Freezer Meals: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes!

Where to begin??? Freezer meals have been a “thing” for me for a little over a year now. There’s a lot to learn, so if it feels overwhelming, that’s probably because it IS! Learning something new is always a lot at first, but little by little, you’ll learn what works best for you. SO, just stick with me and keep at it!! Here are some tips/tricks that I’ve learned and some of my favorite recipes to help you get started.

First, you should know that this is more money upfront, but I have found that it saves me money in the long run since I’m not having to buy meat or food to make meals…which also makes my grocery trips lighter since I am just going for things like fruit, veggies, milk, etc.

I’ll say that there are 2 ways I’d recommend starting…

  1. With FRIENDS ๐Ÿ™‚ I recently just hosted my first freezer meal party (more to come, especially now that I know how interested people are in this). A week before the party, I asked my 2 friends to send me a recipe that they wanted to make. Once I got their recipes, I printed off copies for each of us and made a grocery list. Obviously, since there were 3 of us I tripled the ingredients, checked what ingredients I already had, then the next day we went shopping together! We then came back to my house and we decided to each make all of the meals so we could have the experience of what it was like to make each one…I’ve found that some freezer meals just take way too long to make, so I make them once, and ditch the recipe ๐Ÿ™‚ The cool thing about this is that instead of leaving with 3 of the one recipe we each chose, we each got to go home with one of each of the recipes which helped us try new ones with might not have tried before! Pros to this option are that obviously it’s more fun and you can try new/various recipes…Cons are that you don’t make as many freezer meals, but I think it’s a great option to start and not feel overwhelmed!
  2. On your own! If you want to do more meals, then I’d suggest doing it on your own. If you’ve never done freezer meals before then I’d honestly say to choose 2 or 3 recipes and make 2 or 4 batches of each to start with. Freezer meal cooking can definitely feel overwhelming and become time-consuming quickly depending on how labor-intensive the recipes you chose are…more on that later though ๐Ÿ™‚ When I do freezer meals, I first look for recipes. I usually just go to google and type in “Healthy freezer meals”…I open up a bunch of tabs and try to find a variety of chicken, turkey, pork, and beef recipes. Once I find a few I like, I print the recipes, make a grocery list, then depending on how much I need of each item I’ll either add it to Kroger click list OR my Sam’s club click list. I’ve found this to be helpful because 1) I only have to go pick my groceries up rather than having to shop twice and 2) I don’t have huge quantities of things I only need a little bit of! After I get the groceries, I come home and clear my dining room table. I lay out the recipes and I either put a large freezer baggie (add this to your click list too if you don’t have them on hand) OR I put out an aluminum freezer meal pan (also add this if you don’t have them they are a lifesaver because you can prep the meal in the pan, cook in the pan, AND throw it out when you’re done, so NO DISHES!!! Hallelujah! Lol), then I sort the groceries into their recipes so I can visually see each recipe, what ingredients go with it, and what dish/baggie it will be placed into. Pros to this option are that you will have more meals. Cons are that it’s more work and can feel more stressful, so make sure you have PLENTY of time OR choose fewer recipes (like 1-2 and make more of each recipe rather than make a few batches of many recipes).

Now for some tips I’ve learned!

  • Like I mentioned earlier, I like to print the recipes and get out good old-fashioned paper and pencil to make a grocery list. It’s easier to get a count of things like onions, bell peppers, etc. and to then make a click list/decide if you need an ingredient in bulk or not. Yes, you have to go to 2 grocery stores, BUT all you have to do is pick it up! Then when you get home, you can sort the ingredients back out into their individual recipes.
  • Use aluminum pans and be sure to cover then with tin foil and their lids before placing them in the freezer. I always write the name of the recipes and directions for how to cook the recipe on the foil or on the ziploc baggie so that I can easily know how to cook the meal. You can buy aluminum pans at Sam’s club, but a mistake I recently made was getting the pans without lids…this makes it harder to stack the meals because the aluminum foil caves in! So, don’t be like me. Buy the aluminum pans with lids ๐Ÿ™‚
  • The easiest type of freezer meals to make and to cook are called dump meals. I know, a really lovely name! Haha. They are like what they sound like, you literally dump all the ingredients into the bag and it involves very little prep. When you’re ready to cook these, you thaw the meal, then dump it into your crockpot and you’re done! I’ll list some of my favorite dump meals later on in the post!
  • Use crock pot liners!!! Then you don’t have to spend time soaking and scrubbing your crock pot! You can buy these in bulk at Sam’s club.
  • Once you make your meals and put them in Ziploc baggies, lay them FLAT in the freezer at first. You want to do this because then once they freeze, you can more easily store them by standing them up! This will save you a lot of space in your freezer and help with organization!
  • Another note on storage, if you find that you really like this and it’s helpful to you, you might want to invest in a deep freezer. Ed and I got one and it is now completely full outside! I have a section for beef meals, turkey meals, and chicken meals that are all stacked up. In our inside freezer, I have pork meals and other misc. meals! We find that organizing by protein makes it easier to meal plan for the week and get a variety of different meals.
  • As far as prep goes, I’ve learned that it’s easiest if you’re doing many meals to cook the ones that use the same meat at the same time. So for example, last time I cooked mexican turkey soup and turkey quinoa casserole so what I did after I sorted out all of the ingredients was I first started to cook the meat (I just learned a new way I”ll explain next!!!) and as the meat cooked, I prepped the rest of the ingredients by chopping and cuttings lots of onions, peppers, etc., opening lots of cans, draining juices, washing corn, etc. so that when the meat was done, all I had left to do was add the turkey meat to the Ziploc bag or to the aluminum pan.
  • As far as cooking meat goes, I have a gigantic dutch oven that I used to use to cook lots of meat at once…now I just use my crockpot because you can, as they say, set it and forget it ๐Ÿ™‚ The other nice thing about using the crock pot to cook meat is that if you start by getting the meat going, you can prep all the other ingredients and have it ready to go while the meat cooks! I find that this makes it go a little quicker ๐Ÿ™‚
  1. Chicken=Bake in the oven or grill out if you need chicken breasts, Cook chicken in the crock pot if you need shredded chicken, or buy a rotisserie chicken if you don’t want to have to wait/cook chicken yourself you can buy a rotisserie chicken and quickly pull the meat off!
  2. Turkey & Beef=Cook in a skillet OR cook in the crock pot. I cooked 4 lbs of turkey in my crockpot (with a handy dandy crock pot liner) and it took a few hours to I was able to prep all the bags/casserole dishes and just add the turkey once it was finished cooking. I made the mistake of trying to cook 10 lbs of beef in my bigger crockpot at once time (I know, silly) so I ended up having to get out a skillet to finish browning it which wasn’t a huge deal, BUT I’d say only do up to 4, maybe 5 max lbs of meat in the crock pot at a time. It cooks usually for 2-3 hours on low or 4-6 on high. I used a thermometer to check it and it was a lot easier to drain all the meat at once using a strainer and letting it go into a bowl before I put it in a jar!
  • As you assemble the Ziploc meals, there is a handy tool you can use so that you don’t accidentally drop of let your Ziploc bag fall over (it happens a lot more quickly than you’d think and is quite frustrating!) They make these holders that will hold your baggies upright so they don’t fall over and create any messes. This makes it a lot easier to double or quadruple a recipe at once as well as you just drop the ingredients in each bag, then onto the next one!

