words of those around you. Breath in the nature you find yourself in- created by God. Please feel free to share your unique way of noticing God’s wondrous works.

Thank You for joining me as I ponder the wondrous joy it is that you are reading this blog. Really! It is an amazing blessing to me.

From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher-An “Impossible” Dream

Have you ever had a desire, a niggle in your soul that wants to do something different, something more, but talk yourself out of it before you even take one step in that direction? Do you often see so many roadblocks in the path of what you might like to do that it is just easier to try and stay on the road-of-no-hurdles? I understand. I have moments like that too. However, every once in a while a dream is sparked- it glows and grows- and will not go. You are compelled to walk towards it and with each step, obstacles break away and flames of possibility grow stronger.

I did not attend one day of high school. I dropped out in middle school- the ninth grade. I was not pregnant and did not hate school. I was a lost and angry 14-year-old with safety issues at home and someone willing to marry me to get me to higher ground. From fourteen to twenty-seven major events shaped my life: I divorced, birthed three children, had previously been a maid, a waitress and even owned my own restaurant for a brief stint. I found Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and was currently living in a mountain cabin with no electricity or running water where my family had resided for several years.

One day, my friend Debbie asked me to go to the local college with her to complete some paper work needed for her to attend her first semester. I get how corny this is going to sound- but walking around that campus was like the jittery homecoming of long-hidden yearning. My senses awoke. I could smell learning, hear people shifting books from side to side traveling from class to class, taste the sweetness of challenging new ideas, almost feel the growing of open minds. My unexpected excitement went deep. A past dream flickered. When other little girls in our neighborhood were playing with Barbies and baby dolls, I would seclude myself in my crowded bedroom, line up well-used stuffed animals against the headboard of my bed and stand before them imparting magnificent lessons of math, reading, and spelling. It was my safe place. It was what I wanted to do when I grew up.

On the way back to my mountain road that day, I timidly shared this dream with my friend and the utter futileness of even hoping that this could ever happen- so many obstacles- it seemed impossible. She encouraged me. She explained that I could get a GED (General Education Diploma) by taking and passing a test to prove proficiency and then start taking classes. Oh, if only that was the single blockade to allowing my dream to come to fruition. But…what if?

I went home and broached the subject to receive a resounding “No!”.Before you are tempted to think too harshly about my husband’s negative response, let me explain. He was very old-school and had made this clear from the start. He wanted a Christian wife who did not work, who stayed at home, and took care of the family. He felt very strongly about this and I had signed on from the beginning. Not only did his desires permeate his decision, he also did not have fond memories of education in general. I sadly relented. I knew it was an insurmountable long-shot when I brought it up. A dream seemingly extinguished before it could light and take hold.

The trouble was… that day walking around that campus had sparked a tucked away aspiration. Hearing about the experiences my much younger friend, Debbie was having at college only fueled the glowing embers. I questioned her about everything. What classes were she taking? What books did she have to read? What new concepts was she learning? I could not get the idea out of my head. As my desire to go to college grew stronger so did I. After a year and a half (when all three kids were attending school) I broached the subject again.

This time he said, “You can go, but there is no money to pay for tuition or books. You will have to figure this out on your own. I don’t think it is a good idea, but I will not stand in your way.” Yay! Now all I had to do was pass the GED having had no high school education, somehow find money to pay for books and tuition, figure out how to provide gas money to get back and forth from the college almost twenty miles away, still make sure the kids and house were taken care of, and a myriad of other challenges. I took my concerns to the Lord.

I barely passed the GED test, especially the math portion where I squeaked by on literally a hope and a prayer. I began cleaning houses in town that spring to pay for my tuition and books. I knew that the chances of me being able to earn a degree were extremely slim. However, my plan was to start with two classes in the summer so the fees were less and I could still clean houses. I would just see what happened from there. I tucked away extra dollars for gas and other expenses and registered for English 101 and Music Appreciation. I felt sure the Lord had given me the ability (after much studying on my part) to pass the test and provided enough funds to pay for that first quarter’s tuition. I, then, waited to attend my first quarter filled with red-hot excitement and gut-burning fear.

