One School Year Ends and a Summer Begins

Yesterday I went to take care of a few things to finish up with my classroom for my morning class for the year. It is a ritual every May for me to go put books away, sort through papers and other things to decide what to keep and what to put in recycling, and say goodbye for the summer to some of the staff.

Part of the year end ritual for me is to sit and drink a cup of coffee in the empty classroom after I finish. It is something I do to process the end of a year. The classroom may have been empty, but it is full of memories from the year with the moms in my class. Some of the moms will return in September and some I said goodbye to last week. Tomorrow we will have lunch at a popular buffet restaurant courtesy of Rotary Club 14.

As I drank my coffee, I thought about how much they accomplished this year. I also thought about the life changing moments for some of them such as two moms having babies in January.

Something else I reflected on is how much my life has changed in the five years I have taught in the school. I started teaching Family Literacy in 2009 and have been in three different schools and in this one for five years. In the past five years I have found out about two chronic illnesses I have. My reality has changed in how I live, but my calling has not changed.

Over the summer I will still teach groups at my church, evening classes at the college, and private lessons. Over the summer I will continue to visit people in their homes. Over the summer I will pray for the Lord to connect me with people who he wants me to share his love with.

But for my morning class, one year is finished and a new one will start in three months.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

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A Safe Place to Land

My life and ministry for the past 20 years has been all about helping refugees and immigrants to feel that my home city is a safe place to land in hopes that they can see Jesus as a safe place to land.

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I have listened as they shared their stories of terrible loss and tragedy. The suffering they have been through is unfathomable for those of us who live in western countries.

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My desire has been to be the hand of a stranger that reaches out to show them a safe place to land.

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I never found a song that expressed how my refugee friends feel and my desire to reach out to them until recently I listened to a secular song by Sara Bareilles and John Legend, A Safe Place to Land. The song captures so many things for me.

There are so many suffering people around us in our workplaces, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, if we would only reach out and be the hand of a hopeful stranger as the song says. Maybe it is the single mom, the person who struggles with depression.anxiety, the person who doesn’t know their father, the person living in poverty feeling trapped or the victim of abuse.. There are so many suffering people around us.

Do we want to be the hand of a hopeful stranger, a light in the dark, to show them a safe place to land until the sun comes up in their lives as the song says?

As I grow older and my body is racked with the effects of chronic illness, I pray for the strength to keep reaching out the hand of a hopeful stranger,

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Want to Make Summer Break Count

Sunday afternoon I visited a family from Iran, We had lunch together as part of their observance of it being 30 days since the husband’s father passed away. For Mandean people, 30 days is an important time to come together again to remember the person who passed away.

My desire was to try to be a blessing to my friends by coming alongside them at an important time for them

I hope to spend more time with my refugee and immigrant friends this summer. For my morning class, summer break has already started. Last week we had summer weather here, so I jumped the gun a little bit and got my summer haircut and beard trim last week.

But then this week started with rainy cooler days, so maybe my summer haircut was a bit early. πŸ™‚

Summers for me have been a time God shows me things. They have been times of realizing significant directions from God and also times of significant changes for me.

A few examples”

July 1995 the doctor finally diagnosed my problem after a two year struggle with hypothyroid.

June 1997 was my first international trip going to Romania for a ministry trip.

July 2001 I began teaching English as a Second Language at the college where I teach.

June 2010 I went on a ministry trip to Mexico and Jesus showed me he wanted me to study Spanish.

June 2013 I went on a ministry trip to Brazil and Jesus showed me he wanted me to study Portuguese.

July 2017 I found out I have Celiacs Disease.

July 2018 I started medication for depression and anxiety brought on by autoimmune problems.

SO

With my summer break for my morning classes having started already and a five week total break coming in June/July

I have decided on a few things to make this summer meaningful since I won’t have any ministry trips.

1-Spend time with Jesus.

2- Summer reading

3- Spend more time socializing with my refugee/immigrant friends.

4- Practice my Spanish more.

5- Practice my Portuguese more.

6- Get caught up with bloggers.

7- Write more short stories.

If you have books you have found meaningful, please let me know. I have not formulated my summer reading program yet. My budget is very limited for a summer reading list, but please share books that have blessed you.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Held by Natalie Grant

There are songs that grab my attention not only because of the message in the song and how beautifully it is sung, but also because when I listen to the song I get the feeling the person singing has experienced hardship in their lives. Their song is an expression of God carrying them through a difficult time.

Natalie Grant has shared about her struggles with bulimia during an emotionally abusive relationship, her struggle with depression, and her cancer scare when she was treated for thyroid cancer.