Now, onto the good stuff!!!! Here are some of my favorite recipes ๐Ÿ™‚

Dump Meals: These are meals that when you prep, you literally dump all of the ingredients into the bag. When you’re ready to cook it, you thaw it in the fridge (I usually do this 2 days before I want to cook it), then dump it into your crock pot and typically cook it on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours. I’ve found that cooking it on high tends to make the meat dry, but also cooking it on low for 8 hours does that same! So it’s all a toss-up and a learning curve! These are the easiest meals to start with if you’re new to this! The ones below are some of Ed and I’s favorites…The peanut chicken satay is the newest one we’ve tried and is sooo good!! We have it on top of brown rice with naan bread and it is to die for!

Easiest Ones to Start with…(Require no chopping!)

“Level 2” Dump Meals (Require a little more chopping)

Casseroles: These are nice because they’re often a whole meal that require no sides or extra cooking once you are done making them…they do require a little more time/effort to make though!

Just for Fun: Ed and I love these little pizzas because we can individualize them and they help us out on nights when I forget to thaw a meal or we are in a time crunch! We make a bunch ahead of time and have an aluminum pan of “Kassie’s” pizzas and a pan of “Ed’s” pizzas ๐Ÿ™‚

What I love about freezer meals is that I always get to come home to a meal already cooked AND I rarely have to do dishes and try to scrub casserole out of a dish…because honestly who wants to do that after a long work day! I hope this helps you get started!! If you have tips or questions or want to be a part of the next freezer meal “party” I have, comment or reach out! If you have other good recipes, drop them below!! Happy freezer meal-ing…that’s a thing now ๐Ÿ™‚

Where Are You?

Nothing is more precious to me in my life than the voice of God. By the “voice” of God, I don’t mean that I tangibly hear Him all the time. What I mean is His presence…the way He shows His self in small ways like through a song, through a quote that just hits your right in the feels, in the way the sun rises up in the morning and paints the clouds all different kinds of colors. I think this song expresses it well…

I am still learning (and will be for the rest of my life!) how to “hear” God’s voice. For me, it requires slowing down, living life with more margin, and allowing myself more time to quiet my soul. Really I’ve learned that it’s not about God showing up, but about ME making space to RECOGNIZE His presence in my life because. He is always there…I am not always aware.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a theme that seems to keep repeating itself…I’ve noticed God asking people this question: “Where are you?”

This question comes up within the first few pages of the Bible with Adam and Eve after they have just sinned by eating from the tree God told them not to eat from. Moments after, they hear God walking about in the garden so they hide from him. As they are hiding, God calls to them and asks “Where are you?” The first time I read it, I was very confused because God knows everything, so why would he ask them where they were?? Wouldn’t he already know?

If you keep reading Genesis, you get to the story of Cain and Abel…another well-known story in which Cain murders his brother Abel. After Cain commits this heinous act, the Bible says in Genesis 4:9 that God asks Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” I had a flash-back to Adam and Eve and thought again, why would God be asking when he knew Abel was dead and he knew that Cain had killed him?

Fast forward to Abraham’s story, which is also in Genesis…God came to Abraham in his old age and promised Him that he would have a son of his own who would be his heir. Unfortunately, as it does for many of us, God’s timeline didn’t match up with Abraham’s, so Abraham and his wife Sarah took matters into their own hands to get things moving along, by having Abraham have a child with one of their servants, named Hagar. While they are in the process of trying to have a child through Hagar instead of Sarah, there erupts a lot of conflict between the women, which leads Hagar to run away because of how badly Sarah treated her. I think this is one of the most beautiful “Where are you?” moments. As Hagar is running away, an angel finds her and says to her, “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” Again I thought to myself, God already knew the entire situation. He knew exactly where she came from, why she left, and where she was going, but He still asked her! Weird! The angel then goes on to tell her the news of her pregnancy and that she is to name the son Ishmael, which means “God hears” because the Lord heard her cry. So I was left to wonder again, why was God asking her where she came from and where she planned to go when He already knew?

Hagar gives birth to Ishmael and as more time passes on, Abraham still hasn’t had a son who will be his own heir by conceiving with Sarah…until we get to Genesis 21. After a lot of waiting, Abraham finally receives this promise of his own son at 100 years old! This would’ve been such a joyous day, a promise fulfilled that he had waited decades to be fulfilled…Isaac.

In Genesis 22, with that context in mind, we come to the next “Where are you?” moment that looks a little bit different. This time, God called out to get Abraham’s attention by simply calling out his name. Abraham’s immediate response was, “Here I am!” He heard God’s call to Him and God began to tell him the plan, which was for Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. So, Abraham was asked to give up the very thing that God gave him to fulfill His promise to him…the son he waited decades for! Can you imagine? But what blows my mind, even more, is his response…the Bible says that he got up early the next morning and went. That is a man who must’ve truly known and loved God to be obedient so quickly and to be willing to let go of what God gave him, despite loving it so.

These stories when combined together, paint a bigger picture and lesson we can all learn from as we ourselves seek to hear from God, be in His presence, and be obedient to what He asks of us…

God calls out to all people at any and all times…Adam and Eve had just sinned. Cain had just committed the first murder the world had ever seen. Hagar was a slave. Abraham was a faithful man. God called out to ALL of them, not just the one who was faithful. He cared about each of them, despite mistakes they made or things they did, and the same is true of us today. God is calling out to you! Despite what you have done or who you are! He loves you all the same!

God calls out to us to help us, not to actually have us answer his questions so he can know things. It seems kind of funny when you first think about it, but the more I think about it, the more beautiful it becomes. The same question of “Where are you?” can have different purposes for each of us. I believe that for Adam and Eve, God was trying to get them to repent. To be honest about where they were and to allow themselves, mistakes and all to be seen by God…and to give them the freedom of knowing they were still loved, despite their sin. The same, I think, is true for Cain. That God was giving him a chance to come clean, to repent and admit what he had done…to finally give to God his anger and his jealousy that he could no longer contain or hold onto without hurting others. I believe that he asked Hagar because she needed to know that God saw her and heard her in the midst of her distress. He wanted her to consider and process through all that had happened and to know that despite all of it, He saw her and He loved her, even when she felt like nobody else did. He would be with her and take care of her.

If you listen, you will hear Him. If you notice, you will see Him. God desires to speak to you, for you to hear Him, and for you to respond to His call and questions…

So, where are you? Where have you come from? Where are you going?