I sat among a group of much younger students in my first class on that first day-a transformed person. I was not the troubled and troublesome teenager I was when I had last attended school some 15 years previously. Back then I lacked motivation and reeked bad attitude. Now, I could not wait to learn-excited to do what it took to succeed. The professor was not much older than I and she started the class by going over the syllabus (whatever that was) and relaying the expected homework due for the next class (in two days)! “Please read the first 120 pages of the textbook and write a 2-3 page essay comparing two things of your choice.” I started to laugh. Then shrunk as she popped her head towards me with a withering glance over her glasses. Surely she was joking. I did not know how I would find the time to read 120 pages in two days and I had no idea how to write a paper. Later, in my Music Appreciation class, I was given a hefty assignment there too. All work due by the following class on Wednesday. What? I assumed I could ease into this education thing, not be pushed in with the force of a bulldozer placed firmly under my well worn sneakers. Help!

I drove home that evening watching for wayward deer along the stretch of highway between the college town and ours. I maneuvered the dirt road to the cabin, built a fire to cook dinner, fixed our meal, helped get my kids settled for bed, and then lit the Coleman lantern above the kitchen table where I sat and began reading the textbook pages I had been assigned. In no time, I was consumed with the thrill of learning about things I had never known before. I read about different musical styles from the Middle Ages. I studied how compositions differ according to audience and purpose. The lantern kept burning and I kept reading long after the rest of the house had softly gone to sleep . The flicker of my excitement became a blaze.

The next morning after sending everyone off to their own busy day, I pulled out my dusty little blue Smith Corona and began to plunk out my very first story. I wrote a narrative comparing the lifestyles and adventures of my youngest son living on a mountain and his cousin (of the same age) who lived in the city. I was so nervous. I had not written anything for a very long time. I did not know where to put commas, colons, or how to structure an essay, or much of anything where writing was concerned. Nevertheless, once I hit those first keys and got into my head and the process, I was filled with a kind of jubilance that has nothing to do with correct syntax, spelling, or grammar and everything to do with the joy of putting what is in your heart and head into somewhat coherent sentences. It was about the elation of telling a story. I was hooked.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and inChrist Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen’ (Ephesians 3:20–21).

Dear Readers, Thank you so much for taking your incredibly precious time to read my blog. I decided to break this blog into two or three parts in an effort to make it more of a quick read. Last week’s was so long!

Also, I am thinking of many friends and family out there who have their own “dream come true” story. They worked hard and did not give up. I just want to say “Good job!” and encourage those “in the midst” to keep walking towards that dream!

If you would like to receive a convenient link to this blog as well as extras I try to include weekly: Please send me your email address at: sonflowersandsoul@gmail.com or message me on Facebook or comment at the bottom of this blog.

I pray for a wonderful week for each of you. If you are facing some seemingly impossible challenges, I pray that you receive hope and encouragement today to help your situation. I pray for direction and clarity if you are trying to decide “next steps.” I pray for peace. In His love, Kristy

From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher- An “Impossible” Dream- Study

Some dreams really are impossible. I will never be as skinny as I used to be or as young, but most dreams are still worth dreaming. Most are worth taking steps towards. Why? Because if they are in His will, God is in the midst of dreams and desires. He wants to help them come true. He wants to say “Yes” to our dreams. Going to college seemed an “impossible” dream for me. Yet, I felt that once I took steps towards this desire of my heart, a way was made for my dream to come true. See my blog “From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher- An “Impossible” Dream

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. NKJV Psalm37:4

God is, however, not Santa Claus and sometimes he says “No”. Sometimes when things happen in our life that do not feel like dreams are fulfilled in the way we wish, Our Father is still working it out for the best. For example, I sold my dream house because I got robbed. For several years after I moved, I often had to drive by it and would lament the loss of my favorite home. Recently, I traveled down the road my former house was on and noticed a large moving van. The occupants were moving out. Wow! I wonder if my husband and I could buy it back.? As fast as that dream came in, it went out again. I realized I was happy where I was. That house was no longer my dream house. That dream had changed and contentment had snuck up on me and stayed. I was glad that the Lord put me where I am now. Thank you, Lord.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.Proverbs 16:3 NIV

I believe the secret to having my dreams come true has to do with righting my dreams with what God’s desires are for me. I believe, if we are open, the Lord will plant aspirations in our heart that line up with His will. Then if I take first steps towards that dream, He will be with me all the way to fruition.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

I also believe I can blow up my dream or at least veer it off track with my pride or sinful nature. This is different than God saying “no”. This is me messing up my own dream. For instance, I can stand in the way of my dream coming true due to fear. It kept me from writing my story for many years. Not being proactive and prioritizing my time to work on what is exciting to me is also a dream destroyer. I am thankful that even when I let these things hinder the desires of my heart, God still applies His love and grace to my life.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I feel that the first step to dream making is always prayer. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Please take a minute to think of a few of the things today you would like to see happen in your life. Do they line up with God’s Word? Can you accomplish your dream to God’s glory? Is the intent of your dream honorable? After praying about it, what next “first steps” could you take to make your present dreams come true?

