Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

It is the time of the year when we all sit down around the table and give thanks for the many things with which we have been blessed. Televisions shows, newspapers, advertisements, and people everywhere keep talking about how thankful they are, even for the little things.

Yes.... it is Thanksgiving time, so I will do as my ancestors did and pause to give thanks.

1. First of all, I thankful for the Lord above, who saw fit to give mankind a second chance. and sent his son to bear our sins on the cross and rise again, showing us that eternal life with him really is possible. God is there for me every single day and I truly could not survive without him.

2. I am thankful for family- this year even more than most. Watching as my own father and mother suffered illness, injury, and pain has reinforced in me the need to enjoy every day that I have with them. This has been further reinforced as I watched friends lose family members in the blink of an eye. This year has also seen me leaning on my husband's shoulder a bit more than I did in the past and I am so thankful that I have had that support and love. Work and life has not always allowed us to spend a great deal of time together, but that makes the minutes we do share even more special.

3. I am thankful for my children..... God saw fit to bless me with a son and a daughter who are quickly becoming adults. I am grateful that they are young adults who are caring and kind, thinking not only of themselves but of others. I am so blessed with their giving heart- always ready and willing to assist those in need.

4. I am thankful for friends. Without their listening ears, their prayers, their smiling faces, and their words of support life would not be nearly as bright or as much fun.

5. I am thankful that I have the basic needs- food, clothing, shelter. Many people in this world aren't so lucky.

6. I am thankful that, in today's economy, I am one of those people who still has a steady job. Yes, I work long hours, sometimes too long. Yes, there are days when I find myself disappointed, and even upset, by the lack of effort exhibited by many of my students. Yes, there are days when I come home and ask myself, "Do I really have to go back?" Yet, there are also days when I would not trade my job for anything in the world. It is a steady paycheck and it allows me to touch the next generation, possibly affecting not only their intellect, but also their character.

I would like to think that it did not take a legal holiday that is printed on a calendar to bring out the gratitude in us. As for me, I can honestly say that this year I have found myself saying, "Thank you Lord," a bit more frequently. It has been a tough twelve months for me and for my family, but the good Lord has seen us through. He has always been there to hold me up, strengthen me, and remind me that he is always there for me. As the new year begins soon, I hope that I can continue to have that grateful heart- the one that always finds something to be thankful for. I want to pay attention not only to the BIG things, but to those little things.... those tiny split second smiles just when I need them, that extra dollar that I find in the pocket of a forgotten coat, and those people who take an extra second to hold the door open for me.

Won't you join me and try to find something daily that you can be thankful for?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

II Corinthians 1: 8-11

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God,who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

The last few months of my life have been a roller coaster of emotion.

In late July/early August my mother fell and ended up in the hospital. The next few days I traveled back and forth between my home and the hospital. Just as school was ready to start and I was supposed to begin teaching again, Mom was transferred to a local nursing home for continued therapy. I spent my days teaching and my evenings traveling to the nursing home to check in with her before heading home to do my daily paperwork.

As I was dealing with this I also found myself moving my daughter into college to begin her freshman year and my son to his college to begin his junior year. This left me dealing with an empty nest for the first time in 20 years.

My daughter's year has gotten off to a rough start and I have been trying to mother her through phone, text, email, and regular visits. I hate to see her suffering through the pangs of feeling friendless, behind in her classes, and struggling to maintain her high standards of academic achievement. I have often felt helpless, sitting on the other end of a phone wanting so badly to just embrace her and say, "It's going to be ok."

My class load this year has presented its own stresses. This year's groups of students have proven to be a greater challenge than I typically face. Behavior issues, student apathy, and lack of effort seem to be creating more problems for me and for my colleagues and we find ourselves feeling depressed, unsettled, and discouraged much of the time.

Then..... about 2 weeks ago I got an emergency phone call that my father had fallen and cut his face very badly. I rushed to my mother's side and waited. Hours later he returned from the emergency room with at least 23 stitches encircling the outer edge of his right eye. I spent the next 4 days with him, helping to cook for them and cleaning and dressing his wound daily. 

Just as I thought things were getting better I received another phone call Friday telling me that he was being rushed to the emergency room again. I am so glad that it turned out to only be a strained back muscle, nothing worse, but it was another jolt to my already weakened emotional state.

Through all of these challenges I have found myself thinking, "How much more will I have to face?" 

Then I thought of Job.....

He suffered the losses of his sheep, his oxen, his camels, his servants, and his children, and yet he never lost his faith in God. He kept on praising God and thanking him for being there.

These past few weeks I have found myself going to the Lord, again and again: to ask for his strength in dealing with the things that I was facing, to ask for the healing mercies on those who were suffering physically, to ask for strength for my daughter as she tries to find her own way in the new world of college, and to thank him for the many things he has done for myself and my family. 

I have no doubt that there will be continued challenges and stumbling blocks that I find in my path, but I also have no doubt that the Lord will continue to be there for me, if I only call on him. As Paul said, in 2 Corinthians, I have placed my hope in the Lord and my hope will continue to be there no matter what comes my way.

I pray that you can also place your hope in him and trust him to be your guide, your comfort, and your strength as you deal with the things that you face.