joyemarie

God Has Your Number

Do you ever have a moment where you feel like God just singles you out and shows you how special that you are to him?  That happened to me today. I don’t even know if anyone else will feel the same way I did, but I thought I’d share anyway. 
I was out for my early morning run on the trails- the same path as when I had my heart attack. I came to the spot where my pain was so severe I knew that I couldn’t go on. I didn’t know what was happening, but I felt like I was dying. And I nearly did. At that place on the trail under the pink crepe myrtle bushes I realized I had to get some help. I knew I couldn’t take another step. I also realized I was going to have to give someone directions. I have zero sense of direction and so I began to panic. But then I realized that I could see the street sign from where I was. Not only that, but I could see the address on the house across the street. I was able to give my exact location to my friends. 

That’s really amazing because a lot of the time where I run there are no noticeable signs or houses. 
Today I found myself looking at that house with the number that could’ve saved my life. That number, it looked familiar to me. Then I realized why. It was the last four digits of my social security number. 
It was like God just spoke to my heart saying I knew where you would be and what you would need. Every detail of your life matters to me. 

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A Stick of Wintergreen Gum and Other Important Things

I had a very strange dream last night. I dreamt I was visiting Grandpa and Grandma Gates. It was Sunday evening which meant it was time for church. I always loved spending time with my grandparents, but I’m sorry to admit that going to church with them wasn’t my favorite pastime. 

The services were long, and the benches hard. There would be testimonies, which could drag on for days it seemed. People would volunteer for a special song who hadn’t practiced and it wouldn’t matter if they had. One old guy actually went up wearing his shorts and his Walkman,(anyone remember those?) and he sang to us. He was the only one who could hear the music, and I think he was unable to hear his own voice, otherwise he would’ve stopped singing way earlier. 

I dreamt that after complaining I thought about it and then said, “Well, at least we get to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa.”  I then woke up. I was disappointed because I didn’t actually get to see them or sit through service. There wasn’t a chance for me to snuggle up to Grandma and ask for some gum. She always had the wintergreen kind that didn’t stick to her dentures. She nearly always had candy in the giant purse of hers, too. Every kid who got to know her called her grandma, not merely for the stash of treats in her purse, but because of Jesus’ love that radiated through her. 

I didn’t get to watch Grandpa carry his great big Bible to the pulpit and hear him pray as only he could. I would love to have the opportunity to have him pray for me once more. I’d give anything to see him get excited about Jesus and jump around praising God. 

I think every moment God gives us has good somewhere in it if we look hard enough. What we focus on determines our mood which determines the outcome of our day. Too many of my days have been wasted on focusing on the negative, instead of upon God’s goodness. I don’t want to waste another moment, do you?

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Spelling Test Stress

My first year of teaching had many scenarios not covered in my college classes. I’ll never forget one such moment. I was teaching first grade and administering the first Spelling test. 

The kids were struggling. I began enunciating each three letter word, sounding like a broken robot or something. Then I noticed little Sarah*, a towheaded wisp of a girl had her head down and was sobbing. Her tears had made a hole in her paper. 

I began to tell her it was okay and this test wasn’t a big deal. I tried distracting her by saying was almost recess time, but at the same time another little girl got my attention. 

She was sitting up tall, hand in the air, calling my name. “I’m finished,” she said. I told her that we were on number three and, no, she was not finished. She self assuredly said, “Yes, I am. I knew them and wrote them down.” I quickly glanced at her page and, sure enough, all the words were there, perfectly spelled, flawless handwriting. Before I could respond she said, “And when are we going to have some hard words like maybe encyclopedia?”  I knew right then and there I had my work cut out for me. 

Something reminded me of this story the other day and it made me think of how we must appear to God. How patient he is, and loving and kind. Sometimes we’re panicking Sarah, the smallest stressor and we need a brown paper bag to breathe into. Other times we think we’ve got all the answers and don’t need any help. 

As a teacher I find myself clueless at times as to how I should handle a situation. God isn’t like that. Nothing throws him for a loop. He sees the big picture and whether it is a test or a war he holds the world in his hands. The cool thing is, he wants us to bring all of our cares to him. He cares about the tiniest details of our lives. 

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/1pe.5.6-7.nlt

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A Tale of Two Trees

  
When I was a kid I thought it would be the coolest thing to have a tree house. Dad planted a tree in the front yard and I just knew that in no time it would grow tall and strong enough for my tree house. I was wrong. That tree was a very slow grower. I don’t know if it was because of the type of tree it was, or that we were in the middle of the New Mexico desert, but I was nearly grown by the time it was tree house material. 

At the very back of our property lies the Rio Grande River. When I was a teenager Dad had a willow tree planted right by the edge of the river. Now that tree was a different story. That tree grew like it was on steroids. It grew over our dock providing a perfect shade for us. Its branches stretched way out in all directions making a perfect home for mourning doves and hummingbirds. I can’t think of a more peaceful place to be than sitting under my favorite tree and looking at the river at sunrise. 