Don’t give up, unless you have assurance that you are not on the right path for you. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Finally, apply faith. When I think back to where God found me and the doors that opened to me becoming a teacher- my childhood dream, I stand in awe at what God can do. But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26 ESV

Dear Lord, Thank you for each reader joining me at looking at some scriptures about who You are and what You can do. Thank you for making my “impossible” dream come true. In His love, Amen

The Remarkable in Remembering

In between the pain, I glanced here and there around the active room quietly watching what was happening. A portly midwife was preparing warm oil in a small metal cup to use during and after the birth. Her two assistants were taking turns washing up at the steel sink in the corner of the kitchen. I lay on a makeshift bed in the small living room. Oh! Here comes another one! I worked through it-breathing as I had read how to do-and held the edge of the thin twin mattress until it passed. I noticed my husband anxiously speaking at the kitchen table with his father. His parents and my mother had driven the two hour trip in a snowstorm that threatened to welcome this child swaddled in a receiving blanket of deep white. I will spare you the specific details of this unconventional birth except to say that nine pounds and three ounces later my baby son was born into this world. The very fullness of joy abound. See what God has done!

I would never recommend this birth plan to anyone; considering that we lived in a cabin five miles from the nearest source of communication, that those traveling to deliver our child would need at least two hours to get there, that we had no running water or electricity, that the weather was very unpredictable in November and we could be snowed in, that any emergency could send us into a spiraling catastrophe. I would never tell anyone this was the wise thing to do. It defies logic and I was repeatedly warned against it, including strongly by the obstetrician I was seeing throughout the pregnancy. Please do not write me off as completely unhinged when I tell you that one of Gordon’s dreams was to have his son (back then we did not know what the gender of the child was, but he always seemed to know this child would be a boy) born at home in the cabin. I can only tell you that I prayed and prayed and was overcome with the “peace that passes understanding”. Me- the world’s worse worrier was enveloped in a peace that caused me to believe everything would be okay. Even as I write this, I think- Wow! This could have gone so wrong. I can only express that for me, at that time, concerning that birth, there was a peace that took away all worry and concern. All the “what ifs” were gone. Remembering the utter joy on Gordon’s face, my two children rushing down the stairs to greet their just born baby brother, his grandmothers’ holding that precious child (when I would relinquish) all night long, rocking him in our old rocking chair are all such golden treasures surrounding this sweet miracle. Perhaps, you have had a “peace that passes understanding” moment in your own life? To be honest, I have never had an utter peace like that since…about anything…but it helps to remember the time that I did and be so thankful that God honored it.

In the Old Testament, God’s people were often asked to create an altar. The purpose for the altars varied, but one reason was to help remember. These altars were built after God had done something miraculous or special. He instructed the Israelites to place stacked stones or other tangible symbols to help future generations know and understand what He had accomplished there.

While we no longer need to build altars as a means of sacrifice or remembrance, writing about living in the cabin has caused me to do a lot of thinking back and wondering about the importance of embracing memories. Of course, I have remembered difficult times, hard challenges, big mistakes. But it has also caused me to reminisce about those happy joy-filled times- snapshots of “good” – stones on an altar of God’s faithfulness and fun. It caused me to ponder about the “remarkable” in remembering blessings of the past or times when God’s faithfulness was so prevalent it was unarguable.

For example, I smile at the picture of loading up our entourage for Sunday trips down the mountain to go to church. Gordon, on his big old Skidoo, me with my baby in my arms sitting on a school bus bench seat welded to the back of a large man-made sled. I was covered with a worn sleeping bag to keep a majority of the flying snow off of the baby and off of my Sunday best. My older son and daughter tucked into a large cardboard box stationed in front of the bus seat. Later my toddler and daughter would ride in the box and my oldest would grip his gloved hands to a metal bar behind the seat and hold on for dear life. What I remember most about these rides was my daughter and I singing. Silent wooded life waking to the sounds of “Jesus, Name Above All Names” or “This is the Day that the Lord has made” and other praise ditties we belted all the way down the mountain- our voices bouncing off the quaking aspen and pines surrounding our path- gleeful.