Something is Always Blooming…

Every summer my family takes a trip down to spend a week in Florida, which has become a really special time and place for us as we make more and more memories there each year. In reflecting on the trip we just took, I wanted to share a lesson from my great-Grandma Sara that has stuck with me and been something I can’t get off of my mind…

First, let me tell you a little bit about my great Grandma Sara. The first thing to know about her is that she is AMAZING. Quite literally, she astounds me…here is why…She is well into her 90s and fully embraces and imparts the great wisdom that comes with that. She currently lives in an assisted living facility in Florida but still has all her wits about her. She can still get around and she is always eager to share her own precious memories that you can tell she holds so dearly within her heart and mind. I am always so impressed by her mobility and her ability to remember…I pray and hope that when I’m her age I will be as blessed as her, but for now, she is a big blessing and a joy to spend time with.

Anytime we go down to Florida, we always take a trip to see Grandma Sara, which usually consists of us going to her place, getting a tour, and playing lots and lots of games like rummy and mexican train dominoes. This year was no different as we reached out to her on the long drive down and asked if we could meet up! She was able to fit us in before her virtual reality experience that she had to be back on time for (How cool is that?!).

On the way to pick her up, I noticed some pretty trees that were blooming and pointed them out to my Mom and my husband Ed. Their red and yellow buds just stood out so vividly! Ed then commented that they were pretty and he wondered if the people who lived on the island or in Florida noticed them and how pretty there were or if they just got so used to them that they didn’t notice or appreciate them anymore. He recalled a time when my sister had come to visit us in Ohio and had pointed out a tree she thought was neat and how he thought to himself that it was just a tree, as he couldn’t figure out what was so cool about it to her…we wondered if the people of Florida would think the same of us pointing out this tree!

Fast-forward to our arrival at grandma Sara’s, as we pull up and she is sitting outside with her cute tote bag with scripture and flowers on it, full of games, and of course, she had a big smile on her face, ready to take on the day! (and probably beat us at any game we play :)) We get into the car and head out, only to pass those vibrant trees again. Without any prompting from us and with her having no idea of the conversation that we had just had about the trees, she pointed out BOTH of them…the red and the yellow…and stated just how beautiful she thought they were and how she loves when they bloom.

I didn’t think too much of it at the time, I just thought of our conversation and noted in my head that she did in fact notice the trees even though she was a resident, so I was impressed.

Later on, while we were at brunch, Grandma Sara again pointed out a flower (the orchid below) that she thought was beautiful. I was astonished that again she had pointed out another flower blooming, but then she went on to say something that will always stick with me. She said, “Something is always in bloom”. I’ve been unable to stop thinking about this because she is so right. It makes me tear up just to think of it again, but what a beautiful, powerful, hope-filled statement to say, that something is always in bloom. A lesson in noticing and a lesson in gratitude!

As we went around the island the rest of the week, I noticed the blooms. I remembered what our precious Grandma Sara said about something always being in bloom and I just find it so poetic and truthful. You could choose to see what’s not blooming or what isn’t growing in your life, or you could choose to take the time to notice, celebrate, and be joyful for what IS blooming all around you.

For me, I am taking that very quote with me in my daily walk, especially as a teacher. God speaks to us in themes and a common theme for me has been God speaking to me through nature and gardening. Last year, I was so encouraged as I felt God tell me my job was to plant the seeds…That I might not see the blooms, but He wanted me to plant the seeds and trust Him to do the rest. This year, my job is to remember that something is always blooming, even when I do not see it. It reminds me of the verse below…

It’s so easy to give up and to feel discouraged when we feel like we don’t see progress or blooms, but we cannot give up. The Bible tells us to persevere, to be grateful for what we do have, and to trust GOD to give us what we need.

We place our confidence in God, who is the ultimate “gardener”. Our trust and faith are fully in Him…check the blooms around you, I guarantee you that if you take the time to stop, you will see something in bloom…

If You Don’t Quit, You Win: Dealing with Disappointment and the Answer You Didn’t Expect

I heard someone say once that a perfect, shiny life is not relatable. So this is me in a moment of vulnerability, sharing something that I am struggling with because I believe that others are struggling with disappointment too. I want you to know that you are not alone and that God has a plan, even if it’s not the plan you had in mind or were hoping for. I hope that this encourages you and gives you the courage to share what you are going through with someone you trust so that you don’t walk through your disappointment alone.

Last year at about this time I was going through the process of fighting off a lot of self doubt and uncertainty with regards to my teaching career. After a lot of praying, confusion, and waiting over the summer, God made it abundantly clear to me that I was made to be a teacher and that He wanted me to continue to teach, specifically at Woodford Academy, even though it would be hard. Long story short, here is what I wrote about what I felt God speak to me about my teaching…

My job is to plant the seeds, not to wait and watch the blooms appear. I will not always see the fruits of my labor right away. There will be hard days and there will be failures, but that does not constitute the calling God gave me as a failure. I may never know the impact I made while here on Earth, but I am called to be obedient nonetheless, and that is what I am going to do!

Around that same time, I was involved in a Bible study in which we were reading a book called โ€œThe Armor of Godโ€ by Priscilla Shirer. God revealed so much to me through this study, including the fact that I had let the devil define my identity. Specifically, I had let him define my identity as a teacher. I 100% let him infiltrate my mind and convince me of my inability as a teacher, to the point where I was considering quitting and finding another career.

It was a season in which I felt God encouraging me and determining to use me and mold me into more confidence despite all of my insecurities and doubts. I knew that God wanted me to continue to teach and I felt Him telling me that He was starting to prepare me for a tough school year. This is what I wrote…

I know that this year will not be easy, but I also know that God has equipped me with this awareness, His protection, and the tools of His spiritual armor that I learned about in that study to start to rewire my mind to know and believe in what GOD says about me, rather than the lies that satan so badly wants me to believe!

Fast-forward to a year later…otherwise known as now, after I’ve spent the entire school year taking those promises with me and holding onto them on all the days, good and bad to remind myself that I was right where God wanted me to be so that no doubt could seep in and convince me otherwise.

As time went on and the days got harder near the end of the school year (as they do), I started to convince myself that I had been faithful, worked really hard, overcome a lot of challenges, and that God was probably ready for me to move on to an easier teaching job now. I was not going to quit teaching because God made that very clear to me that I was made to be a teacher, but I was ready and dedicated to the cause of finding a school closer to home to minimize my commute time and hopefully find more time to rest each day. So, I started the job search and began to knock on doors…At first I kept an open mind, hoping for a closer job, but knowing that if God asked me to stay at Woodford again that I would. As I hoped for a change, I stayed faithful to the end of the school year, but by the end my “possibility” had turned more into a “guarantee” in my mind. I had resolved that this would most likely be my last year at Woodford. All I had left to do was to persevere and in the mean time continue to look for other openings, apply, interview, and let God work. I wrote on a note card: “A Call to Persevere” with an encouraging verse and message to help me through the last few days of school.

The day that school let out, I received an email back from a school I had interviewed at and got the “We had many great candidates, but it ain’t you” message. I tried to keep in mind that it was ultimately God who chose where I ended up, so it must not be not meant to be. I tried to remain grateful for all the provision and help that God gave me this school year and to focus on that…but another part of me was disappointed. If I am being honest, I felt disappointed in God, but more than that, I felt disappointed in myself for feeling disappointed in God.