Just looking at the tree it seems as though it’s been there forever, but I know differently. It’s not that old of a tree. So what is the difference between my two trees?  It’s obvious isn’t it?They are both in the desert, but one was planted by the river. 

As a follower of Jesus, the closer I plant myself beside him, the more I grow spiritually. I may remain in a desert, but I’m never dry.  This is what God has to say about it:

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”  Jeremiah‬ ‭17:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭92:12-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children. They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank.” Isaiah‬ ‭44:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What‭‭ kind of tree will you be?
  

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When Life Hands You Coconut Coffee

  
I ran into Target the other day to grab a few things and happened to find my favorite coffee on clearance. I was happy for a couple of reasons- first, it was half price, and second, it is hard to find. I got two bags for the price of one. I left the store smiling to myself thinking that it’s the little things that can make our day. 

Then, without warning it happened. The negative voice in my head which attempts to cancel out any little blessing that comes my way. This time it said, “It’s probably on sale because they’re getting rid of it. You are the only one in Texas who likes coconut flavored coffee. Those are the last two bags you’re going to find.” 

I had this crazy impulse to go back in the store and get every last bag. Crazy, I know. I didn’t. The thought that came to me was a flashback to Sunday’s sermon on abundance. Here’s a recap:

We always have enough when God is our supply. 
“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭9:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬http://bible.com/116/2co.9.8.nlt

We need to have a positive perspective. Don’t panic. 
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” 

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬http://bible.com/116/eph.3.20.nlt

Starve the negative scarcity perspective – if someone wins you have to lose.  Fear, anxiety, and self preservation feed the negative scarcity perspective. Instead, feed the positive abundance perspective. It separates the happy from the unhappy people. 

After that reminder I decided to choose to be positive and just say, “Thanks, God for my special coffee.” 

I realize this may sound a bit silly to make such a big deal over a bag of coffee. The truth is, though, we fight hundreds of battles like that on a daily basis. We can choose to acknowledge God’s goodness, or search for a reason to be negative instead. 

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Puzzling Grief

  
A few years ago my Gpa traveled from New Mexico to visit me. While he was here he spent one morning at school with me. My students gathered around him and he told them stories about his childhood. He had the kids mesmerized with his tales of traveling in a wagon and attending school in a one room schoolhouse. 

Gpa enjoyed his time with them as much or more than the students. When he returned home he made wooden puzzles for my kindergarteners. 

A year or so later Gpa passed away, his puzzles were tucked away. I didn’t know that the kids would really enjoy them, and I hated for them to get torn up or for any pieces to get lost. 

This year I placed them on a low bookshelf where my students could look at them. The other day a couple of my students were gazing at the puzzles when one of the boys asked if I had made them. When I told them, no, that my Grandpa had, he must’ve seen the sadness in my eyes or heard it in my voice. He said,”Did he die? I mean, pass away?” (This is a first grader.) I said, “Yes, he did.”  He said,”Well, that makes me very sad.”  Then the other boy said, “I’m not going to forget that.”  Tears came to my eyes with their precious empathy. 

I think so much of the time these kids I’ve been entrusted with teach me as much as I teach them. Why do we make helping a grieving friend so complicated? Why do we avoid it?  

It is difficult, yes, but not complicated. Two little boys showed me how simple it can be to be there for someone as they are grieving. 

Be empathetic. Just care, you don’t need to give advice. Remember. Grieving takes time. A lot of time. A simple card or text saying, “Hey, I’m thinking of you” or “You’re in my prayers” can mean the world to someone going through this process. 

“Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.” Romans 12:15

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Joy In All Seasons

  
Today as I was getting my groceries checked out, the cashier asked me how my day was going. When I said it was going well he proceeded to tell me how everyone seemed to be having a good day today. He thought it was due to the weather change. Everyone has been talking about this “cold front” and how it feels like fall. 

A cold front here in Texas during September means we have morning temperatures under 70, and the highs are in the 80’s. It’s not exactly time to break out the sweaters, yet we celebrate just the same. 

Anyway, I left there thinking about how what the little guy said was true. The weather had indeed influenced my mood. Or maybe it was the running I was able to do outside due to the lower temps. 

It’s crazy how the smallest things can influence our mood and change our day- if we let it. The fact is, we have a choice. As a follower of Jesus, if I have truly placed my life in his hands I’m not going to lose my cool just because the day is grey, or 100 degrees. No matter the circumstances or the temperature his joy can be mine throughout the day with him in charge. 

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”‭‭ 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:18

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Through a Kindergartener’s Eyes

  
On Friday I made the grand announcement to my kindergarteners that we were going to get to use our scissors for the very first time. You would have thought I had offered free crack to a drug addict by the excitement that radiated through our class. 

They all wildly began digging around in their desks like pirates in search of hidden treasure. It took them no time at all to locate their scissors. They all began cutting the air, so anxious were they to begin on our project. 

I immediately realized my error. You see, I’m relatively new to all things kindergarten. I spent over a decade in first grade- teaching it, that is. I suddenly realized some of you are picturing this gigantic she child squeezing into a tiny desk. 