One day shortly after our sweet boy was born, we headed down to our car (2 1/2 miles from home) and in mid-praise we hit a hard snow patch in the parking lot. The sled tipped and suddenly we were pitched from the bench onto the icy parking area. All I remember was sliding across the ice along my side fiercely protecting my baby from the road. When I stood and we inventoried injuries, it seemed the only thing damaged in any way were my panty hose torn on one leg to shreds. I thank the Lord that none of us were hurt and that this incident has been on our altar of laughter for many years..

Holidays on the mountain were also great events to set the stones of remembrance. Gordon- a strong man with strong beliefs-did not adhere to celebrating many of the traditions more common to western culture. Therefore, we did not observe Halloween and did not invite either Santa or the Easter Bunny to the cabin. I write this as a way of expressing the truth of our life at that time, not as an indictment or exhortation on how anyone else should choose to celebrate special holidays.

Christmas was an interesting time at our home. To decorate for the holiday, I pulled out a tried and true battery-operated plastic wreath we hung on the door. It was perhaps twelve inches in diameter and had around ten tiny bulbs that were only as bright as the AA batteries could power. These were our holiday lights. A week or so before Christmas, Gordon took the kids (as they grew old enough) into the woods surrounding the cabin to search out the deadest tree he could find. He did not believe in cutting down live ones, so the tree they brought home usually would have put Charlie Brown’s poor little tree to shame. In fact, we often called them our Charlie Brown trees. We had little money, so we bought what presents we could buy. Not much…ever, but mostly what was needed at the time. On Christmas morning, we read the story of the birth of Christ and talked about what it meant to us. We thanked Him and celebrated. We opened presents. We admired our haphazard dead little tree with its odd assortment of left over bulbs and then usually went out to ride sleds or just play in the gorgeous snow. An altar of awe-Thankful to be a part of Jesus’ birthday.

We loved Easter mornings. We woke up before dawn, I made a thermos of hot chocolate and and we loaded up our crew (often still on snowmobile as the snow had not melted enough to drive all the way home) and headed for a high spot where we had our own private unobstructed view of the sunrise. We would read the story of the resurrection while sipping hot cocoa and then head down the mountain for church. I can still feel the chill in the air, taste the sweet chocolate, smell the pines around me as they rustled and worshipped, and I can still see that multi-colored sun rise in the horizon slowly celebrating with silent beauty the new life of a new day. Peaceful memories on an altar of thanksgiving for a risen Savior.

Everyday days contained events worth remembering too. Times of using a plastic milk jug hung on a rope tied to a huge wooden beam running along the ceiling of our living room; hours of taking turns flying back and forth on that makeshift swing. And contests to see who could stay crunched up in a cardboard box the longest, My lanky oldest took the challenge for a whole night. I think he made it. We had “Kick the can” tournaments, Loaded up on motorcycles to drive the mountain roads and check cabins (another one of Gordon’s many jobs), did lots of reading, watched “Highway to Heaven” on a donated solar-battery operated television with a 6-inch screen that would only run half of one television show before the battery died, played board games, and talked to each other.

One night, Gordon and the two oldest decided it would be great entertainment to set traps for the family of mice that had set up residence in our kitchen. He and the kids pulled up chairs and positioned themselves anxiously to watch for the mice to come out and get caught. I was mortified so I took the baby upstairs to feed him and was lying in the water bed with on arm cuddling my baby and the other holding a book. I heard a noise behind my ear and turned around to find a huge rat staring at me from the ledge outside the window. I jumped up and bounced screaming across the water bed with my son tucked into my side like a kangaroo with her joey while trapped on a trampoline. My family has laughed about this memory and our silly ways to entertain ourselves for many years.

While taking a moment to share with you just a few of the sweet memories from our time living in the mountain cabin, I realize these are not the stone altars of old and they do not all speak of momentous occasions honoring the faithfulness and/or miracles of the Lord. But then again… maybe they do… maybe by taking time to remember the good, sharing sweet stories with loved ones, laughing together about funny things that happened, reminiscing about being delivered from illogical situations, and revisiting incredible times in our lives, maybe all of it is a way to set up an altar of praise and thankfulness for the joy, for the fun, for the safety, for the laughter, for the love. Thank you, Lord, for memories.