That weekend, I carried that hurt with me, trying to shake it, but for some reason I continued to feel really confused and disappointed as I walked into church. I was still confident that God would eventually give me an answer in His timing…to be clear, I was hoping (and very convinced) that He’d give me the answer I wanted to hear…isn’t that funny how sometimes we ask questions and then are disappointed when we don’t get the answer we actually already determined was the “right” answer in our mind?

The sermon was literally titled, “Perseverance”. Immediately, I knew I was about to receive the clarity and guidance I had been praying for for so long, but little did I know that instead of receiving the answer I had already decided, God had different plans. The sermon was all about the story of Joseph and how he had to persevere in order for his character to be produced…which is exactly what I wrestled with for much of the school year…How God was using my trials and hard days to grow me, how He was present and with me, and how I needed to be faithful and obedient to what He called me to do.

The first point of the sermon was that Joseph was disappointed. I remember clearly telling my Mom and Ed the day before that I was disappointed and a “sad girl” because of the no I received from the school I had interviewed at. To be disappointed means to believe that we missed out on something that was meant for us. This hit me because I realized that I was operating in what I wanted and what I believed was best for me, not in what God wanted for me or knew to be best for me, which is what lead to me being disappointed. I had led myself to believe that God wanted me to go somewhere else before He had ever spoken that to me.

The sermon went on and gave the point that “You don’t have to understand the plan to trust that God has a purpose” and that “God is moving while you are mourning”. Both of these hit me so deeply again as I realized that God was moving in my life, it just wasn’t in the way I wanted. It gave me hope though to remember that God does have a purpose for my life, and that even while I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself and confused, God was still present and working, trying to speak to me, console me, and let me know He saw me grieving, but that He still had a plan.

The next part of the sermon focused on the fact that Joseph had to trust. Joseph went through a lot of trials, this one in particular was his being thrown into jail for something he did not do. What’s so powerful to me about his part of the story is that it says in Genesis 39 that “The Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him His faithful love.” So God ALLOWED Joseph to be put into the prison, DESPITE his innocence in the situation, BUT He was WITH Him the WHOLE time. Then the preacher hit me with the real zinger…she said that a good filter to make decisions by is to ask yourself, “How would someone in your situation respond if they knew that God would be with them?” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been singing God praises to the moon for helping me to persevere, for leading me through the school year, for teaching me so many lessons, yet I was ready to move onto an “easier” job. God was so faithful in helping me through and in being with me, just as He was with Joseph through all of his trials, but I was ready to move on. Hard thing done, NEXT.

If you don’t quit, you win. If you don’t quit, you win. If you don’t QUIT, you WIN. These are the words the sermon ended with. Over and over, if you don’t quit, you win. And that was it. As tears streamed down my face and my hands were shaking, I knew what the answer was. God was calling me to stay at Woodford another year. God wanted me to choose the hard thing again. And the truth of the matter is, I am still wrestling with is, but I have chosen to be obedient. My contract is signed and I will be at Woodford next year.

For the last few days, I have been avoiding God. I’ve been sad. I’ve been worried. I’ve been wondering how the heck I am going to do this again for another year. I’m disappointed in myself for asking God for an answer, having already resolved my own, incorrect answer. I am sad that while God has provided me with so much help and so many powerful lessons this year that have grown my faith that I wanted the easy way out and was starting to make my own way, rather than trusting and waiting on God’s plan for my life.

I sit here now, feeling a little lighter having admitted that and having talked it through with some of my closest friends and trusted people. While I know the year will be heavy, God will be faithful again and He will help me through. Now, I will spend the summer resting, preparing my heart, and asking God to line my heart, my mind, and my will up to His because I am not there yet, and I think that is okay. I do not feel like God is mad at me and I actually had a thought yesterday while I wondered if God was disappointed in me for being upset with the answer He gave me and it hit me that He already knew. God already knew that I’d sit in that church sermon and that I’d cry and not like the answer, but He still gave me the answer. He still told me what to do and that gives me hope. It gives me hope that He believes in me, He trusts me, and He sees the future where I can come to accept his will for me and be joyful it in. He is still with me right now, He is not shunning me away saying how could you be upset after all the help I gave you this year? He is right here with me, wiping my tears, saying I will help you through this, just like I did last year. I know it’s not what you expected or wanted, but I have a reason I am keeping you here. I can already see the end. It is not by your strength, but mine. Stay faithful and trust me to provide. I need you at Woodford.

Today I start the process of moving forward and I am beginning by thinking of all that I have learned through this last school year. It has been a year like no other, in the most demanding but also the sweetest way. My co-teacher and I had the most challenging group we’ve ever had, and I am proud to say that despite that, I did ultimately feel peaceful, rooted and confident. I think it would be easy to say that teaching has gotten “easier” for me, but the truth of the matter is that what I’ve realized is that it has very little to do with me and that it has everything to do with the Lord. HE is the one who has taught me, helped me, and refined me. He has helped me through! It has not been easy every day, but it has been fruitful and rewarding, because I was obedient and because God is faithful, loving, and gives us JUST what we need at JUST the time we need it.

There is a story behind each of these lessons…many tears and hard days. But the main story behind each of these is God. A God who daily walked with me, helped me, encouraged me, and gave me just what I needed. Here are some of the things I have learned…

  • How to have peace in the middle of a difficult situation
  • How to re-focus and re-prioritize when I start to get overwhelmed
  • How to be more aware of small moments and things to receive joy
  • How to give myself grace and to know that times of transition are hard and that is okay
  • How to see each day as a NEW, a fresh slate and an opportunity to try again (for myself and my students)
  • How to put myself aside and to focus on serving others
  • How to have a calmness that is not only settling for me, but contagious to others in anxious spaces
  • How to have clarity on those days I feel cloudy
  • How to connect with my students…to share and to be shared with
  • How to truly rest
  • How to accept that I am a work in progress and that is okay
  • How to trust God with things out of my control and to know that I don’t have to have everything figured out or perfectly put together
  • How to see the ability and skills God has given me and to trust His plan and path for me
  • How to trust Him when things start to feel out of control
  • How to lean in and wait for His guidance and prompting
  • How to be okay with waiting and not knowing
  • How to be disciplined and have a routine that helps me to put first things first and to prioritize time with God
  • How to pray each day and how helpful it is to set my mind on God, others, and in peaceful state
  • How to learn to prioritize and ask God what HE sees as most important
  • How to have boundaries and that it is okay and necessary to sometimes say no
  • How to give myself breaks
  • How constant God is
  • How to have community and support, how to ask for help and for prayer, the power of sharing what is really going on
  • How to simplify, because sometimes less is more
  • How to persevere on hard days
  • How to use my words to encourage others
  • How to count my blessings and to see the good in all situations
  • How to prioritize my health
  • How to fill my cup and know that I cannot pour from an empty cup…Sabbath rest is essential
  • How joy truly is a choice and should not depend on what is happening around us
  • How to respond to challenging situations and people with grace, kindness, and empathy to see their side of a situation
  • How to see my students as His beloved children
  • How hard things help us grow and are opportunities to trust God
  • How to find refuge in God and how to ask Him for help on the days I am struggling
  • How stillness and silence are essential to a fruitful walk with God
  • How to face doubts, insecurities, and fears by evaluating WHY I feel the way I do, then replacing them with God’s truth by the help of the Holy Spirit
  • How I’ve been chosen specifically for the place and the children God entrusted me with this year
  • How to have a soft, but guarded heart
  • How helpful Scripture is to teach, correct, and encourage
  • How sometimes a “no” is God opening the door to other things
  • How to choose commitment over mood
  • How to have an eternal perspective and to not get caught up in small matters, but to try to se the bigger picture
  • How my identity is more than my job
  • How to be faithful and that my teaching matters. This generation needs wisdom, they need truth, they need hope, and they need God!

