Devotionals

80 Days of Grateful

It started at the end of last year. I usually love, love, love teaching seniors. And I certainly love, love, love teaching Econ. But in March I begin to feel…frustrated. Tired. My seniors had checked out early. Teaching them was a slog. It was hard to get through many class periods. I loved them as human beings, but teaching them was difficult.

This summer I traveled all over. I experienced the European way of life. The slow, fun atmosphere of Tahoe. The beauty of travel in and of itself. Yes, it kept growing this past summer.

And now, at the start of this new year, its effects are profound.

Discontentment.

I know things are changing for me. God is growing me. Allowing new dreams. Opening up new pathways.

And in this season of being stretched, I feel deep, resounding discontentment. Sometimes coupled with anxiety, fear, or self-loathing. To say it’s uncomfortable would be quite the understatement.

I find my emotions swinging wildly between joy and panic and love and discontentment. And at my most anxious moments, I reach for my phone. Not for Jesus. No, for my phone.

I scroll, I double tap, I watch 15 second videos for an hour. It makes me feel worse. It helps not at all.

When Jesus isn’t the source of my fulfillment, it shows. I feel it deeply. Worse, I’m unmotivated to change it.

What brings me back to Him? What changes my heart? What opens me to fulfillment in Christ? Gratitude. Thankfulness. Recognition of the millions of blessings within and surrounding me. God’s grace, eternal.

So. 80 Days. That’s 5 days of the week until the end of the year. I will live in gratitude. I will practice being deeply grateful for one thing every day. Big things, small things. All the things. I hope to post much of my gratitude here, on my devotional blog. Writing is therapeutic to me. It’s a creative outlet that helps me connect with my Savior. And, I hope, it helps you connect too.

I’ll start tomorrow. One thing. Be grateful. Allow myself to bask in the presence of the Lord by sitting with my gratitude. For 80 days. Join me?

With love,

Mrs. P

 

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Devotionals

On the Value of Work

Open your Bible to Genesis One. What does it say? Some version of “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV)

God created the heavens and the earth. God created. In other words, He worked.

Some days I walk into my classroom thinking “heck yes, gonna serve the Lord and shape the youth today!” Yet more and more frequently, I walk in tired, thoughtful, even discouraged, wondering “is teaching teenagers about the history of the world making a difference for God’s kingdom? Does this work matter in the context of eternity?”

I come home and ask Him “What am I doing? Am I wasting the life you’ve given me? Am I supposed to be doing something more evangelical, more overtly ‘Christian’?”

I cry, I pray, I listen.

He speaks.

And His words are the sweetest balm to my wounded soul. He says “You honor me when you create. Don’t waste your gifts. Heal my world. I will use you.”

God creates. I create. I honor God when I create. And He uses my creations in ways I cannot begin to understand.

I create lessons for my students, for my business. I create blog posts and social media posts. I create e-books and courses for teachers.

When we work, wherever we work, however we work, we create. We create lessons and seating charts and PowerPoint slides and perfect project groupings and safe classrooms.

Our work is worthy, honorable, good- not because of what we do, but because we do. We honor the innate need to contribute, make, create, do.

Work is good in and of itself. Our creator worked. He still does. Creating is a joy, a gift, evidence of a gracious God.

When I walk into my classroom, I am entering a space of creation. Creating a safe environment, creating interesting lessons, creating space for my students to learn and grow.

The creation is the point. I’m okay. God will use me. I will use my gifts and He will use me to heal the world. However He wants, whenever He wants. I don’t need to see it. I just need to obey.

With love,

Mrs. P

P.S. I recommend Timothy Keller’s Every Good Endeavor for more on the goodness of work.

Devotionals

Creating with the Creator: Clay

Growing up, I never would have considered myself artistic. Though I enjoyed doodling, my best drawings were glorified stick figures. I never took an art class in high school, preferring yearbook and other digital platforms instead.

When I was recovering from a surgery a few years ago, I discovered to my delight that Bob Ross was now on Netflix. I had fond childhood memories of his show coming on after my favorite cartoons. Using some art supplies my husband had gifted me for Christmas, I decided to paint with Bob. Honestly, I just wanted to see if someone with zero artistic talent could magically turn blobs of paint into gorgeous woodland scenes the way he did on his show. Turns out- she can.

It was new, therapeutic, and a great way to break up my Netflix binges. And anyways, I couldn’t physically do much else. Then, a few years ago the leader of my community group described how she loved to do art with God. I was intrigued. She described letting Him take the wheel with her as she painted.

I gave it a shot, dwelling on the Creator as I created. It’s a powerful, beautiful experience. God is not limited to speaking through Scripture alone. He can speak in profound ways when we open ourselves up to Him and set aside the time.

Anyways, I recently attended a women’s retreat with that same friend. In fact, she co-organizes the entire retreat. She encouraged me to lead other women in the process of connecting with God through art, but this time I would use small slabs of clay instead (easier to transport, set up, clean up).