Natalie sings from a heart that Jesus has carried through struggles, but the writer of Held, Christa Wells, wrote it because of three women who influenced her life. The three women had lost someone dear to them and two of them had lost a child.

As Natalie sings the song, one lyric stands out to me:

“If hope is born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our Savior”

When we suffer in this life, we can let it overwhelm and consume us or we can look to the person who suffered-Jesus. The line in the song, “Can we not wait, for one hour, watching for our Savior.” refers to Jesus praying the night before he was crucified. His disciples fell asleep while they were supposed be watching for him.

Jesus suffered in this life. It is comforting for me to know that the same Jesus I look to in prayer as I live with chronic illness and pain, suffered pain and understands pain.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Mornings for a Non-Morning Person

” Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 2

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I have never been much of a morning person. I have been one of those people who when I would hear people talk about how wonderful it is to wake up before dawn and spend time with God, I would feel cynical.

I have always been the kind of person who wants a cup of coffee first and then try to start my morning. I usually am not ready to smile until I have been awake for a while.

But I have to admit that as someone who lives with chronic illness, my mornings have a different meaning than perhaps for others.

My morning ritual consists of pouring a cup of coffee, turning on a heating pad, and logging onto youtube. I drink my coffee while I have the heating pad on my neck because on top of everything else, I have degenerative disc disease in my neck. I listen to worship songs as I drink my coffee with the heating pad on my neck. I have wait a while to eat breakfast because a pill I take means no food for at least a half hour. I listen to worship music and pray about my day, the people I will see, and ask for help to show his love. On my low energy mornings, which is often, I ask Jesus to carry me through the day.

My low energy days are days I wake up and say to myself- “I will need a nap today.” That is the reality of someone living with Fibromyalgia because fatigue is one of the symptoms. We can wake up tired not refreshed.

So after I have had two cups of coffee, listened to worship music while trying to mutter some prayer, I hurriedly eat a little food, take my meds that require me to take with food, and get ready for the day.

However, next week that all changes because my morning class will be on break until September. Three blissful months of no alarm clock. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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But I still don’t think I will wake up happy and smiling. Morning person is not a phrase that has ever described me.

How do you start your day?

Thank you for reading. God bless.

God’s Name- I AM- Also Reveals Something about Us

I was reflecting on what God told Moses when Moses asked God what his name is. It had been about 400 years that the people of Israel had been slaves in Egypt and God was calling Moses to be their deliverer. Moses wanted to know what to say if they asked what God’s name is. We see the answer in Exodus 3:

“Moses said to God, β€œSuppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, β€˜The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, β€˜What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, β€œI am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: β€˜I am has sent me to you.’”

God name is- I am-meaning he is the eternal self sufficient God. He is eternally present. He has no boundaries of time.

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As I reflected on the name of God, I also thought about what God said to Moses when he first started to talk to him in Exodus 3:

β€œI am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” 

There is a second truth that is revealed here. Yes, God is the eternally present God. The other aspect that God’s revelation to Moses shows me is that by God saying I am the God of you father Abraham, God gives us hope.

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When we enter into relationship with God, it is an eternal relationship. Abraham lived some 400 years before Moses. Abraham had died. But God says, I am the God of Abraham not I was the God of Abraham. If Abraham had died and that was it, then God would have to say I was the God of Abraham, but God said I am the God of Abraham indicating that Abraham still existed in relationship with God.

When Jesus said in John 8:

β€œVery truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, β€œbefore Abraham was born, I am!”

Jesus was saying that he is the eternal God. If we have relationship with Jesus, it is an eternal relationship. Death does not end our relationship with Jesus. He is eternally our Lord and we are eternally in relationship with him

God is the great I am. Jesus said of himself-I am. Because God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit- is eternal, those who have relationship with him have an eternal relationship. Therefore, death is not the final answer for anyone who comes to Jesus. For those who have trusted Jesus, death is only a transition to heaven for eternity.

The older I get and longer I live with chronic illness, the more the reality of eternity with God means to me. I hope this thought today encourages you too.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- God with Us by Terrian Bass

Be not dismayed
Fear not the darkness
Jesus is here
He walks beside us
Gracious is he
Through all our weakness
Forever faithful, forever good
Emanuel, Emanuel

I love these lyrics that begin God with us by Terrian Bass. They remind me that whatever we experience in life, Jesus is with us.

Struggle with depression or anxiety? Jesus walks beside us.

Struggle with chronic illness? Jesus walks with us.

Family problems? Jesus walks with us.