I heard the song below (Firm Foundation) and it beautifully sums up this school year for me and the main lesson that I will carry proudly with me into this next hard school year to give me hope and help as I am at Woodford again. It says, rain came, wind blew, but my house was fixed on God. I’m safe with Him, I’m gonna make it through. Christ is my firm foundation and THAT makes all the difference. A daily walk with God and with other believers can make all the difference, especially when we are going through hard times. When everything around me is shaken, I’ve never been more glad. I put my faith in Jesus. He’s never let me down.

I know that some people will never understand why I choose to stay somewhere that is a huge challenge for me, but I know that God sees me and that He will help me through. I have another year under my belt of being challenged by wave after wave, but standing firm because of the help that God have me. I have a little bracelet that I bought with a wave on it that will serve as a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness to me through hard times. Even when the rain comes and the wind blows, my house will be built on the Lord. I will fail, but He won’t. He is my firm foundation! I’m safe with God, I’m gonna make it through.

And I write this as a reminder on the days when I start to doubt and feel like I can’t go on, that God chose me for these children. He wants me at Woodford, with these students, at this exact time. THAT I am sure of, despite any disappointment I feel right now. This too shall pass. It’s because of GOD that we receive the encouragement, the power, and the desire to continue to walk through hard things, but not just to get through them, but to go through them with peace, with joy, and with intention to live out our purpose and to be obedient to whatever God has called us to do…even when it’s hard and even when it’s not the answer that we hoping for.

Rooted in Christ: I Hope You Dance

Ed and I were blessed to have gotten to go on a little get away trip this weekend. The trip was originally planned for his birthday over a month ago, but the weather had different plans for us that weekend.

We were very excited to finally go to this secluded cabin, as we were eager to find some rest and solitude from the crazy busyness of life. The cabin was quaint and cozy, just as we expected. When we arrived on Friday night, I turned my phone off and committed to not turning it back on until Sunday morning so that I could truly focus on resting as I’ve been having quite the hard time at work lately…as Spring Break gets closer, teaching becomes more and more challenging!

As we slowly woke up Saturday morning, having no clue what time it was and with no agenda for the day, I already felt more at ease.

I made us a nice little breakfast that our host graciously provided complete with bacon, biscuits, eggs, and orange juice…all the yummy things ๐Ÿ™‚ After we enjoyed the meal together, I decided to skip doing the dishes right away, and opted instead to take a seat, and do some reading.

I sat down and took inventory of the cabin looking at the cute signs posted on the walls and as I sat there, I noticed a wooden sign on the wooden sign that read “I Hope You Dance”.

After having a challenging week, I was so touched by the sign. When I graduated high school, my Mom made a video compilation of the most embarrassing photos of me throughout my whole life, as any good Mom would do. The song “I Hope You Dance” was the background music to the video, so this song holds a special place in my heart and I feel like it’s a song she signs over my life and wishes for me as I continue to grow.

The crazy thing was, I had JUST stumbled upon the song the other day and texted my Mom telling her I heard the song and was so thankful for her…she texted me back joking that I was overly emotional due to my female hormones and I agreed. But as I saw this sign, it suddenly got much deeper and more meaningful for me.

I took a picture of the sign (as you see above) eager to show my Mom and so excited that I had sat still long enough to see the camouflaged sign. I thought of how easily I could’ve missed the sign if I hadn’t taken the time to sit and contemplate.

I continued to take inventory of the cabin, looking first at the pictures and other signs around the “I Hope You Dance” sign and I realized how ironic the picture actually is and how it offers up 2 very distinct ways of living: by the ways of the world or by the ways of the Lord.

On the little shelf to the left of the wooden sign, I realized another sign that says “Do More of What Makes You Happy”. A very catchy, cute phrase that at first seems reasonable, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how opposite these 2 signs were.

I think we all WANT life to be like the sign on the left. We want to be happy and we want to do things that make us happy and that we’re good at.

BUT…I think God desires more for us. He desires us to take the more “camouflaged, I Hope You Dance” route, if you will…

I couldn’t help but think that while my Mom sings this song over my life, God does too. He has these same desires and wishes for us. He doesn’t always want us to just choose what makes us happy (contrary to what the world will tell you)…sometimes He wants us to choose the hard thing and to trust Him through it, knowing that the hardest things in life have the greatest potential for growth.

If we take time to open our eyes and fix them on God and the truth of WHY we were created, I believe that we will remember that life won’t always be easy or pretty, but that doesn’t mean that the hard thing isn’t God’s will, purpose, or calling on our lives.

I think of this in my own life with regards to teaching and how it would be so easy for me to just quit. I can think of 10 reasons very quickly as to how my life would be more simple if I did quit…but there’s always a voice in the back of my head that wonders, would I truly be more content choosing the “easy” route? I think of all that I’ve learned through the hardships of teaching and I can’t help but tear up. I am proud that I’ve stuck to the hard thing. I’ve kept going and I’ve persevered and it has brought so much joy and growth to my life.

Just like the song says, time is a reel in constant motion. We only have so long to live…and so we need to choose…Are we going to do more of what makes us happy or are we going to accept God’s invitation to dance with him through the ups and downs of life?

Don’t fear the mountains in the distance and don’t settle for the path of least resistance. Have faith and choose to do hard things and challenge yourself. You never know how you will grow unless you try. I hope you dance…

Because I Said So…

Because I said so.

When I type the words above, the first thing I think of is that my teachers always told me to never start a sentence with because. Then I actually start to think about the words themselves and the times I’ve heard them either spoken to me or when I’ve felt entitled to speak them to my students, and my blood starts boiling a bit.

I’d say that as a child, those are 4 of the most aggravating words to hear…but as an adult, the “Why??” that comes before them can be just as infuriating. I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving or giving end of these words at one point or another in our lives.

I know I’m guilty of using those words myself in moments of utter frustration when I feel that my students are asking silly questions as to why they have to doing something that we’ve either done ALL year or when in my mind the thing I’ve asked them to do is obviously for their own good or protection!

While I know this isn’t a great response to give kids, I read Luke 5:1-11 and I realized that Jesus had these “Because I said so” moments too…and he still does with us when we are constantly questioning and asking why when He clearly gives us guidance or direction.