It was beautiful to witness so many skeptical women having a deep, meaningful time with God. He spoke to them, loved them, affirmed them, challenged them, allowed them to experience His presence.

For their reference, I wrote down the process of manipulating clay with the Creator. I’d like to share it with you all, as well. Give it a chance- you never know what God will want to share with you.

Process:

Creating with the Creator can be a powerful experience. If you’ve never done it before, you might have reservations, doubts, or insecurities about creating your art. That’s natural, but unneeded. Remember that nobody will judge your creation. After all, you don’t even have to show it to anyone. It’s all about spending quality time with God and opening up to new and unique ways of connecting with Him.

First, talk to God. As you hold your clay in your hands and begin to work it, pray. This might look different for everyone. You might tell Him your insecurities about this exercise and ask Him to release your fears of judgement or outcome. You might tell God how you’re feeling or what’s going through your mind. You might praise Him and have a time of Thanksgiving. You might ask Him to speak with you as you simply listen, expectantly.  A song, an image, a word, a verse, or a shape might pop into your brain. Don’t resist it- God can speak however He chooses.

Second, let your experience with God shape the clay in your hands. Perhaps He wants you to make something specific. Perhaps He wants you to just feel the clay and be with Him. Perhaps your hands will form something you don’t understand- He might even reveal the meaning to you later. When shaping the clay, there’s no right or wrong; there’s no good or bad. There’s just connecting with the Father and opening yourself to an experience with Him.

Reflection Questions:

1. What did God communicate to me through this experience? How did it feel?

2. What did this experience tell me about the nature, character, or qualities of God?

Verses to Consider:

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” -Isaiah 64:8

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” -Genesis 2:7

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” -Ephesians 2:10

Blog · Devotionals

For When You Feel Inadequate

I don’t know about you, but the end of this year feels like a continuous, somehow slow kick in the pants. I allowed grading to stack up and to-do lists to run a bit too long. My seniors checked out waaay earlier than usual and I’m trying every trick I know to keep them engaged. Content needs to be finished, grades need to be calculated, and it can all be… a lot.

Today I was frustrated when I got home. I snapped at my husband and worked out so hard my abs kind of hurt in a you-shouldn’t-have-done-that kind of way. (Confession: I’ve pulled my intercostal muscles more than once so I’m supposed to be “careful.”)

And then I broke down, took an extra long shower, apologized to my husband, and finally ate some food.

And you know what? When I finally broke down and acknowledged how I was feeling, I started to feel better. I allowed myself to embrace the frustration and then seek out its source. Turns out I’ve been juggling all the things- and I’m hard on myself when something falls through the cracks.

It might be Teachers’ Appreciation Week, but in high school world, this week is called “AP week” and students are carrying that stress in their shoulders, faces, and spirits. Maybe they don’t have time to work on my “regular” class. Maybe it seems less important compared to the other stressors in their lives. I allow their attitudes and motivation (mostly lack thereof) to determine my success as a teacher.

As I dug a bit deeper, I realized that at the root of my frustration was a deep rooted feeling of inadequacy. I’m not enough. I’m not good enough or smart enough or engaging enough. These whispers slowly poison my mind until I’m undone.

But my worth is not determined by teenagers. It’s not determined by test scores. Or programs. Or meeting outcomes.

My worth is determined by God. Just God. I’ve been designed by Him, crafted by Him, made perfect by His Son.

Lucky for me- God is constant. When things around me change or I feel as though I’m drowning, God is the same. So my value is the same. I am not less.

The simplicity and truth of this nourishes my soul. I am enough. Because He is enough. And that will always be… enough.

Breathe in God, exhale the lies.

 

Devotionals

Salve for the Soul When You Wake Up in a Funk

Do you ever wake up in a funk? I’m not sure anyone else really uses that term, but it’s what my mom always said. It just means I woke up in a sad, pessimistic mood. You see, I pulled the intercostal muscles along my right side (again) without even doing anything strenuous and I haven’t slept well the past two nights. So I woke up in a funk. The minute I was awake I grabbed my phone and mindlessly watched Instagram stories for an hour. And you know what? I felt even worse.

Mindless activities used to distract from pain, sadness, or reality usually come with negative side effects. Like feeling worse. Like ignoring the Lord’s call to bring my worries to Him. Eventually I got out of bed nearly crying and my husband encouraged me to read my Bible.

This morning, I need to know who God is. If I know who He is, I can better understand who I am. I can better understand my purpose. I can better understand the significance of my life. But to know who He is, I have to spend time thinking about Him.

I opened my Bible to Psalm 23, which is my personal favorite Scripture. It’s always spoken to me in powerful ways and drawn me into a closer, more tender relationship with the Lord. Today I decided to read it through a new lens. For every verse, I asked myself and God “who is my shepherd?” By that I mean- literally, who is He? What are His qualities, characteristics, passions, and purposes?

Who is my Shepherd?