Anyway, it seems like I taught firsties forever, and I always said if I changed grades I would never go backward. First graders are baby enough for me. But here I am, feeling like Gulliver surrounded by tiny people who at any moment might join forces and tie me to the ground. 

With first graders, most of them have had some sort of introduction to the school setting. Thank you, kindergarten teachers. Kindergarten teachers get to break everything down. You don’t just tell your class to wash their hands after the restroom, you show them how to turn on the faucet, how to rub your hands together with soap, and for more than half a second. 

When you use glue it has to be opened to use it, and closed when you’re done. Yes, we’ve had lots of messes. Also, a drop of glue, not half the bottle is all one needs.  Yes, that’s happened more than once. 

Markers have to be closed, or they become dry, and that is sad. Watercolors need water in order to work. Yes, every single thing must be spelled out at the beginning of kindergarten. It is exhausting for the teacher, and frustrating for the students who just want to experience all of these new things immediately. 

So, back to our encounter with the scissors. Our project was to cut out the pieces of Pete the Cat, and then glue him to construction paper. I said,”Put down the scissors. Don’t touch the scissors.”
I remembered something and told them, “Scissors are for paper, not your hair or clothes.” 

I then tried my best to explain how to use the scissors and complete the project. Then I stood back and watched. One kid who can’t figure out which hand he is going to use made Pete the Cat confetti. I tried to help and nearly lost a finger. 

A few kids ended up with something resembling a cat, so that was good. Plus they all had fun and I don’t think anyone lost a big chunk of hair this time, so that’s an added bonus.

As I reflect back on my first week with my class I’ve been thinking about ALL I need to teach them, but then I came to the realization that I could learn something from them. Somewhere along the way I think I lost my sense of wonder. 

I want that back. I want to see the world through a child’s eyes. I want to anticipate the good that God has in store for me instead of dwelling on the gloom, doom, and despair that seems to surround our world.  How different would my day be if I changed my point of view to that of a kindergarten child? 

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A Sweet Memory

Grief is a strange process. You think you’ve gotten past the tears and the gut-wrenching pain, but then without any warning it blindsides you making you feel as though you’ve not made any progress at all. 

For me, the latest hit came Saturday, which just so happened to be Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been a great fan of “that” day. I’ve gotten past the whole boycotting it by wearing black stage, but it’s still not a day I look forward to. Mom, however, thrived on the holiday. 

Most of the time I found myself without a special someone on Valentine’s Day, but I could always be certain that I would have a special card from my mom. That didn’t happen Saturday. I knew it wasn’t going to, yet when the postman only delivered me bills, I just broke down and cried. Fortunately, he didn’t witness my meltdown. 

After the fact, I decided to make some of mom’s famous cherry pecan truffles. Making that candy is quite a process. And when I say process I mean that it takes forever to make them and it creates a HUGE mess in the kitchen. Twice I realized I didn’t have all my ingredients and had to stop midstream to go to the store. My fingers all turned red from slicing cherries, and sticky powdered sugar mixture was everywhere. At that point I was only half done. I still had the chocolate dipping to do.  Of course one can’t do that step without making another ginormous mess.  

Mom was the best at making incredible messes in the kitchen. As I cleaned up I thought of her and had to smile. I don’t know how many times she made a delectable dessert that would cause a mound of chocolate dripping dirty pots and pans in the sink. Washing dishes was a small price you’d pay for one of her yummy desserts. 

I finally finished cleaning up and tasted Mom’s candy. The end result was pure melt in your mouth deliciousness. I had my fill and then made goodie bags for friends knowing Mom would’ve done the same. She loved to bake, and she loved to share. I like that I inherited that from her.

Yes, it was a difficult holiday, but I’m so thankful God gives us the grace to smile through our sadness and the ability to have joy in the midst of pain. 

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A Quick Rescue

As I was headed home from church on Sunday I was stopped at a particularly long red light. I looked over to my right at the Quick Trip and it looked as if a motorcycle convention was going on in the parking lot. There were a host of men (and a few ladies I think) all wearing black leather gathered around their Harleys talking to each other.  I glanced ahead and saw a guy pop out of his suv and began attempting to walk it across three very busy lanes of traffic to the gas station.

 I saw bad things ahead for that guy. I said a little prayer in my head, something really impressive like,”God help him!” Then the coolest thing happened. Four of the burly Harley guys, quick as a flash ran across the street and began helping the guy push his car to safety.  I couldn’t believe how fast they reacted. They couldn’t have had any type of conversation about whether or not they should help a man in need. They just did it. In doing so they probably prevented a bad accident, or worse. 

Watching that scene unfold was a beautiful thing.  It touched my heart to see the man’s look of both relief and gratitude as he thanked the strangers who helped him without being asked.  Then my light turned green and I continued on my way, but my mind remained on what had just occurred.  As a follower of Jesus, my reaction toward someone in need should be like the motorcycle men. I should be aware of the world outside of the lot. If there’s a need and I am capable of helping, I should act. How many times have I hesitated and missed an opportunity to help someone?

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