To be clear, Jesus wasn’t sassy or frustrated with the person with whom He was speaking, but rather, He wanted to take the burden off of the person, and have them trust Him because ultimately, He was looking out for their best interest. While it may not come across that way, that IS the same desire I have for my students too. I want them to trust me, to know I have their best interest at heart, and to know that I am working to protect them.

Here is the passage of scripture…There is a lot we can learn from it about trusting God when He tells us to do things and we feel like asking “Why?” and cross our fingers that the answer won’t be those 4 words-that-shall-not-be-mentioned again. We want answers, but we don’t always get an explanation. Sometimes we just have to TRUST and know that God has our protection and future in His hands, and He wants us to be obedient to ALL that He asks us to do. He does not want us to be obedient only to the things that are easy or only to the things that make the most sense to us.

Luke 5: 1-11:

The first thing I see happen in the story is that Jesus, as He was teaching a crowd, noticed two men who were washing their nets after fishing. I imagine He saw the frustration on their faces and the discouragement of catching no fish that day and I think it’s so powerful that He sees them and goes to talk to them even though (or maybe even because) He had a captivated audience already that He was in the middle of teaching. He didn’t need more people to teach, but He saw two men in need, and He went to them. I imagine Jesus even looking over, seeing them washing their nets and thinking, “Why are they giving up??” That brings me hope because these last few weeks have been hard at school, but I find solace knowing that God sees me. He sees me when I am discouraged and disheartened and He comes to comfort and help me, just as He did for these men. He doesn’t want me to give up just because I’ve deemed the last few weeks as unsuccessful.

But He doesn’t stop there. After Jesus approached them, He got into their boat and the first thing He did was just sit there and be with them as He continued to teach. He didn’t immediately ask Simon to throw his net out, He first asked him to just leave the shore. I think that’s a beautiful picture of our lives again and how Jesus meets us where we are. He doesn’t drag us out and demand things of us, He gently and lovingly takes us by the hand and walks with us step by step. He guides us the whole way and knows exactly what we need at each step.

After leaving the shore, He tells Simon to let down the nets again. Now we know that Simon had just cleaned his nets, which wouldn’t have been an easy job and we also know that he just had an unsuccessful night of fishing, so it makes sense when he reminds Jesus that they’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing… implying that it literally makes no sense for him to throw out his net! EVEN with that being true, immediately after he says that, He says, “But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” THAT is Jesus’ “Because I said so” moment…What great faith Simon had! As Simon lets the nets down, the story says that “This time their nets were so full of fish that the nets began to tear.” There were so many fish in his net that he had to call for help and BOTH boats end up being filled with fish and are so full in fact, that they’re almost sinking!

So, the question I’ve asked myself, and the question I ask you today is this: Where do you see yourself in this story?

Do you keep pulling up an empty net? Are you sitting on the shore feeling discouraged and like giving up? Are you weary and frustrated as you feel like you are facing constant failures? Know that God sees you. Just as He saw Simon, He sees you too and He cares about you.

Are you about to leave the shore? Know that God is with you and that small steps matter. God is with you every step of the way and all of your small steps will add up.

Are you taking your boat into deeper waters? Are you ready to throw your net even when it doesn’t make sense? Know that God is proud of your courage and your trust in Him. He is a protector. He will guide you every step of the way…have faith and be obedient!

Are you coming back from the deep waters with a net full of fish? Know that God is proud of your obedience. Continue to dare to be obedient and when times of trial do come, stay the course and trust God.

No matter where you see yourself in the story, one thing is clear to me. We can’t let our “But why??” keep us from trusting God. Let’s be willing and filled with courage to say, “If you say so, I will…” just like Simon did! Persevere. Trust God and be faithful. Do what He tells you to do even if it doesn’t make sense to you in the moment.

For me, I am on the shore sitting there staring at my dirty net thinking, I don’t even feel like cleaning this. I see myself with slouched shoulders, sand everywhere, not even caring that I am dirty. The one thing I know is that I am tired and that I am discouraged. This story serves as a reminder to me today that I cannot expect every “net” that I cast out to be a success, but that also doesn’t mean that I should give up. I am choosing today to remember that Jesus is with me on the shore. He sees me and just like He did with Simon, He comes over to me, He walks me over to my boat, we get into the water, and I will come back up with fish. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…but I will keep pressing on, because Jesus told me to…

This song has brought me encouragement too. ..I relate to it all, especially the wanting to lock the door and hide away. The lyrics inspire me to keep going on bad days because as the song says, “A single battle lost, but not the war.”

Tomorrow is another day!

Our Temporary Home

Today is a special day for Ed, Maverick and I as we are celebrating our 1-year house-a-versary!! Yes, I completely made that word up and my computer has put a little red squiggly under it, trying to tell me I’m wrong, but I am going with it!

Our home the day we bought it, no grass…just lots and lots of dirt…truly a cleaning nightmare!! Haha

As we’ve been coming up on this day, I’ve thought of what this house has meant to us in the last year, and I can’t help but feel so thankful! When I think of our house, the first things that come to mind are blankets, our fluffy dog (basically another blanket), coffee, ice cream, family and friends, lots of board games, and a sense of joy and warmth. Part of that is from the environment we’ve set up in our house, with endless blankets, the Keurig always flowing, and the doors always open for anyone who is willing to walk into our crazy, but another part of that is the people who grace the walls of our home with their presence.

Mostly, I am so thankful that our house is a place that I long for and always look forward to coming home to because I know that is something that not everyone has. I was reminded of Psalm 23, as I think it captures well what our home means to me…

See the source image

Our home is a place of rest. A place of renewal, where we can connect with God and be led by Him to refresh our souls, because life ain’t always easy. When we have hard days or go through those dark valleys, we can be at peace knowing He is with us. He wants to comfort us. He blesses us and is close beside us, protecting and comforting us all along the way…and our home is a place where all of those things can happen and where we can remind ourselves of those truths. What really got me as I sat here reading was the last verse of Psalm 23…

See the source image

While our house here on Earth is a blessing and a place of comfort and joy, we have an even better home waiting for us…Heaven. God has given us an even greater gift than our Earthly home, He has given us the gift of eternal life and security with Him in HEAVEN. The beauty of what Heaven will look like and be like is unfathomable to us, it is going to be even greater than we could ever imagine and far better than any home we will have here on Earth. So, while I am thankful for our Earthly home today, I am even more thankful for my Heavenly Father and that I will get to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. I will celebrate and be thankful for the blessing of a home, but I will be sure to remember that this is just our temporary home, and a small glimpse of what Heaven will be like. All the things of the Earth, including our homes, will not last… What joy awaits us when we get to the gates of Heaven and can run into the arms of our loving Father to spend eternity with Him! THAT is what will last.

My Mom and I have always been big fans of Carrie Underwood and I was reminded of her song as I wrote this. I posted it and some of the lyrics below…give it a listen if you have time and have your tissues ready…it is a real tear-jerker!!