  • The LORD
  • Provider
  • Knows me
  • Caring
  • Knowledgeable
  • Persistent
  • Wise
  • Strong
  • Honorable
  • Close by
  • Protector
  • Comforter
  • Hospitable
  • Holy
  • Love
  • Generous
  • Good
  • Pursuer
  • Eternal

I take comfort in these words, knowing that my identity comes from God alone. The only opinion that matter is His. Not my family’s, friends’, or coworkers’ opinions. Just His.

So if He is all of these things, who am I? I take His qualities one at a time and I ask myself what identity His qualities give me.

Here’s a sample of my list:

  • Daughter of the LORD of the universe
  • Provided for
  • Known
  • Cared for
  • Pursued
  • Honored
  • Near Him
  • Protected
  • Loved
  • Saved

As I created my two lists, I grew closer to the Lord. It’s incredible how many different ways there are to connect with Him. He’s able to connect with me (and you!) in an entirely unique way. Because He made us unique and knows what each of us needs.

So let me encourage you, friend. Read your favorite Scripture today and ask God who He is. He will reveal Himself to you in layers, ever more complex as He draws you deeper. And your heart will be moved to worship. And that posture can change not only your day, but your life.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness
or his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” -Psalm 23

Devotionals

I Am Never Alone

I took the Enneagram test a few weeks ago. I know, I know- late to the game. For those of you who don’t know, Enneagram is like a (in my opinion) better version of the Myers-Briggs personality test. It tells you your tendencies, fears, areas of strength, etc. I’m a type 6 wing 5, which means that my main fear is being abandoned. And let me get pretty real here: that’s absolutely true for me.

I fear that I am worthless. And that I will therefore be abandoned. I think, in a way, that’s classic middle child syndrome. Middle children tend to feel overlooked or left out or unimportant. But regardless, I hold on tight to the people around me because I do not want to be left behind. Or forgotten.

My birthday is tomorrow. Let me confess something: I’m always disappointed by my birthday. You see, I want people to prove that I have worth. I measure that in the recognition and affirmations that I get from the people around me. Let me clue you in on a little secret: that’s a terrible idea. If my worth is based on the behavior and affirmations of others, I’m bound to be disappointed, as demonstrated by my frustration with my birthday year after year. No matter how much love and affirmation I receive, I’m bound to let their behavior prove that I am worthless in my own mind. And that feels terrible.

Today, I prayed about it. I did some thought work. I wrote my thoughts down on paper and then examined them. I decided to change them, starting with this one: “people don’t care about me.” Then I asked God what to replace this thought with.

He whispered “I am never alone.” That God’s thought for me to adopt into my brain patterns- a thought to truly think on purpose. And, friend, it rocked me. God always knows exactly what I need to hear and what words I need to think. It always brings tears to my eyes.

I am never alone. You know why? Because I am completely known and fully loved by God. He is with me always and therefore I am never alone. I can ignore Him, mentally walk away, tune Him out. But He is always there.

Part of my personality is to be extremely loyal to the people around me. My Enneagram type is even called “The Defender.” But you know who’s more loyal? God. He does not abandon me when times get tough or I’m ignoring Him. He does not ignore me when I’m frustrated, hurt, or confused. Because He’s loyal. More loyal than I could ever imagine.

He’s so loyal and committed to being with me that He sacrificed His own son to bring me into deeper relationship with Him. What?! Who does that?! God.

I might not deserve it. I might not understand it. But God is always with me. I am never alone.

And friend, neither are you.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” -Psalm 137: 7-18

 

Devotionals

Made for More

I am made for more. I am the daughter of the King of the Universe. I am clothed in the purest white. I am called worthy. I am loved beyond reason, beyond measure.

I was walking down the hall today at school, slouching slightly and caught up in my thoughts about the day. And then the thought crossed my mind: I am the daughter of the King. Not just any king- The King. God, who commands nature, designed the skies, knows my future, and redeems humanity, is my Father.

Does that ever just catch your breath, make you pause?

The thought crossed my mind today and it changed my entire outlook and demeanor. I threw my shoulders back just like my mama always begged me to do, and I walked with dignity. For I am the daughter of the King.

Just like every daughter born to every king, I have done absolutely nothing to deserve this title. It’s who I am. It doesn’t even make complete sense. After all, I am a sinner born to sinners who dwells in this truly sinful world. Yet God calls me His daughter. And I’m just going to soak in this knowledge today.

Will you soak in this knowledge with me? Write it down, say it out loud, sing it softly, proclaim it boldly. I am the daughter of the King of the Universe.

And if I’m the daughter of the king, I am a co-heir of the kingdom with Christ. He has done everything to deserve it. I have done nothing. Yet I am the daughter of the king. It’s who I am.

And just like every daughter born to a king, this means everything about my life, my purpose, and my mission is changed. This identity both makes me special and gives implications to how I’ll live my life. My life is tied to and dependent upon the king. And that’s the right place to be, for He made me for more. So much more than I could ever imagine.

And so I walk with dignity. I walk with dependence. I walk with assurance. I walk with the king.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” -Romans 8: 14-16

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” -Galatians 4: 4-7