Dear readers, Thank you! Knowing you are there makes this a fun and less scary journey. Please join me next week for a blog tentatively called, “From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher- Against All Odds” (and not a road recommended- just saying) and have a fabulous fun-infused week yourself. In His Love, Kristy

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The Remarkable in Remembering- Study

God is a remarkable “rememberer”. All through scripture, there are reminders of His promises, His covenants, and the regard He holds for His people. He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations Psalm 105

He is also an amazing “forgetter”. He told the House of Israel who had sinned against Him many times. .Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah and Paul repeated the same promise in Hebrews. Wow!

God asked his people in the Old Testament to remember Him, His Word, and what He had said and done. In fact, He instructed them to build altars in certain places to remind the Israelites and future generations of what He had accomplished at specific areas. Some of those places include: Where God saved Jacob from Esau, Read Genesis 33:20 and Exodus 24:4 where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments … and many more.

God wants us to be remarkable “rememberers”, as well: Please read the following scriptures about our role in remembering. John 2:22, John 16:4, 1 Chronicles 16:12, Psalm 119:, and 2 Peter 3:1-10. These are just a small example of the many scriptures discussing remembering.

Jesus asked His disciples to do certain things in remembrance of Him. What two things does he exhort them (and I believe us as well) to do in 1 Corinthians 11:24-28

______________________________________ and __________________________________

God does not ask us to build altars of remembrance or sacrifice to Him any more like He did in Old Testament times, but I like to think we can bring honor to Him by taking time to periodically remember what He has done for us. I write it in a gratitude journal. You may have another strategy for remembering special things God has said or done.

Please take a moment today to jot down some of the wonderful things God has done for you in the past or this week and thank Him or ponder a favorite scripture that speaks to you today. I hope it will help brighten your day.


Dear Lord, I thank You so much for the grace You give to allow me to share my thoughts. I thank You for each and every reader of this study. Please bless them with a reminder of Your faithfulness and goodness in the midst of trials or just every day challenges. Thank You for miracles this week as we grieve of the loss of loved ones. Thank you for the special memories and comfort there too. In Jesus name, Amen


The Trust Trek

Trust is easy to give away when skipping along and echoing back on a smoothed path.. but add hurdles, jagged rocks of challenge and the elevated way of heart-jumping hurt-then trust screams to remain silent, hidden among the safety of control.

When I lived in the cabin, I often called my husband “The mighty mountain man of faith”. He had what seemed to me to be a superhuman gift to trust (Corinthians 12:7) He was a carpet-layer and a handyman by trade, but did not believe in advertising or seeking work in any traditional way. “God will bring it” he would say and He did. He just believed God would provide. He would take care of us. No matter what happened, we would be okay. This belief, this trust, went against everything my young life had taught me. For a woman who had experienced too many broken promises-who believed for so long that she ultimately could rely on one person- herself- this was a faith too simple in concept and too difficult to grasp. Where I saw every trial as a need to worry myself into controlling the pitfalls of the uphill climb, Gordon saw it as an opportunity to watch what God could do.

He had very strong opinions about not “pleading poverty” (telling anyone of our financial woes) even though there were times we did not know what was going to be on the table for dinner the next day. “The Lord will take care of us” was his mantra.

One morning, Gordon announced that after breakfast he would be visiting his friend Matt who worked at the county dump. Earlier that same morning we had discussed the need to figure out a way to get him some new boots. His old boots were worn almost clear through…he possessed an almost obsessive desire to not waste things (especially food) and to utilize things until they were useless). That afternoon he walked through the cabin door with a crumpled box in his hands and a redwood size smile on his face. When he opened the box, there were nestled two perfectly good (slightly scruffy) size 12 Tony Llamas- a treasure he found during his visit to the dump. I was amazed. “Look what God gave me today”. A joy that comes from a faith fulfilled displaying itself all over his countenance.