This is my temporary home
It’s not where I belong
Windows in the rooms, that I’m passing through
This was just a stop
On the way to where I’m goin’

I’m not afraid because I know
This is my, temporary home

The Waiting Game…

Something so lost in our society today is the ability to wait. We are so used to getting everything so quickly, with Amazon packages on our doorstep within 2 days of ordering, food coming right out of the drive-thru window within a few minutes with hardly any work on our part, and possibly the worst instigator of all in our inability to wait…social media, where everything happens in an instant.  Even waiting in lines or being in traffic bores us to death or even aggravates us and gets our blood pressure boiling way quicker than it should. We’ve lost the art of waiting. So, it’s no surprise, that when we have to wait for an answer or face big life decisions and we don’t come up with a solution or find an answer right away, we struggle hard!

I’ve personally experienced this in my own life in many ways: waiting for high school to end, waiting to get my degree to start teaching, waiting for Ed to propose, then waiting for our wedding, then waiting to get our house, then waiting to fill our house with furniture…We are always waiting, waiting, waiting…which has led me to wonder, how do we wait well in times when we haven’t yet gotten an answer or solution to a long-waited problem or question we’ve asked God?  

In thinking of waiting, I was reminded of the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis. God told Abraham and Sarah that they would have a baby, which seems rational, except for the fact that Abraham and Sarah were old. In fact, because they were old, they had a hard time believing this could really happen or even be possible. The Bible says in Genesis 17:17 that “Abraham bowed down to the ground but laughed to himself in disbelief” when God first told him the news. We keep reading to find out in Genesis 21:1 that “The Lord kept His word and did for Sarah exactly what He had promised” and in 21:2 that “…it happened at exactly the time God said it would.” By the time they had their baby, Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90! I think it’s safe to say that nobody would’ve thought they’d have a baby, but God does what He says He will do.

As I’ve pondered the question of how we wait well…I think that we’re left with 2 choices…

  1. Believe God and wait in PEACE for His timing. Continue to seek God’s wisdom and guidance while you wait and try to find the joy and God in the waiting.
  2. Don’t believe God and live with worry, anxiety, and the danger of possibly trying to make things happen yourself on your own timeline which can lead to brokenness and hurt He never intended to be in your life.

So practically, what does waiting well and looking for wisdom or guidance look like then?? I think it’s easy to read those two options and think okay, easy enough, but when put into practice and while in the midst of waiting, it can feel a lot more complicated than a simple option 1 and option 2.

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Proverbs 24 gives a clearer picture of how to do these things.ย  In verses 3-4 it talks about the idea that โ€œBy wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established.โ€ย  So right away, we need to recognize that before we see or realize the whole situation (and even if we never do), we need to seek wisdom in order to โ€œbuild our houseโ€, or in this case, make a decision.ย  Well, how do we do that?ย  Verse 6 says โ€œ…victory is won through many advisorsโ€.ย  We get wisdom in 2 different practical ways…

  1. By seeking God through prayer and reading the Bible every day
  2. By talking to people in our lives that we trust and love who can help us use discernment to make decisions

When we do these things, verse 14 says that โ€œWisdom is like honey for [us]: If [we] find it, there is a future hope for [us], and [our] hope will not be cut off.โ€ย 

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So first, we seek wisdom, then as we gain more wisdom, we begin to get a better understanding, which will eventually lead to knowledge and treasures as we see Godโ€™s plans fulfilled within our lives…in other words, as we wait and seek God, He will slowly (but surely) give us wisdom, peace, and guidance on HIS timeline. We’re able to wait and have peace while waiting BECAUSE of our relationship with God, our trust in Him, and because of our relationship with others who can encourage us, pray for us, and be a comfort…because let’s be real…waiting is hard!

I think that one of the most important things I’ve learned in waiting is that as much as I wish it wasn’t, the old saying I’m sure we’ve all heard is so true…good things take time. 

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At my best friend’s wedding in which I had the privilege of being her Maid of Honor, my speech talked about her season of waiting before marriage. It was no secret to anyone that knew her well that she was so excited to get proposed to and married to her man that waiting became very difficult for her. In her waiting, she faithfully led a Bible study, sensibly called, “Wait and See”. I joined her study even though at the time I wasn’t really waiting on anything, but mainly just because I wanted to be her friend. We’d spend hours together after Bible studies sitting in our cars, dreaming of our future weddings, homes, kids, and anything in between…it probably didn’t help the waiting very much now that I think about it ๐Ÿ™‚ I treasure those heartfelt conversations to this day, and she is my very best friend for reasons just like that. She is real, honest, and a dreamer. Even with those conversations waiting was very hard. BUT, I can tell you that when her wedding day came (because it did!!!) it was such a joyful, beautiful day and I’d argue that it was BECAUSE there was so much waiting and anticipation around it. The waiting actually made it even more special and there was so much joy that could be found in the journey and in the fact that the moment was finally here. It was surreal.

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I couldn’t wrap this up without mentioning one more verse from Proverbs 24 which is pictured above. It says that “A righteous man falls seven times and rises up again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.” As a follower of Christ, this verse is SO encouraging because we can know that we WILL fail in our waiting. We are human and we are so shaped by our society which idolizes everything happening in an instant. So, it’s okay if you have a bad day, get so frustrated over waiting, or just find it plain hard to wait. The Bible says we will get back up, so give yourself grace!

The truth is, we will always be waiting for something or trying to make some decision, so the best thing we could possibly do is to learn to seek God in the midst of our waiting, to ask him for peace and guidance, and to surround ourselves with community and people who love us and can go with us on this journey called life.

So, let’s embrace the art of waiting. Let’s look to waiting as an essential part of the journey! You never know how God is growing you or using your waiting to draw you closer to Him. God wants us to draw near to Him and to trust that He will do what He said He would do. He is faithful and His timing is best…just wait and see ๐Ÿ™‚

See the source image
See the source image

The Protection of Peace

A word that I’ve noticed coming up a lot lately, especially with the Christmas season upon us, is peace.

Advent Day 22 Let there Be Peace on Earth โ€“ My Radical Life

As this word peace keeps coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. As Philippians 4:7 and many other verses in the Bible tell us, peace is something that we always have access to and it is something that God desires us to have!

As I read the verse above a few days ago, what stood out to me was that the peace of God will “guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus.” Peace is not just something we can “have”, it is something that we NEED! Peace is something God gives us as a guard to protect our heart and our mind from anything happening around or in us!

While that did impact me and make me realize the importance of peace, it still seemed like a pretty abstract idea until I was reading about Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3 this morning and that’s what I’d like to share with you today.

Exodus 3, starts with Moses taking his father-in-law’s flocks far out into the wilderness. While he is tending to the flocks, he sees a blazing fire in a bush and is amazed to see that even though the bush is on fire, it is not burning up! He stares at it in utter amazement and decides that he HAS to go and investigate because it’s such an amazing, inexplicable event. As he walks towards the bush the Lord (who is in the burning bush) sees him coming and calls out to him saying, “Moses! Moses!”. Moses replies, “Here I am!” and I wonder if, at this point, Moses is thinking he’s completely lost his marbles…or if he is dehydrated and seeing things!! God goes on to tell Moses His plan to deliver His people, the Israelites from Egypt and he gives the full details of how He will do this, by using Moses.