Financial problems? Jesus walks with us.

This video is such a blessing to listen to. Terrian has a beautiful voice and the message in this song is even more beautiful. That is why I want to share it today. My prayer is that whatever you are going through today that this song helps you to remember Jesus is with you.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Living with Chronic Illness- National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

Today is a rare double post day for me. I posted about Mother’s Day earlier because moms are so awesome. πŸ™‚

As someone living with Fibromyalgia, I also want to recognize that today is National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day.

I like the saying that not all disabilities are visible. The pain and fatigue I live with each day makes life difficult. Just yesterday I woke up at 5 am because I couldn’t sleep well. Since I had nothing scheduled, I went back to sleep from 7 to 12:30. I probably could have slept more.

There is no cure for Fibromyalgia and there is no fully effective medication to treat the symptoms.A few medications provide some help for some people, but not for others. It is more a matter of trying to manage and cope.

I have mornings that I don’t think I can make it through the day, but I give the day to Jesus in prayer and ask him to carry me through the day. Some of those days have been special in the sense of seeing what Jesus does, but I would still prefer not to live with Fibro and would not wish it on anyone.

So I want to give a shout out to my fellow Fibro warriors and anyone living with a chronic illness. Sometimes we can feel alone as we live with a chronic illness. Those are the days I try to spend with Jesus.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

When God Gives A Gentle Nudge

God did it again. He gave me a gentle nudge of a reminder while I was in the midst of a painful day. He gave me a soft knock on the door of my spirit.

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Fridays I usually relax in the evenings at home unless there is a function to go to. Relaxation is vital for me as I live with chronic illness. I was experiencing a pain flare up and debated if I should go to an informal evening of worship at my church.

I gutted it out and went to church. I couldn’t even raise my arms during worship, but I was there to worship Jesus with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We also had some prayer time between sets of worship songs. I felt led to pray for the unity of our church as we go through a transition year.

Then it happened through a conversation with a brother in Jesus who met me when I first started going to the church 25 years ago. He shared something with me that Jesus used to encourage me. He said, “I was thinking about how I first met you at a prayer time when you first started coming to church and you were so sick you could barely speak and now here you are still praying for the church.”

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Jesus spoke to me through that one comment to let me know he is still working through me. When the pain hits or when the fatigue hits, I can start to feel useless. I had even told the Lord that recently in prayer that I am not what I used to be and maybe am ineffective due to living with chronic illness. My friend’s comment snapped me out of it. There is still work for me to do in his kingdom here on earth.

We need each other in the family of Jesus. When we are down, darkness wants to pounce and magnify what we are going through. But if we express what is on our heats and souls to our eternal big brother Jesus, he will move. He will speak truth to us. That is what my friend’s comment was all about and he didn’t even know it.

Today I can relax at home. I hope to spend time listening to worship music. I may take a nap or two. Living with chronic illness necessitates rest. But I will do so not feeling useless.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Day in My Life- Living with Chronic Illness

Yesterday morning I woke up with more pain than usual. I attribute it to the weather. It was a damp cloudy cool morning and stayed that way all day. Waking up tired and with pain is a normal part of life for me, so I don’t want to let it slow me down.

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I don’t want to let such mornings prevent me from going out to do what I am called to do which is to show the love of Jesus to people from other cultures, so I started my day by praying while listening to worship music.

I prayed for my morning class and the needs of my students. I asked Jesus to help me show his love at the school, to my afternoon student, and to my evening class.

In the morning I often interact with the ELL, English Language Learners, kids in the classroom next to mine. Yesterday morning I saw a group of Hispanic girls outside their classroom, so I greeted them in Spanish like I always do. One of the girls was wearing a T-Shirt with a message on the front:

Strong Girls

Strong World

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I told her I loved the message and looked at the girls and said in Spanish:

“Este es verdad que ninas fuertes/el mundo fuerte.”- It is true strong girls/strong world.

They smiled. Then I pointed to my head and heart and said strength starts here with God. We high-fived each other.

That set the tone for my day.

One thing I have learned from living with pain every day is that I can choose to rise above it and reach out to show the love of Jesus or I can let the pain cause me to withdraw. I cannot choose which days I have pain. I can choose my attitude about it.

I would much rather be a blessing to others and not let the pain hold me back

Would I prefer to be pain free every day? YES. But that is not reality for me. I have lived with pain every day for over 25 years and yet Jesus has blessed me to be able to go on 11 ministry trips in other countries and have a ministry here in my home city.

It all starts with prayer each day.

Thank you for reading. God Bless..