Another summer day we were rocking and ricocheting down the dirt road towards our small town church. I was biting the inside of my cheek and rubbing each thumb in anxious concern about how to bring up to him the fact that we did not have milk or bread or food for dinner or money to buy what we needed. I was hesitant to plead our poverty even among those who it affected directly- us. I kept my fears silent as we parked our old truck in front of the church. Suddenly, Charlotte (a woman who had little to give) walked directly up to Gordon’s window and handed him an envelope. She said that she had been given an unexpected gift and God lay it on her heart to give a portion of it to us. I will never forget the impact of that gesture- the way it grew my desire to learn to trust- not because it helped alleviate my worry for that day, but because it was a gift no-one knew we needed…no-one but God. Maybe He really would take care of us.

Hiking that mountain of trust has never been easy for me. I’ve suffered from a lifetime of trust issues that cause my feet to stumble and my head to forget to “look up”. Over the years, I kept an accounting in my gratitude journal of many of the “faith miracles” we experienced. With each incident where God took care of us and our needs, my trust muscles became stronger. Still, I had not built up the stamina to trustingly climb to a place of peace. What if one of us got seriously ill? Could I really just trust God when we had no health insurance? What if there our cabin caught fire? We would be totally wiped out. What if the work quit coming or Gordon got hurt? What if? What if? What if?

Slowly, I began the practice of handing these worries over to the Lord. Sometimes I did it the moment I started to let anxiety block my path and other times it took me days of staring at it, kicking dust at its feet, before I could allow God to move it aside. Nevertheless, I noticed that with every time I found my way to saying, “This is yours, Lord, and not mine.” a habit was forming and I was maneuvering the steep roads breathing better.

I discovered that I could speak scriptures to situations. Scriptures like: God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind 2 Timothy 1:7 KJV when jobs did not come as fast as I wanted them or the snowmobile broke down two miles from home in below 0 temperatures or an interesting character moved into a nearby cabin loaded with a variety of guns and a sign outside that said, “Be warned. You are now entering Saigon.”

I found there is a formula for living life without anxiety. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace that passes understanding will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 I applied it when my boys were screaming around the mountain roads on their dirt bikes or during mountain storms when the thunder was deafening and lightening was striking right outside out cabin windows.

While I was making progress on how to live a life of faith on a mountain, I discovered another area of my trust trek that seemed like a completely divergent path than the one where I was learning to overcome my tendency to choose anxiety and control over trust. This avenue was more about placing a naive confidence in the faulty lanes along the way.

For example, my ability to trust other people was a dangerous walk. I carried (and still do) this unrealistic view that everyone I met was great, honest, and filled with integrity. Then when their humanness eventually showed and something hurt me, I was crushed. I processed even the smallest betrayal as a validation that I was not good enough to be treated fairly. I was not worth it. This core belief put a lot of pressure on those around me and a trust trap that would hold my feet back and tear at my soul for years. My response (until I finally learned better) was to reach deep for the internal on/off switch…the one I developed as a child to survive rough experiences… and switch it to “off”. Once this happened, I found it very difficult to see the other person as someone I could be close to again. I refused to trust. I gave no room for flaws or forgiveness, and yet, I was also blind to my own acts of betrayal- no matter how big or small- always able to justify . These misguided tenets on trust- this dichotomy of “You are great until you hurt me.” and “I am justified even if I am wrong.” had previously led to my second failed marriage and as hard as it is to admit- would continue to allow me to transfer that naive “impossible-to-live-up-to” trust to a man rather than God. More on this in upcoming blogs called, “The Power of Stay” and “The Woman at the Well”.

I am still climbing the mountain of trust. I am not a “mighty woman of faith” gifted with a supreme ability to trust- no matter what- but I am making headway. Though it sometimes takes longer than I wish it did, I am turning more quickly from fear to faith. I don’t always succeed in trusting the Lord at the first attempt, in fact I often need to hand my worries and concerns back to Him several times, but I am advancing along this pathway too. I am finally making huge progress towards placing my ultimate all-encompassing trust in God while allowing others in my life and myself to be human. I am thankful I learned to trust God to take care of our family during those mountain years. He did not always do it the way I thought it should be done or when I wanted Him to do it, but He did take care of us in His way- the Godly way- and He still does. I am thankful to know that while trust is a steep and rocky trek, it is one well-worth the climb.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him and He shall make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

As I do every week, I thank the Lord for each one of you who choose to spend time reading my story. It truly means so much to me. I pray that if you are struggling with a trust trek today, the Lord would give you encouragement. I ask the Lord to bless each of you this week with His peace and joy. In Love, Kristy