Missiology Through Scripture โ€“ Exodus 3:7-10 | The Pettengills

As I was thinking about peace and it being protection, I had many thoughts running through my mind that I’d like to layout. First, I thought it was profound that Moses had this incredible encounter with God, but in order for it to happen, he had to be in a space where God to speak to Him AND where he could hear Him. So as it states, Moses went far out into the wilderness, and part of me wonders if he was drawing himself away in solitude in order to have an encounter with God. Obviously, that’s something we may never know, but I do believe that to hear from God we need to position ourselves to be able to hear, which partly involves going out into the “wilderness” or quiet, away from the world and busyness of life.

The second thing that I thought of was the burning bush and how it can represent our lives. I love the fact that God himself, as the text states, was IN the blazing fire! Often, I think our lives can feel like a dumpster fire when we’re having bad days or facing hard times, but how beautiful a picture to know that God is still with us amidst our trials. He is right there with us in the fire. But even more than that, our lives or “fires” should be something that people are drawn to, just as Moses was so drawn to the burning bush…

People should look at our lives and be drawn to us. They should WANT to come and see how we can live with such peace, despite what we are going through. As my pastor always says, our lives should look so different, that people HAVE to ask what makes the difference. So that is the beauty of our stories and testimonies. God uses the hard things we go through to draw others to Himself, just as He drew Moses in.

So, I’m left to thinking, what a beautiful picture this story is of the peace that God desires for us and of HOW we can access that peace. We must seek after God, look for Him, pray, and diligently or intentionally go into the quiet. Then, He will make His presence known and we can be at peace, knowing that He is with us through all things. He will lead us, guide us, and give us direction, encouragement, or whatever we need, just as He did with Moses.

The peace I give

May peace be something that we carry with us not just this holiday season, but throughout the entire year…When times are good and when times get tough. When there are things to celebrate and when there are things to grieve. Let God’s peace and His presence be your protection. Rather than being consumed by anxiety and worry, pray for God to fill you with His peace and to protect you and remind you that His peace is something you can have, no matter what is going on, because true peace is found in trusting God and knowing He is in control of ALL things and with you at ALL times.

God’s Order: Gift of the Sabbath

Ed and I have been trying to implement a Sabbath day into our weekly routine. Even just typing that now feels so forced…implement, like it is something so against our usual nature. Well, that’s because, as it turns out, it IS ๐Ÿ™‚

You see, I have this problem. I am well aware of my problem, but I still haven’t seemed to work through it. I worry. A whole lot. I struggle to take life one day at a time like God commands and desires me to do. I’m always preparing for the “next” thing with hopes of preserving some time for rest or with hopes of having a sense of feeling “caught up”. But the reality is, I never reach the rest, and the feeling of being caught up sticks around long enough for me to sit down for a minute before the next thing beckons for my attention and I’m right back to where I began.

So, the order I seem to desire for myself is anxiety, hurry, and worry. I put so much pressure on myself to get everything done, that I never actually get to rest or have a TRUE Sabbath day.

Sabbath days are not supposed to be filled with any kind of work. We are to only do things that fill us and help our minds, hearts, and souls focus back on God. It is a gift that God desires for us to use to re-center ourselves on Him. To find rest, solitude, and peace. But I find myself making excuses because this is an uncomfortable place for me to be…Okay, I can just do this one thing. It’ll make me happy if I clean the kitchen. If I clear my emails. If I check Facebook and get all caught up. When I know for a fact, none of those things bring me true joy and none of those things bring me closer to God. In fact, they bring me closer only to anxiety, frustration, and stress. The exact opposite of what God desires my Sabbath day to be.

I know these things to be true, yet I STILL have such a hard time letting go. Of embracing the gift that a Sabbath day is. Of taking time to pray, to sit, to listen, to worship.

So I’ve come to realize that my idea of order and God’s idea of order are very different…

My order looks like this (get ready to be stressed out!)…clean house, lesson plans done, emails all responded to, bills all paid, food cooked and prepped for the week, dog fed, walked, and tired out, laundry all done, bed made, everything put back in its “home”, caught up on social media, all texts and calls responded to, all chores done, not a speck of dust anywhere in the house, not a crumb on the floor, candles lit, and the list goes on. Sitting here typing all of that I realize, that is nearly impossible. I’ve done it all at once a few times, but I find myself constantly trying to keep up, keep up, keep up. So here’s what my “Sabbath” day ends up looking like…

*Sits down to read the book I’ve been “trying” to read for 2 months called (ironically), “Fight Hustle, End Hurry”*

4 minutes pass. 3 pages in. Dang, I read slower than I thought…it’s been a while.

Uh-oh, I just got an email. Gotta respond real quick so I can keep that box checked and still be all caught up on my emails.

I get up to get a drink of water. Gotta stay hydrated!

Yikes, crackers on the floor, let me clean it up real quick so I can still say the floors are clean! Hmmm while I’m up let me just look at my phone real quick (even though technology on the Sabbath is a no-no for me!!). Oh…my Mom just called, I’ll call her back really quick, it’s probably important!

Okay, back to reading. *Reads 4 more pages.*

*Makes mental to-do list of all the things I will have to do tomorrow to “catch up”*

Well, maybe I should just scratch this idea and keep working, or tomorrow will be really stressful…

So, the rest never comes when I strive after the order that I desire for my life. It’s almost laughable when I write it all out because it’s SO obvious why I have a lack of peace and feel so much worry and anxiety. The thing is that it’s so easy to justify this way of living too! I want to be a good wife. I want to be a good daughter. A good sister, teacher, cousin, friend, steward of my body, dog owner, mentor, writer. But what good can I be when I’m constantly focused on what do I need to do next to maintain “perfection” in all these areas, when the list will NEVER end?? And what am I missing out on? Time with GOD. The only one who can bring me true peace. The only one who can actually help me be good at anything He has called me to do.

What I’ve come to realie this week as I’ve grappled with my struggle to experience a true Sabbath day is that: God’s idea of “order” for my life is different that my idea of “order”.

His order for my life is to rest and be still. To trust that He has given me enough for the day and that all will be well and ready to receive me back the next day when my Sabbath is over. That’s it. Just those things! And how much I prefer that list. So much shorter, so much easier. Easier in a sense that I just get to spend time with Him and trust that nothing will fall apart without me for 24 hours. I don’t have to work, work, and work. And by the end of my Sabbath time, I can peacefully step back into whatever He calls me to do, THAT is the ultimate difference.

Yes, God desires me to be a good friend, daughter, teacher, wife, etc. But He also desires for me to take care of myself the way He has commanded me to, which requires a Sabbath, as both a gift and a command in Scripture…Not a fake Sabbath where I say I am resting, but I’m really not. A true Sabbath where I only do things that fill me.

God’s order is better than the “order” I desire for myself. I realize that I constantly make the mistake of believing I can do more with 7 days than God can do with 6, but I know that is not true.

I’m left with a choice. Do I want to be anxious about order and cleanliness, or do I want to trust, let go, and receive the gift of the Sabbath and the rest that I know I need?

If God, the Creator of all things took time to rest, then we definitely need to do the same.

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